10 Common Interview Questions and Answers for Life Science Job Seekers
If you’re hoping to ace your next biopharma interview, you should make sure you know how to answer common interview questions.
Whether you’re just beginning your life sciences career or you’re ready to advance, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is the life sciences industry is booming. Nearly 100,000 new life science jobs are expected to be created by 2031 in the US alone. That bodes well for job hunters, especially if you live in life science hotspots like Boston and San Francisco.
The downside to this boom means there’s a boom in competition, too. The number of graduates in life sciences has doubled since 2016. So while our industry is growing, so is the number of people applying for jobs.
The key to standing out from the competition is dazzling the hiring manager, which means knowing what to say in your job interview.
10 Common Interview Questions and Answers
BioSpace compiled the 10 most common interview questions in life science job interviews. More importantly, we also provided the best way to answer them.
Why do you want to work for us? How can you help us advance our research?
This is the most common question in any job market. Its deceptive simplicity is probably why it trips up so many people.
Here is your chance to show off the research you’ve done on the company. If they’re a large pharma company, speak to one of their newly released treatments. If they’re a biotech, speak to their recent achievements and say you’d like to help continue their progress. Your aim is to show you understand their future goals and position yourself as key to their success.
Why should we consider you above all other candidates?
This is your cue to tell them more about yourself. Give them a clear and concise summary of your relevant experience, successes, and future goals. These should dovetail with the job requirements. Show your interviewers that you are a perfect fit for their needs.
What are your short and long-term goals?
Tailor your answer to the short-term and long-term goals that were listed in the job description. If you’re interviewing with a biotech company, for example, then you’ll want your long-term goals to match the long-term research goals of the company.
How do you spend your spare time?
This is another innocuous-sounding question that interviewers use to get a better idea of your personality. Your reply should focus on neutral, benign hobbies such as jogging, reading history books or camping.
Better still, take the opportunity to show how you use your spare time to improve yourself. Tell them you’ve been focused on decluttering and organizing your home, as an example. If you’re looking to move into a supervisory position in the future, say you’ve been taking managerial courses.
What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?
Careful, this is often used as a “trap question." Follow the number one rule of interviews: Do not say anything too negative.
Never say you’re weak in an area that is detrimental to the job. Instead, say you’ve always taken the initiative to identify areas where you’d like to improve. Then give an example of when you’ve done so in the past. This shows you’re always willing to learn.
In your last position, how much of the work did you do on your own and how much as part of a team? Which did you enjoy more?
This is your chance to highlight your flexibility and adaptability. This is especially important in the life sciences world when research breakthroughs can change everything about your job. Say that there are things you enjoy about both. Reinforce that there are positives and negatives about independent work and teamwork, but what matters most is what’s best for the company.
What is your leadership style?
This is another chance to focus on your flexibility and adaptability. Explain that your approach to leadership is whatever is appropriate to the situation.
Give a couple of concise examples of how you successfully guided your team through two very different situations. You’ll want to highlight the two very different leadership styles you used. Show them you can adapt at the speed of research.
You don’t have the experience/background for this position. How could you handle it?
Sometimes, an interviewer is just testing you with this question. They want to see how you’ll handle objections from other people.
Tell them you feel you’re quite qualified for the position and explain why. Tie your experience and qualifications into the requirements of the job description. This is also your chance to highlight some more of your accomplishments that you haven’t had a chance to mention yet.
It’s also a chance to open a line of dialogue with the interviewer. Ask them which qualifications they feel you’re missing. Then you can respond accordingly. You should be able to explain how your relevant experience makes up for anything they’d like to see from their candidate.
You’re overqualified for this position, aren’t you?
This is the opposite side of the previous question. This time, though, the interviewer may be concerned you’ll soon grow bored in the role and move on quickly.
Even if you are slightly overqualified, you want to reassure the interviewer you’ll be in it for the long haul. Explain that you find many challenges in the opportunity and that you know you’ll find them interesting. Then, provide some examples.
It’s also an opportunity to show how you’ll use your experience to expand the role beyond their expectations. Show how your past experience will elevate the role, and the work of your colleagues as well.
Do you have any questions for me?
This means the interview has come to an end. Now is your chance to lay out some next steps. Take the opportunity to show how interested you are in the role.
Show initiative by asking a few questions. Ask them, “When should I expect to hear from you, or would you prefer that I contact you in a day or two? Is there anything else you need from me?”.
End off by stating that you’re very interested in the role and that you know you’re a good fit for the team. Remember to thank them for their time!
Keep in mind that the life sciences world has become very competitive. Even so, with the right preparation in advance, you can impress during an interview and land the role of your dreams.