Interviewing advice from the hiring partners perspectives

March 6, 2013

We had a workshop on interviewing this week, here is a wrap-up of what was said, and more information to make your interviews a success.  If you want to watch the videocast, it is archived here.  We had three speakers to highlight multiple aspects of the hiring process; a hiring manager, a human resources person, and a recruiter.  The advice here is mostly for non-faculty positions (although we have information on the faculty job hunt at

Interviews questions are best answered in the Situation-Action-Response format.  The basics of this format is that you need to have a story that you can tell that gives background to the situation, tells about the action that you did, then finishes by telling a result or the outcome of the challenge.  You should be able to tell this story in about 90 seconds.  The hiring manager emphasized the need to practice these stories, which gives you the ability to stick to your script and not get led down tangents in the interview process.  He also mentioned that by practicing you are able to maintain your poise and a positive tone of voice, even under difficult questioning.

The human resources manager and the recruiter are looking for the skills specifically based towards the job you are applying to.  Neither of these partners in the hiring process will likely be subject matter experts, so they may not understand the full details of your science.  Rather, they are looking for technical skills and perhaps even specific instrumentation.  They are also looking for good responses to the opportunity questions, such as “Tell me about yourself”.  Being able to answer these questions clearly and concisely is a benefit to getting past these hiring partners.  Answer these questions based on the job ad, to always link how you would be a terrific fit for the position you are applying to.  Here are two examples:

Tell Me About Yourself: “I am a scientist with strong program management, communication and leadership skills.  I have taken on responsibility to organize events, influence leadership with respect to the needs of my fellow postdocs, and have defended scientific ideas. I am looking to use my strong analytical and people skills to move into science policy to help direct science.” (for a non-bench job)

What interests you about this job: “This job utilizes my strengths as an innovative scientist, specifically with XX diseases.  I have had success utilizing new technologies such as XX to explore (my subject matter) can be used for drug development.  Based on the ad, you are also looking for someone who can lead and influence other scientist.  I enjoy that, and have had success in the lab as seen by the numerous collaborations with other scientists and by direct and informal mentoring of other lab members.  I enjoy working with people, and this job seems to have a nice mix of cutting-edge science with leading a team of people to accomplish that science.”

This is just the start of your preparation and the information available from the OITE.  The OITE has posted here on the blog many other articles on interviewing, and have also videocast many in the past.  Here are some links that you may want to read/watch:


You Got an Interview, Not a Job Offer: How to Impress Your Way into a Position

How to Manage Stress in Interviews

Phone Interviews

Preparing for interviews


Interviewing Skills

Interviewing outside the Ivory Tower