How to Prepare for a Skype Interview

March 12, 2014

Image of a laptop with a Skype video conference going on between two women.It is highly likely you have or will have a Skype interview at some point in your job search.  Budget cuts are making travel arrangements for in-person interviews prohibitive, so more and more employers are conducting initial interviews via Skype or another online video service.  Employers also feel that Skype helps them get a better feel for a candidate than a phone interview allows.

Here are some tips to take your next Skype interview from awkward to awesome:

  1. Practice first!  Do a trial run a few days before your real interview with a friend or a career counselor, and make sure you record it. Your first few video calls are bound to feel a bit uncomfortable as you figure out where to look, how loudly to speak and what to do with your hands.  Analyze your tape and adjust your actions accordingly.  It may take a few practice rounds until you feel comfortable.
  2. Adjust the lighting and background in your interview room.  Think about your surroundings and what will be visible on the screen.  It is best to be positioned in front of a wall free of clutter or personal items. Also, make sure your lighting is aimed at you and not behind you; otherwise you will appear as simply a silhouette.
  3. Find a quiet space.  This can be hard to do if you are interviewing at home with kids or pets running around, but it is imperative to plan accordingly for uninterrupted interview time. Make sure you also keep other programs closed on your desktop that might ding alerts about calendar reminders or emails. The interviewers will also be able to hear these beeps.  If you are having trouble finding a space for your interview, be in touch with the OITE and, if space allows, we will do our best to try and make an office available for your interview.
  4. Dress for an in-person interview.  Make sure you are conveying the right first impression and dress as you would for an in-person interview.  Even if that means a blouse and blazer on top and pajamas on the bottom.
  5. Don’t sit as close to your computer as you normally would. Sit a little further back so that your face and upper shoulders are in the shot. It can also be helpful if you position your webcam a little bit higher so you are looking up and not down. This can be easily accomplished by propping your laptop on a stack of books.
  6. Cover the image of yourself. If you find the image of yourself distracting, minimize it as much as you can. If you still find yourself looking at your image and not the interviewer, then put a post-it note over that window on your screen.
  7. Don’t forget to smile! Smiling often comes naturally in a face-to-face interview, but it can be surprisingly difficult to remember to do in both phone and Skype interviews. Smiling can help reduce stress levels and your interview anxiety; plus, it is a subtle but powerful way to convey your enthusiasm for the position.
  8. Have notes in front of you. The perk of a phone or Skype interview is that you can have notes in front of you without the interviewer realizing it. It can be difficult to subtly look down at key points during a Skype interview, so tape notes around your screen with important points you want to make or questions you may wish to ask.

As with all interviews, be sure to follow up with a thank you note to each person you spoke with that day.

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2014 Career Success Plan

January 10, 2014

Here at OITE, our continued resolution is to help trainees become skilled in a variety of core competencies.  We view these four competencies as vital to your career development.

They include:
1. Career Exploration and Planning
2. Communicating
3. Teaching and Mentoring
4. Leading and Managing

Our goal for the blog this year is to cover a variety of resources and projected outcomes for each of these core competencies.

One of the first we will tackle is career exploration and planning.  This often involves four phases: Exploration, Preparation, Action, and Adaptation.  You will most likely go through these steps more than once because one’s career development very rarely follows a linear projection. Look next week for a blog on the topic of career exploration and planning, specifically individual development plans.

Hopefully, by covering all four of the core competencies, we will help to establish a thematic framework as you continue to read the blog throughout the year.  We will label and categorize each new post accordingly, so that the blog becomes a searchable site for you to easily navigate.  In addition, we hope this gives you some inspiration as you set your own new year’s career goals.  For a more detailed view of the graphic, please click on the image to enlarge.

Diagram of four core competencies; including: Career Exploration & Planning, Communicating, Teaching & Mentoring and Leading & Managing


13 Best Career Websites of 2013

December 16, 2013

An image of a magnifying glass with "2013" in bold.2013 is quickly coming to a close and the approach of a new year can be a great time to reflect – not only on the past year, but also on what you hope to accomplish in the coming year.  Inspired by year in review montages we have already begun seeing, we decided to take time to reflect on this year as well, specifically on some of the best career resources at one’s fingertips in 2013. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it in rank order.  As always, we would love to hear your input – please share your very own “Best of 2013” resources in the comments.

1. LinkedIn
LinkedIn is still the largest professional networking site with more than 238 million users in 200-some countries worldwide. This service is still the most highly utilized option to connect with networks of people. Increasingly, recruiters are also using the site to source candidates for open positions.

2. Indeed
Indeed aggregates data from across the web with a Google-like search engine. It pulls information from job boards and company websites while utilizing a clean, user-friendly interface. All you need to do is put in your keyword and zip code and you will see results within a 50-mile radius.

3. SimplyHired
SimplyHired operates in a very similar way to Indeed; however, one extra benefit is that, when logged in, the site will also show you LinkedIn connections you may have at that organization.

4. Idealist
Idealist is the largest nonprofit job board in the United States. The site also features a blog with inspiring stories and the ability to search for volunteer opportunities by geographic location or keyword.

5. Salary.com
Salary.com provides data on average salaries based on job title and geographic location. This can be a great tool to utilize to help you prepare for an upcoming salary negotiation. Plus, it also has a “Cost of Living Wizard” which can help you understand how far your salary would go in a new city.

6. Glassdoor
Like its name implies, Glassdoor gives you a transparent look inside a company.  This is a completely anonymous site that allows users to disclose information about the pros and cons of an organization. Users will also post interview questions they were asked and some will even share salary information. You must create an account and log in to view the full information provided. Keep in mind that users at Glassdoor input their own salary data (which is not verified by the employer).  Glassdoor does evaluate the data to make sure that it meets community guidelines and is not suspicious. 

7. USAJOBS
The official site for government jobs – it includes postings from very diverse agencies across the government.  By law, any open federal position must be posted on this site. The site also has comprehensive employment information about eligibility, compensation, and benefits.  For help on navigating this dense site, see our previous blog post, “Which Federal Agencies & Contractors Hire Scientists.”

8. ScienceCareers
The ultimate career development and job search site for scientists. This is a global site with special-focus portals such as Minority Scientists Network and Postdoc Network.

9. ScienceJobs
From New Scientist Magazine, this site features job listings, a resume database and employer profiles.

10. BioCareers
The career center for job seekers in the life sciences. This site features industry articles, company information, job profiles, and career fairs.

11. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Department of Labor compiles labor statistics and creates an Occupational Outlook Handbook each year. This is a fantastic but not oft utilized resource which details hundreds of occupations under the categories: What They Do, How to Become One, Work Environment, Pay, and Growth/Employment Projections for each occupation.

12. Evisors
Evisors tries to connect job seekers with mentors under the mission of democratizing access to great career advice. You can search the database to find your perfect career coach and you can also sign up to become a mentor to others.

13. OITE
The OITE website gives trainees access to a multitude of resources, including: the NIH Alumni Database, videocasts of highly relevant career workshops, and career information for all of the different populations here at the NIH. On top of this, it gives you access to the following services: career counseling, leadership and development coaching, resume/CV/cover letter critiques, mock interview help, formal assessments, and much more.

As evidenced from this list, there are many great resources on the web; however, we want to remind you to utilize these online sites as a way to research companies and individuals in order to then make face-to-face connections. We look forward to seeing you in the New Year!

* Disclaimer: The online resources noted in this post are merely informational in nature and listing them does not constitute an endorsement by NIH OITE.


Two Part Series: Part 2 – Getting the Most Out of Mentoring Relationships

December 13, 2013

An image of puzzle pieces being drawn by hand. The puzzle pieces read: "Motivate," "Lead by Example," "Mentor," and "Vision" to name a few.In the first part of this series, we talked about how to identify a good mentor. Now that you have done so, how do you cultivate and maintain that relationship? Identifying a mentor is not an easy task; making it work can be even more challenging. In this blog, we will give you some tips to help foster and maintain your mentoring relationships.

Take ownership of your career
Take charge; remember you are the one in control! Think about your career goals in the short-term and long-term. Communicate these goals to your mentors, so they can understand your interests and better guide you on which steps to follow or opportunities to seek to reach your goal. A good mentor will offer advice but not tell you the path to choose; ultimately, that is up to you.

Communicate your expectations
Once you define your goals, it is very important to discuss them with your mentors and work together to develop a plan (such as an individual development plan or IDP) to accomplish your goals. If you prefer structure, you can establish clear expectations for the relationship. For example, you can start by determining how often you will meet (weekly, monthly) and how you will communicate (by email, in person, Skype, etc.). When expectations are set early on, your mentor will then know what you are seeking from the relationship, but you will also know what s/he expects from you. This will help you to effectively manage the relationship and will avoid future misunderstanding.

Respect each other’s time
Be mindful of your mentor’s time! Take full advantage of the time you have with him/her. If you know you are meeting or talking to your mentor, be prepared! Before each meeting, you can send your mentor an agenda of topics you would like to discuss in advance and any questions you might have, which will also help them better prepare for your discussion.

Keep your mentor up to date
Mentors can be anywhere and with the help of technology, you don’t need to be close to each other to stay in touch. Let your mentor know about your progress (the good and the bad). You can tell them about any recent accomplishments or awards, as well as your professional struggles.  It is important to keep the lines of communication open, so your update doesn’t even have to be related to you; you can send them a paper or article that you think s/he might be interested in.

Remember: a mentoring relationship should be a rewarding and educational experience for both of you!  The quality of the output will largely depend on the quality of the input, so be sure to treat your mentoring relationships with the professional respect they deserve. Always be prepared for your meetings and practice good communication, but don’t be afraid to be honest about your interests and/or the new directions you are seeking.

 


Utilizing Google Alerts in a Job Search

December 3, 2013

Google Alerts* will email you results from various saved searches. You can customize the type and frequency of your emailed search results depending on your personal preferences. It is a free tool to use and you can save up to ten different alerts (1,000 if you have a Google account). Many businesses, especially public relations representatives, often use such alerts to keep abreast of news stories about their company’s competitors, trademarks, etc. Google Alerts can help you during a job search as well.

Here are some alerts job seekers should set up:

1. Your Name
Your online reputation often precedes your first face-to-face impression. Any job you apply for will research you online. By this point in time, you have probably Googled yourself (if not, do so immediately!). However, make sure you stay up to date about what is published online about you by creating an alert with your name.

2. Companies of Interest
Hopefully, you have identified and targeted a few key employers of interest. Keep tabs on them by creating a search query with just their name, such as “NIH” or “National Institutes of Health.” Note: you may need to save a few different variations of the same name to help account for acronyms and labeling differences.

You should also set up a search query “Jobs (Company Name)” which will email you pages where these two key words appear jointly. Keep in mind that it might not actually be a page with open jobs; however, it could give you a heads up about staffing changes which could help inform your job search. Ultimately, the goal is to draw your attention to news stories that might be beneficial for one reason or another in your search.

3. Jobs in Your Location
If you are focusing on a specific geographic area, you can create a search such as “Maryland (“new jobs”)” or “Gaithersburg (“new business”).” Remember to use the same tools and tricks that you normally employ when using a search engine. For example, quotes will ensure that your phrase is searched exactly as it is written – not parsed out word by word.

4. Set an Industry Alert
Interested in a specific industry? Set a search query according to your interests; some example might be “biotechnology” or “pharmaceuticals.”

5. Keep Tabs on Key People
Wonder when your former PI’s paper is going to be published? Curious where your previous lab mate now works? Set a search and get notified about your network’s accomplishments, especially those social media shy folks. This can be a great way to stay in the know and keep connected with people who are important to you and your career.

Like saved job search agents, Google Alerts can help alleviate some of the leg work of job searching and it is an easy way to stay up to date on topics of importance to you and your job search. Please comment on what other alert systems you have found helpful during a job search.

 

* Disclaimer: The online resource noted in this post is merely informative and does not constitute an endorsement by NIH OITE.


Interviewing the Interviewer

October 21, 2013

Picture of a door with a sign on it that reads "Interview in Progress"Thorough preparation is essential in advance of any industry job interview to ensure that you perform at the highest level possible.  Making sure that your resume is in order, that you have accessed available sources to obtain vital information both on the company and the person who will be conducting the interview and practicing your responses to anticipated questions are all key to completing a successful interview.  One additional step that is just as important, but often times overlooked is preparing a set of questions to ask of the interviewers to help you determine whether the company and the work environment are right for you.

The interview process is designed for the interviewer, and in many cases interviewers, to ask a series of questions that will help determine whether your educational background and work experience, as well as your personality attributes are likely to lead to your success in the position.  In the same way, your preparation should include highlighting key questions for the interviewers so you can determine how comfortably you will be integrating into this department and company.

Aside from obtaining the basic information on the job, questions should be designed to evaluate your match with the company and the position in four general areas:

Strategic:
For a large company, assess the role the department and the position play in the overall success of the company.
Example:
How does the role/department fit into the overall mission of the company?

For smaller companies, assess the viability of the business plan in leading to the long-term success of the company.
Examples:
What are the company’s short term and long term goals?
What are the company’s sources of funding and are they adequate to reach those goals?

Work Environment:
Ask questions to assess things like the amount of flexibility and/or autonomy to work on your projects, relationships between managers and subordinates and the way that salary increases, bonuses and promotions are determined.
Examples:
Can you tell me more about the reporting structure?
How will my success be measured, and by whom?

Values:
It is important to determine if the company’s values (the operating principles that guide an organization’s conduct), business practices and ethics are compatible with yours.
Examples:
What are the most important values (e.g. commitment to sustainability, customer service, profit) in this company?
How are these values exhibited in the every-day work environment?

“Fit”:
You will be spending 40+ hours every week in the work environment.  It is important that you determine how comfortable you will be in interacting with your bosses and co-workers on an ongoing basis.
Examples:
How would you describe the culture of the office?
What are the key elements that make up a typical work day?

When interviewing with multiple people within the company, asking similar questions to a number of them can give you different perspectives and, therefore a more complete picture of what it is like working at the company.

Finally, when the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions?”  The absolute worst answer for you to give is, “No, not at this time.”  This may communicate that you have not done your homework or that you are, in fact, not really interested in the position.  Therefore, as you prepare your answers for the interviewer’s questions, it is equally important to prepare your questions.  Asking relevant and insightful questions can, not only, solidify in the interviewer’s mind your genuine interest in the position, it can also provide you with important information on the company and its people to help with your decision.


Two-Part Series on Government Jobs – PART TWO: WHICH FEDERAL AGENCIES & CONTRACTORS HIRE SCIENTISTS?

September 9, 2013

Piece of paper with the words "Government Jobs" in boldWhich agencies hire scientists?

While the OITE is an NIH entity, great science happens in other divisions all across government.  Almost all of these places hire scientists for both bench and non-bench positions.  Non-bench positions can include: science administration (grants management from almost every agency, managing research programs, career development training), science policy (how innovative science is completed and promoted), regulation (determining if a drug is safe or an agricultural product is good for the environment).

Here is a list of government agencies hiring biomedical scientists. The list is not complete, and we would love your feedback on ones we missed!

National Institutes of Health (NIH): The NIH hires scientists for both bench and non-bench positions in the intramural research program (IRP), as well as non-bench positions within the division of extramural science, which manages the grants process in order to fund science around the country and the world.

Department of Health & Human Services (HHS): As the parent agency of the NIH, this organization hires scientists to do administrative jobs understanding how to improve health care and fund science for America.

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC):  This agency is tasked with disease prevention and protection.  They have labs to understand the mechanisms of diseases and infectious agents, both at the bench and through epidemiology.  They also have administration jobs to help set policies and run the organization.

Food & Drug Administration (FDA): Most of the time people think of the FDA as only regulatory review; however, they have writing jobs, policy jobs, and science administration.  In addition, the FDA does a large amount of bench research in areas critical to the FDA mission. View more details here.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): The USDA has the Agriculture Research Service, it’s division of lab positions.  There are also many laboratories across the US and the world to test our food supply safety.

National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA): NASA has an entire division set aside for biological research.

Department of Defense (DOD): The Department of Ddefense has many research programs housed in each branch of the military, and you can apply as a civilian (or opt to join the service).  These research programs focus on welfare of the military (protection and prevention), and also general labs for hospitals and forensics.  Also, there may even be faculty opportunities at the Academies.

Public Health Service: This is an all officer core tasked with protecting public health.  They have opportunities for scientists, clinicians, dentists, nurses, vets, and public health people.  (Note: at the moment they are only recruiting for medical officers).  Scientists in this group work all kinds of jobs both at the bench and away from the bench in the NIH, CDC, EPA and other government agencies.

Uniformed Services of the Health Sciences University (USHSU): The medical/dental university of the armed services, which is located on the campus of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  This is a medical school with positions for faculty member (including research programs), and other types of academic support positions.

Veterans Affairs (VA): Bench based positions will be within the hospital laboratory systems.  Non-bench jobs can include policy and administration to improve the lives of American’s veterans.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The EPA hires scientists to understand how things in our environment will affect humans and the world in which we live.  There are bench jobs examining environmental factors to our health, both from a basic science perspective from the NC facility and also from labs strategically placed around the country.  Administration jobs can range from science policy, grants administration, regulation, and more.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): This organization reviews all patents submitted to the U.S. government.  Scientists review these patents according to their area of discipline.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): The FBI hires scientists as special agents and also to do research in the core labs (such as DNA forensics).

US Congress and Executive Branch: There are policy based jobs helping us guide science through the political process both in the US and abroad.  Congress has whole committees dedicated to science (like the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee or the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee).  The Executive Branch has the Office of Science and Technology Policy and also science policy within the State Department.

***

Now, many people think that the only way to get a job with the government is to go through USAjobs.gov.  Not true!  Most offices also use a variety of contracting firms to help fill openings (for example at the NIH we often use Kelly Scientific and SAIC).  Contracting jobs are a great way to get your foot in the door and gain additional skill sets to make you even more competitive for a federal position.   They are also typically hired much faster than positions within the federal system, and may or may not have the same citizenship requirements.  Most offices treat contractors just the same as they do federal employees, so do not feel like this is not a good option to help move your career forward.

Here is a list of contracting firms to explore; again, sure we missed some but this is a terrific start. (table adapted from the Navy)

Contractors * Web Link
Alutiiq LLC http://www.alutiiq.com/
Booz Allen Hamilton http://www.boozallen.com/
CAMRIS International http://www.camris.com/
Colette Inc. http://www.colette-inc.com
Destiny Management Services http://www.destinymgmtsvcs.com/
General Dynamics Information Technology http://www.gdit.com/
Kelly Scientific http://www.kellyservices.com/global/science/
KForce http://www.kforce.com/
The Henry M. Jackson Foundation (HJF) http://www.hjf.org/
Lab Support http://www.labsupport.com/
Lab Pros http://www.labprosinc.com/
Management Consulting Inc. (MANCON) http://www.manconinc.com/
The McConnell Group http://www.themccgroup.com
The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) http://orise.orau.gov/
Research Triangle Institute International (RTI) http://www.rti.org/
Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) http://www.saic.com/
TechFlow http://www.techflow.com/
Yoh Scientific http://jobs.yoh.com/

* Posting of these contractor names does not constitute endorsement by NIH OITE.