Interview Tips for Science Students!

So you’ve networked, reached out, and now are facing the interview process. Firstly, congratulations on succeeding in making it this far! You are seen as a competitive candidate and are in the final selection process. Below are tips we would like to share to help you interview with confidence!




Step 1: Prepare

No matter how well-spoken and quick-witted you are around peers or other colleagues, all of us have experienced the feeling of freezing up and stumbling over our words when nervous, which is why it is essential to prepare.

  • Research the position and organization! If the job description is vague, I find it is helpful to search how other organizations detail similar job postings. Also, working into the interview how you and your skills integrate with the organization’s mission helps show that you truly are a great candidate for the position!

  • Learn who might interview you. The more knowledge you know before the interview, the less likely you will find verses getting the best of you.

  • Arrive 10 minutes early and be respectful to everyone there! Beyond smiling and holding the door open, think about the tone and volume of your voice when you introduce yourself. It is important to sound approachable and friendly without being unprofessional.


Step 2: The Delivery

  • When answering questions, it is fine to take time to think about your response! It is much better to take a brief pause before answering concisely and clearly, rather than immediately starting to ramble.

  • Below are some of the most common interview questions and ways to respond. These are compiled from other career-focused websites and personal experiences (links can be found at the bottom of this post).

  1. Tell Me About Yourself. This question is often one of the first asked and is intimidatingly open-ended. What the interviewer is really asking is, “Briefly tell me what led to your interest in this position, and how has this journey made you a qualified candidate?”

  2. Ex: “I am a McGill student, who is studying _____. I have previous experience doing _____. There, I honed _____ skills. This experience really piqued my interest in ____, so I’m excited to contribute to your organization by doing ____.”

  3. Why do you want to work for us? This question helps the interviewers sort through those who seem genuinely interested in the organization and its mission versus those who applied haphazardly. They want to know that you want to contribute and can grow. This is really where you can show off that you have researched the organization thoroughly. Then, connect the company to your larger goals, thus showing them how you have thoughtfully considered how this position ties into your future goals.

  4. What is your greatest weakness? This question is asking both where you may lack AND if you can be self-reflective. Therefore, give an actual weakness and describe how it has hindered you. Do not try to twist a positive into a weakness; the interviewer is likely expecting this and can see through this tactic. It is important to then end the question by saying how you are aware of this flaw and taking measures to change.

  5. Possible Weaknesses: Stubborn, Poor Public Speaker, Waiting too long to ask for help, Time Management, etc.

  6. Where do you see yourself in the future? When hiring, organizations want to know that the time and resources invested in training a hiree will be worth it. Therefore, we recommend that you specifically mention a goal or project you hope to accomplish if selected. Then, you can speak broadly about what you hope to eventually hope to do.

  7. How do you handle pressure or things not working? Because this is such an abstract question, I find it helpful to answer with an antidote. Bring up a time when things were not going as expected and getting out of hand. Then, say how you handled that and what you learned. This is a great opportunity to highlight soft skills, such as time-management, creativity, and flexibility.

  8. When answering about previous positions you have held, such as conducting a research project or even a non-academic responsibility, it is important to explain how your originality influenced the outcome and relate it to your future career.

  9. Ex: “Working as a server at ____, I learned valuable lessons about communicating with a wide range of people. There, I was responsible for _____. I think this directly transfers to this position because I have experience with active listening and can bring ____ perspective to _____.”


Step 3: Ask Questions

  • This is often an overlooked part of the interview, but it can actually help you stand out. By asking insightful questions, you can show the interviewer that you are pragmatic and are trying to get a realistic understanding of the position and its responsibilities. After all, this is a two-sided negotiation; you have skills they are wanting and they have an opportunity you want to fill.

  • Example Questions Include:

  1. Can you describe a typical workday/week?

  2. What challenges do you expect the person to face?

  3. Can you describe the work culture of this organization?

  4. Would there be room to grow within the organization?

  • Finish by asking about the timeline of the next steps and when you should expect to be contacted.


Step 4: Close

  • Be thankful. They took the time to meet with you after all. In addition to thanking them in-person, send a thank you email soon after. The email should be brief, but also specific to the interview and what was discussed.

  • If they have not contacted you after the given timeline, sending a courteous email is a good idea.

  • Ex: “I wanted to follow up with you to see if there has been any progress regarding my recent interview. I understand that these decisions take time, so I am in no way rushing! Let me know if you have any further questions for me. Thank you again.”


Common Interview Q&A Links:

https://www.grb.uk.com/careers-advice/graduate-science-interview-questions

https://catherinescareercorner.com/2009/03/26/50-interview-questions-why-they-are-asked-and-how-to-answer/

https://theinterviewguys.com/top-10-job-interview-questions/

https://www.themuse.com/advice/interview-questions-and-answers


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©McGill Scientific Writing Initiative, 2020