Interviewing is a process, during which you and your potential new employer are getting to know each other. First, the company is interested in your skills (can you do the job?). During later stages, they will be more interested in your motivations (will you love the job?) and personality (will we enjoy working with you?). You want to learn about the job, and the corporate culture. At each step, thorough preparation is your key to success.
Do Your Due Diligence
Before any interview, learn as much about the organization as possible. Read their web site, know their products, learn about the industry and their competitors, read recent press releases and current stockholder information (if a public company). Learn what sets them apart from their competitors (low-cost?, high quality?, personal service?). Read their web site, and explore other information sources including recent news reports, financial industry reports (Standard and Poor’s, Hoovers, Google Finance), and recent patent filings.
If possible, research the people with whom you will be interviewing. Ask for their names ahead of time, and look up their publication records and other public information. Read their ACS Network and LinkedIn profiles, and make notes of both scientific and personal interests that you have in common.
Polish Your Presentation
For many positions, your oral presentation will be the single most important part of the interview, and a presentation may be expected at any degree level. Confirm the details ahead of time – how long should the talk be, how long for questions, what A/V equipment will be available, anticipated size and scientific background of the audience, and so on.
You will be judged not only on your science, but on your communication skills and ability to think on your feet. Is your science sound? Do you have good reasons for your choice of methods? When answering questions, repeat the question confidently, and then answer clearly. If you don’t know the answer, don’t bluff! Tell them you don’t know, then get their contact information and follow up with the answer later.
Evaluate Your Employment Experiences
Review your resume, and refresh your memory on your listed accomplishments. Think through specific events in your professional life that illustrate both your strengths and fit with the company and position.
Today, virtually all organizations use behavioral-based questions in their interviews. These are questions like “Tell me about a time you made a mistake” and “Have you ever disagreed with your supervisor?” Be prepared with specific stories that show how you’ve handled that situation. Many accomplishments could be used to illustrate multiple experiences, depending on how you present them. Plan ahead, have your examples ready, and practice answering out loud.
In reality, every interaction with a potential employer is part of the interview process – you are never offstage. If you keep current with organizations and industries, practice your presentation skills, and are confident in your professional strengths, you will be ready to take the interview stage whenever the opportunity arises.
Get Involved in the Discussion
Welcome to the ACS Career Tips column. Each month, this column provides advice and answers to career-related questions on a variety of topics, from job search to career development and transitions. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns on the ACS Careers blog (http://acscareers.wordpress.com) — brought to you by ACS Careers.