Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Scientific Phone Interview 101

Chemjobber has a post today asking for advice to improve success during phone interviews for scientific positions. As someone who's had to dip a toe in the interview stream several times in the past 5 years (and now routinely conducts phone interviews to fill openings in my department), I have some tips to add to CJ's arsenal:

1. (1 week prior) - Prepare.

    • As CJ points out, know who you'll be speaking with, and a rough idea of their backgrounds. Any public source is fair game: LinkedIn, SciFinder, Mendeley, etc. Bonus: If the lead interviewer has recently published something germane to the position, download the paper and see if you can piece together what they were trying to do.
    • Learn something about the company. Small, large? Private, public? Start-up? About how many people? Where do you fit in?
    • Can you prove you're the candidate for the job, sight unseen? Break down the job description into chunks, and match with your skills. This may sound hokey, but literally grab a sheet of paper, divide into two columns "What they want"  |  "What I have" and begin filling them in. Gaps? Be sure to explain how you'll address them.
    • If you don't have one, now's a great time to write up a Research Summary. Don't know how? It's easy! Condense each project you've worked on into one (1) synthetic scheme or graphic, with a plain-language description of no more than 2-3 sentences below. What were we trying to achieve? How did we do it? What did we learn?
2. (the night before) - Review.

    • Go over the information from Step 1.
    • Make sure you know your own CV / resume. Again, this sounds silly, but the recruiter may ask about anything you've listed, including something you don't think matters for the position in question: "Why did you choose that particular school? In Chem 257, did you happen to cover [my favorite reaction]? Tell me more about that volunteer gig from 5 years ago." 
    • Eat a good meal, get some sleep. In the morning, get ready as if you were attending an on-site interview. Say some lines to yourself in the mirror: "Hi, I'm Casey Smith, from Big State University. I'm really excited for this opportunity." Practice answering a few standard questions for yourself: Where do you want to be in five years? What do you know about the job or company? How have your skills and coursework prepared you to take this job?

3. (10 minutes before) - Relax.

    • Briefly review the Step 1 materials. By this point, they should be condensed into a short crib sheet.
    • Print out your CV / resume, so you can write things in the margins and understand what the interview team is looking at during the call.
    • Have a glass of water, clear your throat. Walk around or pace if it makes you feel better.
    • Be prepared to receive the call from 5 minutes early to 5 minutes late. Phone connections are tricky things, so be prepared in case you cut out (or the interviewer does). If you do not hear from them, be prepared to send an email that apologizes and requests a follow-up in the next 1-2 days.

4. (during) - Present.
    • Phone interviews are increasingly conducted "by committee;" don't be surprised if you end up on a conference line with 4 people. It's considered polite for the hiring company to introduce the call by introducing the people in the room and reiterating (briefly) the job description.
    • Politeness always. Please and thank you go a long way.
    • You should at this point know how to answer 80% of the questions your interviewer will ask, because you've already answered them for yourself. Experience? CV. Where you want to be in 5 years? Gap analysis - see Step 1. What you've done? Research Summary.
    • Take shorthand notes off to one side, because at some point, they'll ask if you have any questions. You MUST have at least one question! This shows interest in the position and a willingness to engage the speaker. 
    • Unless...your question is about an "HR" issue: pay, vacation, benefits, etc. Don't ask about these; you'll have a chance during the on-site.
    • Always send a thank-you email to acknowledge the interviewers' time and preparation, and be prepared for them to ask for further information.
That's it. Good luck!


  1. Nice overview. I would add having a spouse or friend conduct a mock interview.

  2. Tks very much for your post.

    Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We've gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.

    You also find all interview questions at link at the end of this post.

    Source: Download Ebook: Ultimate Guide To Job Interview Questions Answers:

    Best rgs

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