Perfecting the Interview

Applied Clinical Trials

For some, job interviews are about as welcome as a trip to the dentist. And with good reason: few people are able to nail an interview without practice, or at least researching beforehand. Applied Clinical Trials spoke with two recruiters working in the clinical trials industry to learn the tips of perfecting the interview, and (hopefully) getting a job offer.

Both Angela Lucas, Senior Clinical Team Lead and Recruiter at ClinForce, and Angela Roberts, Head of Recruiting Operations at craresources, strongly stressed preparation. Candidates should review the company’s website, and do a general online search particularly looking for news related to the company and product information. Job seekers should also have a general idea of who the company’s competitors are.

“I am still amazed at those who just show up to an interview not being aware of the company’s size, the company’s mission, and how they will personally fit into the company,” Roberts said.

Lucas recommends that candidates then do a similar search on the person (or persons) you are going to be speaking with at the interview. For instance, where did they work in the past, and what do they do now? And, of course, it is vital to know the job description, your own résumé, and how your experience fits into the desired role.

“Write and outline how your experience relates to the top three to five responsibilities or qualifications listed in the job description,” Lucas said. “Typically the first three to five requirements in the position description are the most important to the employer.”

For job seekers in the clinical trials industry in particular, Lucas recommends candidates keep a diary or start an Excel spreadsheet of their skills and experiences during their career. This extra information can be presented if asked during an interview that oulines items such as therapeutic and drug indications worked on; number of trials and phase type; number of monitoring visits done yearly; global experience; and instruments and techniques used. Computer skills used when conducting resarch such as EDC or trial tracking may also be important to mention, depending on the job description. In addition, Roberts suggests including industry specific education, certifications, and association memberships.

"My favorite way to see the therapeutic and phase experience is in a table which shows xx therapeutic in yy phase. This makes it simple, concise, and easy to sell to the hiring manager," Roberts said.

And don’t write off phone interviews. “Many candidates miss out on job opportunities because of their inability to interview well…especially in the phone interview stage,” Roberts warns. Find a step-by-step guide from craresources here on preparing for phone interviews.

Surprisingly, Lucas notes that body language is important even in a phone interview. She suggests job seekers make sure to interview at an office or table rather than a couch, and to ensure there are no distractions in the area. Candidates using a cell phone should also make sure their phone has strong reception and a full battery.

“In my experience, only about 20% of the interview is about your skills and qualifications. Forty percent is about your personality and whether you will be a fit for the company’s culture and team, and another 40% is about how well you build relationships on the fly, your communication skills, and how professional you come across,” Roberts said.

In order to prepare, do practice interviews with the help of a friend or family member, and look up behavioral, situational, and other interview questions online. Not sure if you sound confident when answering questions? Lucas recommends a mirror exercise she does with clients.

“It is very simple; I ask them what their address is or their birth month,” Lucas said. “We all answer that question with confidence and responding to an employer’s question should ‘feel’ and ‘sound’ in the same manner.”

If you made it all the way to the in-person interview, be confident! “When a hiring manager requests a face-to-face interview, you have a very high chance (50% or more) of being offered the position,” Roberts said.

Of course, candidates should make sure to look and act their best on the day of the interview. This means minimal makeup and perfume/cologne, maintaining eye contact, and a firm handshake.

Lastly, remember to close the interview. Be prepared to ask at least five well thought out questions about the position. Roberts suggests asking, “Based off of our discussion, what skills or qualities do you believe I possess which will make me a perfect fit for this team?”

Before you go, remember to express your interest and summarize your qualifications in order to provide a strong impression.

Lucas suggests saying something like, “I want to thank you again for your time and I hope that my interview responses were able to demonstrate my experience and provide you with the clarifications you might have been looking for. I am very interested in this position and with joining your company.”