If you’re taking the next steps in your career and applying for scientist jobs, you’re probably thinking about what will happen at the interview stage. Rest assured that we can help you to get prepared and ensure that you represent yourself well, to maximize your chances of being hired.
In this article, we’ve outlined 20 common scientist interview questions. Whether you’re applying for entry level or principal scientist jobs, you’re likely to be asked something similar to the questions we discuss here.
Common scientist interview questions
At R&D Partners, we’ll support you throughout the entire process of your job search. We can give you inspiration around how to present yourself and your experience, or run a practice session as a mock interview.
Here are 20 common interview questions you may be asked for different science jobs:
- Could you talk a little about yourself and your experience?
- What inspired you to embark on a career as a scientist?
- What do you think is the most important aspect of a scientist’s job?
- What are your strongest attributes as a scientist?
- What do you think are the biggest challenges facing science today?
- What are your thoughts on the role of technology in science?
- How do you keep up with the latest news and developments in science?
- How do you conduct your research?
- Could you share an example of a mistake you’ve made and what you did to resolve it?
- What do you think are the most important ethical considerations for scientists to keep in mind?
- Collaboration with other scientists is often essential. Can you tell me about a time when you successfully worked as part of a team?
- How do your own values match with those of our company?
- What motivates you to keep learning and making new discoveries?
- How has your work in science changed how you view the world?
- What is your favorite part of being a scientist?
- What is your least favorite part of being a scientist?
- How do you communicate your findings to people without a scientific background?
- Can you give an example of a mistake you made and how you resolved it?
- What are your long-term career goals?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
We’ve expanded on some of these questions below to give you ideas for answers.
Could you talk a little about yourself and your experience?
This is where you can bring your resume to life. It’s a good opportunity to sell yourself and fill in the gaps of your summarized work history on the page, with additional detail around your experience and how it all links together. As you give an overview of your career so far, give particular focus to those aspects most relevant to the role you’re interviewing for.
What made you embark on a career as a scientist?
With any jobs for scientists, employers will want to see your passion. You will know best how to answer this one, so feel free to communicate anything that feels authentic to you. This can be a totally personal answer, so don’t be afraid to tell your interviewer something that has an emotional pull and will draw them in. For example, you could talk about a toy you received as a child, or a favorite teacher in school who inspired you to follow this path.
What do you think is the most important aspect of a scientist’s job?
Here you can go into the vital features of the scientist jobs you’re applying for. Anything you can relate back to your experience will help you to pitch yourself for the role. Things you could talk about might include being able to observe, analyze or communicate.
What are your strongest attributes as a scientist?
This is one of the key scientist interview questions that lets you show what you bring to a role. You could name traits such as analytical skills, patience, open-mindedness, commitment or curiosity. Depending on where you’re at in your career, any leadership abilities you have could be crucial to talk about. Even if you’re not in a leadership role, you could have evidence for this in the form of projects you might have taken charge of.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing science today?
This is where you can show that you are able to identify problems and how to make improvements in the field, without it seeming like you’re becoming jaded or losing your passion for science. So be mindful of talking about challenges in a way that is optimistic. Issues you could talk about include obtaining funding, a lack of replication or flaws in peer review. Just make sure you suggest some ideas of how you might try to address these challenges.
How do you conduct your research?
This is a chance to talk through your process and give a clear indication of how you would tackle the role. A crucial element of scientist jobs, research can incorporate gathering data, analyzing results, creating and presenting reports.
What do you think are the most important ethical considerations for scientists to keep in mind?
Ethics are important in all jobs for scientists. There are a few things you could discuss here, such as informed consent of study participants, confidentiality, communication of results, conflict of interest and meeting professional standards.
What motivates you to keep learning and making new discoveries?
This is another of those scientist interview questions that let you show how passionate you are about your work. You could mention wanting to make a difference in the world or how seeing constant progress in the field helps you to see where you fit into the bigger picture. You could also talk about how you break down big milestones to set smaller goals, feeling a sense of achievement each time you meet them.
How has your work in science changed how you view the world?
Everyone will have their own view on this and how they are individually moved by the work they do. While scientist jobs all come with different responsibilities, objectives and viewpoints, there are certain aspects that many professionals may share across different fields. For example, you could talk about how you have personally found answers to philosophical questions that you’ve had since being young. You could also say that you find a lot of hope in scientific work and how breakthroughs in the field can uplift people in times of crises, or bring people together across the world.
How do you communicate your findings to people without a scientific background?
If this question comes up, you can let your interviewer know how strong your communication skills are with those outside of the field. Jobs for scientists all require this important skill. It is essential for areas of the role such as helping others to understand the significance of scientific findings, securing funding or having your research published. You could talk about the importance of knowing your audience and tailoring your language, or about relating your points to familiar references using metaphors or other comparisons.
Scientist jobs with R&D Partners
At R&D Partners, we regularly recruit for exciting roles in the field of science, whatever stage you’re at in your career. Our experienced team partners with leading scientific companies, connecting ambitious people with entry level to principal scientist jobs.
Between us, we have over 200 years of experience in scientific recruitment. We know how to help you find your perfect role and we take the time to listen to your needs. We have a number of offices on the west and east coast, with friendly consultants matching people with opportunities in various locations.
Get in touch today to find out more about our current scientist jobs.