Skills and Tips for a Successful Interview

May 9, 2023

The job interview is the best opportunity for management to evaluate if a candidate is a good fit for a job, and for applicants to learn more about the company and position to which they are applying. While interviews may seem daunting, it’s helpful to think of them as a 2-way conversation, rather than an interrogation.

In this episode of Career Conversations for the Medical and Public Health Laboratory, Mondraya Howard, Ph.D., Clinical Microbiology Fellow at the University of Rochester (UR) Medical Center and Julia Nary, Chief Supervisor of Microbiology & Immunology at UR Medicine Laboratories, discuss tips for conducting and completing a successful interview. 

Prepare for an Interview

The key to a successful interview is being well-prepared. The job description, which should accurately reflect the duties and responsibilities of the position, is a great resource to begin your preparation. What are best the ways to prepare for an interview?

For Supervisors:

  • Review resumes and look for the necessary experience to identify potential candidates. 
  • Tailor questions to the job description for the position you’re hiring for and ask candidates standardized questions to provide consistency throughout the hiring process. 

For Candidates:

  • Formulate questions for the interviewer according to the job description. Use these questions to gain a better understanding of the expectations for the role, and to learn about additional opportunities and responsibilities not specified in the posting. 
  • Spend time on the company or organization's website to learn about their mission and values and, importantly, see if those values align with your own. 
  • Search the names of people on the interview panel (if provided) to learn about their research background.
  • Network with current employees (e.g., connect on LinkedIn) and conduct informational interviews to learn more about the organization and its work culture. 

Know What Questions to Expect

Interview in progress
Source: iStock Photo
Microbiologists working in clinical or public health laboratories conduct a diverse array of tests to diagnose and combat infectious diseases. Although the responsibilities and workloads may differ, depending on the size of the lab and the services provided, teamwork is necessary to ensure laboratory work is accurately and efficiently completed. Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic also emphasize the need for personnel who are adaptable and resilient. Thus, transferable skills, such as verbal and written communication, critical thinking and adaptability, are as important as technical experience. Every interview and interviewer is different, but you can expect to be asked a few behavioral or situational questions that assess your interpersonal and technical skills. 

Three questions that Nary likes to ask while conducting an interview:
  • “[Can you tell me about] a difficult time you’ve had in the past working on a team/project?” This question evaluates candidates' team building skills and how they deal with challenging situations.
  • “How did you arrive at [medical microbiology] as a career path?” How applicants answer this question reveals their motivations and what aspects of microbiology make them excited for the job.
  • The question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” assesses the candidate’s goals for climbing the lab scientist career ladder

How to Follow Up

The interview is over, now what?

Supervisors: if it’s within your organization’s practices, offer a shadowing opportunity for job candidates. Allowing the prospective employee to sit with a technologist and observe the type of work they may be doing will provide more details about job responsibilities and work environment. Job shadowing also allows employers to see if the candidate is engaged and may reveal potential red flags that didn’t appear during the traditional interview process.   

Applicants: send a quick email thanking the hiring manager for their time. If you don’t hear back about the position as soon as you hoped, Nary recommends touching base with the hiring manager to ask more questions or schedule a second interview. This “drives home the point that you really liked the position and don’t want to be forgotten,” she said. It is important to remember HR is very busy and you may not hear back about a position for at least 2 weeks. “Pleasant reminders by email or even a phone call show your tenacity,” notes Nary.

Resources for Professional Development

Career Conversations for the Medical and Public Health Laboratory Scientist is a twice-quarterly discussion on career advancement in clinical and public health laboratories. Members of ASM’s Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee (CMMS) will invite guests from clinical and public health microbiology laboratories to discuss topics specific to the laboratory. The CMMS’ goal is to help others learn more about the profession and advance their careers in the clinical or public health microbiology laboratory.

The CMMS provides career advancement activities for those new to the field of clinical or public health microbiology. Its roster of mentors is available to answer any career advancement questions you have.

Author: ASM Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee

ASM Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee
ASM's Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee (CMMS) provides career and networking advice to those looking to advance in clinical and public health microbiology.

Author: Mondraya Howard, Ph.D.

Mondraya Howard, Ph.D.
Mondraya Howard, Ph.D., conducts applied research, strengthened by the collaboration between the laboratory and healthcare professionals, to improve patient diagnostic testing.