The key to a successful job interview is to apply the same analytic skills process as you do for your research. A potential employer is interested in your broader expertise – excellent writing and communication skills, leadership skills (ability to create a vision and set goals), and project management skills, in addition to your scientific accomplishments. Be prepared to showcase all of your skills throughout the interview.
1 – Prepare ahead of time
Coordinate with your HR contact for an interview agenda and make sure you know the names and titles of people you will meet that day.
Read as much as you can about the place, including the people whose names are on the interview agenda, and familiarizing yourself with their work. Starting with their institute’s website, try to learn about the type of projects/expertise that the people in your scheduled interview have been involved with.
Prepare a list of questions that you’d like to ask about the institution and the job – try to focus your questions on the culture of the place, future projects, and opportunities for collaborations, rather than questions about vacation time and salary. You can find out how many weeks of vacation you’ll get after an offer is made. Benefits should not be the focus of your interview. Be prepared to discuss a salary range that day, without belaboring specific numbers.
Needless to say, when applying for scientific research positions (or any job, for that matter), don’t list skills or expertise that you don’t have. It’s embarrassing to have a preliminary interviewee decide your knowledge of various “buzz” terms listed in your CV to be superficial.
2 – The Interview
Even in casual work environments, wearing jeans and graphic t-shirts is not appropriate for job interviews. Tend to be overdressed, not underdressed.
Walk into the interview confidently and shake hands firmly, giving your name first.
Be alert, but comfortable. Use your hands, eyes, and head to emphasize what you say. Lean forward slightly in your chair while listening; your body language should indicate a general attitude of “attentive interest.”
Smile and laugh when appropriate. People who smile are seen as likely to be fun to work with and are assumed to have confidence in themselves. But don’t overdo it! Until you know the environment, don’t be overly “familiar.”
Never make any sarcastic or negative comments about any previous employer or another division or part of the place where you are interviewing.
Treat everyone in the company with the same high level of courtesy. Assume that everyone you talk with on the interview day will be involved in the decision to hire, no matter how they are introduced. You are interviewing, no matter where these conversations take place–in the hallway, the lunchroom, or while on a tour.
Don’t leave the interview without asking specifically where the process stands. Know their timetable and when you will hear their decision. Express your eager interest one last time!
And good luck!