Preparing for Your Pharmaceutical Interview
Interview preparation should fall into 3 categories – yourself, the company and the process. Use the information below and our “Interview, Now What?” template (linked at the bottom of the page) to help guide your preparation
You have to know yourself inside out. This sounds like common sense, but it’s often harder than it first seems. You have to be able to line yourself up against the job specification and critically analyse where your strengths and weaknesses are. Take time to think and practice clear and concise answers to address each.
You also have to make sure you can comfortably talk through your work history. When you’re changing industry, it’s important that you not only tell the interviewer what your roles have been before, but how they gave you transferable skills relevant to the position you’re interviewing for. You may think it’s obvious, but there’s the chance your interviewer knows very little about your previous role, so spell out the similarities. Don’t leave them guessing.
Additionally, you should be able to give a confident overview of yourself in 5 minutes, many interviewers use this as a way of beginning an interview and letting you settle down – be aware of what your key points are. For pointers on this, check out our article on writing a personal pitch.
Before you set off for an interview, you need to gather as much information as possible. You have to be able to show that even though you’ve not done this specific role in this industry before, you have a good idea of what it is and what it involves.
Have a look at the company’s website, social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and talk to anyone who knows something about the company. What you’re after is a well-rounded view of the company, what they do and how they function. Not only does this help you look prepared and confident to the employer, it also helps you decide that this is a company you would enjoy working for.
Asking what you know about the company is often one of the opening questions in an interview – take the opportunity to do more than just relay a list of facts. Tell them why knowing this makes you want to work for them, what makes you a good fit or what can you add to the pursuit of their company goals. You can easily use this question to get an excellent start to your interview.
The Interview Process
Don’t be afraid to ask about the process – you’ve got to know what you’re preparing for. Consider these points as things you might like to know:
- Are you only meeting one interviewer?
- What is their position within the company?
- Is there a set structure to the interview?
- Will there be any assessments or psychometric tests within this interview?
- How long is the interview scheduled to last?
Preparing effectively will give you confidence going into that all important interview. But even if you’ve asked all the above questions, expect the unexpected! Remember that no two interviews are ever the same and you can’t guarantee any part of it. Be sure make the most of every opportunity given to you throughout the process and be clear on the key things you want someone to know about you.
On the Day
There are several things you can do to help calm your nerves and make sure your interview goes as well as possible.
- Print a copy of the CV you used to apply, the job advert and the interview prep form. Try to review these on the morning of your interview. When you’ve been applying for multiple jobs a week for several weeks, it’s easy to get details muddled. You’ve got to leave the employer feeling like this is the job you want, be clear on the specifics.
- Review what the key skills are that they’re looking for and their current priorities.
- Revisit your questions. Make sure you have 2 or 3 great questions lined up to ask. Try to make sure they don’t just cover information that will routinely be addressed within the interview (or you could be left with nothing to ask). Instead, look to ask questions that give you a real insight and show you’ve genuinely considered yourself in the role.
- Plan out your route to the interview location and estimate the time it will take at the relative time of day. Then always allow MUCH longer than that. Don’t be the candidate that’s late… don’t even be the candidate that arrives in a hurry, on time. Be the candidate that’s sitting calmly in the waiting area for 10 minutes before their interview time slot.
- Spend that time calming your nerves or practicing your personal pitch (to yourself, of course!)
- Introduce yourself pleasantly to everyone you meet – you have no idea who might be asked what kind of image you gave or impression you made
- Ask about the rest of the process
- Are they making a selection based on these interviews alone?
- Is there a second stage of interviewing?
- Are there tests/assessments to do on a separate occasion?
- These are all things you are perfectly entitled to ask and should be – having a clear idea of the process lets you confidently focus best on each task in turn with no surprises.
- As soon as is possible and convenient once you’ve left the interview venue, stop and make some notes. What went well? What didn’t? What questions did you struggle with? What answers went down well? What concerns do you think they have about you? Which questions of yours did they respond well to? This insight will help you follow up with this interview but also helps guide your preparation for future interviews. And don’t leave it too long, your recollection of details will deteriorate quickly throughout the rest of the day.
How to Follow up an Interview
Following up on interview is something that most people neglect to do. Because of this, it gives you a great opportunity to set yourself apart from other candidates and leave a real lasting impression with the hiring manager.
Send a follow-up email to your interviewer before close of business on the day of the interview. Not sure what to say? Try this:
- Thank them for their time and for the informative conversation
- Outline any questions you feel they had about your suitability and take the chance to answer those again
- Confirm your position as their ideal candidate by reaffirming 1 or 2 key skills
- Thank them for their insight into the company and the role
- Highlight one area that you’re particularly excited by – a specific duty, the company 5 year plan, anything really
- Tell them you’re looking forward to hearing from them soon (reiterating the timeline you were given for this)
- List your contact information
The key is to strike the right tone – you’re looking for friendly and professional, not desperate and pleading!
If you’ve followed our advice then when you leave your interview, you know exactly when you can expect to hear about your success (or otherwise) in the process. If this time comes and goes and you haven’t heard, drop your contact another quick email politely asking for an update on the process timeline.
The final request you should have from every interview you do, is feedback. Whether you ask for it in the interview itself or you ask for it when you hear if you were successful, it’s important that you come away from each application process with an idea of why you were or weren’t successful that time.
Job hunting is a numbers game and interviewing is something you’ll have to become skilled at. But don’t see it as going in to multiple rooms, reeling off the same information and hoping you find someone who likes it. See it as a process where you get better, take on feedback, learn from your own observations, and make each interview better that the one before.