Day 2: Student Questions concerning communications in the hiring process

Student Question: “How you deal with showing who you are without coming off too strong or that you are a narcissist?”

“Coming off too strong” and narcissistic behavior in an interview simply means that the interviewer is expected to admire, show agreement, and praise the candidate.  That expectation will not get you a job in most organizations.

What simple communication preparation is more likely to make you a final candidate for a job? Let us take the interview question: “Tell me about a time when you had to innovate a solution for a laboratory problem and how did you measure your success?”  And lets presume that this question was asked by three of the six interviewers during your day of interviews for a job.

First, are you consistent in the data presented in your answers with different interviewers? What if your answers change, for example; with one interviewer your innovation in the lab saved the Department $35,000 and with a second interviewer you saved $55,000 and $25,000 with a third interviewer?  Inconsistent data will raise a question about your integrity and that can be enough to not consider you as a final candidate.

Second, the interviewers will compare answers to determine the extent to which you tailored your response to accommodate the interviewer’s technical level of understanding. We call this Technical Literacy: your ability to present your technical findings to a wide variety of audiences.   Instead of giving the same highly technical answer to every interviewer, regardless of their ability to understand that technical language, you tailor your answer depending on the science background of your “audience.”  Your language should vary from highly technical for a PhD interviewer in your field to highly social and more general for the non-science interviewers, using language such as “my research is to find a novel cure for COVID. Would you like me to go into more detail?”

Here are two preparation steps for your interview session.

1.     You will probably be told ahead of time who your interviewers will be. Do some basic research on these individuals and get an understanding of their professional field of expertise. This will help you frame your responses to their questions appropriately.

2.     Practice, Practice, Practice. You can Google for “behavioral interview questions” or find examples on job sites like Indeed. We also make a wide variety of interview questions available in our SciPhD online web application Flamingo. Select questions relevant for the job you are seeking. Develop and practice your responses to these questions by interviewers with different professional fields of expertise.  Showing that you can tailor your responses to specific professional backgrounds demonstrates that your communications are capable of helping others see the value of your research as it relates to them, and build relationships.

These two simple preparation steps will place you in a positive interview environment.  Communications is the business of creating and enhancing relationships.  Just as you meticulously plan your research, you should also plan your communications.

Leave a Reply