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Novartis Oncology Interview
Questions

30 Questions and Answers by Darby Faubion
Darby Faubion has been a Nurse and Allied Health Educator for over twenty years. She has clinical experience in several specialty areas including pediatrics, medical-surgical, critical care, and hospice.

Question 1 of 30

Have you ever had a disagreement with a co-worker, and, if so, how did you resolve it?

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Novartis Oncology Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    Have you ever had a disagreement with a co-worker, and, if so, how did you resolve it?

      Any time you work with someone else, there is a chance of having a disagreement about something at one time or another. The interviewer knows this. It's human nature for people to have their own opinions. What is important to the interviewer in this question is whether or not you are willing to compromise and work through difficult situations with your co-workers. Being unwilling to compromise or find alternative solutions to a dispute can affect everyone on the team, even if it is indirectly. Sharing a personal experience is OK, but do not embellish it to 'be the hero.'

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I believe if we think about it, each of us could remember at least one disagreement with a friend or co-worker. Although I consider myself to be pretty easy-going, I am also very passionate about my patients and the care that they receive. I have been aware of disagreements between other co-workers, but really like to think of myself as more of a peacekeeper. I feel like professional people should be able to discuss things logically and come to an agreement that is satisfactory for everyone involved."

      Darby's Answer #2


      "I think the most common disagreement between myself and others have involved our personal feelings about how healthcare should be carried out. However, I have learned, as have most of the people that I have worked with, that while our opinions are important, plans of care are designated by strict guidelines and with the input of everyone on the care team as well as the patient. Learning to respect those guidelines and patient wishes usually resolves issues that arise"

  2. 2.

    Statistics have shown that cancer patients who are married are more likely to survive than those who are single. Do you have thoughts that may support this statement?

      Research shows that when you're married, you're less likely to die from major illnesses, including heart disease and cancer as well. A study published recently in the journal Cancer looked at more than 780,000 Californians diagnosed with cancer over a nine-year period. It found that single men were 27 percent more likely to die from their condition than married men were. For single women, the mortality rate was 19 percent higher than for their married counterparts. What are some reasons you can think of that may support these findings?

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I can understand the idea that states married people may survive longer. In fact, I would venture to say that anyone with a strong support system or a long-term commitment with a significant other will be more likely to survive any illness. I believe this is in part because when a patient is going through a tough treatment plan like chemotherapy, having someone to encourage them through it helps them to endure the difficultly and complete the plan."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "I can think of a few reasons that this may be true. One factor that I think is conceivable is that a married couple often has two incomes which allows them to afford healthcare costs. Also, if someone has a spouse or partner, that person often encourages them to seek a diagnosis and treatment plan in hopes of becoming well again."

  3. 3.

    Have you ever been involved with any efforts to secure funding for cancer research?

      Most of the funding of cancer research by private voluntary health organizations comes from individuals, but some comes from grants to those organizations (and so might be counted as foundation or government funding as well as spending by the private voluntary health organization). If you have been involved in helping to write grant applications or soliciting private organizations to become a part of research funding, this could be considered an asset. Share any experience you may have.

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I used to work for a company that operated mostly from money received from federal grants. When I worked there, I was an under-study to the head grant-writer. I have hoped to find placement with a company where I can do research but also offer my services in securing funding to further our research efforts."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "Yes, I have assisted with attempts to secure private funding for breast cancer research. I have found that the more specifically focused a research project is, the more easily private funding is secured."

  4. 4.

    Since February 2009, over 40 million doses of Gardasil have been distributed globally. Have you studied this vaccine, and what are your thoughts on its use?

      Gardasil is a vaccine for use in the prevention of certain strains of human papillomavirus, specifically HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. This vaccine is one of the most recent vaccines included on the childhood immunization schedule. Many parents have conflicted feelings about their children being given this vaccine. Remember, when an interviewer asks your opinion, he may not always expect you to agree with his. Nevertheless, be respectful with your answer no matter what your opinion is.

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I have studied FDA and CDC recommendations regarding vaccines in limited detail. Like most new medications or research projects, vaccines are commonly under scrutiny. It is understandable that a person who is not educated on how vaccines work would be apprehensive about them. For me, personally, if there is anything I can do to help reduce the risk of developing cancer, I want to do it."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "I have studied the use of Gardisil as a preventive vaccine. While I understand that some people view vaccines as a negative option in preventive care, I am supportive of any attempt to help reduce the risk of disease. I have found that the benefits outweigh the risks associated with Gardisil, like any other vaccine."

  5. 5.

    What would your previous co-workers say were the best and worst qualities about you?

      No one wants to share anything negative about themselves. However, any honest person will admit that he has both good and bad characteristics. The important thing is recognizing the things that may need to be improved and being willing to address them. Share some things about your personal qualities with the interviewer and remember, when sharing any quality that could be improved, tell how you are working to make a change.

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I would have to say that one of the things I'd like to improve about myself and that most people recognize about me is I always want to be the 'fixer.' While I know that this is not always a negative thing, for me, I have often let the fact that I couldn't fix a certain situation be something that troubled me. On a lighter note, I believe I have a positive, out-going personality. I enjoy getting to know others and like to make them feel comfortable."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "My best quality, I believe, is that I am willing to work on any project I am asked to take on. My worst quality is that I am willing to take on too many projects at once. I've had to learn to pace myself and prioritize things that need to be done so that am not overwhelmed and so that my quality of work does not suffer because I am too busy."

  6. 6.

    Novartis Oncology is passionate about finding ways to help prevent cancer. What makes you feel like you would be a good fit here?

      All employers want to know that an employee is as passionate about their cause as the company is. What made you feel interested in Novartis Oncology? Share your thoughts with the interviewer.

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I am passionate about cancer research. I realize that there are other companies who conduct cancer research, but knowing that Novartis Oncology is as focused on prevention as a cure really drew me to apply here."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "I have been involved in research for quite a while, but I wanted to find somewhere that I could focus on disease prevention specifically. I looked at different research companies and felt that :company's: mission statement was the most in line with my goals of finding ways of prevention. I look forward to seeing where I will best fit with Novartis Oncology."

  7. 7.

    If you were the person responsible for hiring new employees, what qualities would you be looking for during the interview? Do you feel that you display those qualities yourself?

      There is more than one reason for asking this question. First, the interviewer wants to know what qualities you think are important to perform this job. Second, and most importantly, your answer will tell the interviewer if you hold yourself to the same standard as you do others. If you want to see certain characteristics in your peers, you should be able to tell the interviewer with confidence that you possess those traits, as well. This question is one that interviewers often use to distinguish sincerity on the part of the candidate.

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I believe that honesty is important no matter what job title a person holds. I have found that being honest with people creates an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. Those qualities, I feel, are essential when building rapport with patients and co-workers."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "I believe self-confidence and accountability are important. I hope to always display those characteristics and to encourage them in others."

  8. 8.

    Although much research involves a team approach, Novartis Oncology has many employees who work independently and then participate in groups to share information. Do you prefer a team or individual work environment?

      Your preference of working individually or within a team is important. Given the form of this question, expressing one preference over the other will not disqualify you from employment. This is your chance to have some say in where you may be placed. Remember, though, to add that you want to be a part of Novartis Oncology and are willing to take a position if offered, even if it is not your first preference.

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I consider myself an easy-going person and I enjoy being challenged. While I don't mind working independently, I like working in a group. I enjoy working in a group because I get to learn from other's experience and opinions."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "Although I work well with others, I enjoy independent projects. I have a more reserved personality and enjoy challenging myself. However, I am excited about the prospect of becoming a part of Novartis Oncology and would be willing to accept a position whether it is an individual or group assignment."

  9. 9.

    The medical research industry has a diverse workforce. Have you ever worked with a diverse group of pe

      Some people are intimidated when faced with learning new cultures and beliefs, but in the healthcare industry, it is crucial to provide effective care. The interviewer wants to know that you are open to meeting and learning about new people and becoming an integral part of the team. Be positive with your response.

      "I think diversity in the healthcare industry is essential. People from all over the world now call our country their home. I believe learning about and showing an appreciation for people from different walks of life only makes us stronger as we build upon the common bond of caring for others."

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I think diversity in the healthcare industry is essential. People from all over the world now call our country their home. I believe learning about and showing an appreciation for people from different walks of life only makes us stronger as we build upon the common bond of caring for others."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "For example: "The largest diverse group I worked with was probably when I did my clinical rotation at University Medical Center. I was afforded the opportunity to meet people from different cultures, religions, and professional backgrounds. It gave me an eye-opening experience of how many wonderful people there are!"

  10. 10.

    Novartis Oncology likes to find areas of interest to our employees when assigning different research projects. Is there a particular cancer that you would be interested in conducting a research project on?

      Being given the opportunity to say what area of research is most interesting to you will allow the interviewer to see if there is a place where employment needs meet your interest which creates a win-win. This is a chance to say what you want without seeming demanding. Share what interests you and why.

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I read an article recently about prostate cancer. The article said that prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death among African American men. I would be very interested in studying this and do a comparison on its occurrence and prognosis across racial and cultural backgrounds."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "I would like to do a study on metastatic breast cancer. I have known some women who were diagnosed with breast cancer. One of them experienced metastasis while the others did not. I would like to do a case study on the causes of metastasis and possible ways of preventing recurrence."

  11. 11.

    Many people have voiced different opinions regarding embryonic stem cell research. What is your understanding of this branch of research and do you have thoughts about why some people are opposed to this?

      There are various reasons that people voice opposition to stem cell research. Even if you have never worked with stem cell research, you can share your thoughts about why some people may be opposed.

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I believe that the majority of people who oppose embryonic stem cell research do so because they don't have a clear understanding of what type of cells are used and the benefits that the research can accomplish. Embryonic stem cells are derived from the inner cells of human blastocysts, which occur 5-10 days after fertilization, but before implantation into the uterus. I honestly believe if those in opposition were educated to understand that embryonic stem cells are not taken from a living fetus they would be more supportive."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "I believe there are many reasons that people oppose stem cell research. When the word 'embryonic' is used, the majority of the population relates this to an unborn child. If people can understand that a pregnancy has not been achieved at the time these cells are harvested and can know that cloning for reproductive purposes in human beings is not legal, they would be more open to the idea of this type of research."

  12. 12.

    An estimated 12,000 children are diagnosed with cancer in the United States annually. Have you ever participated in any research that is focused on childhood cancer?

      While cancer is a devastating diagnosis, childhood cancer is all the more devastating. The thought behind this is that, while some cancers are not caused by lifestyles such as smoking or other risk factors, most childhood cancers deal with some type of genetics or unintentional exposure to carcinogens. Some researchers focus only on childhood cancer causes and efforts for a cure. If you have never participated in any specific childhood cancer study, you may have attended a lecture or heard of some type of research. Anything you can share with the interviewer that shows your interest will be a positive part of this interview.

      Darby's Answer #1

      "While I have not participated in focused childhood cancer studies, I have attended some seminars regarding cancer research and some of the long-term effects that childhood cancer survivors experience vs. adult cancer survivors. If I were given an opportunity to participate in a focused study, childhood cancer would be one of the things I would choose."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "When I was beginning my career in research, I was given an assignment to choose a topic related to childhood cancer patients/survivors and present a report on that topic. I chose to focus on fertility issues related to childhood cancer survivors. I researched studies that had been conducted and interviewed some survivors. Many of those patients experienced premature menopause and were not able to have children of their own. While not all childhood cancer survivors experience this, based on the prior treatment that each of the survivors I interviewed had, the study revealed that radiation and chemotherapy treatment affected the ovaries and caused premature menopause. It was an interesting study."

  13. 13.

    While many new medicines are now available to treat certain cancers, many of them are only available for clinical trials. Have you ever worked with clinical studies?

      The availability of new medications is generally governed by results of clinical trials associated with those medications. If you have clinical trial experience, share it; if you don't, share your thoughts.

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I have not yet had an opportunity to work with clinical trials. I have usually been on the other side of research, gathering information, offering comparisons, etc. until medications are ready to be presented. I am supportive of medication clinical trials and hope to have an opportunity in the future to be closely involved for the duration of a trial."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "I worked with a previous company that had great focus on clinical trials for cancer treatment. It is astounding to see the way medicine is changing and developing. I look forward to the next trial I can be involved with."

  14. 14.

    Research has shown that postmenopausal women who are more physically active are less likely to die from breast cancer. What are your thoughts as to why this may be so?

      Estrogen is necessary for the body to function. In women, the ovaries are the main source of estrogen. In men, an enzyme converts testosterone to estrogen. Fat cells in both men and women can also make estrogen. This is why too much estrogen is commonly seen in obesity. In women, too much estrogen is linked to an increased risk for post-menopausal breast, endometrial and ovarian cancers.
      While not everyone understands the link between obesity and cancer risks, having some general knowledge such as the facts stated here, is beneficial. Share your knowledge with the interviewer.

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I have to admit, I learned the hard way about obesity's relation to increased cancer risks. For most of my adult life, I battled obesity. My family practitioner gave me some educational material to read that was focused on health risks related to obesity. In that literature, there was an article about post-menopausal women who were obese having a higher risk for developing breast cancer. Until then, I never thought about the fat cells in our bodies creating estrogen. I think so much focus is put on the ovaries being the estrogen producing organ that we often overlook other factors."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "I have researched some studies regarding the occurrence of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. Many people don't realize that,although ovaries produce estrogen, fat cells in our bodies also produce it. Although men and women both have estrogen in our bodies, women have a higher amount. Even after menopause, those who are overweight have an increased amount of estrogen in their bodies because of the fat cells producing it. Estrogen can cause an increased risk of breast cancer occurrence."

  15. 15.

    Novartis Oncology is supportive of employers who interested in continuing their education. Have you thought of furthering your degree, and if so, would you stay within the research industry?

      There are people who choose a career and later return to school. Some have the objective is to get a higher degree in the same field or to change careers altogether. This question gives the interviewer an opportunity to know you and what your future plans may be. In turn, your answer allows the interviewer the chance to see where you may fit within Novartis Oncology now and in the future. If you have thoughts of continuing your education, don't be afraid to share that with the interviewer. Just remember to point out why you feel you would be an asset to Novartis Oncology now.

      Darby's Answer #1

      "I have considered going back to college a few times, but at this point in my life, research is my passion. I feel I am already in an industry that is important and growing. I feel like, if I were to take any additional classes, I would want them to be something that would add value to the education and experience I have now."

      Darby's Answer #2

      "I love research and am comfortable where I am, at this point in my career. I have considered in years to come, when I am older, I may transition slightly into the realm of education within medical research. That way I can still do research and have some input, but I could also educate those who are coming into the field after me. For now, though, I am very happy with what I am doing and really look forward to seeing where you think I will be the greatest asset at Novartis Oncology."

  16. 16.

    Are you familiar with what nitrites are and how they affect the human body?

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  17. 17.

    Research has shown that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer seen in the United States. Have you ever studied skin cancer or the possible ways to decrease the risk of developing it?

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  18. 18.

    While doing research or cancer studies, what is something you have learned that others may not know? This can be a cancer fact or something related to cancer patients.

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  19. 19.

    Novartis Oncology works with a variety of physicians, scientists, and special researchers. One specialty we consult with is nutritionists. What is your understanding of how nutrition may play a role in the development of certain cancers?

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  20. 20.

    One of the most frustrating things for anyone in the healthcare industry, especially medical research, is the fact that we have to treat cancer victims who were exposed to cancer-causing agents by others. Can you think of an example of this?

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  21. 21.

    What made you choose a career in cancer research?

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  22. 22.

    Some physicians and scientist argue that too much of the 'War on Cancer' is misdirected by focusing more on treatment rather than on prevention. Do you agree with this?

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  23. 23.

    Have you ever done any volunteer work or public education related to cancer research?

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  24. 24.

    In a recent poll, much of the general population stated that they were unaware that men can develop breast cancer. Have you ever researched anything regarding the occurrence of breast cancer in men?

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  25. 25.

    Novartis Oncology would like to employ researchers who are interested in working on long-term projects. With that in mind, what changes do you anticipate to occur within the next 2-3 years?

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  26. 26.

    Any time there is a work environment with groups of people, it is important to have effective relationship-building skills. What makes you a strong relationship builder?

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  27. 27.

    Being a medical researcher is rewarding, but can also be very stressful at times. Can you share a situation that was difficult for you and how you worked through it?

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  28. 28.

    If you are offered a position with Novartis Oncology that required travel, would you accept it?

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  29. 29.

    If you were asked to choose a research specialty other than cancer, what would you next choice be?

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  30. 30.

    Have you ever personally participated in a clinical trial?

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