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Biological Scientist Interview
Questions

25 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns

Updated September 20th, 2020 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Job Interviews     Careers     Sciences    
Question 1 of 25
What are your salary expectations for this biological scientist role?
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How to Answer
The best thing that you can do when asked about your salary expectations is to be open and honest about what you are currently earning, and where you want to be in the future.
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Answer Examples
1.
What are your salary expectations for this biological scientist role?
The best thing that you can do when asked about your salary expectations is to be open and honest about what you are currently earning, and where you want to be in the future.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I can share with you what I am currently earning, and where I would like to be in my next position. Currently, I am earning a base salary of $78K plus an annual bonus opportunity of an additional 10%. Last year my earnings were $85K, and I'd like to earn a bit above that in my next position."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"As I am a recent graduate, I would like to be offered a fair salary that reflects my recent education. I am most concerned with joining an organization that will help me to grow my career in (industry). Compensation is not my primary driver."
2.
How do you encourage creative thinking with your fellow scientists?
Encouragement to others is a great skill to possess. Talk to the interviewer about your ability to encourage creative ideas in your team members.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I like to encourage other people to be creative in their thinking and present ideas to the company, no matter how off the wall they may seem. Some of our most successful employees are ones who are confident in their ability to bring forward their unique ideas. I encourage participation through an open door policy and strong praise for those who show initiative."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Here are some ways that you can encourage ideas in others:

- Get to know them and what they like to work on
- Send an encouraging email letting them know you like their plan or ideas
- Publicly praise their efforts
- If they are doing a great job, offer them more related opportunities
- If you are a leader, then tell them that you like their ideas
- Say things like 'Well done' or 'Nice work' on a regular basis
- Show that you believe in their quality of work before they even deliver it"
3.
Tell me about a career related goal that you set and did not reach. How did you recover from the disappointment?
Tell the interviewer about a goal you set for yourself, but failed to meet. Show the interviewer that you are ambitious and, rather than giving up, you are going to try to achieve that goal again. Everyone has goals they have failed to reach so do not be embarrassed about that aspect. The interviewer is more interested in knowing that you are persistent and tenacious.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"Last January, I set a goal to learn the C++ programming language by June; however, a few unexpected work-based projects came up which slowed my progress. Instead, I have been practicing and studying the language every Sunday evening. I hope to be comfortable with the programming language by August."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Right out of university, I set the goal of being the department manager of a junior scientist division by my second year. That would have been six months ago, and I am, as you know, actively pursuing the role with your organization. Although I am slightly off track on my timeline, I do not feel defeated. I know I have the skill set needed to succeed in the role."
4.
Do you prefer to work in the field, or in a lab setting?
The interviewer would like to know if there is a particular environment in which you enjoy working. Are you pretty flexible in your ability to work in most situations? Have you experienced a position where the situation wasn't conducive to your productivity? Be sure to know the type of environment offered in this position before the interview.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I am able to be productive in most work environments, so long as the mentality is positive and teamwork is encouraged. I enjoy lab work because it's so precise and also field work because it's active and unpredictable."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I am newer to my career as a biological scientist and would love to have some hands-on, field experience. It's necessary for me to cut my teeth as a new scientist, in my opinion. This environment is a big reason why I applied for this role."
5.
Share an experience in which you presented to a group. What was the situation and how did it go?
As a biological scientist, you often present your research and findings in a group setting. Tell the interviewer about a time you presented to a crowd and what the outcome was. Don't worry if your last big presentation was in school. Tell the interviewer what your role was and what the information was that you presented. If public speaking is a weakness of yours, this is a great time to let the interviewer know that you are working to overcome your nervousness around public speaking.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I recently presented my stem cell research to a crowd of 100 people. I was really nervous during the presentation and fumbled over my words a bit. I've decided to start presenting my findings on projects I'm working on to groups of five or less to practice my public speaking skills and overcome my fear of large audiences."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"While attending university, I decided to join the school's Toastmasters chapter. Weekly, we would get together and practice public speaking. Because of this commitment, I made for myself; I am very comfortable speaking to large groups and audiences."
6.
As a scientist, team communication is key to your success. What experience do you have using team-based messaging applications?
As you know, when you are working on a science-based project, there is a multitude of moving parts and potentially many hands in the kitchen. For this reason, tools for clear team communication are essential. There are many options for communication software and messaging applications. Give the interviewer a brief overview of the apps you are experienced in and assure them that you can learn their internal system, should it be new to you.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I love team-based messaging applications! I have utilized many of them with direct teams and remote teams. They are effective for updating communications and keeping on track with the progress of team-based work projects."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I have limited experience with team messaging apps in the workplace. However, I have used them during my time in university for the purpose of group projects and connecting with professors. It would be great to have a simple and quick messaging system in the workplace."

7.
What questions do you have for me?
It's always a great idea to have questions ready for the interviewer. Review the company website and other online resources to ensure the questions you are asking are not mundane, or redundant. The last thing an interviewer wants to hear is a list of questions you could have found the answers to from simply watching a video on their company site!

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I have been a fan of your company's projects and research for as long as I can remember and I am curious what the vision is for introducing your research to new markets?"
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Here are some sample questions:

- When would you like to have this position filled?
- How long has this role been vacant?
- Is this a replacement search or a newly created role?
- What is your favorite part of working here?
- What is the company's primary goal for this position in the next 12 months?
- Is there anything from my background and experience that I can clarify for you?
- What do you see as the most significant change in this industry over the past three years?
- Is there any reason why you would not hire me?"
8.
Describe a difficult project and how you overcame it?
The interviewer wants to know how you approach, evaluate and resolve a work problem or complicated project. Telling the interviewer how you overcame the problematic project will show your problem-solving skill as well as prove that you are one that can take on responsibility.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I recently had a challenging school project with a tight deadline. It was on a topic that I was not overly knowledgeable in. I decided to hire a tutor to help me through the outline creation and final edits. I will go the extra mile whenever necessary."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I have had many challenging projects in my eight years as a biological scientist. When I am faced with a task more challenging than usual, I will create a step by step plan and follow it to a tee. I call in reinforcements when needed and also have an industry mentor who I call upon from time to time."
9.
How do you handle a larger than average workload?
The interviewer wants to know that you can handle the workload required of you in this position and that you will not become overwhelmed if/when workloads unexpectedly increase. When workloads increase, stress levels do too. How do you react?

Rachelle's Answer #1
"When I have a large workload on my plate, I do not stress over the tasks that are in front of me. Rather, I make a simple plan of which tasks are a high priority and which tasks are a lower priority. The higher priority tasks, I complete first. Through this system, I can focus on my tasks individually, rather than stress out by the multitude of tasks ahead of me."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Here are some suggestions on how to handle a large workload:

- List your tasks and prioritize them
- Think of which jobs add to the company's bottom line, and start there (Closest to the money!)
- Exhale. Relax for a minute and collect yourself
- Organize your tasks by which ones you can complete independently and which ones you need help with
- Take sufficient breaks, so you do not exhaust yourself
- Communicate your struggles with your leadership or team"
10.
Have you ever broken a confidentiality agreement?
Companies will have confidentiality agreements for a variety of reasons. These could be to protect their trade secrets or to ensure that you do not bring clients over on the occasion that you leave their company. Talk to the interviewer about your thoughts on confidentiality agreements.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I never have, to my knowledge, broken a confidentiality agreement. Despite my reasons for leaving a position, I would never choose to hurt a previous employer in any way."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"No. I have only once had a confidentiality agreement and had no problem adhering to it."
11.
How will you earn the trust of your coworkers?
Workplace relationships are essential to nurture. Talk to the interviewer about how you plan to earn the trust of your new co-workers, should you be offered the position.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I feel that the best way to earn the trust of my co-workers is to be helpful, always do what I promise, and be honest with them at all times. Strong relationships have to be built on these principles."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I will win my new coworkers over by going above and beyond the expectations given to me. I want to be a helpful team member that they can always come to."
12.
What feedback did you receive from your most recent manager?
Every manager has a different approach to giving feedback. Some prefer to save it for the performance review while others dish it out on the regular. Your response to feedback is much more important than the input itself. Even if it was negative, if you can take it as constructive criticism, you can improve yourself and your skills.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"My manager told me that I was spending too much time on the details of a project. I realized that I could be such a perfectionist that I lose track of time and am often hyper-focus on things that just aren't that important. I'm learning to prioritize the steps I need to take, and the tasks that need to be completed when working on a bigger project."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"My last performance review was positive. I was given kudos for completing tasks on schedule and occasionally ahead of schedule."
13.
As a biological scientist, you will face a significant amount of diversity among your coworkers. Are you accustomed to this?
Working in a scientist role, you will have co-workers that come from many backgrounds, specialties, areas of focus, and years of experience. Are you accustomed to working with a very large or diverse team of individuals? How about cross-functional teams? Assure the interviewer that you can handle an environment that offers diversity.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I have worked with diverse groups of people most of my career, including my time in university. I am most comfortable, and happy, in this type of environment because it offers a great learning opportunity."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"In my current role, I work alongside cross-functional teams regularly. Together, we manage our research projects very well."
14.
When conducting scientific research, how often do you create alternative scenarios for potentially unexpected outcomes?
As a biological scientist, you need to be ready for unexpected outcomes when it comes to your research and findings. Being able to problem solve and think outside the box when it comes to changing situations is a valuable skill set. Talk to the interviewer about your ability to create a variety of potential scenarios.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I feel that it is essential to create alternative scenarios in all research situations. One cannot guess what will happen in the end, so it is great to be prepared for all possible outcomes."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I am ready to adapt at all times. Alternate scenarios are a must in science-based research. One of my biology professors taught me to always work in 'what-ifs' because, in science, plans change and fail on a regular basis."
15.
How do you believe you will complement our department, if you were hired?
If you were awarded the position, what would you bring to the department or organization? Assure the interviewer that you are the right fit for this position.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"If I were hired, I feel that I would compliment your organization in a few significant ways. First - I am a fast learner, and I already bring six years' experience in this industry. The time to train me will be reduced. Also, I will bring a solid amount of research on wildlife, which you mentioned you were looking for in your next hire."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"If I were hired, I will compliment your department by adding value to the pressing initiatives you have prioritized such as conservation of the butterfly community and improving sustainability for the insect population in the surrounding wetlands."
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25 Biological Scientist Interview Questions
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Interview Questions
  1. What are your salary expectations for this biological scientist role?
  2. How do you encourage creative thinking with your fellow scientists?
  3. Tell me about a career related goal that you set and did not reach. How did you recover from the disappointment?
  4. Do you prefer to work in the field, or in a lab setting?
  5. Share an experience in which you presented to a group. What was the situation and how did it go?
  6. As a scientist, team communication is key to your success. What experience do you have using team-based messaging applications?
  7. What questions do you have for me?
  8. Describe a difficult project and how you overcame it?
  9. How do you handle a larger than average workload?
  10. Have you ever broken a confidentiality agreement?
  11. How will you earn the trust of your coworkers?
  12. What feedback did you receive from your most recent manager?
  13. As a biological scientist, you will face a significant amount of diversity among your coworkers. Are you accustomed to this?
  14. When conducting scientific research, how often do you create alternative scenarios for potentially unexpected outcomes?
  15. How do you believe you will complement our department, if you were hired?
  16. What is the most challenging part of supervising biological technicians and junior scientists?
  17. Why have you chosen to specialize in (enter your specialty)?
  18. What do you know about the study of wild animal populations?
  19. What are your strengths as a biological scientist?
  20. Tell me about yourself.
  21. When you suffer a setback, how does that emotionally affect you and your work?
  22. What was the biggest change you have had to deal with in your career?
  23. Describe a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.
  24. Why should we hire you?
  25. How do you handle stress and pressure?
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