Being able to swivel the focus of your project is a necessary skill for your success as an environmental scientist. Talk to the interviewer about a time when a significant change occurred on a project. How did you handle the implementation of the new information?
"I had a large project last month that was nearly complete when the client called to say that some of the needs provided were incorrect. Because of this, our team had to re-do the entire proposal. It took us an additional four days of work but, in the end, the client was delighted with our work, and it resulted in new opportunities for them."
"Last year we saw new federal regulations come through which affected 80% of our ongoing projects. We had to adjust our plans; however, we were able to deliver a timely product that met federal regulations."
"All of the time! As an experienced environmental scientist, I see many projects that need to be revisited and nearly scrapped in their entirety, at times. It can feel defeating; however, there is always something to learn through these events."
As an environmental 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.
"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."
"I am ready to adapt at all times. Alternate scenarios are a must in science-based research. One of my professors taught me to always work in 'what-ifs' because, in science, plans change and fail on a regular basis."
"I frequently received and gave feedback at my last job. I proactively scheduled a weekly touch base with my manager to seek out feedback and connect on pressing issues. The feedback was often positive, and I would take the lead navigating situations I was unclear on by enlisting the expertise of my peers."
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.
"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."
"I am newer to my career as an environmental 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."
"As an experienced biological scientist, I have worked both in the field and in the lab. At this point in my career, my interest is more in leading junior scientists in either setting. The environment is not as much a concern to me as the ability to grown in my leadership capabilities."
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.
"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 ecosystems, which you mentioned you were looking for in your next hire."
"If I were hired, I will compliment your department by adding value to the pressing initiatives you have prioritized such as conservation and environmental sustainability."
"From what I understand, this department has minimal turnover, which is fantastic. If hired, I will bring an outsiders perspective with different experiences and methods, and hopefully, I can help find some areas to improve upon in your research and labs."
Which personal strengths make you excellent at your job? Advantages can be skills or qualities that help you overcome difficult circumstances or accomplish challenging tasks. In a work context, your strengths will help you to complete your to-do list, understand client needs, and help you to apply what you have learned in your training. Talk to the interviewer about a couple of your strengths and why those will help you to be successful in this role.
"I think my strengths are in my perceptiveness and ability to be observant of the needs of others. These strengths are part of what makes me an excellent performer in a client facing role."
"Some great strengths to mention are: - Communicative - Loyal - Collaborative - Tech Savvy - Flexible in Schedule/Availability - Persistent and Determined - Eager for Knowledge/New Skills "
"I think my greatest strengths are in my communication skills- both written and oral. I use these daily while leading my team of junior scientists, writing grant proposals, RFP's or making phone call pitches to our private funders."
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.
"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."
"I have limited experience with team messaging apps in the workplace. However, I have used them during my time in university for group projects and connecting with professors. It would be great to have a simple and quick messaging system in the workplace."
"I have used a variety of team-based messaging applications. I am best versed in Brosix, AOL Instant Messenger, and Freedcamp. No matter which system you use I am sure that I can pick it up very quickly."
When an interviewer asks an open-ended question like this, it can be difficult to know where to begin...and end! This question haunts many individuals who may accidentally go a little too in-depth into their personal lives. It happens. Keep your reply light, and work relevant. Share how you became interested in this career path and what you enjoy about it. This question is an excellent opportunity to describe yourself by discussing the strengths and qualities that you bring.
"I am a competitive individual who is driven and likes to win. In addition to my successful career in science, I also spend time playing competitive sports. I give back by volunteering at the local animal shelter and working for a variety of annual fundraisers in our community."
"I am a very active individual who loves to workout and go to the mountains on the weekend. I feel that my level of activity on my off time greatly improves my work during the week. I have a high amount of energy to offer!"
"I am a calm and quiet leader, with excellent written and verbal communication skills. Even though I am quiet, I can motivate my team and keep morale high. I take my career in biological science very seriously and often spend time on the weekends immersed in personal research through reading and listening to industry related podcasts."
Everyone handles the stress and disappointment of setbacks differently. Discuss with the interviewer how you typically cope with delays in the workplace.
"Experiencing a setback is always disappointing and can be a bit disheartening, especially when research hours are lost for example. I understand that it happens from time to time. If I experience a major setback, I will take a few moments to debrief with my manager and discuss what I could have done differently. Then, I move on!"
"In science, setbacks happen for a reason, and they do not affect me emotionally in the least. I am a very pragmatic thinker and stay focused despite the challenges that come my way."
"Setbacks can be trying, but I find that you have to learn how to lose before you learn how to win. While I never enjoy a setback, I use them as a stepping off point to something even better."
Encouragement to others is a great skill to possess. Talk to the interviewer about your ability to encourage creative ideas in your team members.
"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."
"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 "
"I encourage people to tap into the best parts of themselves. It helps to ask probing questions to get them to generate ideas on their own. I have found that by painting a long-term vision for where I want to go, my team will often jump in with creative solutions to get us there."
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.
"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."
"No. I have only once had a confidentiality agreement and had no problem adhering to it."
"Confidentiality agreements are necessary and important to protect an organization. I understand the need for confidentiality and take those factors very seriously. I have never broken the trust of my employer."
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 items you could have found the answers to from merely watching a video on their company site!
"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?"
"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? "
"Thank you for asking - I do have a few questions. What is top of mind when it comes to filling this role? Also, what types of career growth opportunities would follow this position? And lastly, do you have internal candidates who are also interviewing for this position?"
Stress can often be a regular part of the day to day work experience. Talk to the interviewer about which areas of your career are the most stressful. Ensure that your answer does not include a factor that would make you appear unfit for the position. (IE: an environmental scientist should not research to be the most stressful part of the job).
"The part of my career that brings me the most stress is when the schedule is running behind due to lack of hustle on my teams part. I really like to be on time with my schedule to ensure that my projects are running smoothly."
"I probably bring myself the most stress because of my drive and desire to be/do the best I can be. I manage this by focusing my energy on productive activities that are good for my career."
"I become more stressed when workloads are high, and my team seems less responsive than usual. In these situations. I will hold one on one meetings in these cases to check in with each team member and find out what they need to pick up the pace and meet expectations."
We all like to be recognized in some way for our accomplishments in the workplace. Share with the interviewer how you would want to be known for your hard work. Through gifts? Financial perks? Public recognition? Kind words? Title promotions?
"I am very much an over-achiever and find that the best way for me to be recognized for a job well done is to be given words of kindness and recognition. I am easily encouraged, and the best reward for me is to know that my hard work is being noticed."
"I am very simple. I do not require any formal recognition, but kind words from my coworkers and superiors will keep me motivated and working hard."
"I love accolades given, in sincerity, by those whom I respect. I appreciate the shout-out in the company-all meeting, but honestly, it's even better when others know that my hard work is not only noticed but appreciated and commended."
Bragging about yourself in an interview can be tough to do, but this is your time to shine! Which characteristics and career accomplishments have made you a stand-out candidate? Perhaps you have received some academic awards or have been given individual accolades in your most recent position. There is nobody like you, and now you need to express that to the interviewer.
"I am the best candidate for you because I have a consistent history of exceeding my targets and meeting project deadlines. I have been promoted two times in the last year which is nearly unheard of in my current company."
"I have the necessary experience, skill sets, and ambition to add great value to this role. I am looking forward to the opportunity!"
"I am the best candidate because I have the right background, education, and experience. I know that I can jump right in and get going with very little training time."
The interviewer would like to know the extent of your experience with asbestos. Discuss any time you have worked with building inspections that involve asbestos, supervised asbestos abatement contractors, collected asbestos air samples, or did an onsite analysis of asbestos air sample cassettes. Do you have the skills to perform air, soil, or water sampling? Do you bring experience in the oversight of subcontractors, and health and safety monitoring activities? These experiences can be considered an advantage and can help you beyond the closed doors of a laboratory.
"I have worked on approximately three asbestos focused cases in my career. I would rate my level of experience still as a beginner compared to others; however, I am more than willing to gain further knowledge on this topic."
"I have not worked in any asbestos based projects; however, did complete a unit of asbestos while obtaining my Bachelor of Science degree. I look forward to learning more about the topic of asbestos."
"I have experience with asbestos from a few projects where I supervised asbestos abatement contractors. My experience is at an intermediate level, and I look forward to advancing this."
The interviewer would like to know what type of monitoring equipment that you have used in your career so far. As an environmental scientist, you will have exposure to a great variety of equipment. Before your interview, take a look at the job description and mention some of the material listed in the description, if possible.
"I have been lucky enough to have been exposed to the use of a wide range of equipment including temperature chambers, biofuel analyzers, balances, evaporators, stability chambers, particle counters, and pH meters. I see in your job description that you are looking for expertise in biofuel analyzers. I have approximately eight years' experience with this."
"I have had some hands-on experience during university with equipment such as particle counters, pH meters, and evaporators. I look forward to being exposed to an even wider variety of equipment in this role."
"I think that, through my eighteen years as an environmental scientist, I have used it all! My specialty includes metal analysis and the equipment that comes along with this expertise. I understand from your job description that this is valuable experience for this role. Are there any other specific types of equipment that you would like to see experience in?"
It's impossible to know where you will be in 5 years but do assure the interviewer that, given all possible circumstances, you could see yourself as a long-term fit for their position.
"Ideally, five years from now, I would love to see myself growing into a more prominent leadership role within your organization. My career interests align very nicely with your company's goals which helps me to see a great long-term fit here."
"In 5 years I would like to be seen as an authority in our industry. I would like to be well-connected and trusted when it comes to my work here."
"Five years from now, I would like to be supervising or managing a team of my own. I feel like I am progressing at a rate that will make this a possibility."
This answer should hold a balance of bragging about yourself a little bit and giving an honest answer. Think about some common compliments that you receive from your co-workers or the regular feedback that you receive in meetings and reviews.
"My coworkers often comment on my attention to detail and go-getter attitude. I am proud of the person that I am at work - always willing to learn new skills and teach someone a new skill."
"I try to be a helpful colleague, always looking for an opportunity to pitch in while learning a new skill at the same time."
"I have great relationships with my co-workers, both past, and present. I bring a calm attitude to my work, zero ego, and the ability to provide helpful feedback while also receiving it with grace."
The interviewer would like to see that you are interested in your work as an environmental scientist and that you eagerly stay up to date on industry changes and trends. List a couple of your favorite resources and also be sure to ask the interviewer which resources they prefer to use. This can be an excellent learning opportunity for you as well as the chance to open up a great conversation.
"I have a google alert set up for a few topics and keywords. This way, I get the latest news sent straight to my inbox on a daily basis. This helps me keep abreast of the environmental related news. Which resources do you utilize the most often?"
"While attending University, I was given many great resource suggestions by my professors. I most utilize E/The Environmental Magazine and Earth Policy Institute. I am always open to learning new resources. Which is your favorite?"
"I prefer to use government based resources such as the EPA, the Energy Department, and the NOAA. I will also look to other more entertaining resources such as Grist Magazine. If you have any other suggestions for me, I would be happy to discuss those as well."
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.
"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."
"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."
"I am currently making $100,000 per year with two bonus opportunities. I am looking for compensation that is aligned with the role and provides an opportunity for growth."
As an environmental scientist in a leadership position, you may find that you have difficulties with your employees. A few challenges you may face are balancing being the boss and being a friend, interpersonal conflict on a team or having employees with bad attitudes. Show the interviewer that you are capable of handling challenging leadership situations. If you have not been in a leadership role, talk about an example you have had in the past from a great supervisor. State that you would like to emulate that person's leadership style.
"The most challenging thing about supervising technicians and other junior scientists is figuring out what style of communication works for each person. Also, finding out everyone's motivators can be a challenge at first."
"I have not been in a leadership position as of yet; however, I have had some great leaders as examples in my past. My most recent supervisor was excellent at keeping the peace in a high-stakes environment. He knew everyone's motivators and worked with those when he wanted better performance."
"I love being a leader and the challenges that come with it. I would say that the most challenging aspect of leading other scientists is to get past everyone's ego. I am not negatively mentioning this - it's just a simple fact the when you have a room full of highly educated people, and Ph.D.'s, ego's can get in the way. I overcome this by showing up with a humble attitude and being a practical example to my team."
Environmental scientists are dedicated to protecting the environment and improving human health. These specialist scientists work with local and state governments, and scientific, technical and engineering services where they may advise policymakers, oversee the cleaning up of polluted areas or reduction of industrial waste. They use their extensive knowledge of the natural sciences to determine data collection methods and develop plans to fix, prevent or manage water or air pollution and other environmental issues.
A bachelor's degree in a natural science will help you gain entry into the field but will have limited opportunities. Higher education will open up more opportunities and higher income potential. Self-discipline is important for this role and so are good analytical, problem-solving, communication and interpersonal skills.
Why are you interested in becoming an environmental scientist? That is likely to be the first question any prospective employer will ask you. Their main purpose in asking this question is to determine whether or not you are passionate about the environment and conservation. Other questions they will ask you will typically relate to your career goals and your job knowledge. To get a better idea of the types of questions that interviewers ask candidates at environmental scientist interviews, go to Mock Questions.