Placement Interviews

It’s that time of the year for me. I’ve applied to a ton of placements and a few have called me in for interviews. So I thought I’d make a quick little post about what to do/what not to do during these.

If you’ve applied for a big company (e.g: a big pharmaceutical company) chances are, the selection round will take a long time. You just gotta be patient. First you apply. The application might be lengthy where they probe you to answer various questions about yourself or it might just be a matter of emailing your CV and cover letter to recruitment. Either way, if you get selected for an interview, even that process could be testing your patience.

Most big companies will have multiple interviews. Big Pharma companies such as Sanofi, GSK or Pfizer for example, usually start off with a video/telephone interview. This may seem unimportant but telephone interviews are vital in your progress and should be taken seriously. In some ways, they’re even harder than face to face interviews because you can’t even tell what the other person looks like, and you can’t showcase your enthusiasm as easily over a phone. Telephone interviews are usually slightly basic. They will ask you about your CV, your achievements and your skills. They’ll ask why you want the job and what you know about the position and/or the company. Mostly, this first interview will be centred around you and what you can bring to the job.

Telephone interviews are good in the sense that you can have your notes right in front of you and no one will even know. The good thing to do here is to prepare answers to some popular questions (easily found online) and be ready. The key is to sound confident in your answers and your experience.

The second stage is usually an assessment stage (Some companies might skip this and go straight to the final interview). This is where you’re required to go into the company’s assessment centre to do various exercises and recruiters can find out how you deal with various situations (situations are usually modelled after real scenarios). If you pass this stage, you move on to final interviews

This can be the most daunting one out of the three. This is where you’d need to do your research on the company, know what they do, their morals and values. You should know your prospective position inside out. Usually these interviews are held by high up, serious looking people (that may or may not be friendly). The questions are now more in depth and specific. The final question usually is ‘Do you have any questions for us?’. Make sure that you do, it shows your enthusiasm and eagerness. Ask about what your day to day responsibilities would be, ask about any training schemes. Use this opportunity to know more about the job.

On the other hand, if you’ve applied for a smaller company/international placement: chances are that there will only be one interview. International placements sometimes only do either one telephone or a Skype interview. This is also daunting as you only have one shot at it, but the process is much shorter and usually you find out quickly if you’ve got the job or not.

Whatever the job you may have applied for, make sure to appear proactive and dynamic. Show examples of teamwork as well as individual work. Demonstrate your challenges but also mention how you overcame then. When asked about strengths and weaknesses, talk about them equally and mention how you would overcome your weaknesses. When asked to give an example, give only one and make sure its a good one. I’ve made the mistake of giving way too many and that just infuriates the recruiter. You are being interviewed to sell yourself, so do it in the most modest way possible (which is the most difficult thing. I find it hard to do this without it sounding like bragging)

Don’t just answer what is asked.. elaborate on your answer. Always research the position, and if possible, the person who is going to interview you. Good body language (eye contact, cheerfulness, posture) are key. Turn your phone off, you could probably afford to stay off Tumblr for the next 30-45 minutes. Don’t ramble on your questions, it’s ok to take time to think about it and sometimes its even ok to say ‘I’m sorry could we come back to that one later?. I need to think about it.’

That is just few of the things to do at an interview. Interviews can be hard, and scary even at times. But they’re a part of life and the more you do them, the more you know about them and what to expect from them.

Placements are an amazing opportunity to get used to working as well as getting used to interviews. I recommend that if you can do one, do one.