Job Interview Tips

Job Interview Tips

By Debora Ardis, MLS(AMT)

The first thing you must know to rock a job interview for a Medical Laboratory Scientist position is to have your awesomely composed resume memorized. It will not matter if you graduate, get certified, search and apply for jobs, finally get that job interview and … flunk it.

Even if this will be your first job interview as a Medical Laboratory Scientist, you can still perform great and leave a good impression.

If the lack of experience is leaving you a bit uncomfortable or nervous, don’t be. While experience is always preferred, most employers have a mandatory training period, including completion of competency tests, before you can “fly solo” on the bench. That is most likely why they gave you this interview in the first place. Their training might be all the experience they need you to have at that moment. So for you who might be a new graduate, this is an opportunity to learn and acquire the experience that can lead you to better opportunities and/or leadership roles. Even if it is not your dream job yet, acing this interview and getting this job might be the beginning of a very gratifying career.

Now, why will they choose you over another new grad? Because you know your stuff, you want this job and you want to work for this company. That’s why. And you will convince the interviewers you are what they need.

It is not a matter of overconfidence. In fact, you can’t have overconfidence, you barely have enough experience. But what you can show is your eagerness to learn, your compliance with regulations, your impartial view of patient safety first and your approachable interpersonal skills. This demonstrates what kind of professional you are. Anything else can be taught on the job.

So, you know your resume thoroughly. Now you must prepare yourself o answers those famous interview questions with your resume information and tailor your answers to the best laboratory professional behavior.

Typical interview questions and some Medical Laboratory answers:

     1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

As a new grad, you can demonstrate that by telling your interviewers in a somewhat chronological order how you came across Medical Laboratory Science as a profession of your choice and how biology has always been a subject of your interest as well as working in the medical field. If you had a person of influence such as a professor, family member or even a situation that might have made you consider the profession, it is worth to briefly mention it.

Which college you attended and where you did your clinicals is worth mentioning. You should briefly describe how it made a positive impact on you.

     2. How did you hear about the position?

This is a perfect opportunity to stand out and show your connection to the company. For example, if you found out about the job through a friend or professional contact, name drop that person, and then share why you were so excited about it. If you discovered the company through an event or article, share that. Even if you found the listing through a random job board, share what, specifically, caught your eye about the role.

     3. What do you know about the company? /Why do you want to work for us?

The interviewers know about their company. This question is to know if you are a good fit for their company and their mission. Use one line that shows you understand the company’s goals. Read their website. Research their press releases and visit their social media accounts to get to know their culture. Now you just need to make it personal. It all depends on what line of medical laboratory work you are interviewing for. Some examples:

- Generalist in a Hospital: “Your hospital is renowned for its exceptional oncology care. I’ve learned that it has expanded the department to include pediatrics. I am excited for the opportunity be part of that team, to learn and grow with the company. I am sure it will be a priceless experience.”

- Immunologist for a Reference Lab: “Your company reputation of excellence in laboratory testing it is well known, as well as for its use of state of the art instruments. I am excited for the opportunity to become part of a team like that and to grow and learn with your immunology department.”

- Diabetes Research Specialist for a University: “I’m personally drawn to the opportunity to work with your research team. As a diabetic myself, I believe in the pharmacological approach as well as in benefits of healthy diet and exercise. Your university has an outstanding reputation of serious and successful projects and I would be honored to be part of your team.”

     4. Why should we hire you?

If you’re asked this question, you’re in luck: There’s no better time and place for you to sell yourself and your skills. You should give them an answer that will cover 3 things specific to the job you are applying for: 1) that you can do the work and deliver great results; 2) that you’ll fit in with the team and culture; and 3) that you would be the just right candidate to hire.

Let’s break it down:

  • You can do the work, and you can deliver great results.
  • Are you passionate about a specific subject area that you will likely have to perform in if you get the job? Show it off. Mention the example that happened during school or clinicals that set you apart.
  • You’ll fit in with the team and culture.
  • Will you be working alone in this job position? Show that you are skilled at critical thinking and using available resources. Are you going to be working with a large group? Show that you can be a valuable, friendly and flexible team member. Does the job involve traveling? Show your adaptation skills and creativeness in adjusting to new work environment and coworkers.
  • You’d be the right candidate to hire for this job.
  • Your goal here is to express that this is more than just a Medical Laboratory job. This is the job opportunity that fits the needs of both the company and yourself perfectly. This job will allow you to dedicate your pursuit of professional success to the success and growth of the company.

     5. What are your greatest professional strengths?

Be accurate. Share your true strengths, not those you think the interviewer wants to hear. Share relevant strengths that are most targeted to this particular position. Be specific. For example, instead of “people skills,” choose “persuasive communication” or “relationship building”. Then, follow up with an example of how you’ve demonstrated these traits in a professional setting.

An example and my personal favorite answer for this question is, “I am reliable. I have an excellent history with my former employers. I have always kept a professional attitude. You will be able to count on me.”

Be aware that they will check your work references. Make sure you mention a strength that your last boss can vouch for.

     6. What do you consider to be your weaknesses?

The reason of this question is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. Your answer needs to strike a balance of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at public speaking, but you’ve recently volunteered to run meetings to help you be more comfortable when addressing a crowd. Maybe you are not a great speller but you have a good friend proof read your work and always run spell check. Or that you realized during clinical that hematology might be your weakness, so you took a few more webinars to make you even better at differentiating cell lines.

     7. What is your greatest professional achievement?

Nothing says “hire me” better than achieving amazing results in past jobs. Turn your last job duties into opportunities of accomplishments. For example, “planned laboratory week events” would be considered just an optional team player opportunity, whereas “raised $1000 by selling out tickets to a lab week charity event” is an accomplishment. Did you win any awards or accolades? Mention how you did it. Did you get commended by a professor for being the “meeting assignment deadline” champion? Tell the interviewers about it.

     8. Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work, and how you dealt with it.

All these “Tell me about a time when…” questions require stories. Interviewers like someone whose stories illustrate their experiences. It helps them know you better. So, look at your resume and the previous jobs you have listed. Think of instances where you demonstrated traits like “ability to work on a team and independently,” “comfort with multitasking,” or “strong communication skills.”

Your interviewer wants to get a sense of how you will respond to conflict. Anyone can seem nice and pleasant in a job interview, but what will happen when you’re under stress? What happens when a coworker is under stress and is not nice to you? Tell a story that focuses on how you handled the situation professionally and productively, and ideally closed with an agreeable resolution or compromise.

Example: “I learned about reading people and adapting my behavior when I worked as a waiter. After all, my tip depended on it. I was lucky to have great coworkers. Whenever I had a difficult and demanding costumer, I would do all I could to meet their needs. I built teamwork with my manager and kitchen staff by respecting them, and even sharing tips sometimes, in order to have the costumer leave satisfied."

     9. Where do you see yourself in five years?

If asked this question, be honest and specific about your future goals. Your best bet is to think ahead of the time about where this job position could take you and answer along those lines. Would you like to explore the Medical Laboratory world a bit more and then work towards a specialization? Tell them. Do you think you have what it takes to be a team leader? Let them know. This organization encourages self-improvement and offers tuition reimbursement? Tell them you plan on taking on additional education to advance your career if you think that is an option for you.

     10. What’s your dream job?

Along similar lines, the interviewer wants to uncover whether this position is in line with your career goals and it is not just a paycheck. A good answer would be to talk about your goals and ambitions and why this job will get you closer to them.

     11. What are you looking for in a new position?

Ideally the same things that this position has to offer. Be specific. Experience growth, ideal work hours, short commute, competitive pay, benefits, leadership possibilities, etc.

     12. What’s a time you disagreed with a decision that was made at work?

In asking this interview question, hiring managers want to know that you can handle professional disagreements in a positive, professional way. Tell when your actions made a positive difference on the outcome of the situation. Patient safety is always a priority and you always stand your ground on issues pertaining to maintaining patient safety.

     13. How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?

Choose an answer that shows that you can meet a stressful situation head-on in a productive, positive manner and let nothing stop you from accomplishing your goals. A Medical Laboratory Scientist must be methodical, consistent and able to prioritize specially in stressful and busy situations. Look at your resume and think of a situation in a past job where you had to maintain workflow and prioritize to get the work done.

     14. What are your salary requirements?

The #1 rule of answering this question is doing your research on what you should be paid by using sites like Payscale and Glassdoor. You’ll likely come up with a range, and we recommend stating the highest number in that range that applies, based on your experience, education, and skills. Be mindful that this is business, not personal. They will let you take their lower offer. This doesn’t mean the company is sneaky.

Your salary is not a one side negotiation. Make sure the hiring manager sees that you are aware of the nationwide shortage of laboratory professionals and you know your skills are valuable. Express that you are flexible, you want the job and are willing to negotiate.

     15. If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?

Random personality-test type questions like these come up in interviews generally because hiring managers want to see how you can think on your feet. There’s no wrong answer here, but you’ll immediately gain bonus points if your answer helps you share your strengths or personality.

     16. Do you have any questions for us?

Yes, you do.

What do you want to know about the department, the team or the position? (“Which instruments/suppliers you use?”, or “Do you use manual techniques or automation in such department?”). You’ll cover a lot of this in during interview, so have a few questions ready to go.

Questions targeted to the interviewer (“What do you think will be my favorite part about working here?”) or the company’s growth (“What can you tell me about your new instruments or plans for growth?”) are great ways to show the interviewers you want to work for the company and want to know why they work for the company.

Final Reminders:

- Always have actual examples of everything you say you can do or you are.

- Never arrive late. Look up the address of your interview; it might be different from the job location. Research traffic; see how early you need to leave. Also, see about where to park.

- Be awake, drink coffee, have breakfast. Be friendly, direct and professional. Let the interviewers finish speaking. Speak clearly. Turn off your cell phone before you enter the interview room.

- Have a few copies of your resume with you and keep it in a folder or something that it will keep it in shape. Not your purse or back pocket.

- Do not ask or start conversation about personal opinions, religion, politics, sports, etc. It should not matter for either part. Healthcare culture is the only culture you should have while at work and it will be expected of every healthcare employee anywhere.

- The day after the interview send a follow up email. It will be like a thank you note where you will express gratitude and excitement for the opportunity and further your interest in the position.

Debora Ardis has worked as full time Medical Technologist since 2006. She has worked as a Clinical Laboratory Generalist for 6 years, Research Specialist for 2, and for the past 3 years she is a dedicated Immunohematologist (blood banker). She has lived in Georgia for the past 15 years, is proudly AMT certified, and a member of AABB and ASCLS.