By Michelle Kazanowski, Learning & Development Partner at PharmaLogics Recruiting
As a former Executive Recruiter turned Training Manager at PharmaLogics Recruiting, I have extensive experience conducting remote interviews as well as coaching candidates going through the interview process with organizations ranging from stealth-mode startup companies to “big pharma”. In 2020, I even interviewed remotely myself!
To ensure you receive the best advice, I have consulted with some of my colleagues who are experts in coaching candidates in the life sciences, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical industries. If you’re a life sciences professional seeking essential tips and tricks to excel in future virtual interviews, let’s dive in!
Tips and Tricks for Logistics
Being physically ready for your interview is always important. However, virtual interviews can be a bit tricky since there are additional logistics to consider compared to an in-person interview. If this is your first time taking a virtual interview, here’s what you need to know.
While it’s tempting to embrace the comfort of your pajamas, it’s important to strike the right balance. Dress professionally from the waist up, as it sets the right impression.
It is highly unlikely that you’re going to need to stand up during your interview, so in advance I suggest doing a self-assessment. Are you someone that needs to hype yourself up by getting dressed up head-to-toe or are you someone that is going to feel more relaxed in your favorite pair of cozy sweatpants? From the waist down, wear what makes you feel most relaxed and confident.
You can check the company’s website and LinkedIn profile to gauge its dress code. Most of the time, the recommendation is business casual – i.e., a nice shirt, blouse, or sweater.
It’s also important to assess your comfort level and decide if fully dressing up or opting for business casual attire is best. If you’re working with a life sciences recruiter, seek their insights on what to wear. Remember to look presentable and professional at all times.
Most importantly, avoid dressing down. I once had a hiring manager pass on a candidate because they showed up to their Zoom call wearing a baseball hat. Always dress professionally to make a positive impression.
Confirm the Video Call Format
Ensure you clarify whether the interview will be conducted via video. At least 24 hours before the interview, double-check that you have a working link if the call is via Zoom, Teams, or another video meeting platform.
Optimize Your Setup
Test your computer’s internet speed in advance to ensure it’s running at a minimum of 20 megabits per second. You can use websites like speedtest.net to check your internet speed.
If you need to use a phone, do a test run and position it horizontally for a stable camera angle. Prop up your phone so you don’t have to hold it throughout the interview. Holding your phone during an interview is a bit too casual and more suitable for a Facetime with family or friends! Using books to adjust the camera angle to eye level can also be helpful.
Set Up a Professional Environment
Find a well-lit and organized area to take your call. Remember, your surroundings become a part of the hiring manager’s first impression of you.
Avoid using background filters that may distract the interviewer. Only use them as a last resort if you can’t find a suitable location for the interview.
Ensure a Quiet Setting
Find a quiet spot to take the interview away from distractions. While we understand you may have children or pets at home, demonstrating your ability to have an undistracted conversation for the interview’s duration is crucial. Inform others in your home that you’ll be taking an important call and keep any animals in a separate room.
Explore Alternative Locations if Necessary
If you can’t take the interview from home, consider searching for an alternative location with a quiet atmosphere and reliable internet connection elsewhere, such as a café or library. Try to avoid taking interviews from your car, as it may give the impression of poor planning.
Test Your Equipment and Practice Proper Etiquette
Test your audio and video settings to avoid any technical difficulties during the interview. Ensure your camera and microphone are working properly before the call. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot by fixing these issues while the call has already started.
During the interview, mute your microphone when the interviewer speaks, especially during panel interviews, to avoid overlapping conversations. Additionally, wait two seconds after a question is asked before answering to respond thoughtfully and avoid interrupting the interviewer.
Interview Prep Tips
Preparation doesn’t just end with getting the logistics right. There’s also the mental aspect to consider. Here are some tips to help you cover your bases and impress the hiring manager.
Know Your Audience
Familiarize yourself with the background and experience of the individuals conducting the interview. Research them on LinkedIn to gain insights, such as how long they’ve been at the company or their professional background. Don’t be nervous about someone seeing that you’ve looked at their LinkedIn profile; it demonstrates that you’ve done your homework.
Tailor Your Questions
Customize your questions based on the interviewer’s background and the company. For example, inquire about their decision to join the organization or ask about career growth and development opportunities. Prepare specific questions about the company, such as its culture, technology, systems, or processes.
Prepare More Questions Than You’ll Have Time For
Prioritize your questions on a notepad, starting with the most critical ones. The interviewer may answer some of your questions during the conversation, so having a list ensures you’re fully informed by the end.
Take Notes With Pen And Paper
During the interview, take notes using pen and paper. It demonstrates your attentiveness and interest in what they’re saying. While using your computer for note-taking may be efficient, it can make you look distracted and lead the interviewer to suspect you’re multitasking and not focused on the discussion.
Highlight Your Research and Prepare Relevant Examples
When asked why you’re interested in the opportunity, incorporate your knowledge of the organization and its activities into your response. While mentioning the appeal of a remote position is acceptable, avoid making it the primary reason for your interest.
Review the job description and identify experiences that align with the job responsibilities. If it’s an entry-level position or outside your previous work, emphasize transferable soft skills. Have specific examples ready to illustrate why you’re the ideal candidate.
Craft a Two-Minute Professional Summary
Prepare a concise two-minute verbal summary of your professional experience. Think of this as your professional elevator pitch! This should cover details such as how you entered the industry, your relevant experience, and conclude with your most recent position.
Communicate With Your Recruiter
If you’re working with a recruiter, be transparent about your expectations, salary requirements, and other interviews in the process. Their role is to support you, so open communication will benefit both parties. Remember: your recruiter also wants you to get a job offer at the end of the day!
We hope these tips will help you excel in your next virtual interview. Remember, thorough preparation and a professional demeanor are key to leaving a lasting impression. Good luck with your interview, and we wish you success in your career journey!
About the Author
Michelle Kazanowski serves as the Learning & Development Business Partner at PharmaLogics Recruiting. Having first been a PharmaLogics Executive Recruiter herself, she now oversees the ongoing training and development of the PLR recruitment team. Michelle has extensive experience guiding and coaching prospective candidates ranging in experience from entry-level to C-suite through the interview process at biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies. Additionally, she has been a part of the hiring process at PharmaLogics as an interviewer herself. In her spare time, you can find Michelle checking out live theater or putting together a charcuterie board.