By: Helena Mello
Interviews are a fundamental part of the job application process; however, many candidates overlook them. Some may think that the resume will “speak for itself”, or that the connections with the company may suffice, which is often not true. On top of checking the candidates’ technical background, interviews also make sure that they are dependable, professional, and pleasant to be around. With that in mind, on July 28th, 2021, the iJOBS program partnered with Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J’s) Consumer Health division to share tips and advice on job interviews.
As soon as the interview is scheduled, it is time to prepare for it. Three essential steps of interview preparation, according to J&J’s team are: research the company, review the job description, and prepare questions.
1. Research the Company
Although you probably already know some aspects of the company, it is very important to research it in more depth, especially the area for which you are interviewing. The first place to look would be on the company’s website. There you will find their credo (a statement of the beliefs or aims which guide the company’s values) and learn about their history and mission statements. This is a great way to check whether your personality may fit into the company’s culture. Moreover, learning about the company’s products and/or services will aid in understanding where you’d fit into their pipeline. Finally, J&J’s recruiting team suggest that you look up the interviewers on LinkedIn to check their current roles and past positions.
2. Review the Job Description
Familiarize yourself with the job description and be prepared to highlight your skillsets that match the position’s roles and responsibilities. For example, if the description mentions teamwork, emphasize your achievements on a collaborative project. This is a recurrent piece of advice, and it is especially explored during the SciPhD workshop for iJOBS trainees. If possible, use the job description to build a tailored resume that demonstrates how your abilities specifically meet their hiring needs. In addition, use this as a tool to create your elevator pitch: showcase why you are the best candidate for the job.
3. Prepare Questions
Wrap up your research into the company and the position by preparing a few questions. Three to five questions are usually sufficient (consider that some might be answered throughout the process). These questions will demonstrate your interest into the role. Remember that you are also “interviewing” the company: you, too, are looking for a good fit.
After researching the company, reviewing the job description, and preparing questions, it is time to prepare for the interview itself. The J&J team focused their advice on behavioral interviews, and their tips can be broadly applied to job interviews outside of the J&J group. Many companies utilize the Situation.Task.Action.Response (STAR) method for behavioral questions and answers.
STAR method: how would you respond in particular situations and call upon your past experiences?
This method seeks to learn about how you would respond and call upon your past experiences. More importantly, the STAR method evaluates some of your transferrable skills: ability to work in a team, communication, organization, and decision-making.
To explore the STAR method, the event attendees were split into small groups with a J&J employee that asked us behavioral questions. The moderator in my group was Dr. Richard Bensingi, Principal Scientist at J&J Consumer Health. As an example, Dr. Besingi asked about a situation in which I had to communicate internally and externally to fulfill a project, and how I brought everyone’s knowledge into the picture. For this, I tried to use the STAR method. I recollected when I was participating in a few career development groups and some students were interested in entrepreneurship in STEM, but they didn’t have a broad network to ask questions and advance their career plans [Situation]. I spoke to a senior person in the school, who put me in touch with an entrepreneur and we set up an event about entrepreneurship in STEM, including working and/or founding start-ups [Task]. The event had great attendance, and I was able to expand my network by connecting with the panelists [Response]. According to Dr Besingi, my example was good, but it missed the “A” -the Action. It was not clear how I partnered with the panelists and, especially, how I incorporated their knowledge into the project.
Dr Besingi stressed that it is perfectly fine to take a few seconds to answer, and even to ask the interviewer to repeat the question. So, listen carefully and don’t try to rush to answer without taking a moment to breathe first. More importantly, Dr Besingi emphasized that every word in the question is there for a reason. This means that the interviewer is looking for specific answers. For example, if asked about “a situation in which your initiative has helped others, and how this has allowed for your growth”, you should clearly state something on the lines of “I took the initiative to do XYZ to help my colleagues in solving this issue. I believe that I grew significantly from this experience because…” Similar to matching your resume’s skillset to the job description’s keywords, you should use the words in the question to phrase your answer. This approach will ensure that you cover all parts of the question.
The time to answer behavioral questions depends on the time allotted for the interview, and on the level of seniority of the interviewer. Usually, senior staff have less time to dedicate to an interview. Therefore, they expect you to answer as concisely as possible. On the other hand, interviewers that can spend more time with you will be more accommodating and let you elaborate on a few answers.
Most companies put great effort in the behavioral questions so it’s very important to ensure that the hire will be a good fit to the team. Therefore, if you follow the steps highlighted in this article, I am sure you will be confident and prepared for the process. Use the tips from J&J’s team and happy interviewing!
This article was edited by Senior Editor Samantha Avina.
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January 12, 2024