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Top Tips from our Interviews Q&A with Capco and AstraZeneca

s.duran21 May 2021

This week, UCL Careers was joined by two interview experts from industry. Alison Darke is the Postdoc Talent Partner at AstraZeneca, and Nadir Basma completed his PhD at UCL and is now a Senior Consultant at Capco. They shared their experiences interviewing researchers along with top tips for submitting a strong application, preparing for an interview, and asking the right questions along the way.

Key takeaways

  • Research the company’s core values – Check that your personal values align with them. Behavioural differences aligned with a company’s core values could be what sets you apart from other applicants.
  • Don’t tell interviewers you have a skill, show them – Think about what your interviewers are looking for. If they are looking for a team player, don’t say, “I’m a team player”. Rather, show them you understand what makes a good team player and how you demonstrate those skills, such as active listening, reliability, strong communication, planning, flexibility, and good problem-solving skills.

Top Tips for Applications

According to Alison, job postings typically receive 200 applications, and only four to eight are moved to interview. How can you be sure to stand out amongst the crowd?

  • Make your application clear, concise, and easy to read – Companies do not have the time to search through pages of text to find what they are looking for.
  • Keep it relevant – Show how you meet the requirements in the job advert and person specification.
  • Look outside your work experience – It’s never too early to fill the gaps in your CV – join clubs, work with a charity, or get involved in a team activity.
  • Don’t be discouraged if you don’t meet all the criteria – It is easy to train the right person who is motivated and willing to learn.

Top Tips for Preparation

You have put in an excellent application and are invited to interview – congratulations! Alison and Nadir shared excellent tips on how you can prepare for the next stage.

  • Prepare a little bit every day – This will help build the pathways in your brain to understand the company, their services, core values, and the context of the work.
  • Recreate the environment – Whether the interview is virtual or in-person, familiarise yourself with the real interview setting when practicing.
  • Practice, practice, practice – Based on the job description and person specification, practice answering the questions you think you’ll be asked.
  • Treat all stages equally – Don’t neglect or underprepare for a telephone interview. A telephone interview is just as important as any other stage of the process.

Top Tips for the Interview

Your preparation is done, and you are about to head into your interview. What can you do now?

  • Manage your nerves – Preparation and practicing in the interview setting will help ease your nerves, along with breathing techniques and meditation. Nadir shared some wisdom he received from UCL Careers – it is not the situation that causes anxiety, it is the perception of it. Identify any negative thoughts about the interview and practice letting them go.
  • Be authentic – Be sure you know and are ready to tell your story in a concise way. Make the messages you want to give stand out in what you are saying.
  • Answer questions as yourself, not your team – Avoid saying “we” or “my team” when discussing projects or achievements in an interview. Interviewers are interested in hiring you, so make your individual actions and results clear.
  • Ask the right questions – Avoid asking about salary, holidays, or perks in an interview (save that for once you receive an offer!). Instead, show you are intellectually curious about the company. You can ask about the biggest challenge of a role – and be ready to respond with how you will overcome that challenge.

UCL Careers offers mock interviews for researchers where you can practice with one of our team and talk through the feedback they will provide. Find out more here and view our full summer term of researcher careers events here.