How to spot a great candidate at interview

Author: Mark Kazakos
Posting date: 03/07/2019

There’s a unique challenge that comes with hiring a new employee. Often, this position will be time-sensitive, usually in response to resignation or company expansion. The life sciences industry is currently in an exciting, if tumultuous, era of fast expansion, high turnover, and career progression that leaves employers frequently pressured to employ candidates at a much faster rate. However, given the important of the work in the life sciences industry, many employers may not give themselves time to thoroughly screen candidates in their searches for new hires. 

Whilst it’s important to find a new person quickly, it’s also important to find the right person. Luckily, there are a few ways of quickly and efficiently scouting out candidates during interviews, helping employers go from hiring a ‘good enough’ candidate to a great candidate.


Firstly, it’s important to pay attention to each candidate’s behaviour during interviews. This can cover everything from the words and phrases they use, how they hold themselves, to the way they talk to various team members. A calm, confident interviewee will be open without being over familiar – suggesting self-awareness rather than cockiness.

Pay particular attention to the questions they ask – a keen mind is a valuable gain as well as an indication to what you can expect of them as they work for you. Anything about your company’s recent awards or events, or how the role might change over the course of the tenure, indicates not only a keen interest in the job, but both that they have prepared for this interview and are showing commitment to the role.

It’s equally important to look at how they interact over the course of the interview. Does the conversation stay respectful and formal, or does it devolve into a more casual, ‘matey’ vibe as the meeting goes on? Someone who loses sight of the formality of the situation can be someone who will have trouble respecting authority if they’re hired. The ideal candidate will be friendly and jovial, but without stepping into pre-emptive familiarity.

What makes them stand out?

During the screening process, you’ll come across many candidates whose CVs look similar. Of course, it’s to be expected that in the life sciences industry, you’ll encounter a lot of graduates from life science degrees who have since gone on to work in life science jobs. However, when faced with multiple versions of the same applicant, how can you figure out which of these candidates will be the stand-out?

Look at how they enhance their CV. What additional skills have they got that they can bring to the role? Beyond that, what steps have they taken to improving their already earned experience? Do they keep up to date with current life sciences trends and news? Most importantly, look for results on their CV. If they can prove that they were not only successful in their fields, but what the impact of their success was, they’re a keeper.

Alternative experience/transferable skills

It’s easy to dismiss candidates who come from non-life science fields, but a closer inspection will show that this injection of a foreign element might be just what your company needs.

Whilst we can’t reasonably expect a finance manager to suddenly be able to regulate drugs (though we may be surprised!), we can expect that their experience in an unorthodox role will have transferable benefits to your company. Experience in leading a group or providing information is universal, but the way to go about these experiences can be radically different from field to field.

By coming at challenges with a fresh viewpoint, a candidate can provide dynamic and innovative solutions to what otherwise might be a stagnant pool of employees.

Cultural fit

Cultural fit is often touted as a vital part of the candidate screening process. It’s indisputably important that a company’s employees benefit from having similar values and sets of behaviours, especially in a highly cooperative team environment. However, this has a serious drawback – stagnation.

When a team is all pulled from the same pool, it can become very insular and struggle to change or adapt in response to the world around them. The concept of the cultural fit can be a hindrance as much as a benefit.

This is where hiring someone outside of the cultural fit can be a real advantage. Diversity in the workforce, across gender, race, background, etc., along with mentality and outlook on the industry, can shakeup an otherwise ‘cookie cutter’ team.

Trust your recruitment partner

New statistics from Quarsh indicate that over 70% of in-house solutions fail to source all, or even 90% of their vacancies themselves. This staggering number makes sense in the pharmaceutical industry, where many positions require specialist, highly trained professionals to take on the role. By passing on the task of candidate sourcing to recruiters, you can guarantee that the applicants who make it to your interviews are already the best of the best.

Trust in these recruiters, who spend their entire days searching for the perfect match for their assigned roles. In many cases, recruiters will retain CVs that stood out, but weren’t right for other roles, that will be a perfect match for your position. 

Proclinical is a specialist life science staffing company that can help you identify a pool of top-tier professionals for any role, even those with the most niche skill sets. If you've got a hard-to-fill vacancy or perhaps a project that requires a team of specialists, get in touch with us to discuss your requirements. 

Alternatively, you can download our e-book on how to drive engagement through your recruitment process, which has a detailed examination on interviewing life science candidates to ensure maximum productivity and commitment to your company. 

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