10 Difficult Pharma Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Written by: Lucy Walters
Published on: 11 Aug 2022

Difficult Interview QuestionsWhen preparing for your next pharma job interview, you’ll need to be prepared to answer some of the most commonly asked – and the hardest – job interview questions. You only have a short amount of time to leave a strong impression on your interviewer, so make the most of this by doing your research and arming yourself with structured, well thought out answers that will set you apart from your peers.

In this article, we’ve listed 10 of the most difficult pharma job interview questions, along with tips on how to answer them…

Tell us About Yourself

This question is a given at pretty much every job interview, yet it’s still one that most of us dread answering. It can be difficult to know where to start, so knowing the key points you want to mention as well as a structure to follow will help you answer this question concisely and confidently.

Your answer should be an extension of your elevator pitch, taking the form of a quick synopsis of your past and present as well as future plans. Give highlights of your greatest educational and career achievements, whilst also touching on your values, your reasons for applying for the role, and how you’d like your career to develop. You can also touch on what you enjoy outside of work to reinforce your values and build common ground with your interviewer.

What is Your Biggest Weakness?

This question isn’t intended to catch you out. When interviewers ask this, they’re looking to assess your honesty, self-awareness, and your approach to personal development. Whilst it’s tempting to choose a positive attribute to discuss (e.g., being a perfectionist, or caring too much about your job), choose an honest weakness and talk about it in a positive light. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your proactive approach to learning and development, rather than an opportunity to try and present yourself as the impossible perfect package.

Click here for more advice on answering this question.

Why Should We Hire You?

With this question, it’s not always enough to just reiterate how qualified you are for the role. You’ll need to also make it clear what sets you apart from your competition; there may be 100 candidates all with a Life Science degree, but your experiences will be completely unique to you.

Summarise your key strengths in line with the job requirements, and pick a few things that make you outstanding, using your brag file to back up your achievements with contextualised evidence.

What’s Something you Didn’t Like About Your Last Job?

We all know that bashing a previous employer can be a red flag to recruiters, so this can also be a tough question to navigate. Don’t focus on things that could leave your interviewer with the wrong impression. For example, don’t say that you didn’t get on with anyone on your team, as this could create the impression that you’re hard to work with.

Try not to talk about the ‘who’ in your answer and instead focus on the ‘what’. Remember to also highlight what your learnt in the role too to finish your answer on a positive note.

Why do you Want This Job?

In your answer, don’t give the impression that you’re sending out hundreds of job applications, or that this role is just a stepping-stone to something else. Instead, talk about why you think your skills, knowledge, experience, and values are compatible with the role, highlighting what you can bring to the team instead of just listing off all the benefits that have drawn you in.

To show that you really understand what the role entails beyond what has been listed in the advert, set up informational interviews with those in a similar position.

Where do you See Yourself in 5 Years?

Although you want to highlight your commitment to the company in your answer, don’t just say something vague like ‘still working here!’ and instead discuss the direction you want your career to take and the results you hope to achieve. Similarly, don’t intimidate your interviewer by saying ‘sitting in your seat’; you can still talk about how you’d like to move into a role on their level without directly saying you hope to take their job.

Also ensure that the things you say are actually achievable in this role/company, as you don’t want to insinuate that you only want this particular role so that you can move on to something bigger and better.

What Motivates You?

For this question, you’ll need a strong understanding of the company’s mission and values. Use your previous work experience, studies, and even extracurricular activities to outline your motivations whilst bringing these in line with the company’s purpose. For example, if the team you’d be joining is described as “close-knit”, it’s a good idea to talk about how working alongside others motivates you.

What Can you Bring to the Company?

Similarly to the ‘why should we hire you?’ question, this isn’t just about reiterating how qualified you are for the role. You’ll need to make it clear what you can bring to the company that someone else can’t, whilst also highlighting how you can contribute to the company culture. Draw on specific examples from your biggest achievements to explain the results you could produce for the company and give interviewers an insight into who you are as a person.

What is Your Biggest Failure?

Just like the question asking for your weaknesses, interviewers ask this to gain insight into how you cope with setbacks, and how you approach learning and development. When choosing a failure, don’t pick something that would be a major red flag, but do choose something that you’ve genuinely learnt from. Use the STAR method to outline the situation, talk about what you learnt, and discuss how you’ve been faced with a similar situation again and managed to overcome it using your experience.

When discussing your failures, it’s important to take responsibility for what happened, and to not blame it on other people in your team, as this won’t create a good impression of how you work with others.

What do you do in Your Spare Time?

Although it can be tempting to fabricate your hobbies and interests outside of work to impress your interviewer, telling lies in your interview is a short-term solution, and will eventually come back to bite you.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a long list of hobbies, as long as you can talk passionately about the ones you do have. If you think you need a few more hobbies/interests to talk about, you could start with some of these:

  • Local volunteer work
  • Online courses and workshops (even if not directly work related)
  • Networking events
  • An online blog/portfolio

Also think about the way you phrase things. For example, instead of saying that you stay in every weekend binge watching Netflix, talk about the genre of films/TV shows that you enjoy, and why they interest you to give further insight into your character.

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