Man looking into microscope
Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

Why this matters

You’ll want to determine what this researcher’s past role has been—and the lab-related tasks they’ve undertaken. This question gives you an opportunity to gauge on-point experience—and their knowledge of environmental health and safety standards within the biotech space.

What to listen for

  • Fluency with sample testing, data collection, analysis, and similar tasks.
  • Ability to conceive and design experiments, if required.
  • Where their passion lies—and whether it’s a good match for the role.

Why this matters

A well-designed experiment isn’t only about the results — it’s about how scientists get there. You need to be certain that your biotech researcher can work within your company’s parameters, whether that’s a fixed time frame, a set budget, limited equipment, or any other unique challenges relevant to the role.

What to listen for

  • Evidence that the candidate has successfully worked within budgetary, equipment, and time constraints in the past.
  • Signs they assess potential risk factors and makes ethical considerations when designing studies.

Why this matters

Scientists need to know exactly how to treat a particular specimen and what types of reactions are needed to analyze it—especially in situations where samples are limited by quantity or time. They need to be able to identify different biological groups and know the nuances needed to preserve the integrity of a particular sample.

What to listen for

  • Answers should demonstrate that a researcher understands different biological specimens relevant to the job.
  • The required technical knowledge to get the job done.

Why this matters

In any environment, it’s important for employees to be receptive to feedback; in biotechnology in particular, mistakes or miscommunications can be costly. It’s a good idea to have your candidate identify a time when they did something that warranted tough feedback—and explain what happened.

What to listen for

  • A strong answer will illustrate that the candidate was able to listen to, process, and learn from the feedback.
  • Inability to think of a situation—or lingering defensiveness around the incident—may be red flags.

Why this matters

In R&D, it can feel as if little is certain (or can be taken for granted). A research team must be flexible in the face of new discoveries and information. Great candidates will be able to adapt to these changes—even after long hours of data collection, observation, and similar tasks.

What to listen for

  • Answers should reflect curiosity—and the ability to refine, pivot, and evolve.
  • Reluctance to adapt could mean the candidate won’t thrive in the face of change.

Why this matters

A research team might consist of multiple researchers, senior researchers, analysts, and laboratory technicians. Your biotech researcher needs to be a steady force helping studies and experiments run smoothly. The role blends independent work with teamwork, so it’s important that candidates have strong collaborative and leadership skills.

What to listen for

  • Answers should indicate that a candidate takes initiative in a group setting.
  • Candidates should also know their own roles and responsibilities and leave others space to do their part.

Why this matters

From logging research notes to contributing to journal articles to collaborating with the lab team, scientists must have clear and concise communication skills. Despite the technical nature of much of their work, they need to be able to communicate what happens in the laboratory to colleagues, peers, medical experts, and the world.

What to listen for

  • Different communication styles work well in different environments.
  • A good response may emphasize the importance of communication in a candidate’s work.

Why this matters

Research is all about the pursuit of knowledge; there’s always something new to learn. It’s important for researchers to continue to be curious and seek out new findings, especially since their field can change on a dime. An open mind and willingness to learn continuously are key soft skills for biotech researchers to possess.

What to listen for

  • An active interest in learning more about advances in biotechnology.
  • Examples of the candidate pursuing continuing education.

Why this matters

Today, STEM is about more than just technical skills. There’s not necessarily a wrong answer here, but a candidate who considers themselves partially creative can be an asset. Creativity can’t be taught, but a creative stroke can enhance a biotech researcher’s ability to problem-solve and think on their feet.

What to listen for

  • Answers should align with your expectations and hopes for the role.
  • A good candidate may include specific examples of times the candidate has used their creativity to enhance a project.