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

Depending on your organization’s typical workflows, a laboratory technician will likely spend a majority of their time testing different specimens, performing chemical reactions, and reporting on the outcome. A candidate should have this basic skill down to a science (pun intended) and be able to replicate their results.

What to listen for

  • Proper use of related terminology.
  • A mention of standard procedures, best practices, and key equipment.

Why this matters

This is a straightforward question that tests the candidate’s technical ability and experience working in a lab. They have an opportunity to talk about relevant processes, procedures, and technologies associated with this equipment and share a bit about their typical day to day. Your ideal candidate must be comfortable handling sensitive and costly equipment to perform their job duties.

What to listen for

  • A knowledge of industry-standard equipment and signs that the candidate understands the use cases for different types of equipment.
  • An inability to recall technical terms could mean they lack experience.

Why this matters

Cross-contamination of samples renders them unusable, requiring a do-over. In a high-stakes environment, this type of error could be costly. Laboratory technicians must adhere to best practices, sterilize equipment, and maintain a safe and clean laboratory to help see projects through to successful completion.

What to listen for

  • Answers should emphasize taking caution and following safety and sanitation protocols.
  • A strong answer may touch on why these measures are so important.

Why this matters

Research work can revolve around a rigorous schedule. Laboratory technicians are responsible for routinely running tests and ensuring that projects are completed on-schedule. If something throws the schedule off track, the right thing for the lab technician to do is communicate and work with their supervisor(s) to find a solution.

What to listen for

  • Prompt, solution-oriented communication with managers and colleagues.
  • Accountability, without excuses.
  • An inability to think of a creative solution might mean a candidate will do poorly in a real-life conflict.

Why this matters

Laboratory technicians play a valuable role in any biotech organization—they assist other members of the team in completing research work. Occasionally, they may need to step up and help out with tasks that fall above or below their job level, or work long and unpredictable hours. A candidate who is willing to go above and beyond their responsibilities will be a strong asset to your team.

What to listen for

  • A willingness to collaborate and help out.
  • Emphasis on meeting the organization’s goals.
  • Failure to name a situation or a refusal to help with the task could be a red flag.

Why this matters

If any conflict or disagreement arises in your lab, it needs to be resolved quickly to minimally impact day-to-day work. Conflict resolution is a crucial skill to ensure things run smoothly. This question helps you determine if a candidate would react properly in a situation—resolving issues and involving a manager if necessary.

What to listen for

  • Using communication to resolve matters.
  • An attempt to resolve conflicts quickly and minimize fallout.
  • An emphasis on professionalism and civility.

Why this matters

This question gauges a candidate’s teamwork abilities. A strong hire will have confidence in their teammates, and leverage mutual support to accomplish collective goals. Establishing that trust from the very beginning is paramount to building strong team rapport and working together.

What to listen for

  • Specific examples drawn from previous experience.
  • Signs that the candidate truly values teamwork.
  • A sense of importance attached to collective, rather than personal, results.

Why this matters

With the variety of new scientific advancements unfolding daily and weekly, it’s important for any laboratory technician to express an active interest in learning more. Whether it’s reading scientific journals, subscribing to a relevant newsletters, or taking additional courses, your next hire should take an active interest in the field.

What to listen for

  • Well-rounded answers that align with current topics.
  • They should show a passion for learning more about the field.
  • A vague answer may indicate a disinterest in learning.

Why this matters

A candidate’s emotional intelligence can tell you a lot about how they will perform at work. A self-motivated, self-aware individual may find it easy to appreciate the routine—and not-so-routine—parts of lab work. Emotional intelligence also indicates how well someone will fit in with your team.

What to listen for

  • A personal, thoughtful answer.
  • Genuine passion for the work and the field.
  • Strong answers may touch on how the candidate motivates themselves or how their team helps motivate them.