INTERVIEWS / JAN. 03, 2015
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How to Answer the Top 10 Chemist Interview Questions

If you have a degree in chemistry and you’re ready to begin your career, or if you’re applying for another position in the field, acing an interview is one of the best ways to "wow" employers and get a job offer. Here are tips for answering 10 common chemist interview questions.

1. What qualities make you the best candidate for this position?

The employer probably received many applications for this position, and he needs to know why you’re more qualified for the job. It’s a difficult question to answer, especially since you know nothing about the competition. However, this is a good opportunity to sell yourself. Be specific and highlight personal qualities that make you an excellent match for a chemistry position. For example, you might be a problem-solver, safety conscience, detail-oriented and possess excellent math skills. Also, highlight any awards or recognition you’ve received in chemistry research. 

2. Have you learned any new skills over the last year?

The interviewer is trying to assess whether your skills and knowledge are current with new developments in the field. Chemistry is a science, and with any science, new approaches are often introduced to achieve a specific goal. To remain up to date in your field, you might take continuing education courses, such as classes in computer science or information technology, or you might take refresher courses in math to ensure you’re able to solve complex mathematical equations with ease.

3. What new developments in chemistry excite you the most?

This question is designed to assess whether you’re familiar with new developments in the field, and to help the interviewer gauge your excitement for the field.

4. Why did you want to become a chemist?

Don’t say you became a chemist because it’s a lucrative field. Interviewers also use this question to determine your level of excitement. If there’s only one position and many qualified applicants, interviewers want to select someone who brings a lot to the table — knowledge, experience, a willingness to learn, and genuine excitement for the field. A good answer might include, “Since I was young I had an interest in learning more about properties and various forms of matter, and understanding how these undergo change.”

5. How long do you see yourself working as a chemist?

Employers want committed employees. It takes time and money to hire and train the right person, and most companies don’t want to hire employees who only plan to stick around for one or two years. You could say, “I plan to work in this field for many years to come and hopefully advance within the company. I can stay for as long as I’m able to continue to grow in my field.”

6. What do you know about our company?

Here is another opportunity to impress the interviewer and demonstrate a genuine interest in working with the company. If you know absolutely nothing about the company, the employer will likely hire an applicant who did his homework. To get to know the employer better, read the company’s About Us page on the website, or search online for press releases and news articles that provide insight on what the company does or the type of research it conducts.  

7. Tell me about your chemistry research?

This isn’t the time to be modest. As a chemist, you’ll conduct research and you may participate with product development. If you’re an experienced candidate, mention personal contributions you’ve made to projects working at other companies, and if you’re new to the field, highlight any research completed as an undergraduate or graduate student. 

8. How will your references describe you?

Although you want to sell yourself during an interview, you also need to be honest. In all likelihood, the interviewer will contact your references. And if you describe yourself as an amazing worker, but your references say otherwise, the interviewer might question your honesty. Mention positive qualities that accurately describe you; and if you had problems with a previous employer, give the interviewer a heads up. You don’t have to provide the nitty-gritty details or bash a former employer, but let him know you didn’t leave your last job on the best terms.  

9. Where can you improve to become a better chemist?

There is no such thing as a perfect chemist. Even the best in the field can improve in certain areas. This question is designed to help the interviewer assess your weaknesses and your strengths. As already stated, a good chemist must possess several traits, such as good analytical skills, good math skills and you must pay attention to details. It’s okay to acknowledge areas that you’re improving on, but don’t admit shortcomings that could cost you the job. For example, if there are new developments or software programs you’re unfamiliar with, don’t mention these. Other candidates are likely familiar with these areas, which can give them the upper hand.

10. Do you work well with a team?

Depending on the assignment, you may have to work with others. Therefore, the interviewer may inquire about any experience working with a group. As a team player, you must be able to listen, follow directions, and sometimes compromise. Being a team player is a plus, but you should also highlight the ability to work independently when necessary. Give examples of situations when you had to collaborate with a team, and when you had to shine as an individual.

A career in chemistry can be the opportunity of a lifetime. If there’s a lot of competition, you’ll need to impress the interviewer and offer excellent responses to top interview questions. 

Photo credit: Flickr

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