How to Answer the Top 10 Chemist Interview Questions

If you are preparing to interview for a chemist role, it’s vital to prepare in advance! These top chemist interview questions will help you ace your next interview!

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Chemist Interview Questions

Chemistry jobs are on the rise. In fact, the job outlook for this profession is forecasted to increase 5% over the next eight years, faster than the average for other positions, leading to more opportunities across several sectors. 

So, you have the education, possess the top credentials, and aim to excel in this field. But will you ace the job interview? 

This is certainly the hardest stage of the process that you don’t want to have blown up in your face. To help you prepare, we have compiled a guide of the top interview questions and how to answer them during your face-to-face meeting with the hiring manager. 

1. Why did you want to become a chemist? 

Job security? High-income opportunities? The chance to work on top-secret government projects? While these might be your reasons for entering the chemistry field, you should not be so forthright about your objectives for becoming a chemist. Interviewers want to determine your expertise, determination and dedication in this field

You can respond to this question by highlighting your genuine excitement for some of the fundamental components of the position, such as the in-depth laboratory-based research or applying your knowledge to everyday issues.

2. 'What do you know about our organisation?' 

This is one of the most common questions that employers pose to candidates. It is used to assess your research skills and professionalism and to find out how much research you performed before submitting your CV. 

The hiring manager does not want to hear that you shipped off your résumé to any company that listed an employment advertisement on every online job board. So, it is best to refrain from being vague about the business, non-profit organisation or government department. You need to be specific when devising your response. 

Your answer could look like this: ‘When I came across the firm, my interest was piqued when I found out that one of the organisation’s first contracts was with the European Space Agency (ESA), which placed your firm on the map. I think it shows the tremendous leadership within this organisation, such as your founder, John Smith, and the vast resources your teams have employed to get to the top of the mountain of this industry.’ 

3. 'Why did you apply for this position?' 

Interviews put forward this question for two distinct reasons. The first is to ensure you have completed your due diligence and understand what the company expects of you. The second is that you know what you’re looking for in your career – you are not sitting on the fence. Based on your answers, they will discover that you are serious about this employment opportunity and that you are unlikely to change your mind. 

Ultimately, you will want to offer something specific you were looking for in your employment search, whether it was flexible hours or the opportunity to advance within the firm. You can also place the spotlight on what you liked in the company’s job postings, such as the clever introduction or how its questionnaire caught your interest. 

Finally, you want to tie it up like a nice bow by alluding to how this role is a perfect fit for your skills and expertise.

4. 'What qualifies you for this position?' 

The simple reason why companies ask this question? They want to know what candidates are best suited for the office and if your skills match the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities that need to be carried out. Of course, you need to strike a fine balance between modesty and bragging. You don’t want to deliver a 5,000-word monologue on your skills and why the organisation should take a chance on you. 

So, how do you answer this common question then? The best thing to do is to hone in on your strengths, tailoring your list to the job description. So, in the case of chemistry, you could say that your research skills are impeccable, and you can work independently without constant supervision. Moreover, you could even include a real-life example of your qualifications. 

Remember, your human capital is what will add value to the company. This is perhaps the most important aspect of preparing for a job interview

5. 'Tell us about your experience and research work.' 

This request is for you to explain how your prior work, which likely included plenty of research endeavours, relates to their own needs. To string together a thorough reply, make sure to: 

  • Not be vague
  • Use specific instances of your experience
  • Connect your responsibilities to what is outlined in the job description 
  • If applicable, utilise statistics by showing what you brought to the table with your work. 

6. 'What new developments in the field of chemistry excite you the most?'

The interviewer is trying to gauge your excitement for this field and see if you are in the loop with industry advancements. 

However, this question could be tricky if you don’t keep up with the latest news and developments in the world of chemistry. It is critical to monitor developments in your industry. 

In fact, for anyone specialising in a technical or scientific field, it is crucial to stay on top of the recent stories, newest trends, and latest industry news. If this is part of your daily regimen, this question should be simple to answer because you could pluck one from your memory in an instant. 

7. 'What new skills have you learned over the past year?' 

A chemist is always growing and learning new things. At the same time, this is an imperative characteristic in any field of choice since every industry is continually advancing, especially in this global economy.

In other words, you need to develop new skills or enhance your skillset routinely. This is what employers want to see from candidates, along with a willingness to improve, grow, and thrive as professionals. 

You want to approach this question by being honest in what you have done to accelerate your self-improvement objectives. This could be taking additional courses, participating in training seminars or volunteering to increase your abilities. 

If you have not done so, you need to emphasise that you are eager to learn and develop in any way you can. 

8. 'How do you manage conflicts with colleagues in the lab?' 

Let’s be honest: every office can have conflict. However, this should never hinder your ability to get the job done. Therefore, hiring managers present this question to applicants to see how you may have previously managed conflict and to ensure it did not obstruct your obligations.  

The apparent response is providing an example of what you did to quash workplace tensions or maintain a level of professionalism despite disagreement with a colleague. However, if this has not happened to you and you are an entry-level professional, you could also offer an example of a conflict you resolved at university.

9. 'Tell us about a time you thought outside the box at work.'

Do you go by the books, or do you like to think outside the beaker? Whatever the case may be, companies are swimming through the vast talent pool and looking for unique individuals who are not afraid to diverge from mechanisms and practices that have always been done. 

Businesses are intrigued by candidates who can think outside the box at the office or inside the laboratory. Most importantly, they are interested to see if you have been successful following a different route. On the other hand, if you failed, you can discuss how you recuperated and bounced back. 

Be sure you do not espouse an entire career’s story during your sit-down meeting. There is nothing wrong with offering a sample of how you have done things differently than what has been textbook for decades. As long as you are confident in your judgment, the organisation would be pleased by your independence and knowledge. 

10. 'How do you stay current with the advances within the field of chemistry?'

It can be overwhelming to keep track of the innumerable advancements and literature coming out of the chemistry field. In addition to conducting your work, it can be challenging to search and read papers during an already busy schedule. But it is one of those things that must be done so you can stay within the loop. 

But how do you stay current with the advances within the field of chemistry? This is a great question because, once again, the employer is finding out how dedicated and serious you are about chemistry. Plus, they will know that you can apply the newest tips and tactics to your own work if you are paying attention to what is occurring throughout the industry. 

The best response here would include examples like noting that you read academic journals and participate in an online discussion board for chemists. 

Final thoughts

Interviews are the most challenging part of any job search. They are stressful affairs that require lots of preparation and practice. But it has to be done! 

As long as you are ready for the line of questioning, have excellent answers at your fingertips and incorporate these tips into your interview prep, you shouldn’t be too concerned about the firing line. 

Whether it is going through your achievements as an outside-the-box chemist or talking about how you put out a fire in interoffice politics, there are many ways you can impress the interviewer and increase the odds of being hired for the position. Honesty is crucial, your skillset is consequential, and your interest is critical. 

Have you ever had to answer any of these questions during an interview? How did it go? Let us know in the comments section below!

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 3 January 2015.