A "How To" Guide for the Job Search and Interview Preparation
Finding a job, nailing the interview and starting your career in industry - Information summarized from S2BN talks given by Dr. Alex Lang and Kevin Maguire of MMGI.
The following topics will be discussed in detail below:
Establishing a Career Plan
The Job Search
Submitting a Proper Resume
Preparing for the Interview
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: How to Create STAR Stories
Performing the Interview
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Helpful Interview Tips
The Interview Follow Up
Jump Starting that Career
STEP 1 – Establishing a Career Plan.
What do you want in 5 or 10 years?A certain paycheck?A certain position?A certain amount of time off?These are valuable things to know before starting your job search.
You almost certainly will not have a linear career path and that is okay!
Develop a strategy early.
What is your ideal role?
If you don’t have the qualifications for that job yet, target jobs that will give you those skills.
PRO TIP: Starting out, target roles for which you would be one of the strongest candidates
Great entry level roles postgrad school include:
Lab Scientist (pharma company)
Medical information associate/specialist
Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA; regulatory access)
Examples of great “entry level” companies in industry:
Contract Research Organizations
Parexcel, PRA, Charles River
Any start-up (note, you will be asked to wear more than 1 hat and the company structure might be lacking).
STEP 2 – The Job Search
Know that a job search can be a full-time job.
Set goals (and timelines)
Contact 5 employers per week.
Update LinkedIn by [certain date].
Complete 2 relevant courses each week on LinkedIn learning.
Keep detailed written records of your job search activities.
This is helpful for follow-up emails.
Also keep a list of the companies you are interested in working for.
Where to go to find jobs?
START – LinkedIn and Indeed
Search by industry, job title and/or “PhD” or “Masters”
Check for jobs daily or weekly
NEXT - Company websites
LATER - Recruiter sites (these are generally best after you have established yourself a bit).
ALWAYS - Networking (expand your circle)
Hear about jobs pre-posting, get internal referrals and (if you are lucky), you might even meet the person who does the hiring.
Survey the job ads.
You do not have to have all of the “required” qualifications.
You can usually subtract 2-3 years from the years of required experience, especially if you have other relevant skills.
STEP 3 – Successful networking
Show up. You won’t always know the value of an interaction until you have it.
Carry a business card.
Make it unique and memorable; however, keep things professional.
Develop an elevator pitch and be ready to deliver.
Who are you? (in 30-60 seconds or less)
Create impact statements about your accomplishments and your goals.
It is okay to grease your own wheels a bit. If you don’t, who else will!?
STEP 4 – Submitting a Proper Resume
You NEED more than 1 CV. They NEED to be personalized for each job you apply to.
Start with a master copy. include EVERYTHING you have done, then cut out irrelevant items to tailor a CV for each individual application.
Use bullet points. Keep descriptions succinct.
Use strong dynamic language.
Have a tailored “goal statement” at the top.
Match your skills and experiences to the job description.
THINK: How will you address the challenges that company is facing?
Describe your career so far.
Highlight responsibilities, successes and innovations using metrics where possible.
Do not only tell people what you did, tell people what you acheived.
Put numbers behind your accomplishments (metrics). Numbers increase impact.
Compile number-based facts about yourself in a document. For example:
Impact factor of the journals you are published in.
Number of citations your papers have received.
Number of individuals that attended events you organized.
STEP 5 – Preparing for the Interview
The company and its products.
The people interviewing you.
This is essential, and can be helpful in creating a genuine shared moment. Know who they are, what their role is and where they came from. This will come across very professional and prepared.
The job, deliverables and responsibilities.
Use their website, recent press releases, Glassdoor, annual reports, Google news, etc.
Be excited about the company and communicate that excitement by knowing who you are interviewing with (role, company, people, etc.)
Compare your skills to the job description.
Prepare to highlight your strengths and address your weaknesses.
Address skill gaps (if missing the required years of experience, why are you worth it?).
Be ready to communicate how you will overcome challenges faced in the role.
Prepare for Behavioural Interview Questions.
You MUST show up with good stories.
Story telling is the most persuasive form of communication – use it!
"Give me an example of a time you dealt with conflict” or “Tell me how you dealt with an impossible deadline"
Don’t answer theoretically (I would do…), answer with a real example (I did…).
You are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to develop STAR Stories: Situation or Task you faced, Action you took and Results you achieved.
Aim for a 1-2 min answer.
To prepare, write out 10-20 of your best stories in STAR format.
Focus on stories that highlight:
Ability to take on risk, step outside of the box, be creative, solve problems, be efficient, be organized and lead teams.
Then note potential interview questions your STAR story is applicable to.
PRACTICE – not to memorize, but to remember the stories and communicate them naturally.
Prepare questions to ask your future company.
These should be tailored to the company and their challenges.
Use behavioural technique on the interviewer, if relevant.
“Your website says you do ____, could you give a recent example of this in action?”
PRO TIP: Develop questions that help identify their needs (i.e. their challenges).
Indirect Question: “What does the team look like? What does the department look like?”
Direct Question: “What are the challenges facing this role/department?”
If you find a problem, develop an action plan on the spot to try and address it! Prove your value in real time and the job is yours.
GO IN WITH NOTES – this is acceptable and actually encouraged.
STAR stories – little dot jots to remind you of your stories and what topic(s) each addresses.
Notes about the company, the role, the deliverables) and a few points about the people interviewing you.
PRO TIP: Write notes in the margin of your CV to be ready to speak to ALL of your information in your interview.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION – How to Create STAR Stories
Best practices for STAR stories:
Start by writing down single sentence memories about different times you were successful at something work-related in your past.
Use professional life events (not that time you saved your friend from falling overboard during a boat party).
Focus on accomplishments.Did you overcome challenges?
Use “me” stories, not “we” stories.
Think of events that would not have turned out as positive without you being there.
ALSO: Think about your best quality in a professional sense. What has made you the most successful thus far?
Being a good listener?
Are you a creative thinker?
Are you exceptionally driven?
BEST PRACTICE – Pick your best trait and highlight it. Explain this with a good story. This can become your “killer” STAR story.
Share this “killer” story no matter what in an interview.Find a way to use it to answer one of the questions that come up.
A story of being innovative…
A story of improving a process…
A story of saving money…
A story of being a leader…
A story about dealing with conflict and ambiguity…
STEP 6 – Performing the Interview
Arrive 30-60 minutes early.
Much better you do the waiting than them.
Dress for one position above the job you are applying for.
PRO TIP: Be conservative, not flashy (e.g. wear a tie not bowtie)
When given the opportunity, communicate how you will overcome the challenges of the role.
This requires knowing what those challenges might be.
Two good pens (not the ones you got from the hotel lobby…)
Your interview notes
Extra copies of your resume
Your phone (keep it in your bag or pocket and on silent)
Bad smells (don’t be remembered for your scent; no scent is the best scent)
Fear, insecurity and self-doubt. You are being interviewed; you are already exceptional!
Close the Interview – DO NOT FORGET to ask for the job!
Use simple language; find a way to compel the interviewer to hire you.
Tell them how much you want to position.
Be professionally forward. Find the right moment near the end of the interview to say (in your own words) “I want the job”.
Consider asking something similar to: “Is there anything that leaves you unsure if I am the right candidate? And if so, is there a way for me to address that now?”
This puts them on the spot. If you aced everything else, humble confidence will often serve you very well.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Helpful Interview Tips
Questions you are most likely to be asked
Why do you want the job?
Why are you interested in the company?
Have firm succinct answers to these two questions
What are your main strengths?
PRO TIP: Consider the company’s problems and how your strengths can be used to solve them.
What is your biggest professional weakness?
Don’t disguise a strength as a weakness, this looks forced.
Find a weakness you are addressing and explain how you are working to overcome this weakness. This demonstrates self-improvement.
BE BRIEF – weaknesses shouldn’t have a STAR story.
What would be the biggest challenge for you in this role?
Biggest interview mistakes:
Failing to set yourself apart.
Winging the interview (e.g. not properly researching the company).
Poor eye contact – eye contact shows confidence!
Not enough interest or enthusiasm in the company. People do not want to hire an “average Joe” for a key position.
Lacking humour, warmth and personality (be real).
Over-explaining previous losses – be succinct, spin it positively and move on.
Every interview needs to be personalized, similar to your CV. Know your audience!
Be prepared to influence the person/people interviewing you. If you want them to hire you, be convincing!
STEP 7 – The Interview Follow Up
This is INCREDIBLY important, do not undervalue the importance of touching base after your interview.
Good opportunity to reiterate why you are a great fit for the job.
Remind the interviewers about something memorable you spoke about during the interview.
If you can recall a shared moment of laughter, professionalism or common interest, this will be a chance to solidify that shared experience.
PRO TIP: Aim to follow up the morning after the interview by email. Do not wait too long (e.g. days later) and 30 minutes after may come off as too eager.
STEP 8 – Jump Starting that Career!
Working hard is not always enough.
Continue to build your network. If you think someone else near you is shooting up, work with them and shoot up with them.
From time to time, review the job description for the next job you want.
Ensure your current role helps develop the skills required for that next job.
TIP: You may need to move on earlier than you want.
TIP: Proactively complete qualifications for the next role you want (e.g. an MBA)
Look at getting started on these qualifications 2-5 years before you will truly need them.
Always be looking to develop political skills.
How does your manager want you to work? What kind of company are you working for? You will get the most out of your situation if you discover how to thrive in your company’s particular culture.
Tips for Building LinkedIn:
Have a presence before you start job searching.
Makes you findable and gives you credibility.
Helps you network and connect with employers.
Helps you prep for an interview (e.g. research those interviewing you).
Have a professional headshot as your profile picture.
Pay for LinkedIn Premium. It is a small investment ($30/month) for a great outcome.
Don’t connect with random people just to have more people in your network.
Model your profile after people you wish to emulate.
Like content, like posts, like comments.Be careful, people can see what you like.
Post links and share content.
Write an original article.
$20-30/course (2-3 hours/course)
Very specific courses
Offered to people with premium LinkedIn accounts
Strategies for negotiating wages:
Employers expect you to negotiate!
Don’t spit out a number, do your research.
It’s okay to say “I don’t have a specific salary requirement; however, I would be interested in further discussion.To properly discuss salary expectations with you I would want to know more about:
And any RRSP matching.”
Expect a non-linear career path .
Prepare to invest time into your job search.
Create a personalized resume for each job you apply to.
Tell people what you achieved rather than what you did.
Prepare for your interview to sound like you already work there.
Create STAR stories and practice, practice, practice.
Arrive to the interview prepared and with notes.
CLOSE HARD – tell them you want to work there and follow up within 24 hours.