Please tell us something about yourself.
First question, an icebreaker. Lab assistant is an entry level job and you typically do not need any experience to be considered for the position. Nevertheless, you should talk mostly about work related stuff.
Any clerical or administrative job you had before, any experience with lab work, your administrative skills, attention to detail, passion for their main field of study or business.
Remember that you will get an excellent training on the job. For this reason, your motivation, attitude to work, and perhaps also a connection you manage to build with the interviewers is actually more important than your formal education, or your working experience, and will play a bigger role once they decide between hiring you and sending you home.
Try to show enthusiasm, bring some positive energy to the room. It will help you to make a good connection with your interviewers.
Why do you want to work as a laboratory assistant?
Lab assistants do not earn a fortune, but their job has many advantages when compared to other positions with similar salaries. First and foremost, it is not a stressful job. There are rarely any deadlines in laboratories, you will have time to do your job, calmly and precisely. Precision is more important than speed in the lab.
Secondly, you can participate on an important research, or even help with a discovery, some breakthrough in science or medicine. Assistants play a vital role in each laboratory, and though they aren’t the creative minds behind the experiments, they definitely play their part on each scientific success.
Ensure the interviewers that you see the advantages, and that you really want to work as a lab assistant, and do not apply only because you can’t get a better job at the moment.
How do you imagine a typical day in work in this laboratory?
Situation gets a bit trickier at this point. In some labs role of an assistant and technician overlap, and you will respond for simple clinical duties, such as urine analysis, or collecting blood, tissues and other research material.
In other settings, however, assistants are responsible only for administrative tasks–categorizing samples, reporting on the results of the research, maintaining testing records, billing, and similar.
You should read the job description carefully and decide whether the first or the second is the case. The key is to show realistic expectations. You should not expect to take care of duties someone else will be responsible for.
Do you have any experience with basic lab work such as preparing samples/specimen?
If you have experience, tell them about the research you participated on. Academics and researchers are always interested in science and stuff, and this is another thing that can help you make a better connection with your interviewer. You can also list the clinical duties you responded for.
If you have no experience, however, say that you are a quick learner, and are confident to learn to handle the basic laboratory work in no time.
How would you ensure to adhere to health and safety guidelines in your work?
These guidelines can be specific for each lab, and I do not suggest you to venture into describing specific guidelines or procedures.
It is enough ensuring them that you plan to learn about the guidelines as soon as you start in your new role, and that you will give them utmost priority. If you worked in a lab before you can say that you did not have any problem with safety regulations, and can’t recall a single instance in which you broke them.
What computer software do you have experience with?
They may use some specific software packages in a lab. Unless you had a similar job before, you likely don’t have any experience with them. But it isn’t a showstopper in this interview.
Talk about your experience with MS Work, MS Excel, and any other common software. You can use some numbers in your answer (researchers like facts and numbers), for example saying how long you’ve been working with this or that software.
You can also ensure them about your computer literacy. While you may have no experience with specific software they use in the lab, you are sue you’ll quickly learn to work with it.
This is a repetitive job. How do you plan to deal with a crisis of motivation?
Ensure them that you understand how things work in a lab. Countless tests and samples are needed in each study, and the repetition is necessary when one wants to arrive to any statistically viable conclusions.
You know that the job will be repetitive, but it did not discourage you from applying, because you understand the importance of repeating the same tests and analyses again and again.
Some people prefer routine jobs. Stress levels are typically lower, and one does not have to exert their brain each day, addressing new challenges and solving problems in work. You happen to belong to this group of people, and prefer repetitive work to a creative one.
Other questions you may face in your laboratory assistant interview
- How do you ensure that you make no mistakes in your work?
- What do you consider your greatest strength as an administrative assistant, and your biggest weakness?
- Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
- How do you feel about cleaning the lab and related premises? Are you okay with doing this type of work?
- Tell us about a time when you showed initiative at work.
- Describe a conflict you had with one of your former colleagues (or schoolmates).
- Describe a time when you faced an ethical dilemma.
- Tell me about a time when you used logic to solve a problem.
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Conclusion, next steps
Interview for a job of a laboratory assistant belongs to interviews with average difficulty. You do not need any previous experience to apply, and jobs in laboratories aren’t particularly popular, at least when we compare them with positions in big corporations, jobs that pay a similar salary.
What matters, however, is whether you manage to build good connection with your interviewers. Researchers and scientists spend a lot of time with their assistants. They prefer to hire someone they feel good around, someone they enjoy talking to. Listen carefully to their words, keep eye contact, try to talk to the point, and do not restrain from showing s sense of humor.
They should simply get an impression that it would be great to have you around whole they do their experiments in the lab… And, of course, you cannot remain silent when they ask you their questions. I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck in your interview!
* You can also download the the list of questions in a one page long PDF, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
May also help you with your interview preparation:
- How to overcome interview nerves – Feeling stressed? You do not have to once you read our guide.
- Salary negotiation tips – Learn how to convince them to pay you at least a little bit more in your new job.