What exactly will happen while you try to get a job in a laboratory depends on several factors:
- You degree. If you apply on PhD level, they expect you to come up with your own ideas and explain what exactly you’d like to do in their laboratory. On Master’s and Bachelor’s or Associate’s level it is more about aligning with the actual research they work on.
- Funding. Has someone already allocated a budget for your lab technician position, or for the research you want to participate on in the lab? Or do you still need to convince the group leader, lab manager, or any other responsible body to allocate the resources?
- Competition. Are more people trying to get the job of a lab technician? Or, considering the specifications of work and the topic of research, are you the only eligible person to apply?
Think about these questions for a moment. They should help you understand what you should focus on while preparing for your interview. Let’s have a look at some questions you may face, particularly in an interview for a lab technician position.
Can you please tell us something about the work you’ve done up to this point?
The first question can sometimes be the most important one. Have you worked in a medical or scientific laboratory before? What sort of mechanical and diagnostic tests you have experience with? Did you gain any hands on experience while doing your Associate’s degree (or higher)?
Scientists aren’t the best teachers, and working environment in a laboratory is not the same as in a big corporation. They won’t spoon-feed you from the start. Oppositely, they expect you to know your stuff, or at least to be a quick learner and swiftly understand what’s going on in the the lab, and what is expected from you.
Try to talk about a variety of duties you’ve done in a lab. You can use technicalities and professional jargon because this interview is almost always led by a scientist, and they enjoy to talk with people in this way. Basically your goal is to convince them that you have experience with lab work, and will quickly integrate into their working group as a technician.
Why do you want to work in our lab, or in our group?
I can’t stress the importance of doing a proper research before this interview. You should check their latest publications, read all sections on their website, and try to understand as much as possible about the research they do in a lab. What goals do they try to achieve with their research? What is the purpose of their work?
Obviously you can refer to their research in your answer. Perhaps you see the meaningful purpose of their work and would love to contribute. Or what they are doing actually aligns with your own experience and research, and you want to continue working in the field.
They should get an impression that you know a lot about their lab, and do not apply only because you want to work in any laboratory, or because this one is near your apartment (and hence convenient for commuting to work). Remember that you will be talking with a scientist or researcher in the interview. For these people science matters more than money. Talk about science and you will win them over.
Do you have experience with performing XYZ tests?
Now you have two options, and in any case you should be honest. If you have experience, tell them exactly when you performed such tests, and where (at school, in some other lab), and for what purpose. This is enough to convince them.
If you have no experience with certain diagnostic tests, however, it is not necessarily a showstopper in a lab technician interview. Tell them that you have no experience, but understand the theory and the testing methodology.
You learned it either at school or while doing research about their place–you’ve learned about the tests they are performing in the lab, and did your homework studying more. Besides your experience, interviewers care mostly about your attitude. When you manage to demonstrate proactive approach to work and honest interest in their research or testing field, they will give you a chance.
Tell us about a time when you had a conflict with other person in a lab.
Conflicts belong to every workplace, and laboratories are no exception. Try to recall a conflict, even a minor or trivial one, you had with someone else in the lab.
Perhaps they accused you of making a mistake, or loosing a sample, or you argued for no real reason. They simply had a bad day in the office, or you struggled with something in your personal life and vented your anger in work.
Any conflict you describe, try to be honest. You should just analyze the situation, without emotions, without blaming the other conflict party. If you really made a mistake–which can happen to anyone, admit that you made it. Show the interviewers that while you are a human being and have conflicts, or even sometimes initiate them, you can get over your emotions, are ready to apologize, and will quickly move on and continue working.
Teamwork is an integral part of any successful medical or research work. Ensure the interviewers that you are a team player, and won’t dwell on conflicts or setbacks for too long.
What would you like to gain from this working experience?
You have several options for a good answer to this tricky question. First one is talking about your career plan, the job you’d like to have one day, the work you’d like to do in the future. Opting for this answer, try to talk about some realistic and relatively distant goal. Having a position of a Team Leader Technician in five years time, once you gain experience and prove your skills, is a good goal to mention.
Another alternative is talking about satisfaction the job will give you. You see the meaningful purpose of the work they do in the lab, the goals they try to achieve.
Participating on their research or testing will give some meaning to your working life, since you won’t work for money only. It’s always easier to wake up at six on a rainy morning and start preparing for your way to the workplace when you see a meaning in the activities of your employer…
Things change if you apply for an internship, or for other form of interim employment for fresh graduates. In such a case you can say that you hope to gain your first real working experience in a lab–and a good one. This experience will allow you to apply for a variety of positions in the future, once your episode with their lab ends.
Five other questions you may face in your Lab Technician interview
- How do you imagine a typical day in work in this laboratory?
- What do you do to ensure you make no mistakes in your work. And what do you consider the biggest mistake you’ve done in your laboratory work so far?
- Describe a time when you had to meet a tight deadline in your work.
- What are your salary expectations?
- Do you have any questions?
* You can download the full list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
Questions you can ask your interviewers while trying to get a job of a lab technician
Remember the following rule: All academics love to talk about their research. If a scientist or an academic leads an interview with you–which will often be the case in a laboratory, you should ask about their research work, or the tests they are performing in the lab.
Not that it has much to do with your job application… it hasn’t. But it will help you to make a better connection with the interviewer. Do your homework, try to find out what they are working on in a lab, and ask meaningful questions about their work. Nod your head while they are talking, and ask follow-up questions. This is the best way to win them over.
Conclusion, next steps
Interview for a job of a lab technician belongs to easier job interviews. In most cases you won’t compete with many people for the job, and the questions in all lab interviews are quite predictable.
Try to prepare for the questions from this article, and most importantly, do a good research about their laboratory, the purpose of their work, their publications, discoveries, leading figures, etc. This is a relatively easy interview and if you do not underestimate your preparation, you should succeed. I wish you good luck!
May also help you:
- How to overcome interview nerves – 4-step guide on overcoming anxiety and stress in an interview. Learn how to be your best self on the big day.
- How to dress for an interview – Do your clothes make any difference in an interview in a laboratory? Should you wear white clothes, or should you experiment and try to stand out with your outfit? Find out the answers.
- Lab Assistant interview questions – Role of an assistant differs from a role of a technician, but some interview questions overlap. Can you answer them?