• Estimated read time: 7 mins
  • Date posted:20/04/2020
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Imagine this: you’re conducting an interview and a candidate walks in completely unprepared. This wouldn’t leave a good first impression. Not only is it highly unprofessional, but it wastes time; both yours and the candidates. Why did they even bother to show up? They’ve almost certainly obliterated their chances of securing the position.

Well, the same principle applies to hiring managers. As the hiring manager or stakeholder in the hiring process, it’s your responsibility to identify the best fit candidate for the position. You can’t make an informed decision if you’re unprepared. An interview requires a great deal of organisation and planning on behalf of the hiring manager. Failure to do so will leave a bad impression on the candidate, damage your employer brand and make it that much harder to attract, engage and secure top life science talent. In fact, forty-nine per cent of job seekers have turned down offers because of a bad interview and hiring experience.

To conduct a successful interview, there are several steps that the hiring manager should take:

1. Reacquaint themselves on job search touchpoints

Your first step is to reacquaint yourself with the candidate’s CV, LinkedIn profile, pain letter and/or application (delete as appropriate). You will already be familiar with these touchpoints from when your shortlisted candidates for interview, but chances are you read and analysed a lot of CV’s and applications back then and your memory of exactly what made this candidate stand out is hazy. Now is the time to refresh your memory.

Thoroughly examine candidate CVs, pain letters and LinkedIn profiles. Not only is this just generally the respectful thing to do, but it also helps to ensure that you ask the right questions during the interview. Without familiarising yourself with the candidate’s job search touchpoints, the interview questions will fail to accurately assess their skills, background and cultural fit.

You need to compare the candidate’s job search touchpoints against the criteria outlined in the job description and compare them against your candidate personas. Are they a good technical and cultural fit? Do they have the required skills and qualifications to do the job? Make notes on a physical copy of their CV or as a separate document that you’ll have in front of you during the interview. As a general rule, you should bring their CV, pain letter (if applicable) and application form (if applicable) to the interview. They should serve to help jog your memory and help you ask spontaneous, informed questions in response to answers candidates give.

Demonstrating to the candidate that you have thoroughly acquainted yourself with their job search touchpoints makes for a good first impression. While you might think that the sole purpose of an interview is to assess the candidate, think again. Interviews allow candidates to ask in-depth, explorative questions to determine whether the position is the right fit for them. They will be assessing your leadership ability and whether they want to work with or serve under you as much as you are assessing them. Proving to the candidate that you’re taking a personal interest in them works in your favour. They too have sacrificed their time to prepare for and attend the interview, so the least you can do is to take in interest who they are and what they do. Remember that you are representing your organisation, so you need to live and breathe your employer brand at all times.

2. Craft the right questions

You should use the interview as an opportunity to further explore the candidate’s career history and achievements outlined in their job search touchpoints. Ask yourself: is there anything you wish to explore further? Is there anything you wish to validate? Is anything missing? Additionally, the criteria outlined in the job description should inform the questions that you ask. An equal number of questions assessing hard and soft skills will help to determine a candidate’s ability to do the job.

Likewise, ask a mix of behavioural and competency-based interview questions so that you can assess a candidate’s technical and cultural fit. While you might desire a candidate to have certain skills and abilities, it might be equally important that your workforce is comprised of individuals that align with the organisation’s values and culture. Hard skills can be taught on-the-job and through formal training. Soft skills, in contracts, cannot be taught through formal training and require a certain mindset Generic questions aren’t going to give you the most detailed answers so it’s worth spending extra time crafting your questions. For more advice on killer interview questions, read our blog: 24 Interview Questions That Reveal Leadership Potential in Candidates.

Your aim should be to correlate a list of standardised interview questions and decide in advance which types of answers are deemed positive and which are negative. Marks are then awarded depending on the extent to which the candidate’s answer matches those negative and positive indicators. For example, if you are asking a candidate to describe a time when they had to work under pressure, positive indicators might be:

  • Takes a positive approach toward problem-solving
  • Uses effective coping strategies when under pressure
  • Is willing to seek assistance if necessary

Examples of negative indicators might be:

  • Sees challenges as problems
  • Always tries to deal with the situation alone
  • Did not use appropriate strategies to cope with stress

You might consider dividing negative indicators into two further groups: minor and decisive negative factors. Like minors in a driving test, minor negative factors won’t derail a candidate’s chance of success at interview in isolation. However, if you incur too many minors, they could influence the interview outcome. In contrast, negative factors are red flags and you might discount a candidate based on its severity.

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3. Plan the interview

An interview without a set agenda will go downhill fast. Above all else, you need to be aware of who will be attending, who will ask what questions and in what order. This is absolutely crucial in a panel interview where other hiring stakeholders are involved in the interview process. How many questions do they need to ask? What will they specifically ask questions about? Will they be present during the entire interview or the final half hour? It will help to book time in the hiring stakeholder’s timetables so they know what time to arrive and how long they’ll be needed for. An unorganised panel paints a bad picture of your organisation and yourself.

You need to ensure that your time-keeping skills are flawless, especially if you have multiple interviews scheduled for the same day. Keep in mind that some candidates might have travelled far to interview and need to catch a train or plane home. You won’t do yourself any favours by causing your candidates to miss their transport home due to the interview overrunning. Interviews that run over can mess up your timetable for the entire day. Set a length of time aside for each interview and stick to it. Break off the interview into smaller chunks, so that you know you’ll spend 10 minutes introducing the organisation and 30 minutes asking about their hard skills, for example. Sit across the room from the clock or wear a watch on the day so that you can keep track of the time.

4. Practice your pitch

Generally, the interview will begin with the hiring manager’s elevator pitch. This essentially introduces themselves, the organisation, the position and its remit. After the hiring manager invites the candidate into the interview room, give time for small talk and making acquaintances. The hiring manager will then officially start the interview with his or her elevator pitch. It’s really important to articulate an engaging pitch that engages the candidate from the offset. A dry elevator pitch could result in the candidate losing interest in the position and voluntarily removing themselves from the interview process.

5. Prepare the interview room

Have you thought about where you’ll host the interview? This should be a quiet environment, ideally located away from distractions with a degree of privacy. Most organisations will have a boardroom or meeting room that can be utilised, but if not, you might have to consider hosting the interview elsewhere. Remote workplace solutions like WeWork can be a lifesaver in such circumstances.

Make sure to book out the room in advance; the worst-case scenario would be having to relocate the interview because the room had been booked out. Not only does this throw the interview into a tailspin, but it can also be humiliating for you. Book the room for fifteen minutes before the interview commences. This gives you time to adequately prepare the room, and yourself, for the interview (and buys you precious time in case the room is occupied, for whatever reason).

Another aspect to be aware of is whether the location has appropriate facilities. For example, if you’re conducting interviews that involve the candidate giving a presentation, does the room have a projector and screen? Does the WIFI signal reach to this area of the office? Are there power sockets? What about toilets nearby? While these might seem like small, menial considerations, they essentially determine the success of the interview.

6. Put yourself in their shoes

An interview is a two-way street, so while you’ll be assessing the candidate, they will be assessing:

  • Whether the job will fulfil their aspirations.
  • Whether the organisation is a good fit.
  • Whether you are a good leader.

This means you must be prepared for their questions. For more information on what kinds of questions to expect from the candidate, read our blog: 13 Of The Smartest Questions To Ask A Life Science Hiring Manager.

How you answer their questions can make the difference between the candidate accepting a job offer or removing themselves from the interview process. To avoid turning off top-talent, remember to sell the position and organisation at all times. Include details about the organisation’s mission and values, structure, and its perks and benefits. Keep in mind that although they may appear interested in your position, the candidate could be interviewing for roles at other organisations. This stresses the importance of highlighting why your position and organisation is better than your competitors

At the end of the interview, don’t forget to tell them about the next steps. Give a clear and concise answer about the next stage in the hiring process and when they’ll hear back from you. It’s important to be as specific as possible so that you can elicit excitement on their behalf about the possibility of them securing the position.

7. Plan your time

An interview doesn’t just begin and end on the hour. You should allow fifteen minutes before and after the interview to prepare and reflect.

  • Prepare: It’s irresponsible to turn up to the interview a couple of minutes before and expect to wing it. Go to the room at least fifteen minutes early to ensure no one is occupying it and to set up the furniture or projector (if an interview presentation is required). Use this time to brush up your knowledge on the candidate, reminding yourself of specific questions you want to ask them.
  • Reflect: After the interview, use some time to reflect on the interview and what you learned. You might have made notes during the interview, but feel free to add some more so that during your decision-making process, you have stacks of evidence for each candidate. If you’re conducting back-to-back interviews, it’s wise to have at least a fifteen-minute gap between each one so that your candidates don’t run into each other.


Striving to become a better hiring manager during the interview process takes a lot of hard work and effort. However, a good interview can leave a great impression on the candidate and ensures they’re assessed fairly. This, in turn, will help to bolster your employer brand and encourage more executives to want to work for your organisation.

For more hiring advice tailored to hiring managers in the life science industry…

* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating exclusively across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.