Once your resume hits the spot, the next important thing in your recruitment process is a personal interview. And so is your preparation.
Be it your technical pharma interview, answering some non-technical questions too can help you stand out better. This article is typically focused on that.
It is very likely that most of the professionals will crack their technical part but the struggle starts when some non-technical questions pop out.
Based on a handful of surveys conducted among pharma professionals about their interviews, here’s the list of top contenders.
- Tell me about yourself!
- Why do you want to change your job?
- Why do you think you are a better fit for this position?
- Where do you find yourself after 5 years?
- Challenges you face at work and the way you rectify them!
- Your greatest strength and weakness?
- Do you have any questions for us?
Effectively answering these questions will definitely increase your selection chances. So it’s better if you are ready. Grab the opportunity to answer such questions not only to crack the interview but also to make a lasting impression.
Let us explore probable good ways to answer such questions, increasing your chances of getting recruited by 50% than your competition.
Answering Non-Technical Pharma Interview Questions
We’ll take one question at a time to analyze the ways of answering them. Also, here are some sample answers to guide you in your pharma interview preparation.
You don’t need to mug up every word but try to pull out the ground rules.
Tell me about yourself!
This is the most common question in any type of interview. Occasionally, hiring managers ask this question and make up their further canvass.
Though you can say whatever you want for such questions, a better way is to prepare yourself appropriately and answer it to the point, precisely, and never flow away with your sentences.
The following sequence would be appropriate to answer this specific question with ease.
- First of all, thank you! I am <your name>
- I am from <your geographical orientation>
- For freshers:
- Being a <your qualification>, I am a fresher looking for opportunities related to <your interest>
- For experienced professionals:
- Being a <your qualification> and having experience of <number of years> in <your experienced domains> and currently working in <your current organization> as a <your designation and department>
- Summarize the key information that makes you a better fit for this opportunity.
- Tell them why you’ve applied for this position by describing your future goals.
That’s it! Create interest for them to explore more stuff. Later, you can answer their specific questions one by one.
Why do you want to change your job?
Another tricky question! You must be able to answer this question without uttering the negatives in your current job.
Calling it “tricky” because when anyone gets a question starting from “why”, it confuses them to kick-start the discussion. But when you prepare yourself, the world is your oyster.
The reason for which you want to leave a job helps them to predict your competence. Based on your response, they want to interpret and check:
- How well are you doing in your current job?
- Do you have any performance-related issues in your current job?
- Do you hate your job or your boss?
- Are your relations good with the current company?
- Are you really a professional who wants to acquire skills?
Therefore, make sure you talk about only positive ones showing them how you expect your career or life. Never give purely personal reasons like:
- You want a better work-life balance
- Talk about your location preferences
- You want a better job
- Your boss is the problem
- Your salary is not sufficient
- You would love this opportunity because of the company’s reputation
Reasoning such things, you are likely to be rejected even if you crack the technical part.
There are different ways to answer this specific question. For example you might say,
- I have enjoyed my current job and the team I am working with, but this opportunity fits me very well with the things I’ve planned for my career in the near future.
- I enjoy teamwork and hence looking for an opportunity for interesting projects. I heard you have some great projects in the pipeline. I must tell you, those are aligned with my interests.
- I desire to acquire more skills.
- I want to handle more responsibilities.
You may also answer:
What I really liked about this opportunity more than my present one is…Tell them one thing you can differentiate the best.
Another way to ask is, “Why do you want to join our organization?” You can give a similar answer to the one we discussed now. Remember to address what you like about their organization compared to the current one.
Why do you think you are a better fit?
This question is very important for the employer to understand and interpret “Are you a better fit?”
Prepare to answer this question even before revising your technical know-how. If you can’t constructively claim why you are a better fit, you are telling them you are NOT.
When appearing for your pharma interview, you should collect some important information about that company like:
- Values of that organization
- Recent affairs
- Business strategy
- Training and development programs
- Ongoing projects
- If possible, try to mention the projects in their pipeline
Note down these details, analyze how well you fit in the available opportunity, and propose to them how you can contribute to any of the above factors.
You would be able to co-relate this information with your existing skills and better explain that to the employer during an interview. In short, convince them but do not confuse them.
Sometimes, a job description itself mentions something about the employer’s preference. For example, a statement like “Professional with a GMP certification will be an added advantage.”
In such cases, try to find out what their pain point is and how you can relieve that. If you get it right and are able to convince them, you are most likely to get selected.
Glad you asked this. As per the job description, I see it is an added advantage for professionals having a GMP certificate. I am GMP certified in the year ‘xxxx’ and have been able to crack it in one attempt. Not only that, but I utilized my know-how in helping my current organization effectively coordinate internal and external audits. I know you recently had a few GMP observations. I would be happy to contribute to the improvement projects apart from my regular job responsibilities.
Well, I don’t know the qualifications and experience of other candidates. I would like to highlight my skill-set and exposure that makes me the best fit for this position. I am successfully managing a team of ‘x’ quality management professionals in my current organization that helped to reduce quality issues by ‘x%’ last year. Now with this opportunity, I am ready to expand my horizon and bring out more results to the table.
Where do you find yourself after X years?
The clear expectation for asking this question is knowing your career goals and vision.
When you encounter this question, you should demonstrate how clear you are about what you want to achieve and in what timeline. You should focus on your job roles, acquiring skills, their sponsored learning courses (if any), etc.
Talk about your long-term commitments or any personal goals also. But ensure you sound practical and professionally hungry for accomplishments.
Don’t forget to mention how this opportunity will help you achieve your goals. But one thing is for sure, they don’t want to hear the following answers:
- I am not exactly sure where I will be.
- I do not have an estimate yet.
- I see myself on the other side of the table.
- Talk about promotion schemes in the hierarchy.
Here are a few possible right ways to answer this question. However, tailor your answer in line with the opportunity you are approaching.
Previously when I was asked this question, I was not able to specify the details. I realized it was my lacuna to define the clear and practical goals. When digging deep, I was able to position my goals effectively. I can see a picture of me leading the different projects as Project Manager in the coming ‘X’ years. When I read your job description, I realized that this opportunity will not only help me in achieving my goal but also improve my leadership and management skills. I’ve seen that there are various leadership development activities you conduct along with certifications. Going with this, I am very comfortable and confident.
Well, I’m excited about this opportunity, and in the coming ‘X’ years, I am able to recognize myself as a Project Manager or may exceed that if I outperform. I have the potential to lead the project along with the team. If I can deliver, I am sure you will consider me for this position and allow me to grow at a pace.
Challenges you face at work and the way you rectify them!
Challenges are meant to make you stronger. Do you shy away from challenges or use them as a tool to excel your skills and expertise?
This question is asked to check your attitude and behavior towards your work execution. For example, to check:
- What do you call a “Challenge”?
- Whether you are a problem-solver or creator
- Your achievements
- Your strategic thinking
- Your presence of mind
- How you handle pressure
Be cautious while answering this because in the effort of convincing them you may end up showing them that the challenge was not solved but only transferred to a different function.
Note down and classify the challenges as low and high-magnitude. Avoid sharing low-magnitude challenges because it will convey the wrong message to the employer that you are dealing with small things as challenges.
If you are an experienced professional and applying in the same domain, you can explain the challenges you faced in your past experiences. If you are a fresher or changing a domain, you can explain a more simplistic situation for their easy understanding.
To keep your response straight-forward, you can make use of the STAR technique which will assure your employer how you approach any situation.
The STAR technique can be explained as:
- Situation – Explain to the employer how a challenge originated and in what circumstances.
- Task – Detail your goals and roles.
- Action – Explain the actions you took to rectify the challenge.
- Result – Tell them how you were responsible for overcoming the challenge and if possible quantify your result.
Sample Answer Using STAR Technique
- Situation: I was working in intermediate manufacturing of drug API as a production executive with a role of the shift in charge. While we were in the campaign, we noticed that the yield for multiple batches was dropping but still within the acceptable range.
- Task: My seniors decided to investigate and rectify the probable issues. My role was to perform Value Stream Mapping (VSM) of a manufacturing process and coordinate with the operational excellence team.
- Action: During process mapping and subsequent investigation, it came to our notice that one of the reactors that required a brine solution for chilling was unable to maintain the temperature. The temperature was within the acceptable range but on the lower side. In regular practice, it was expected to be on a bit higher side. While doing further troubleshooting, we observed that the brine valve was not opening as expected. The temperature was the crucial parameter to convert the reactant into the product. We have replaced the valve and carried out multiple batches further.
- Result: Upon reviewing the yield for multiple batches, we were able to achieve the previous results satisfactorily. The problem was minor, but the process was so complex and time-consuming that we could not neglect any of the critical process parameters. I was able to map the process effectively in understanding where the problem might have happened (Never shy to take some credit).
This is just an example to show you how one should tie all things together. Remember to make it to the point and something worth listening to.
Your greatest strength and weakness?
Your hiring manager may ask you about your strengths, weaknesses, or both during an interview. Professionals often ask what is the ideal answer to this question.
Well, answering in single words is okay but if you really want to stand out from the competition, it’ll be a good choice if you back it with a short story.
Locate your personal strengths and weaknesses. Try to remember the times when you were the best and the worst. Asking your friends about this will also help.
Understand your job description and relate that to the one where you are applying. Put that on the table effectively and help them realize you are a better fit for this position.
Sample Answers For Strengths
I believe when it comes to quality audits, I am able to find out the gaps effortlessly. Also, I am able to effectively monitor the investigations and make conclusions about root causes. I think it’s my creative thinking that helps me do this job effectively. Being flexible with different roles, I am also deputed at different quality activities inside my organization. I always make a summary of key learnings from each event that help me keep track of my progress.
I can see from different perspectives that I am a good problem solver providing solutions under challenging situations. If you allow me to elaborate, I can tell you…
Being able to perform better under pressure, I feel my greatest strength is the way I address issues efficiently. I never let myself down in challenging conditions (tell them how you handled and addressed major issues you faced in your previous experience).
Though being a fresher for this industry, I’ve accomplished every task assigned to me exceptionally well. Whether you see my project report, qualifications, or extra-curricular activities. I am a quick learner, I must say. Right now that’s what I can tell you about my strengths. I’m sure I’ll explore myself more if I grab this opportunity.
These types of responses definitely give you an edge over the competition rather than just using words like problem-solver, hard-worker, versatile, etc.
Compared to an earlier question, weakness is something very few talk about. It is well known that those who admit their weaknesses are the ones who improve.
Also, answering this question with a shaky head would convey to the hiring manager that you feel you are perfect. However, mentioning too many negatives about yourself can cause more harm than good.
When preparing for this question before the interview, it is very essential that you identify your negatives and take notes.
Choosing your weaknesses is very tricky during your pharma interview and hence select the ones that you can convert into strengths.
Tell your hiring manager how you are working on those weaknesses and ultimately turn them into your strengths.
In this case, again you can take help from colleagues who can suggest some improvements. Always keep in mind, talking about your weakness adds up to your strength.
Sample Answers For Weaknesses
In the early days of my career, I used to have short-tempered nature. Perhaps the spark from college life was taking over on professionalism. But with the time and experience, I’ve worked hard on improving myself. Still, in exceptionally tricky situations I feel that this weakness needs more attention from me.
Before I became manager, I used to avoid conflicts just to finish off my tasks quietly. I identified this as my weakness being a manager when I realized people expect you to say what they want to hear. So arguments are not a problem but a different way to interpret. Since then, I am proactively trying to put forth constructive opinions to build a stronger team and positive results.
Expressing your weakness in a constructive way would emerge out as your strength provided you work-out before the interview genuinely.
Do you have any questions for us?
This question is typically asked at the end of the interview but wait, it’s still not over. You may feel at this point in time, “I’ve almost answered all the questions, then why should I ask the hiring manager?”
If you’re feeling that way, you’re wrong. Answering NO to this question shows you are unwilling to know more about the opportunity, organization, or just not enthusiastic.
When you prepare for the interview, you can almost expect this question and be better equipped for it because it is a critical part of your conversation.
If you decide to say YES (and you should), never ask the things that will put you in trouble like:
- What is the bonus policy? – This question sounds like you consider money more important than your job. Anyhow, while sitting for a CTC discussion, you’ll get a chance to ask this question, eventually making sense at that time.
- Will I get a regular promotion if I perform well? – This is a stupid question to ask. It will make your employer laugh. If you perform well, you’ll get promoted. This is the answer you’ll get. So don’t ask.
- What is the leave policy? – Asking this question during your interview will flag to the employer that you are more concerned about the benefits you’ll get from the company than how you can benefit the company. Keep this question for next time when you get a job offer.
The next thing that may come to your mind is how many questions should I ask. Well, asking too many questions would literally make them tired, looking like you are the one who is taking their interview.
To do this, select a few important questions that’ll keep the discussion healthy and positive for both parties.
Below are some examples that will add value to your interaction with the recruiter. Remember to ask only a few of them.
- What opportunities does this company provide for learning new skills?
- What are the challenges you’ve seen people face in this job role?
- What do you expect from me in the first few months of recruitment?
- I’ve seen the job description, but it didn’t mention whether I’ll be working in the office or on-site. Is this the right time for you to tell me?
- What type of hierarchy does this company have? If I get selected, where do I fit in this big picture?
- Can you tell me what projects are on priority?
Asking such open-ended questions showing your eagerness drives them to believe in you as a suitable candidate.
These non-technical questions have their own importance either for pharma interviews or any other. A lot of these questions are the deciders of whether you are professionally cooked enough.
Therefore, it is critical for you to prepare the answers well in advance with an apt thought process. You can refer to the sample job description format here.
These are the most common and frequently asked questions in an interview. If you feel like adding any other questions or want to reflect your thoughts on this, comment below.