Career Advice

How to Prepare for a Screening Interview

James Burke

Usually screening interviews proceed with the interviewer using your resume to pose open-ended questions that probe your qualifications. Typical topics include:

  •  educational background, including extra­curricular activities;
  •  for graduate students and postdocs, ex­tensive discussion of research projects;
  • work experience: full-time, part-time, and summer jobs;
  • outside interests and activities;
  • applicant’s strengths and developmental plans; and
  • career interests and goals.

Expect to do most of the talking. How­ever, the interviewer should allow time for you to ask about job opportunities; the employer’s business interests, goals, and strategies; and resources available to help new employees to succeed.

Your objective here is to obtain a site interview. Research the employer before­hand to make your questions substantive. (It’s all right to have them written on an in­dex card.) Bring copies of your resume and research outline, as well as business cards. Dress to be taken seriously. Arrive ten minutes early. Greet your interviewer by standing up and smiling. Introduce your­self and follow your recruiter’s lead. Make sure your research description is rehearsed and concise. Remember to exchange busi­ness cards and, afterwards, to send the recruiter a thank-you note. Keep notes of your interview for future reference. Regard the recruiter as a talent scout and, if the interview goes well, your advocate for a site interview.