The established wisdom in job interview preparation is that while dressing well will never overcome deficiencies in what you actually say in front of a prospective employer, it can nonetheless play a big role in projecting a more positive image of yourself.

Indeed, there have even been indications recently that the saying "the clothes make the man (or woman)" has more truth to it than many of us realise, a study cited in The Atlantic finding evidence that people's thought processes change when they wear a suit.

So, you might know the importance of dressing smartly when being interviewed for jobs - but what exactly does that entail?

How suitable 'interview wear' differs between the sexes

The basic rules of interview dress arguably don't change much whether you are a man or a woman - you are still best advised to wear something comfortable and that you actually feel confident in. It's a good idea to go for 'safer' colours like black, not using more than three colours across your entire outfit, while you should also pay attention to all of those 'small' aspects, such as shoes and socks.

Beyond these broad principles, if you are attending an interview for a role, whether it is in chemistry, pharmacology, immunology or a different scientific or technical field altogether, you will almost certainly be expected to dress more formally than the 'business casual' that can be prevalent in interviews for other job sectors.

What men might wear to a science job interview

A good rule of thumb is to dress one level more formal than would be expected in the day-to-day job. For men, that often means opting for darker, more sober colours, choosing cotton instead of linen on account of the latter's tendency to crease easily, and brown or black shoes - leather rather than suede.

Colours are an important consideration for men, which at the most basic level, means avoiding distracting or garish ties and socks. Also give thought to colour combinations and coordination - while blue can be made to work with brown, the same cannot be said of black and brown.

Some good dress pointers for women

Suits aren't merely timeless - they also effortlessly cross gender lines. Further down one's outfit is a different story, with women needing to choose between trousers and a skirt. If opting for the latter, the distance between the hemline and the knee should not exceed the length of one biro.

Women, like men, are advised to wear darker colours like black, navy or brown, although a lighter, plainer colour can be a good choice in the summer. Scarfs can also be a source of brighter colour, but patterns anywhere are generally a no-no. Any blouse is best plain, and heels should not be too high.

While many would reasonably argue that there are no hard-and-fast rules governing what to wear to an interview with a recruitment agency, the above should nonetheless constitute sound guidelines for the many of us who consider the thorny issue of interview wear almost as intimidating as the interview itself.   

Tough interview questions

In today's highly competitive job market, it's common for employers to interview many highly suitable candidates when there are only one or two positions available. This naturally raises the question of how interviewers can better separate the candidates, to which one of the most obvious answers is to ask more challenging interview questions.

If you're preparing for a job interview and you're worried about some of the more difficult questions that the interviewer might ask, we at Hyper Recruitment Solutions can help. Here are 10 tough job interview questions and how to answer them:

'Can you tell me something about yourself?'

Why it's a tough question: When asked this question, it's easy to slide into endless irrelevant talk about where you were born, your parents, your childhood, your family, your personal likes and dislikes, and so on.

How to answer it: Instead of telling the interviewer your life story, give brief examples of personal and professional experiences that make you suitable for the position. You may even want to have a 'lift pitch' prepared.

'Why do you think you should get this job?'

Why it's a tough question: When asked this one, many candidates fall into the trap of just boasting about how great they are in general, instead of focusing on things that are relevant to the role that's up for grabs.

How to answer it: Remember that this is a very specific question about what makes you suitable for this job, not for the world of work in general. Match your strengths to the characteristics outlined in the job description and person specification.

'Why are you leaving your present job?'

Why it's a tough question: Like many questions that you may be asked by those conducting recruitment campaigns, this actually isn't too tough a question if you prepare well. However, if you complain too much about your current boss or workplace, you risk coming off as a negative person, which will lose you points.

How to answer it: Talk about the personal and professional growth opportunities or the challenge and excitement of taking on this position, rather than whinging about your present or previous employer.

'Have you ever had a bad experience with an employer?'

Why it's a tough question: There are two big risks with this question: criticising a past employer (which, as noted above, can reflect badly on you), and incriminating yourself in relation to the bad experience.

How to answer it: Instead of complaining or laying blame, focus on how you grew as a result of this experience, or the positive qualities you demonstrated while dealing with it. If you can't truthfully say that you have never had a bad experience with an employer, at least describe a difficult situation that you emerged stronger from as evidence of your potential now.

'What are your favourite and least favourite aspects of your present job?'

Why it's a tough question: Again, moaning about your current job is not a good look in an interview, and even when describing the parts you like, it's possible to convey the wrong impression - if the only thing you like about your current role is the money, or eating cake on people's birthdays, then you may come off as somewhat unenthusiastic. An overly vague or general answer, meanwhile, might make it seem like you're damning your employer with faint praise.

How to answer it: Be more specific than just citing 'a nice atmosphere'. Something that relates to the position itself, such as your enjoyment of working in a team, is ideal. As for your 'least favourite' aspect...try to make it something as far away as possible from the responsibilities that you would have in this new job, and make sure the answer illustrates either good performance or an ability to learn.

'Give an example of when you handled a major crisis.'

Why it's a tough question: Many candidates are thrown by just how dramatic this question sounds, so you may want to reframe it as something more like 'Give an example of when you coped with a difficult situation.'

How to answer it: Look back through your personal, professional and educational life and think of situations where you successfully dealt with unexpected problems.

'Give an example of a time when you showed initiative.'

Why it's a tough question: A big danger here is that you'll stumble into describing an idea that you had but didn't put into action.

How to answer it: Describe an idea that you did act upon, or an occasion where you solved a problem by yourself. Then back this up with examples of the positive consequences that your actions had.

'Where do you expect to be in five years' time?'

Why it's a tough question: It's far too easy to give a glib response to this question that isn't actually very insightful. For instance, saying that you want to be running the company or sitting in the interviewer's chair five years from now.

How to answer it: Talk instead about your motivations and your understanding of your likely career path in this particular organisation or industry. This is very much a question where you will be expected to have done your employer research.

'What can you tell me about this company / industry?'

Why it's a tough question: Obviously, this question requires some prior research. However, it shouldn't be difficult at all as long as you've taken the time before the interview to do some reading.

How to prepare for it: Look at the company website, especially its 'About Us' section and any other details you can find regarding the company's history, objectives and values. Write down some key points to mention - points that will show the interviewer you are interested not just in a job but in a job with this company.

'Do you have any questions or anything else you would like to add?'

Why it's a tough question: You've almost reached the end of the job interview, and it's tempting at this point to just say 'no', shake hands and leave. But this is an opportunity to ensure that you stick in the interviewer's mind as a strong, memorable candidate, and it shouldn't be wasted.

How to answer it: Take the opportunity to end the interview on a decisive and memorable note that banishes any lingering doubts in the interviewer's mind. Prepare some questions in advance about the company's culture, or even what the interviewer likes best about the company. Try to demonstrate that you are interviewing them as well, rather than merely being interviewed by them.

Don't be yet another candidate who thinks they're good enough to 'wing it'. By thoroughly preparing in advance with answers for questions like the above, you will be able to gain a decisive advantage in the race for many of the most desirable jobs.

Browse and apply for science jobs with Hyper Recruitment Solutions >

virtual interview tips

One of the biggest changes in the world of science recruitment in recent years - indeed, in any recruitment field - has been the rise of the virtual job interview.

Virtual interviews can be defined as "any form of interview that uses information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as email, discussion board, real-time chat or video chat system such as Skype."

While many of the usual principles of how to handle a job interview also apply for a virtual job interview, the latter also comes with certain distinctive challenges - so don't forget the below advice when faced with one. Here are some virtual job interview tips for you to consider:

Get comfortable with the technology

Particularly when you are being interviewed for more technical science jobs, it is important to get the associated technology in order and not appear overawed or intimidated by it - any attempted small-talk about how weird it is to be interviewed 'virtually' is likely to create the wrong impression.

If technical issues do occur - as can happen with even the best preparation - respond in a professional way, asking the interviewer to repeat the question if necessary and politely asking if you can disconnect and reconnect if the problem is persistent.

Also keep signalling acknowledgement - such as by saying "yes" or "hmm" or nodding the head - so that the interviewer is in no doubt that you can hear them.

Project the most professional impression

There are so many issues of professional presentation or lack thereof that can arise in a virtual interview if you do not thoroughly and suitably prepare.

Dress remains as important in a virtual interview as it does in a face-to-face one. Indeed, with one recent study suggesting that simply wearing a suit affects the way you think, it is advisable to dress smartly even for a phone interview.

Other presentation issues that can arise during a virtual job interview include your cat walking into the shot, unmade bedding in the background, harsh lighting or an unflattering camera angle - again, all problems that need to be ironed out in the preparation rather than during the interview itself.

Be sure to adopt the right interview manner

In all of your anxiety to project the desired impression of a competent candidate, it can be easy to forget such apparent basics as actually looking into the camera rather than your image on the screen, keeping a straight posture and being subtle in reference to any notes that you have placed nearby to aid you.

Remember, too, not to over-rehearse - in a virtual interview as much as in a 'real' one, a natural manner can go a long way to making you a more engaging interviewee.

There are so many other important things to keep in mind when being interviewed 'virtually', from choosing a professional username if this is required for any videoconferencing technology you use, to keeping a printout of your CV and other key documentation nearby.

If there's one thing that definitely applies to virtual interviews as much as it does to 'normal' in-person interviews, it is the great importance of preparation - so never underestimate it if you are called to such an interview by a recruitment agency. 

We hope these virtual job interview tips help you but if there is anything else you are unsure of, feel free to contact us today

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