What should I know for a UK College Lab Assistant job interview?
November 10, 2009 11:10 AM   Subscribe

What should I know and what could help me in a job interview for a UK College Lab Technician?

I graduated in Biological Science last year and this is my first job interview I've had for a science-based job since. Since it's been a year I may be a bit rusty with my lab lingo and know how, so are there any lab technicians or people who hire them, or even an education professional who could give me other subjects I should bone up on? For example, COSHH guidelines for lab technicians, suppliers, etc.

Secondly, what kind of questions do you think I'll be asked? And what qualities will they be looking for? This is the most important aspect for me at the moment.
posted by D J Robertstein to Science & Nature (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I interviewed for several research positions earlier this year: one interview was about four hours long and I spoke to six people, ranging from administrative staff to research techs and chief scientists. They asked many technical questions in addition to the typical interview questions: "What are the steps you can take to optimize qPCR efficiency?", "How would you go about designing a storage buffer for an enzyme, including assessment of your reagents?", "Tell me about time-lapse confocal microscopy on a live aerobic culture," etc. It was unexpected, but I thought I did well and ultimately I got a pretty great offer for that position.

Another interview, the one for the job I ultimately accepted, involved presenting my prior research to the PI and my prospective bosses, a lengthy discussion of their research, a tour of the facilities, and a friendly lunch. In both cases, I had read up the last few papers published by the labs I was interviewing for, and was able to discuss their research and ask relevant questions: my boss recently shared that I was the only candidate who took such an interest in the actual work (as opposed to, say, just "the job") and that was a significant factor in their decision even though I lack the years of experience some of the other candidates had.
posted by halogen at 12:01 PM on November 10, 2009

It's a great idea to read up on what the lab is doing. Read their recently published papers and know your stuff when it comes to the specifics including both what biological processes they study and how those work, but also what tools and techniques they use (which you'll get from the materials and methods parts of the papers).
posted by kthxbi at 12:36 PM on November 10, 2009

Response by poster: It's only a small college in the UK, the type where you study A-levels and GNVQs, rather than the American definition of college. If not, then halogen's frightened me a bit with that enzyme buffer one. The college don't do research, I'll just be setting up experiments and demonstrations for A-level students in what is essentially a high school laboratory. Are these the type of labs you guys work in?

That said, I will probably need to know the syllabus and experiments related to them, like titrations.
posted by D J Robertstein at 12:46 PM on November 10, 2009

I work in a research lab but I have done tons of outreach work with a volunteer science program elementary-high school ages. Experiments, powerpoint presentations to back up the experiments the students do with me.

Emphasize any kind of teaching/mentoring/tutoring experience you have with that age group, interacting with audiences, etc., how you would manage any potential problems (there's always one smart alecky kid to keep under control!). Also your familiarity with the current syllabus, ability to connect the concepts they are learning in class with the experiments you are doing and then to the 'outside world'.

Organization, interpersonal skills (with diverse groups: students and teachers), sincere interest in what you are doing, creativity in your delivery within the guidelines they set. Read up all you can on the college program you'd be working with, their objectives, etc. Come up with a couple ideas you could add to the program in case they ask for an example of your creativity, as well as how you would deal with things like last-minute equipment malfunctions, limited funds, those kinds of things.

If you want more specific advice, feel free to memail me but in the meantime good luck. Sounds like a really cool job- I would have loved to get paid for doing the outreach work.
posted by variella at 4:55 PM on November 10, 2009

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