36 Molecular Biologist Interview Questions (With Answers)
Updated 31 May 2023
Reviewing interview questions can help you prepare for an interview for a molecular biologist role. Interviewers use these questions to assess your scientific knowledge, industry experience, education and personality. Providing informative answers may help you secure a job with a biotechnology organisation, medical testing facility or university. In this article, we list examples of interview questions for molecular biologists, and share some with explanations and example answers.
General molecular biologist interview questions
The hiring manager may ask general molecular biologist interview questions to learn more about your personality and interests. As these questions are relatively simple, interviewers may ask them near the start of the interview to put you at ease. Here are 10 general interview questions for molecular biologists:
What area of molecular biology interests you most?
What's your preferred technique for manipulating molecules?
What attracts you to working in a medical testing facility?
Can you describe the quantitative polymerase chain reaction process?
What skills do you believe are the most important for molecular biologists?
When do you think it's appropriate to ask other scientists to help you with your research?
If the organisation expanded into new research areas, what areas might you like to explore?
What scientist do you look up to most?
Do you prefer speaking about your findings or writing them down?
How do you stay up-to-date with the latest scientific research?
Questions about experience and background
Interview questions about your experience and background help the hiring manager learn about your career history and education. The interviewer may ask whether you have experience in relevant focus areas, such as antigen presentation assays and sequencing run metrics. You may refer to experience in past roles, your studies and volunteer positions in your answers. Here are some questions an interviewer may ask about your experience and background:
What laboratory experience do you have?
Do you have any experience designing molecular biology experiments?
Why did you decide to write your thesis on your chosen topic?
Can you rate your familiarity with statistical analysis?
What safety protocols do you follow when working in a lab?
What lab equipment have you maintained in the past?
What computer programs have you used regularly in a lab?
Can you tell me about a time you used problem-solving to troubleshoot a failing experiment?
Have you ever presented your research at a conference or seminar?
What is your greatest achievement as a scientist?
In-depth questions are more complex interview questions that test your problem-solving skills. The interviewer may ask you to solve a hypothetical issue or give your opinion on complex technical or ethical matters. You may give longer answers to these questions to adequately explain your solution or point of view. Here are some in-depth questions you may answer in a molecular biology interview:
How could you explain DNA sequencing to someone from a non-scientific background?
Why do you think molecular biology is important?
What do you believe is the most important method for studying molecular biology?
What are your most important considerations when designing and conducting molecular biology experiments?
What are the biggest challenges you face when analysing and interpreting experiment data?
Do you think sharing your own ideas or listening to others is more important for molecular biologists?
Imagine you disagreed with your supervisor about the best way to conduct an experiment. How could you manage this conflict?
What do you think are the most important ethical considerations for molecular biologists?
How do you think technology may change molecular biology in the future?
What do you think is the most important challenge facing molecular biologists in your sector today?
Interview questions with example answers
Understanding why interviewers ask specific questions can help you give more useful responses. You may model your responses on example answers you've reviewed. You can customise these examples to reflect your scientific experience and perspectives. Here are some examples of interview questions with example answers for molecular biologists:
1. Why did you decide to become a molecular biologist?
Interviewers ask this question to learn what motivates candidates. They're looking for candidates whose answers show they're passionate about this field. You can show your enthusiasm for molecular biology by sharing personal details about your reasons for pursuing this career path.
Example answer: 'When I was young, I remember my mum telling me that my great-grandmother used a wheelchair because she had polio as a child. That's when my fascination with viruses and microbiology started. Viruses are so small, yet they can cause irreversible change in much larger organisms like plants, animals, humans and even whole societies. This fascinated me and I felt determined to understand more about how they work. Through molecular biology, I have the potential to reduce the impact of viruses, which may be the most important job of all.'
2. Do you prefer working in a wet lab or a dry lab?
An interviewer asks this question to assess your scientific interests and whether they align with the position. If you know the job involves mostly wet lab or dry lab work, it's better to say you favour the required work. If the job requires both types of lab work, you might indicate your preference and state why it appeals to you.
Example answer: 'I prefer working in a wet lab because I love observing science in action. Analysing and testing biological matter is much more thrilling to me than analysing raw data. The controlled environment of a wet lab also lets me try new things, knowing that any missteps can't impact patients.'
3. What process do you use for organising and storing your samples?
Interviewers ask this question to assess a candidate's organisation skills. They look for candidates with a clear and logical system which minimises the risk of losing or misidentifying samples. If you have used several processes, you can describe your most recent process. You may also explain why you use your current system over other systems you've used in the past.
Example answer: 'When I collect samples, I clearly write the date on the storage tube label and seal the tube with a colour-coded cap. I keep similar samples in the same location with the same coloured caps. This process helps me easily see similar samples for fast retrieval and identification. I can also identify when samples are incorrectly stored and return them to the correct spot.'
4. What do you believe is the most important recent molecular biology discovery?
Interviewers ask this question to assess whether candidates are keeping abreast of new discoveries in their field. Your answer can also reveal which areas of molecular biology you're most interested in and passionate about. Consider discussing a discovery from the last 5 years to show you have current knowledge. After naming your discovery, you can explain why you think it's so important.
Example answer: 'I think the discovery that extrachromosomal DNA helps cancers spread is probably the most important discovery for the work in my area. Before this discovery, it was unclear why some people may have very fast-spreading tumours or why they may suddenly develop resistance to medications that were previously helpful. Knowing ecDNA is behind these occurrences, we can hopefully start developing more effective cancer therapies that outsmart them.'
5. What are the biggest challenges you face communicating your research findings to members of the public?
Interviewers may ask this question if the role requires communicating research findings to investors or the community. It helps interviewers assess whether candidates understand the challenges of this responsibility and how they might overcome them. Candidates who can effectively communicate their findings can help the organisation increase support and funding for its projects.
Example answer: 'The greatest challenges are ensuring my communication is clear and interesting. When you're used to communicating with other scientists, it's easy to forget that concepts that seem basic to us may be unfamiliar outside our community. If I have an upcoming presentation, I like to give it to my parents and get them to flag any areas that were unclear or uninteresting to them. This process helps me refine my presentation to make it more accessible and engaging. When answering questions, I try to use non-scientific language and use active listening to ensure people understand my answer.'
6. What might you do if you noticed an error in another biologist's data?
An interviewer asks this question to assess your people skills and willingness to speak up in a challenging situation. A suitable answer shows you value accuracy and teamwork. Outlining an approach that respects your colleague and the project can suggest you may be an asset to the team.
Example answer: 'If I noticed an error in another biologist's data, I might take them aside to discuss the matter privately to minimise their embarrassment. I hope that they might be grateful I'd raised the issue with them and correct the mistake. If they were defensive or unresponsive, I could approach my supervisor about the issue. I believe it's the responsibility of every biologist to take ownership of their research and ensure we're all working with the most accurate information.'
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