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Strategies for successful interviews with biomedical candidates: Finding the best specialists

Learn effective strategies for interviewing biomedical candidates to find the best specialists. Emphasizing continuous improvement, diversity and inclusion, and optimizing candidate experience through structured interview formats, scenario-based questions, and valuable feedback.

Biomedicine is one of the most challenging sectors in which to recruit, but also one of the most rewarding. If you’re looking to recruit talented graduates or bring on board more experienced biomedical specialists you’ll face fierce competition. Here we look at the interview strategies you can employ to ensure the best talent for your organisation.

Essential Qualities and Skills for Biomedical Candidates

The growth of the biomedical sector in Europe – currently estimated at almost 9% - means that the region is the second-largest biopharmaceuticals market globally. This has led to a demand for the brightest and the best talent among the 1,382 biotech firms based in Europe, but it also brings great opportunity. 

The interview stage is the culmination of the recruitment process so far. It’s the ideal scenario to learn more about the candidate other than what is listed and described in their CV. A great place to start is to find out what essential qualities they possess and to ask them to describe their academic and professional background – where they studied, who were their mentors, the challenges of their specialist subject and how they have developed professionally during their career to date. 

You can then ask them to expand on their technical expertise and specialisations – these may include clinical engineering, biomechanical engineering, microbiology, vascular science, clinical biochemistry, or medical electronics, for example. You’re looking for what drives them to achieve and what motivates them to succeed, as well as examples of their passion.

A vital part of biomedical success is the communication and interpersonal skills of the individual team members, so ensure that you ask the candidate to give you examples of how they have successfully argued their point, and how they interact with their colleagues.

Preparing an effective interview process

Effective interview preparation is key to hiring the right candidate. Just as the talent will have thoroughly prepared to answer questions, you must know how to conduct the interview and know what questions to ask. One of the best ways to provide a fair and equitable process is to employ a structured interview format. This is where every candidate is asked the same questions in the same order so that you can compare responses more effectively, ensure consistency, reduce bias and increase objectivity. 

Another method is to use scenario-based questions which gauge how the interviewee would react in a hypothetical situation. These are designed to assess a candidate’s soft skills, such as time management, communication or conflict resolution, and evaluate their ability to handle unexpected circumstances.

Behavioural interview techniques also evaluate soft skills and use past experience to predict future performance. They ask the candidate to describe a past problem and explain how they overcame it, as well as the lessons that were learned from it. Scenarios could include disciplinary, time management or problem-solving issues.

Promoting diversity & inclusion in hiring

Structured interviews enable candidates to be judged on their expertise and experience rather than their personal characteristics. This is one of the first steps towards diversity & inclusion in the workplace, which has been proven to enable companies to outperform their competitors, sometimes by as much as 35%.

The impact of diversity and inclusion in biomedical teams is not purely profit-based, however. Diversity in gender and ethnicity can inform the research and development of drugs and medical devices with more eloquence and empathy, further enhancing patient outcomes and improving and extending people’s lives all over the world. 

The first step to mitigate racist, sexist, ageist and ableist bias in interviews and encourage a more inclusive culture is to undergo training so that interviewers can recognise and remedy their own unconscious biases and understand the importance of diversity and inclusion. Try, for example, to source candidates from less traditional pipelines. At interview concentrate on culture ‘add’ rather than culture ‘fit’ – a candidate might align with your company’s values but you should also look for what experiences their diversity brings, and how their background has informed their work. Also make sure that you ask for candidate feedback to help your organisation improve the process.


Using technology and assessments for evaluation

AI and automation in the hiring process is becoming far more common, with AI applications able to source and screen candidates, remove bias, deliver the best candidates for your specific requirements, and save time and money. By using innovative algorithms and technology the recruitment process can be streamlined and optimised leading to more effective candidate selection and enhancing the candidate experience.

Interviewers may also wish to use various assessment methods in order to evaluate candidates. The two most common types of assessments are: 

Cognitive assessments – these measure a candidate’s critical thinking, logic process, decision-making and problem-solving abilities. Cognitive assessments can also enable interviewers to identify those candidates who are most likely to be successful in their role, reduce the cost of mis-hiring, increase diversity and inclusion, and improve retention.

Technical assessments – these determine a candidate’s technical ability in their chosen specialty, offering them the opportunity to demonstrate their competence and dexterity. They may focus on a practical element, or a hypothetical one (what happens when a particular piece of equipment fails to respond as expected, for example).

Nurturing a positive candidate experience

Creating and nurturing a positive candidate experience as part of your employer brand will enable your organisation to attract top talent and set you apart in a fiercely competitive market. The candidate experience begins with the very first interaction with your organisation, before they’ve even applied for a job with you, and lasts beyond when they’ve left the company, or even if they were unsuccessful in their application. 

One of the most important elements of a positive candidate experience is effective communication. Every interaction with a candidate should be personalised in order to build effective relationships with them – it not only shows an interest in the candidate but also helps you keep on top of applications – and if possible use a single point of contact for all communications. Acknowledge all interactions, even if the candidate is not suitable for a particular role – advising them of this promptly and letting them know that you’ll keep their details on file for future reference builds your brand as a courteous and caring company. 

Another extremely effective way of communicating is to provide feedback for candidates, whether they’re successful or not, and to ask for it from all applicants. Giving feedback to candidates demonstrates that you’ve listened to them, recognised their achievements and experience and are committed to their future development. Receiving feedback from both successful and unsuccessful candidates shows that you’re willing to learn about and improve the process.

Collaboration with hiring managers and teams

Involving all stakeholders, not just the hiring manager, in the recruitment process is essential to fostering good communication as well as ensuring that the right person is hired. If possible involve team members in discussions about what needs to be asked in an interview and, if they’re included at the interview stage, ask them for feedback about the candidates’ abilities with specific reference to what’s required in the role. 

To ensure complete fairness and to guarantee that no unconscious bias is on display throughout the process, consistent evaluation is vital. Draw up a list, in consultation with other stakeholders, of the key criteria of your ideal candidate; this should include such things as skills, qualifications, experience, subject knowledge, and what they can bring to the organisation – culture ‘add’. After the interview, while the candidate is fresh in your mind, ‘score’ them against each item, adding feedback on each point. This is the opportunity to compare your impression with other people who were on the interview panel and, using the candidate’s response to your questions, you can compare their answers to other candidates’. 

Data-driven hiring decisions

Using data-driven hiring decisions helps organisations optimise their recruitment process and hire the best candidates. Its benefits include: making more informed decisions, improving the quality of candidates, reducing the cost of hiring, improving the candidate experience, and helping to identify current recruitment trends and future requirements. For example, analysing interview metrics, or data from the hiring process, will enable your organisation to evaluate each and every stage of the recruitment journey to ensure continuous improvement and top-quality hires.

Benchmarking candidates is another data-driven approach that hiring managers can utilise to create an ideal profile against which candidates can be measured at interview stage. Benchmarking allows you to set criteria and ‘mark’ the candidates during the interview to see what score they obtain. It’s a way to minimise unconscious bias and measure the person against clear objectives. It also drives candidate and employee engagement, minimises the risk (and cost implications) of a bad hire, and develops a talent pipeline for future reference.

Continuous improvement and learning

Recruitment should be a process of continuous improvement and learning for all involved – both candidates and hiring managers. Post-interview reviews should include a period of reflection to see if the process was as efficient and productive as it could be, and to consider whether improvements can be made. Sharing feedback with other stakeholders enables hiring managers to make better decisions in a timely manner, speeding up the hiring process and ensuring that the right candidate is selected.

It's also vital that candidate feedback is collected – this will help improve the process from their point of view and enhance your organisation’s brand. As well as giving feedback to the candidates themselves (how they did, the reasons for your decision, and how they can improve), make sure that you ask their opinion of their experience – questions could include such things as the accuracy of the job description, the first impressions of the company they received, the accuracy and frequency of communications, and how likely the candidate is to either refer someone else to the company or apply again themselves. 

A smooth, seamless and integrated interview process will not only benefit your organisation by targeting and recruiting the talent you need but enhance your employer brand. It’s vital that the process is a learning one, for everyone involved, so that you not only have the talented and dynamic workforce you need but that your organisation continues to thrive and prosper. 

Get in touch

If you’re a hiring manager and need top-quality talent to fill those all-important vacancies we can help. We’re trusted by leading life science companies across the world to source the best candidates for your needs. For more information on what we can do for your organisation call us on +31 (0)20 2044 502, email us at partner@panda-int.com, or fill in the contact form here