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Many MSL Candidates believe that the interview process is heavily one-sided with the employers asking the majority of the questions. However, interviewing is a mutual process and it is just as important that candidates prepare meaningful questions of their own. Failure to ask relevant questions can signify a lack of interest in the job. The key to creating effective questions is to research the company, the role, and current trends in the industry. It is advisable to prepare a list of questions before each stage of the interview process. The initial pre-screening interview may require only a few general questions such as job title, main responsibilities, schedule and travel requirements (if any), and hiring process. As candidates move further along in the hiring process, the questions will become more detailed in terms of key challenges of the role, reporting structure, performance evaluations, and company goals.  

What follows is a list of ten questions that candidates should be prepared to ask during first round in-person interviews along with suggested responses.  

  1. “Can you describe the ideal candidate for this position?”

This question allows you to probe the most important qualities that the employer is looking for. Respond by matching qualities that you share with what the interviewer has mentioned during the interview.

  1. “What is your management style?”

This is a helpful question to help you gain insight into whether the hiring manager’s management style is one in which you will be comfortable working. Relate their comments to what your style or experiences are.

  1. Can you tell me about specific projects I will be working on?”

This question will help to clarify the work you will be expected to perform and whether this fits in with your current career objective. If possible relate your experiences with those.

  1. “Who makes up the team for this therapeutic area? What are their roles?”

This question will help you to understand the key staff members that you will be working within each department and how your role would interact with each. Mention your experience working cross-functionally or with internal colleagues within Medical Affairs. Mention some relevant accomplishments from these interactions.

  1. “What do you like best about working for this company?”

This question can help you to gain some insight with regard to company culture. It will also send up a red flag should the interviewer not be able to come up with at least a few reasons. Mention some of the things that you have learned during your research on the company and what excites you about the company and the potential of working there.

  1. “Why is this position vacant?”

You need to find out if the organization growing or did the prior employee resign? Also, this will tell you if the company growing or is it a newly created role? Regardless of the answer relate your experiences to where the company is currently at with their MSL team(s). If it is a newly created role and you have years of experience, highlight this and mention how your experiences will help the company be successful in the new role. 

  1. “What are the expected outcomes for this position over the next 3 months, 6 months, and one year?”

This question can help you understand whether the performance expectations are realistic for the time frame provided. Similar questions include: “How will my performance be measured?” “How will you measure success?” Mention your successes in previous roles during these same periods and how you can deliver similar results.

  1. “What resources are available for this position?”

This question addresses technology, staff, and budget for the position. It will help you assess whether there are sufficient resources available to help you successfully perform in the role. Mention resources that you have used in the past and what successes you have had with them.  

  1. “Are there any other issues about my candidacy that I can address or clarify to help you with the decision-making process? 

This question shows that you are open to feedback and critique. Address any shortcoming mentioned by reiterating your relevant and transferable skills and knowledge, along with your ability to learn quickly. Mention any ways that you have done self-evaluations and have improved upon any needs for improvement.

  1. “What is the next step in the process?” “May I have your business card?”

This will help you to clarify how long it will take before a hiring decision is made. This can relieve some anxiety if you don’t hear back from the employer right away.

You will want to obtain business cards so that you can send thank-you/follow-up letters to each person who you interviewed with. Mention your desire to move forward in the process (only if this is really true) and look forward to the next opportunity to interact with those at the company. 


Copyright 2013-2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.


Dr. Samuel Dyer is the Chairman of the Board of the MSL Society and the author of “The Medical Science Liaison Career Guide: How to Break Into Your First Role“, the first step-by-step guide ever published on how to successfully land your first MSL role.