What to Research Before Applying for Jobs Outside the Lab

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Whenever I am searching for jobs outside the lab, I do specific research at each stage of the process. This is in addition to preparing to actually write my application or answer interview questions. The amount and depth of research increases at each stage. It means I am well equipped with enough knowledge to be prepared, but not overwhelmed with too much information. Here is the type of research I recommend you do at each stage of the job application process:

  1. Before deciding whether to apply for a role

  • Read the job description carefully to ascertain the specific duties and responsibilities of the role. Think about whether these would interest you day-to-day. Some descriptions include proportions of time spent doing different tasks. Also look at the person specification to get an idea of whether your skills and experience match. Don’t worry if you don’t tick all the boxes, but do assess whether you are a general fit for them. There may also be a contact number or e-mail address of the hiring or recruiting manager, who you can get in touch with to ask more questions. Not a lot of people do this, but it’s a good chance to ask anything you are unsure about in relation to the job description. Look at whether there is information on working hours, salary, location and who you would be reporting to.
  • Have a quick scan of the company website. This will give you a general idea of the work they do. The quality or structure of the website can also give you an insight into how modern a company they are. These are all things that you can use to decide whether the company is somewhere you would actually want to work.
  • Check Glassdoor for reviews from current and former employees. At this stage you just want to find out what the working culture is like and see if it’s a nice place to work. You can also often see data on company size and location(s).
  1. Before actually applying for the role

  • This is when you do a more in-depth assessment of the person specification against your experience. You want to assess where your experiences match and what examples you can use to demonstrate what they are looking for. For the boxes you don’t tick directly, you can think about your transferable skills or similar experiences you have.
  • Look more closely at the company website, and specifically read about their purpose, mission and values. You can use this in your cover letter when you are writing about your motivation to join their organisation. It can also be interesting to get a sense of the way they communication the language used on their website. When you write your CV and cover letter, you can match their style.
  • Browse their website and the internet for recent news articles related to their company and wider industry. If you can demonstrate reading this in your application, you will show that you have a real interest them.
  1. Before the telephone interview

  • Look up market data on the average salary for that role and industry. Use websites like salary.com or Indeed. You need to be prepared for them to ask you questions about your salary expectations at this stage. Knowing the average market rate will prepare you to state this in a more informed position.
  • Review the job description again. Save this as a PDF early on and use it to reference throughout the process. When you are applying for multiple jobs outside the lab, you can easily forget the details of each application. Refresh your memory on the role expectations.
  • Review your original application. This is important as the interviewer is likely to have this in front of them and probe you further on what you have mentioned. You can have this in front of you too during the interview since it is over the phone.
  • Look up the company structure, strategy and any recent updates to their work on their website. If they ask you whether you have any questions at the end, their recent work could be the basis for one. Just make sure you don’t ask anything where you can find the answer online.
  1. Before the 2nd stage/final interview

  • Repeat the above!
  • If it’s a face-to-face interview, make sure you know the location and even visit it if you can.
  • Look up insights into the interview process on Glassdoor.

Remember that when applying for jobs outside the lab, you need to prepare for each stage of the process. This is in addition to preparation specific to answering questions in an interview. Doing specific research on the company will give you an edge. Employers want to know how motivated you are to join them in particular. 

If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, watch our webinar on How Science Graduates Can Get a High Paying Job Outside the Lab Even if You Have Little to No Work Experience.

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