Whether you’re leading the interview – or on the receiving end – these top 10 interview questions in the pharmaceutical industry can help you assess the match between the applicant and the job role.
For Pharmaceutical Industry employers and HR/interviewing teams
- These pharmaceutical industry interview questions are worth asking.
- They can also highlight GMP compliance areas where an applicant might require GMP training or GMP refresher training prior to fulfilling their new position.
And for pharmaceutical job applicants and life-science graduates?
These top 10 pharmaceutical industry interview questions are worth ‘getting right’. But it is equally important to remain honest about specific GMP compliance areas where you’ll need further GMP training & professional development support.
- Don’t be afraid to request further training as part of the interviewing/hiring process (it also shows you are keen to upskill). It’s a competitive hiring market!
- You can also pursue GMP certificate training courses, online, by clicking here, prior to an interview.
These certificate GMP training courses will show your dedication and knowledge of important GMP compliance topics, such as CAPA requirements, Data Integrity, Deviations Management, and Pharmacovigilance.
Life sciences job interview questions
While the questions below are best asked during Pharmaceutical manufacturing industry job interviews, they can be adapted for other life science sectors, e.g. the Medical Device manufacturing sector, Veterinary Medicine Manufacturers, and biological medicines.
For industry-specific GMP training courses including compliance with ISO standards for medical device manufacturing, visit: https://www.onlinegmptraining.com/.
Top 10 Interview Questions in the Pharmaceutical Industry
Interview Question 1: Why do you want this particular job role?
- While this question is asked across most industries, this isn’t a ‘throw away’ interview question when it comes to pharmaceutical industry job interviews.
- That’s because the required traits to excel in Pharmaceutical industry jobs include:
- A passion for public health and safety
- A commitment to product quality & safety
- Consistent adherence to the company’s quality systems/manufacturing procedures
This question helps uncover the applicant’s motives for a GMP industry role (or industry career change), helping hiring panels assess the person’s ‘compliance culture’ commitment levels and dedication to ensuring product safety, and reveals a bit about how the applicant communicates important information.
Read the top 5 skills/traits needed to work in the Pharmaceutical Industry.
Interview Question 2: What do you know about this Pharmaceutical company?
Another commonly asked question across all sectors, but a particularly important interview question in the pharmaceutical industry.
- This interview question reveals the applicant’s understanding of the company’s product types, potential challenges, and role needs.
- It may also reveal which personnel they know personally (current employees) and what they’ve heard about the company through the grapevine (it’s a big industry, but a small world).
- This question highlights the applicant’s time management skills, research capacity, and role preparation skills.
- As did the 1st interview question for pharmaceutical job roles, it also helps uncover the level of motivation for the job role, and their knowledge of GMP compliance and/or GMP audit findings (where such findings are published for public browsing).
If a job applicant has a good grasp of the company’s products, past or current challenges, and job responsibilities, it shows the following two things:
- They know the value of ‘being prepared’
- They can communicate with clarity (another important industry skill)
- They won’t be walking into a company or position ‘blindly’ (helping to reduce attrition given pharmaceutical industry talent is difficult to attract, due to life science & GMP personnel shortages)
What specific company knowledge should Pharmaceutical Job applicants have prior to an interview?
Applicants should have adequately researched (and be able to clearly express) the following information:
- The company’s history of production (bonus knowledge: patent expiration dates and new products in the pipeline)
- Key product or product names
- Current expansion plans (when publically available)
- Recent challenges or product recalls
- Members of the management team, including their backgrounds, expertise and/or industry passions
- Aspects of the company’s culture
- Has the company won any awards?
- Is the company ISO 9001 certified?
- Have there been any positive news stories or social media traction about the company, perhaps for its work on a novel drug, or for volunteer work or donations by its employees?
Interview Question 3: What regulatory compliance responsibilities did you fulfil in your past job roles?
This question should be modified to suit the job role and level of responsibility. Alternative questions might include:
- What were your key compliance responsibilities in your past role?
- What are the 10 rules of GMP? (Name as many as you can.)
- Have you participated in a GMP audit?
- What was your role during the Audit and/or Audit Preparation stage?
- Were there any Audit findings?
- What do you understand about CAPAs?
- When was your last pharmaceutical product recalls training session?
- Do you have any current GMP training certificates?
- Do you regularly participate in Pharmaceutical Professional Development courses?
- Have you recently attended any industry forums, such as the TGA’s, FDA’s, or PharmOut GMP Forums?
Interview Question 4: What can you tell me about batch manufacturing & batch release recordkeeping?
Asking an open question about manufacturing recordkeeping, such as what a batch record should contain, who is responsible for batch release, what happens to incoming materials/intermediates products, etc., will reveal the person’s experience with:
- Quality assurance terms
- Manufacturing processes
- Batch traceability
- GMP compliance including Pharmacovigilance
Interview Question 5: Which ‘in-process check’ parameters are you familiar with (or helped establish)?
This question should be adapted to the product type (or key product types). Examples of answers for solid (oral dose) product manufacturing might include the following:
- Visual/appearance, diameter, thickness, hardness
- Uniformity of weight (group weight, individual weight variations)
- Disintegration time
- Compaction force, die fill depth, etc.
Interview Question 6: What are some of the potential defects in a product type?
This question should be adapted to the company’s specific pharmaceutical product type(s) and role responsibilities. Examples include:
Potential defects in compressed tablets (oral dose):
- Weight variation
- Picking, sticking, capping, laminating, broken, chipped
- Rough Surface, Rough edges
- Double compressed
- Incorrect Description
- Oil spot
- Foreign Product
- Debossing/ Embossing
Potential defects in capsules:
- Weight variation
- Empty, cracked, dented or ‘telescopic’
- Unlocked or partially locked
- Long or Short caps
- Printing defects
If the person seems unfamiliar with identifying product defects, consider they may also require training in the Management of Deviations and Non-Conformances in pharmaceutical manufacturing/medical device manufacturing environments.
Interview Question 7: What is the proper gowning technique for a Grade A cleanroom?
This question applies to sterile manufacturing but can be adapted to other health and hygiene requirements. This question can reveal an applicant’s:
- Attention to detail
- Knowledge of industry requirements for health and hygiene
- Familiarity with GMP gowning requirements in PIC/S Annex 1
- Communications skills (ability to precisely describe a rigorous procedure in detail)
Read more about what skills, traits, and GMP knowledge are required for jobs in the life sciences/pharmaceutical manufacturing sector.
Interview Question 8: What do the following industry terms represent?
Pharmaceutical industry terms may vary according to the applicant’s previous experience in the industry, and their desired role. That noted, most life science industry job applicants should know the meanings of the following industry terms. They should also be able to clearly communicate what each term means (if asked).
- Supplier Qualification (GMP industry Supplier Management requirements)
- Quality Risk Management (e.g. ISO 14971 QRM for Medical Devices)
- Risk Assessments (Risk Matrix)
- Responsibilities of the Responsible Person/Authorised Person for Batch Release (PIC/S Annex 16)
- Batch recordkeeping requirements and good recordkeeping/good documentation
- Good laboratory practice (GLP) non-clinical
- Sterile Manufacturing requirements and cleanroom behaviours (refer to PIC/S Annex 1)
- Cleanroom air quality monitoring / HVAC requirements (Pharmaceutical engineering)
- Pharmacovigilance requirements
- Wet granulation / Dry granulation
- Disintegration test (disintegration time)
- Friability Test / Calculations
- Computerised Systems (GxP requirements) and/or Life Sciences Data Integrity rules
- Managing a non-conformance or other pharmaceutical manufacturing deviation
Interview Question 9: What is the most challenging aspect of working in the Pharmaceutical Industry or Medical Device manufacturing industry?
For this question, ‘let the applicant roll’ and keep the open-ended questioning going.
In other words, probe! Pay attention to how the applicant uses discretion when discussing sensitive topics. They are likely under confidentiality agreements, and honouring those agreements is a good sign they will do so for another firm.
That noted…you do want real-life examples.
- If an applicant is reluctant to express a challenge they faced, in a prior or current role, this could signal a lack of integrity.
- While most companies don’t want to hire someone who speaks negatively about their past employer/s (especially if they do so in an overly enthusiastic way), candidness about a job applicant’s prior — or current — role challenges, is valuable.
- Candidness about GMP compliance issues (while respecting the confidentiality of prior employers):
- Indicates insightfulness
- Reveals an ‘appreciation’ of life science role challenges
- Highlights compliance culture experiences and relationship-building skills
- Every role, every person, and every company has challenges, and candidness indicates a realistic understanding of challenges
Interview Question 10: What questions do you have about our company and the job role?
This is the most important question to ask (and to allow adequate time for) to further assess the applicant’s suitability for:
- The company’s culture
- The specific job role
- The GMP compliance responsibilities for your product types/services
Retaining Employees & Skill Shortages in the Life Sciences Sectors
It’s crucial that an applicant is the ‘right fit’ for your company and the role (and that you also provide them with adequate professional development). This helps improve employee retention, which is important given:
- The ongoing shortage of talented life science/experienced GMP-trained personnel
- The high costs of attrition
- The impact and disruption of personnel attrition
- The global competition for highly-skilled personnel
This question requires probing and open-ended questions. So be sure to allow time for this, do NOT rush an interview where this question has only a few minutes to spare).
Why is it important to allow adequate time for job applicants to ask the hiring team important questions during an interview?
- You’d hate to lose a good candidate (who decides NOT to take your job offer) simply because they were unclear about something and didn’t have time to ask about it!
- The applicant’s questions or concerns will help you form an attractive job offer.
- You want to ensure the person is the right fit (this generally takes more than one interview, of course, but the first interview can give you a fairly good sense of the role fit/company culture fit).
- Giving the applicant ‘question time’ is a sign of respect for their time and acknowledges you understand they have choices in terms of job offers.
Industry Interview Questions – Quick Summary
In summary, it is generally best to conduct several shorter interviews (50 to 90 minutes each) than a 2 or 3-hour interview, which can be tiring in the early stages of interviewing.
Pace yourself. Respect the applicant’s/interviewer’s time.
- Asking role-specific questions, as well as compliance culture & company culture ‘fit’ questions, can yield more about an applicant (and about your company, to the applicant) than asking standard interview questions.
- Be sure to also ask questions (where applicable) about the applicant’s data interpretation skills, blockchain knowledge, technology transfer experience, leadership skills, management skills, project management approaches, etc.).
But if you spot talent? Once you conduct your due diligence, don’t let good talent get swooped up by another manufacturer/life sciences group! Ensure your job offer includes Professional Development, ongoing training options, and compliance-culture ‘positive’ communications.
And if you need consultancy support during a big project? Review industry experts in the Life Sciences & GMP Manufacturing Sectors, including cleanroom architects/engineers, technical writers for SOPs, pharmaceutical engineers, validation experts, and more.
GMP training options
- Online GMP training
- Publically available GMP courses including ZOOM or classroom style (1-day intensive GMP courses, topic-specific)
- Onsite GMP training (1-day intensives, based on availability for large groups)
Need a consultant? How to get the best out of your SMEs (Subject Matter Experts)
Pharmaceutical Industry Jobs: 5 Essential Skills
GMP Industry Services including Pharmaceutical Manufacturing
Top 10 GMP courses: online GMP training
Deloitte Life Sciences Trends Report (2023)
CSBI Life Sciences Industry Report including Life Sciences Employment Shortages
TGA Supplier Management Guidance
Last updated on May 9th, 2023 at 09:13 am