We are often asked for interview advice. While the recruiter you are working with may give you specific advice regarding your upcoming interview, here is some general advice that should help you prepare:

In advance of your upcoming interview, the number one bit of advice we can give you is to prepare and know the drug and its value to the market. It shows your initiative, intellectual curiosity, and your interest in the role.

For phone interviews, please get to a quiet place without distractions. If possible, please don’t drive while conducting the phone interview. Companies want to know they have your full attention.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. To the best of your ability, know the drug and/or pipeline, the company (particularly, their core values -interviews are often shaped around them), the competition, the market, and be ready to show that you have thought through how you will successfully take on the main objectives of the role. It shows initiative. You may want to think through or even write out a 30/60/90 day plan. Wear a suit and bring a few copies of your resume.

Some interview styles are conversational and some are behavioral-based formal interview questions. Be ready for questions that start with “tell me about a time when you….” or “what would you do if…”. Be concise in your responses but be ready to provide details and be prepared to give specifics when requested around your exact role in the situation/accomplishment, the challenges, the recognition, the results, what you learned, what you could have done better, etc.

Always have short stories ready to tell on a variety of topics that would include accomplishments and challenges, BUT be ready to dive into details when asked.  Although there’s a place for “what would you do if…” questions that ask for a theoretical / philosophical answer, most interviewers want real-world examples of what you’ve already done in the past.  A good talker can wax eloquent on grand strategies and philosophies, but the best interviewers can show, with specifics, how they’ve put those strategies into practice in the past and how they’ve resulted in a strong track record of success.

If you are interviewing for a position of leadership, many topics will be covered but at a minimum be prepared to provide detailed examples (be concise but be ready to provide details) of building teams, developing and implementing strategy, leading through change, leading through adversity and ambiguity, developing people, hiring, firing, etc.

Interviewing always involves a balance between communicating the value you would bring to the organization based on past experiences and accomplishments and maintaining humility and teamwork-related attributes. Don’t feel like you have to keep talking to fill a short period of silence. Please don’t use profane language. You would be surprised how often we hear feedback from clients who are offended or more likely, concerned that their customers may be offended if you are interviewing for a customer-facing role. Either way, it often leaves a poor impression.

If you have changed jobs more than once or twice, be ready to explain why, as well as why you are interested in this role. Be honest but my suggestion would be not to answer those questions with reasons which might include “I was bored” or “ready for a change”, “I wanted to improve financially”, “I hated my boss” (or anything too negative about your previous company), etc. Companies tend to like team players that don’t have personalities that are too cocky or overly assertive.

The hiring manager is generally trying to answer two questions in their mind. First, will the candidate likely be successful in the role? Second, will we enjoy working with this candidate and will they fit well within our team & culture?

All candidates evaluate the company, the opportunity, and the hiring manager during the interview process and that’s a good thing. But if the primary “vibe” the interviewers get from you is “tell me why I should be interested in this job/company”, then unintended or not, that might communicate the message that you aren’t very interested, didn’t do your homework on the opportunity, and might not be worth further consideration. We’ve seen such candidates decide after an interview that they are really interested, only to learn that their apparent lack of interest during the interview caused them to be passed over. So be sure to find the right balance between evaluating the career opportunity and expressing genuine interest in it.

Have 2-3 questions ready to ask when given the opportunity, but my suggestion would be not to make it about compensation, benefits or anything self-focused, that can be addressed later. Ideally, the question would lead back to the value you would bring to the organization in this role.

Over the years we’ve heard about quite a few things going wrong during an interview and there are too many to list.  However, one worth mentioning because it happens so frequently is one we see with candidates who have a prior relationship with the hiring manager or someone in leadership at the hiring company.  Don’t take any interviews for granted and don’t be overly confident because of your strong relationship with the decision maker.  There’s no such thing as a ‘shoe-in’. Most companies, particularly ones that emphasize culture fit and collaboration, value the entire interview team’s perspective on a candidate.  Just like you know to treat the janitor with the same level of respect as the CEO, treat every person with whom you interview as if they are the sole decision maker in the interview process.

It’s not original to say that the interview process is a lot like the sales process but it’s worth the reminder.  You have to be a good listener and determine if and how your product (you) can solve the challenges they’ve identified (and possibly some they haven’t yet identified) and how/why you are well suited to put them in a position to meet/exceed the goals they have set for themselves.  You have to anticipate potential concerns they may have about your product (you) and be ready to confidently and respectfully acknowledge and address them.  Practice beforehand so nervousness doesn’t get in the way of them seeing the real you.

Be sure to answer the actual question asked.  If you don’t know the answer or have a relevant example available off-hand, (hopefully you have already anticipated and prepared 5-7 short stories that cover a variety of competencies), rather than changing the subject, admit that you don’t have an immediate answer and ask for a few seconds to think about it so you can give them what they are seeking.  If nothing relevant immediately comes to you, if it’s near the beginning of the interview, you might even consider asking to address a different topic first and then come back later to that question that gave you trouble.  Just make sure you do your best to get back to the original question because if it was important enough for them to ask it, it’s an important data point that they’ll be using to compare you to other candidates.

Be prepared to discuss one or two past failures and what you learned from them.  The most confident and self-aware candidates willingly discuss past learnings from their own failures and how they course-corrected.  Confidence (true confidence that grows from past experience and success is hard to fake and if you try it can come across as hollow arrogance) coupled with humility and self-awareness often leaves a good impression on interviewers as they consider culture/personality fit.

If you are interviewing for a sales position, we suggest asking about any remaining concerns about your ability to be successful in the role so that you have a chance to address those concerns. And finally, don’t forget to ‘close’ the interviewer at the end of the interview.

Get business cards and send thank you notes/emails after the interview, preferably within 24 hours to confirm your interest, and remind the interviewer of your fit for the role and company. Contact us if you need their contact information. Read your email at least twice before sending in order to catch typos.

If it’s a virtual interview, make sure you have your computer, webcam, sound, background, lighting, etc tested and set up properly in advance so you are free from interruptions during your interview.  Dress like you would for an in-person interview.

Please contact the recruiter you are working with after the interview to debrief so that we can follow up with the hiring manager.


Our firm thinks a lot of Lou Adler who provides interview training for candidates and hiring managers. Here’s a 15 minute video we think you’ll find very helpful before your interview. If you can’t view it (common on mobile) see the link at the bottom.



If the 15-minute video link above won’t work, here’s an alternate video on youtube. Skip to the 25:15 mark for interview advice:


“David was hired to recruit our first senior commercial oncology hire. As well as being very focused in terms of his knowledge of candidates in this space, I have never experienced a more detail-orientated approach to candidate selection and interview (and subsequent write up). David’s output is excellent.”
PHILIP A. • Biotech CEO
“I have worked with COSI over the past five years to recruit and hire several oncology marketing directors both in the US and in Europe. COSI identified top oncology candidates and was the most productive recruiter in assisting me in building a world class team. Because of their specific expertise and breadth of contacts, I heartily recommend COSI to potential oncology focused clients seeking superior commercial talent. I also found COSI’s integrity, business approach and commitment refreshing.”
GREG G. • Biotech Marketing Dept Head

“I met David Collins and Commercial Oncology Search, Inc. back in 2011 while I was searching for a new oncology marketing position. Based on that successful experience I have continued to employ their services, most recently using David’s team to expand our current oncology sales force. The latter was a successful national expansion that was accomplished well ahead of an aggressive schedule.”

Pete K. • Regional Sales Director