Are you preparing for a medical writer interview? You’ve come to the right place.
Medical writers play a crucial role in the medical writing industry. They produce or assist with the production of technical, informative, educational, or promotional medical content. The specific jobs that medical writers do depend on their background, expertise, skills, and area of employment.
The job interview is a critical part of the hiring process. Even though the educational background and experience listed on your resume are important, face-to-face medical writing interviews allow the hiring manager to meet and get to know you.
During interviews, most hiring managers are interested in learning three things about you:
- Your background, personality, and character as a professional.
- Your experience in the field of medical writing.
- The value you would bring to the organization.
The most common interview questions help hiring managers unearth insights into these three categories.
We have compiled a list of the most important medical writer interview questions and answers in this guide. The actual questions asked you get asked will vary from interview to interview. Think of this guide as a resource that will help you prepare for landing your dream medical writing job.
If you’re interested in learning more via video, then watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead.
A few quick pieces of advice about answering interview questions in general:
- Understand the question intent: every question has an intent, a “question behind the question”. If you understand the question’s intent, you can give a great answer.
- Treat every question as an opportunity: once you understand the question’s intent, you can answer every question in a way that builds your credibility and convinces the interviewer that you are the right person for the job.
- As you prepare for the interview, try to look at things from the hiring manager’s perspective: what are they looking for in a candidate, what type of medical writing experience is valuable for them, and so on. This perspective will help you give answers that are more likely to satisfy the hiring manager and give you a better chance of getting hired.
- Try to learn about the person who will conduct the interview. If the interviewer is a senior medical writer, then you can expect technical questions and will have to answer accordingly. If the interviewer is from HR, you can expect more general questions. You will likely have to go through multiple interviews, some technical and the others not so much. So prepare accordingly.
We have divided the medical writing interview questions into the following categories:
- General Questions
- Technical Questions
- Organization and Time Management Questions
- Feedback Questions
- Conflict Resolution Questions
- Writing Process Questions
- Career Path Questions
- Management and Leadership Questions
Let’s get started.
Medical Writer Interview Questions: General Questions
Most interviews start with some general questions. These questions are for the interviewer to learn more about you and why you applied for the medical writing position.
1. Tell us about your experience with medical writing.
This is an open-ended question designed to get to know you better. It has no right or wrong answer. One important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t only have to restrict yourself to medical writing. Treat this question as an opportunity to market yourself and increase your credibility.
If you are a medical writer with a lot of experience, you can share many details about your previous experiences. You can share details about the organizations and industrial sectors you have worked for, and your successes. the challenges you faced, and how you overcame them.
Skills in other forms of writing will probably be valuable for the hiring organization. If you have previous experience in technical writing or copywriting, you can share that as well.
If you have managed and led teams, be sure to share that with the interviewer.
Since this is an open-ended question that does not deal with a specified aspect of medical writing, it gives you a lot of flexibility in answering it. So use it to your advantage to build credibility.
2. What motivated you to pursue a career in medical writing?
This is a valid question because an active interest in what you do is essential for success. The interviewer wants to know if you have an active interest and also if you can back up your interest with tangible reasons.
A professional can have many reasons for choosing a career as a medical and scientific writer, such as:
- An interest in writing and good writing skills.
- Relevant medical education with a degree such as Ph.D., PharmD, or MD.
- Relevant experience in medical research, as a physician or healthcare professional.
- An interest in the ever-growing medical research field and a desire to contribute to it.
- A combination of all of the above.
In general, and especially when discussing interests and passions, what we express non-verbally carries more weight than what we say verbally. So share your reasons and give an honest answer.
3. What are your greatest strengths as a medical writer?
As a professional, it is important to know your strengths. As a writer, you certainly need excellent writing skills.
When answering this question, you need to demonstrate self-awareness and confidence. Don’t come across as arrogant or unnecessarily humble.
The skills you share should be relevant to the job you are applying for. Share some of your strongest, most relevant skills backed up with success stories. Some examples of strengths you could mention are
- Written communication skills
- Task prioritization
- Analytical thinking
- Communication skills
- Organizational skills
Remember to back up your claims with examples from your professional experience.
4. What is your approach to research?
An immense amount of scientific information is now available in the public domain. Sources of information include
- Medical journals
- Databases such as Medline, PubMed, EMBASE, and Micromedex.
With so much available information, unless you have the correct research strategy, it will be impossible to find what you are looking for.
A good research strategy will include
- Knowing where to search.
- Using only authentic sources of information.
- Using the correct keywords.
- Evaluating search results for relevance and accuracy.
- Classifying and filing helpful information for later retrieval.
Medical Writer Interview Questions: Technical Questions
The following are some questions related to the technical side of medical writing.
1. What are referencing and citations?
Knowing the difference between citations and references is essential for any medical and scientific writer.
A citation tells the readers where the information came from. In your writing, you cite or refer to the source of information.
A reference gives the readers details about the source so that they understand what kind of source it is and could find the source themselves if necessary. The references are typically listed at the end of the document.
2. What formatting and referencing styles have you used most frequently?
A style guide or manual of style is a set of standards for the writing, formatting, and design of documents. Some of the relevant style guides for medical writers are:
- AMA style: refers to the American Medical Association style, the styling of journal manuscripts as described in the AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors. Many biomedical journals and other medical publications, especially those in the US, ask authors to use the AMA style to prepare their manuscripts’ scientific writing style, grammar, punctuation, and references.
- APA style: refers to the style of documentation of sources used by the American Psychological Association as published in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 6th ed. Washington, DC. APA provides specific guidelines for nearly all aspects of manuscript formatting, from font choice to margins and punctuation.
- Chicago style: refers to The Chicago Manual of Style published since 1906 by the University of Chicago Press. It is one of the most widely used and respected style guides in the US.
3. What do you know about statistics?
An understanding of statistics is necessary for good medical writing. Some statistical terms of interest for medical writers are:
- Confidence interval: The mean of your estimate plus and minus the variation in that estimate. It refers to the range of values you expect your estimate to fall between if you redo your test within a certain confidence level.
- Regression analysis: A statistical method that allows you to examine the relationship between two or more variables of interest.
- Randomization scheme: A process by which each participant in a study or trial has an equal likelihood of being assigned to treatment versus referent groups.
- P-value: Measures the probability of obtaining the observed results, assuming that the null hypothesis is true.
- T-test: A statistical test used to compare the means of two groups.
One of the best ways to understand statistics is by attending workshops on medical statistics conducted by professional statisticians.
4. What is the drug development process?
Each county has its drug development process. The drug development process in the US is as follows:
- Discovery and development: Research for a new drug begins in the laboratory.
- Preclinical research: Drugs undergo laboratory and animal testing to answer basic questions about safety.
- Clinical research: Drugs are tested on people to ensure they are safe and effective.
- FDA review: FDA review teams thoroughly examine all of the submitted data related to the drug or device and decide to approve or not to approve it.
- FDA post-market safety monitoring: The FDA monitors all drug and device safety once products are available for the public.
5. What software or tools have you used?
Software and computer-based tools are essential for all modern professionals. Medical writers need digital software for:
- Authoring: MS Word and Scrivener.
- Time tracking and invoicing: TraxTime and QuickBooks.
- Reference management: Endnote and Reference Manager.
- Project planning: Evernote and Docear.
- Backup: Carbonite and Dropbox.
- Imaging: Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.
You can share the names of the software and digital tools that you have used previously. Be ready to admit that you don’t know all the available tools. At the same time, express your willingness to learn any new software or tool that you may need to.
Medical Writer Interview Questions: Organization and Time Management Questions
1. How would you manage a weekly word count?
“You can’t hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot see a target you do not have.” – Zig Ziglar.
Some examples of goals that writers use include writing for a certain amount of time each day, completing one chapter of a book or a manuscript every week, and a daily or weekly word count.
This question is about how you would achieve a weekly word count goal. In other words, what would be your plan or system for achieving the goal?
If you are an experienced writer, you know how much you can write on average during a complete workday or week. Obviously, the word count per day varies depending on the type of assignment and the amount of research required. But in any case, with experience, you have a fair idea of your average productivity.
If your average daily word count allows you to meet the weekly goal, then you can continue to work as you do.
If your average daily word count does not allow you to meet the weekly goal, then you would need to tweak your system. Tweaking could involve working more each day or delegating one or more time-consuming tasks to a junior associate.
2. How do you handle deadlines for multiple projects?
As a medical writer, you will most likely be working on multiple projects simultaneously. And you will have to attend meetings, give presentations, and do many other things simultaneously.
Even if you are not an experienced medical writer, knowing how to manage multiple things simultaneously is part of life. That’s just how life is!
Through this question, the hiring manager wants to know your process for prioritizing, organizing, and maintaining an efficient workflow.
If you are an experienced medical writer, then you will have developed systems that allow you to work on and manage multiple projects. You can share relevant details of your systems, such as preferred project management tools. You can share your reasons for using these tools and also how you use them for maximizing efficiency.
Suppose you are applying for an entry-level position and lack experience. In that case, you can share the systems you used while managing multiple priorities during your academic career or an internship.
Medical Writer Interview Questions: Feedback Questions
1. How do you deal with criticism from editors and peer reviewers?
One of the significant benefits of working in an organization is that you learn from others who have more knowledge, experience, and insight.
Editors, senior medical writers, and subject matter experts will review your work and give you feedback. In some cases, you will understand and agree with the feedback. In other cases, you will strongly disagree.
So how do you answer the question?
Feedback enables you to learn and grow. That is why you should demonstrate your appreciation for the feedback.
Even if the feedback is highly critical and you disagree with it, you have to acknowledge it, and thank the reviewer for their input. You can discuss the feedback with the reviewer to understand their viewpoint. As you do this, and even if you don’t incorporate the feedback into your work, you will learn and improve.
2. How would go about providing difficult feedback to another writer?
People find feedback hard to handle, especially if it is critical. And this is also why people hesitate to give candid feedback because they expect an adverse reaction.
One effective method of giving feedback that alleviates this problem is the Sandwich Method: the main message or feedback is sandwiched between positive comments.
Using the sandwich method for feedback, you would:
- Tell the writer what they have done right and the importance and value of what they have done right.
- Tell the writer what needs to improve. One thing to note here is that only telling the writer what needs to improve is not sufficient. You should also tell the writer how to make the required improvements.
- End with positive comments about the work done by the writer.
Medical Writer Interview Questions: Conflict Resolution Questions
1. What conflicts have you encountered as a medical writer, and how did you resolve them?
Conflicts are part of personal and professional life. There is no way to avoid them. Any advice that tells you to avoid conflicts at all costs is not connected to reality.
Ignored conflicts tend to fester over time and reappear at inopportune moments. Therefore it is best to resolve a conflict as soon as you recognize it. To do that, you have to learn to handle conflicts appropriately.
The essential part of conflict resolution is identifying the issue or cause of the conflict and how you and others perceive the issue.
There are many strategies for resolving conflicts. The conflict resolution strategy you use depends on the situation. The Thomas-Kilmann Model identifies the following approaches to conflict resolution:
- Accommodating: taking steps to satisfy the other party’s concerns or demands at the expense of your own needs or desires.
- Compromising: involves finding an acceptable resolution that will partly, but not entirely, satisfy the concerns of all parties involved.
- Competing: satisfying your desires at the expense of the other parties involved.
- Collaborating: involves finding a solution that entirely satisfies the concerns of all involved parties.
2. What is the most irritating quality of a coworker you have experienced?
We are human and do tend to get emotional. However, being a professional requires us to focus on the work. It is hard to do at times, but it is doable.
There will be things about coworkers that will irritate you. If you focus on those things, it will become difficult to focus on getting the work done.
Therefore, the process of dealing with an irritating coworker is
- Focus primarily on the work and not on what irritates you.
- Communicate in an indirect way that something the coworker does is irritating you.
- If the coworker does not get the hint, make a polite request.
Medical Writer Interview Questions: Writing Process Questions
Here is our list of interview questions specifically related to the medical writing process.
1. What is your writing process?
Professionals develop systems or processes for everything they do. Processes help to break down larger tasks into smaller and more manageable entities.
Experienced medical writers should not have any trouble answering this question. However, if you lack experience, at least knowing about a typical medical writing process will demonstrate that you have prepared for the interview. A demonstration of proper preparation builds credibility like nothing else.
The typical writing process for any medical writing assignment is as follows:
- Understand the project brief: Before writing anything, the medical writer must understand the purpose of the document and the sponsor’s goals. It is also necessary to know the timelines, the required data and how to obtain it, and the review/approval process.
- Literature search and information review: A relevant and comprehensive literature review can yield valuable information that a medical writer can use to support the document under preparation.
- Authoring and compiling the document: Drafting the first version of the document while following the in-house or client style guide is useful for reducing subsequent review and revision time.
- The review process: A self-review by the medical writer followed by a review of the content and formatting by a senior medical writer or a subject matter expert, and data verification by a peer writer.
- Formatting and editing: Formatting and editing documents are essential skills for every writer. Documents that are required for print publication or electronic publishing require rigorous copy-editing, proof-reading, and checking for formatting requirements.
- Approval: Scientific documents need approval from a designated approver, usually an expert. The approver may be in-house or external. Adequate time must also be allowed for the approver to review and approve the document.
- Publishing: Making the material available in digital format for online or print access.
2. How would you describe your review process?
Once a document is ready, it must be reviewed to ensure that there are no errors and all essential elements are in place.
A good review process is comprised of a checklist of curated items that need review and re-checking. Furthermore, proofreading the entire document a few times is also essential.
You can share your review process and how you ensure that the document preparation and review processes are completed well before the submission deadline.
3. What would be your process for writing a literature review?
Literature reviews form the basis for all types of scientific writing.
The process for a literature review involves the following steps:
- Adequate planning.
- Keeping the review focused on the area of interest.
- A proper search strategy with a focus on the proper keywords.
- Use of authentic information sources.
- Fact-checking of all data and statistics.
- Classification of retrieved information.
- Synthesis of information obtained from different sources.
4. What resources would you consult to obtain information about an obscure medical topic?
The best sources of information about obscure medical topics, or any medical topic in general, are subject matter experts.
As you work as a medical writer, you will develop a network of contacts in the industry over time. You will learn about experts in the various areas that make up medicine and medical devices.
So instead of spending a lot of time searching and coming up empty-handed, you should consult the experts, who will point you towards sources of relevant, authentic, and accurate information.
5. What would you do if the task you’ve been given is ambiguous and lacking clarity?
A project sponsor is a person or group who owns the project and provides resources and support for the project to enable its success.
If a task you have been given is ambiguous and lacks clarity, then the first thing you should do is consult with the project sponsor to obtain more information and clarity.
Medical Writer Interview Questions: Career Path Questions
1. What is your process for improving medical writing skills?
Many avenues are available for learning and skill improvement including certifications, online and in-person medical writing courses, industry publications, and guidance from peers and mentors.
This is an important question. You can use it to your advantage by sharing how you have improved your skills over the years. You can also share your plan for continued improvement in the future.
2. Where do you see yourself after five years?
The desire to grow, improve, and advance is part of human nature. Organizations want to hire professionals who want to grow and have clarity about how they will achieve growth. This is because a growing professional will benefit the organization in numerous ways.
Do not give a vague answer to this question. You should have a prepared and well-defined answer to this question that contains two elements:
- Your goal: Exactly where you want to see yourself after five years, for example, in a senior medical writer role or a management role overseeing a team of medical writers.
- The plan for achieving your goal: components of the plan can include
- Medical writing training, including becoming a certified medical writer.
- Medical training.
- Management training.
- Personal development.
- Working with a mentor.
Medical Writer Interview Questions: Management & Leadership Questions
1. What is your management style?
Even if you have never managed a team, you need to learn about management. Why? Because as your career progresses, sooner or later, you will have to lead teams of writers. And if you keep progressing, a time will come when you won’t be writing: you will manage and lead others.
Some examples of management styles are:
- Autocratic: the boss orders and the others obey. This style is still prevalent in organizations like the military but is not so common in business.
- Democratic: the boss includes workers in decision-making.
Most management styles fall on the spectrum somewhere between the two extremes of 100% autocratic management and 100% democratic management.
The best way to answer this question is by saying that you are flexible in your approach and would manage according to the situation and the available resources (team members).
Based on the job description and your knowledge about the company, you can tailor your response to the company conducting the interviewing.
Medical writing is both a science and an art. It requires an understanding of medical science and related disciplines and an aptitude for writing. Medical writers also need command over the specific requirements for different types of medical documents and relevant guidelines.
The demand for medical writer jobs is expected to grow at an annular rate of 8%.
You can’t get a job as a medical writer without going through several interviews.
Interviews usually cause a lot of stress. That’s because we see interviews as events with one of two outcomes: failure or success.
The way to deal with this unnecessary stress is a change of mindset. Rather than treating an interview as an event, treat it as a process, specifically as a learning process.
You will be interviewed multiple times during your career. And you will also conduct numerous interviews during your career.
When you see interviews as learning opportunities, you’ve got nothing to lose.
When you sit for an interview, the hiring manager asks questions to learn about you and get to know you better. At the same time, you also learn about the organization you are interviewing for: its people, culture, and the myriad factors that make up an organization.
If you are offered the job, what you learn during the interview allows you to make an informed decision. Even if you don’t get the job, you will learn many things that will help you in other interviews and your career. You will also learn many things that come in handy when conducting interviews.
After the interview, and irrespective of its outcome, it’s a good idea to conduct a self-review. So after each interview, ask yourself these questions:
- What did I do right?: some things will come to mind when you ask this question. These are your strong points. You can improve them further, but maybe it’s better to focus on your weak points.
- What needs improvement?: some things will come to mind when you ask this question. These are your weak points. And it’s up to you to work on them so that you give better interviews in the future.
So keep learning, and keep growing.
What is the average medical writer salary?
According to estimates from Glassdoor, the average salary for medical writers in the US is $97,197. The expected range for the average salary is $44,000 to $235,000. According to Zippia, the top five highest-paying states in the US for medical writers are the District of Columbia, Nevada, Minnesota, Wyoming, and Virginia.