6 Critical Job Interview Questions for Tech Transfer

Job interviews are nerve wracking for everyone involved. The candidate wants to make a good first impression and the interviewer wants to ensure she hires the right person.

Recruiting firms can take a lot of that pressure off of the hiring manager because the job candidates are pre-screened and by the time an actual interview occurs the candidate has been well-vetted. But when it comes down to a few really qualified candidates, how do you select the right one for the job and the dynamics within your department and organization?

After decades in the industry, I’ve compiled some of my favorite interview questions. Are you asking any of these?


Tell Me a Little Bit About Yourself (or other broad question)

Many people think this question is out-of-date but what it does is give the candidate a time to shine with little lead. This is a quality they will need in tech transfer. The open-ended format gives the interviewee no guidelines on how to answer. When you’re looking for a stellar technology transfer candidate you want someone who can think on her feet. This is not a “by the script” sort of position so give the candidate a very open-ended question and see how she fills it in. Once she gives her initial answer, wait for more. You’d be surprised how people try and fill in the space of silence.


Please describe a complex exclusive patent license you negotiated, and what you did to ensure that it was successful for key stakeholders.

Technology transfer professionals work with a variety of people from university leadership to corporate funding decision makers, from researchers to patent attorneys, in order to broker deals where everyone feels they benefited. A candidate who can speak specifically to this point in detail will be more likely to achieve the same kind of success for you.


What Do You Wish You’d Gotten a Chance to Do More of in Your Last Position?

This provides interesting insight into what they enjoy about a job.


Tell Me About Your Ideal Job (with a follow-up about why s/he likes this one)

Match what they’re saying with what you’re offering. Are they close or complete opposites?


Tell Me About Your Previous Portfolio(s). How Do You Prioritize Competing Demands?

In technology transfer employees are pulled in many directions. Hearing about past experience gives the hiring manager an idea of the size of the portfolio as well as some insight into how it was managed. Leaving it open-ended instead of directing them to tell you specifics provides more opportunity for active listening and will give you a better idea of how the candidate might tackle the demands of your department and the rigors of the job.


What Deal Are You Most Proud Of?

Give a candidate an opportunity to shine with this confidence-inducing question.

In tech transfer experience is important. The ability to perform well in the view of all of your stakeholders is a balancing act of extreme measure. The interview process should be more about how candidates answer the questions than a review of their resume. You know their pedigree. You can see their previous jobs. A successful interview moves past what’s on paper and into how the candidate would perform on her own because, ultimately, that’s what you want to know.


What’s your go-to interview question(s)? Leave it/them in the comments below.

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