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Practice questions to ace your science policy job interview


· Why the AAAS Fellowship? What do you have to offer? – got this and why now

o Unique opportunity, with trainings, professional development, and network.

· What did ______ experience in your CV teach you about policy/science communication/leadership and how would you apply it to the AAAS STPF?

· Explain your research to someone without a science background.

· What is an accomplishment you’re proudest of?

· What is a (non-policy) skill that you feel that you’re missing?

· What are some skills you learned from [volunteer experience on my resume] and how will those apply to a fellowship placement at an agency?

· What was the most interesting part of [experience on my resume]? What was the least interesting part of [experience on my resume]?

· What are some differences in the environment of academia versus policy/agencies, and how do you think you’d adapt to that?

· Fast pace in answering a question, accepting uncertainty

· I had experience with industry-facing projects

· What projects are you currently working on at [current position]?

o Related to that answer: Elon Musk just announced that next week he’s going to launch a website and service where you can select the eye color, hai

r color, and personality traits of your baby. What role should the Federal government play in regulating this?

o Follow up: instead of U.S., this is going to be done by a company in Singapore. What action should the U.S. government take?

· If you could wave a magic wand and change any one (science) policy, what would it be?

· What agencies do you want to work at?

· Is there any agency you wouldn’t want to work at?

· What would you do if someone wasn’t interested in what the data said?

· What would/will you do if you don’t get this fellowship?

· What role can the US play in international issues of XYZ?

· Have you presented your work to high level people before?


· The National Nanotechnology Initiative funds a lot of basic research. How can we ensure that this economically benefits Americans and not just other countries who may use American ideas?

· Can you talk about how you tried to incorporate diverse speakers and fields in your outreach?

· You recommended convening a workshop. What outputs do you anticipate from that workshop, and how would you disseminate the information?

· Why should we give international companies access to American data? Shouldn’t we let American companies have the IP?

· Private companies will profit from this. How would you go about making sure Americans get something in return?

· Why did you choose this topic?

· Pros and cons of one of your recommendations

· How did you come up with these recommendations?

Congressional specific

· What would you do if the member took a position that did not agree with the science? (Internally, within the office? Externally, with others?)

· What would your process be if your boss asked you to brief the member on a topic outside of your discipline? Briefing is 1 day from now/briefing is 15 minutes from now

· Why a congressional fellowship? Why now?

· What will you do if you aren’t chosen?

· What are you most nervous about regarding this fellowship?

· Do you have any questions for the former fellows on the committee?

· Who is someone in Congress that you admire or would like to work for? Why?

Other questions

· Memo Related Questions (2015-2019)

· Why did you pick this topic?

· How did you come up with the $$ amount (if applicable)? Is this reasonable/feasible/practical?

· What are other aspects of this issue that need to be addressed, and how should they be addressed?

· What are the broader implications for the implementation of these recommendations?

· The president will leave office in two years and a Republican may take his place with majorities in both chambers. How might that changed political situation affect the future of this recommendation?


· AAAS-Specific Questions

· Why this AAAS S&TP Fellowship? Why DSD (and HEHS) in particular?

· Why this fellowship now, as opposed to another point in your career?

· What will you do if you are not chosen as a finalist?

· How do you think this fellowship will fit within your career goals?

· Where do you see yourself in the year after the fellowship is over?

· Why would you be a good fit for this fellowship program?

· Who have you contacted about the AAAS S&TPF program?

· What agency or agencies do you want to work for and why?

· What will you do if you do not get your first, second, or third choice of agency placements?

· If you had five minutes with John Holdren [Science and Technology Advisor to POTUS], what would you talk about?

· If you could wave a magic wand and change anything instantly, what would it be and why?

· If you were in the elevator with the head of an agency, what would you say?

· Educational/Professional Experience Questions

· What was your PhD research on?

· What kind of relationship do you now have with your graduate lab? Your mentor? Your institution?

· Describe a time in which you experienced a personal/professional failure and how you responded to it.

· Describe a time where your supervisor asked you to do something you found morally objectionable and how you responded (or how would you react if you’re asked to write a policy brief advocating a policy position that is factually correct/evidence-based but which you personally disagree with?)

· Describe how you approach working on issues on team versus individually.

· What is your leadership style?

· How have you resolved interpersonal conflicts?

· Have you done community service?

· How have you communicated science to the public?

· Personal Questions

· What are three of your greatest strengths?

· What are three of your greatest weaknesses, and what have you done to overcome them?

· What are three traits you value most in colleagues? Friends? Family members?

· What have been your greatest motivations in your life to date?

· How do you handle stressful, high pressure situations?

· What have been some of your proudest accomplishments to date?

· What are some things you’ve done that you’re least proud of?

· Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

· What do you do for fun? What are your favorite hobbies?

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