Cheeky Logo
Ready To Get Hired?
Apply To Book A Free Call With Our Transition Specialist Team

I Lost A Job Offer Because I Didn’t Apply These 5 Strategies

I had no idea what to expect or how to prepare for my first onsite interview.

By the time the company called me in for the site visit, I had already had 3 phone calls and 2 video interviews.

I was so excited to have made it to this stage of the hiring process and knew that the company would be a great fit for me.

When they invited me out, they said I would be coming in for a “site visit”.

This terminology threw me off.

Was this an interview, or not?

I thought maybe they just wanted to meet me in person to offer me the position.


I was told I would need to give a presentation and that the rest of the day, I would meet with various members of the company.

This sounded great.

I’d given many talks during my PhD and postdoc, so the presentation would be no problem and I was excited to meet the people I would possibly be working with!

The day of the visit finally arrived and I thought I was ready.

But, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was in over my head.

The presentation I prepared ended up being too long and no one seemed very interested in the parts I did have time to present.

Then, I was shuttled from place to place, meeting with nearly 20 people who asked me both technical questions and questions about why I wanted the job.

I was overwhelmed.

After just a couple of hours, I felt my energy dwindle and struggled to be enthusiastic when answering questions and interacting with people.

I couldn’t wait for the day to end.

It was terrible.

As I was leaving, I knew I had just blown this job opportunity and was very disappointed.

Next time would be different.

For this site interview, I just hadn’t prepared the right way.

I had not taken the opportunity seriously enough and done the homework required to impress at a site interview.

It was a massive learning opportunity.

I learned what I needed to do before a site interview to ensure that I would be able to give my best impression.

I learned the most important ways to prepare for an onsite interview and have used those preparation strategies for all my subsequent interviews.

Why Your Onsite Interview Is The Final Chance You Have To Prove Yourself

The biggest thing to remember is that if you have been invited for an onsite interview, then the company is seriously considering hiring you.

So, you need to be seriously prepared for the interview.

According to Workopolis, only 2% of candidates are called in for an interview.

By getting to the interview stage, you have already proven that you are a great candidate and the company has invested in you.

So, on your site interview, you need to go above that — you need to impress them further so that investing in you seems like the right choice.

Because, hiring is expensive.

According to a study by Berkeley, the average cost to hire a new professional is $7,000 but, depending on the role and company, this cost can increase to $25,000 or more.

How will you prove that you are the candidate they should invest in?

This is where your preparation becomes essential.

But, you have to know the right way to prepare so that you are ready for your site interview.

5 Ways PhDs Should Prepare For An Onsite Interview

A site interview is an intense process.

You will likely meet many people from the company from all different levels within the company.

You need to be prepared to sustain your energy for the whole process.

You need to be at the top of your game.

You need to be ready.

Here are 5 ways that PhDs should prepare for site interviews…

1. Learn how to present like an industry professional —not an academic.

Presenting is obligatory in industry.

It is a part of everything you will do in an industry role — so naturally, in an interview, a company wants to know if you are a good presenter.

If you want to get hired you need to demonstrate that you have this key skill.

You might be thinking, “I present all the time at my university, so I’m good to go” — well, you’re wrong.

First of all, presenting in industry is different from presenting in academia and second, industry places much more importance on the delivery of your presentation than academia does.

In academia, if you have great data but present it poorly, people don’t really care.

But, in industry, you must also have a great delivery of your great data.

It’s about the story you tell and how you tell it.

A few key points to remember:

  1. Vary the pace, pitch, and tone of your voice to convey emotion.
  2. Don’t bury your lead piece of data.
  3. Have lots of white space on your slides.

This is just the beginning of what you need to know in order to properly prepare for an industry interview presentation.

Check out this article that has 21 tips to help you prepare for your industry presentation.

2. Research the company extensively so you can ask good questions.

If you have earned a site interview, then you are very close to the end of the hiring process.

By this time, you must know as much as possible about the company you are interviewing with.

Research the company from a variety of sources.

Use informational interviews, the company website, press releases, or other news sources following the company’s actions.

However, remember that no matter how much you learn, you will not know more than the people who actually work at the company.

Do not use the information you learn to be boastful about how much you know about the company.

Instead, use the information to ask good questions.

As a PhD, asking questions is what you have been training to do for years.

You are better at asking questions than almost any other person.

By leaning as much as you can about the company, and understanding their position, you can formulate great questions that will demonstrate your interest in the company and your business acumen.

3. Know your “why”.

By the time you have been invited to a site interview, you will have already been asked lots and lots of interview questions.

But, the questions aren’t over yet.

In fact, you will probably have to answer lots of the questions you already answered again — this time, with a different audience.

At the site interview, you will meet with people from the team you might work with, as well as the company’s leadership.

They will ask you common interview questions, and you need to have compelling answers.

The questions you need to pay special attention to are questions that start with “why”.

By asking these “why” questions, the interviewers are trying to learn your motives and find out if you are a good fit for the company.

Questions like:

Why do you want to work for this company?

Why do you want to leave academia?

Why are you the best candidate for this position?

Why do you want this job?

These may seem like simple questions, but the reasoning behind them is very important.

How you respond will demonstrate your knowledge of the company, your passion for the role, and whether your core values align with the company or not.

Write out answers to these common questions and practice them outloud.

You don’t want to be in front of the CEO and not know how to answer the question, “Why do you want to work here?”

4. Practice controlling your body language in a variety of settings.

A site interview is a whole-day process.

You will meet many people and every interaction is an interview, whether they are formally asking you questions or not.

Like any interview, you will be prepared to talk and answer questions, but something that many PhDs neglect is body language.

Your body language is conveying more than you realize.

Whether you are uncomfortable, tired, nervous, confident, ready, or energized, your body language will give you away.

So, you need to practice controlling your body language to convey the message you want, even if you are not feeling particularly confident.

Learn the major “tells” for body language and how you can use them to your advantage.

Simple habits, like slouching or touching your hair and face, will make you seem nervous and incompetent.

We do these things unconsciously and it will take practice for you to become aware of these body movements and alter them.

5. Identify what you want your workplace culture and environment to be like.

A site interview is the last and best opportunity to figure out if the company will be a good fit for you.

This day that you spend at the company is a 2-way interview.

As much as they are going to ask you questions and judge your actions, you should be evaluating them, too.

But, to properly evaluate if a company will be a good fit for you, you need to first identify what you want in a workplace.

What culture do you want?

What type of communication style is a good fit for you?

What hours do you want to work?

What type of leadership do you want to have?

What values in a company are important to you?

During your site interview, ask questions and look for information about these questions.

You won’t get another chance to have this up-close look at a company until after you accept the job.

If, during the interview, you realize that this company is not a good fit for you, do not feel obligated to take the position.

Many PhDs are desperate to leave academia and you may feel pressured to take the first position that you are offered.

This is a mistake.

You are valuable and in control of the next steps of your career — so, do not take a role that is not a good fit, as you will regret it.

Once you have been invited for an onsite interview, recognize that this means you are a top contender! You have one more chance to impress the company and prove that you are the right candidate. It’s also your last chance to decide if the position and company are a good fit for you. So, you need to be well-prepared for the site interview. Before your site interview, you need to learn to present in an industry style, research the company intensely so you can ask good questions, prepare thoughtful answers to the “why” questions interviewers are going to ask you, practice controlling your body language in a variety of settings, and identify what you want your workplace culture and environment to be like. Completing these preparations before you have an onsite interview will give you the best chance to impress your potential employer and get hired.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

Book a Transition Call
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly


Aditya Sharma, PhD, earned his advanced degree at the University of Toronto, Canada. Now, he combines his passion for all things STEM with keen business acumen, and he works as a scientific consultant at a top Canadian consulting firm.

Aditya Sharma, PhD

Similar Articles

How PhDs Can Avoid The Overqualified Label To Get Hired

How PhDs Can Avoid The Overqualified Label To Get Hired

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“We regret to inform you that we will not be moving forward with your application due to concerns that your qualifications exceed those required for the role.  We feel it would not be a good fit. Thank you for applying.”  Oof, that’s part of a rejection email a PhD sent me. An employer had sent it to them after the first interview.  Another PhD told me this recently… “I feel like I’m both overqualified and underqualified for the jobs I apply to Isaiah.”  Which do you feel is more of a problem for you? I asked.  “At first I thought…

How To Answer “Why Are You Leaving Academia?” (& 4 Scientific Ways To Convince Employers To Hire You) 

How To Answer “Why Are You Leaving Academia?” (& 4 Scientific Ways To Convince Employers To Hire You) 

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“‘Why do you want to work here more than anywhere else? And why are you leaving academia?’ Those are the questions I got stuck on, Isaiah.  I told them why I liked their company, mainly because it was aligned with my values, but I also wanted to be fair and ethical so I told them that I was considering other companies. Then I explained that academia was no longer a good fit because I wanted to do more than write grants all day.”  “Okay, I replied, anything else? What did you say after that?” “I asked them a few clarifying…

Should You Apply To More Than One Job At A Company? (& 3 Other Tough Job Search Questions Answered)

Should You Apply To More Than One Job At A Company? (& 3 Other Tough Job Search Questions Answered)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“Isaiah, I applied to ThermoFisher two weeks ago and a hiring manager got in touch with me and I had my first interview…. But then a second hiring manager reached out to me about another job I applied to there.  I started talking to this second manager and they asked if I applied to any other positions there.  I couldn’t lie so I told them about the other job and the other hiring manager.  Now, neither of the hiring managers will get back to me.  What should I do?”  This is what a PhD told me over the phone last…

How LinkedIn Ranks Job Seekers With PhDs, EdDs & Other Degrees

How LinkedIn Ranks Job Seekers With PhDs, EdDs & Other Degrees

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“Be real Isaiah, there’s not a government bureau keeping track of how our resumes perform.”  This is what a frustrated job seeker said to me recently.  “What do you mean I have a reputation score?” they asked.  “Of course there’s not a bureau dedicated to this, at least not yet” I said.  “But you absolutely are being scored and ranked” I went on, “and your ranking is used to indicate how reputable you are as a job seeker.”  This is what I’ve explained to countless people looking for a job in today’s job market, most of whom were getting initial…

How The Academic PhD Job Market Was Destroyed

How The Academic PhD Job Market Was Destroyed

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“I spent over a year looking for a job in academia and flew to multiple interviews. I didn’t get one offer.” A PhD told me this recently and many other PhDs have told me similar stories.  Of course, the stories involve more than just looking for a job for a year.  They involve living on a meager academic budget, trying to support themselves and their families, often in very expensive cities where many of the biggest universities are located.  They involve decisions to never go on a vacation, to feed their kids cheaper, less healthy food, and to work all…

Give Yourself The Gift Of Leaving Academia Forever

Give Yourself The Gift Of Leaving Academia Forever

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

My last year in academia, I didn’t have enough money to fly home for Christmas. So I spent it in Iowa City, mostly alone.  I was broke (of course) so I decided to shovel snow out of driveways for $10 per driveway. I remember thinking how ridiculous it was to be a PhD shoveling snow for money. “What I wouldn’t give to have a better job”, I thought.  That was the gift I wanted for Christmas and the holidays.  A better job.  Not to be a student or a postdoc or an academic PhD getting paid less than I was…

The Ideal Keyword Density For Targeting Your PhD Resume To An Industry Job Posting

The Ideal Keyword Density For Targeting Your PhD Resume To An Industry Job Posting

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Writing a resume for an industry job is one of the biggest sticking points I see with PhDs entering the job market.  What worked even a year ago is not working today due to recent and rapidly accelerating advances in Applicant Tracking Systems.  These systems, called ATS or just AI today, are software tools used by companies to filter resumes.  They scan for specific keywords related to the job role, abilities, credentials, and qualities desired in a candidate.  As a PhD seeking very competitive roles, including relevant keywords in your resume is essential to pass through these systems and get…

AI Is Replacing Recruiters. Here’s How PhD Job Seekers Should Adapt

AI Is Replacing Recruiters. Here’s How PhD Job Seekers Should Adapt

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“I had a recruiter reach out to me, Isaiah, and after I gave them my resume and answered their questions, they never got back to me. What should I do?”  I hear this a lot.  I also hear, “Isaiah, I was on the phone with a recruiter and as soon as they heard that I needed a visa, they hung up” …”or as soon as they heard I had no industry experience, they hung up.”  Man, I personally hate this. What a waste of time. The recruitment industry is broken.  The good news is its being devoured by Artificial Intelligence,…

Why PhDs Are Powerhouses Of Productivity (& How It Can Get Your Hired)

Why PhDs Are Powerhouses Of Productivity (& How It Can Get Your Hired)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

“Nothing makes sense today in the job market”, a PhD expressed to me recently.  “No one is responding to my resumes. I don’t understand why they would ask for a scientist at the company and then not even want to talk to me”, they said. They went on: “I’ve even had some friends refer to me, but still didn’t get an interview. I feel like I made a mistake getting my PhD.”  It’s hard hearing this from PhDs who invested so much in their education and in advancing research for humanity.  Still, I hear it a lot.  My response is…

Top Industry Career eBooks

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the best 63 industry careers for PhDs (regardless of your academic background). In this eBook, you will gain insight into the most popular, highest-paying jobs for PhDs – all of which will allow you to do meaningful work AND get paid well for it.

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Learn how to craft the perfect industry resume to attract employers. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven resume templates, learn how to structure your bullet points, and discover which keywords industry employers want to see most on PhD resumes.

AI & ATS Resume Filters

AI & ATS Resume Filters

Isaiah Hankel

In today's competitive job market, understanding the impact of AI is crucial for career success. This involves ensuring your resume stands out in the digital realm, mastering your online presence, and being aware of how AI assigns reputation scores. Discovering how to leverage AI to your advantage is essential, as it plays a pivotal role in shaping professional opportunities.

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel

The LinkedIn tips & strategies within have helped PhDs from every background get hired into top industry careers.