What to Look For When Hiring at the Junior Level

Author:  Tara Smylie

Looking for that perfect entry-level hire? If you’re like many life science employers, you’re used to vetting applicants based on years of experience. For positions categorized as junior or entry-level, though, applicants aren’t likely to have an extensive employment record. You’ll need other ways to assess their skillset, intelligence, and willingness to learn.

As you look through resumes and conduct interviews, don’t underestimate these newer and younger candidates. While junior job-seekers may be lacking in years of experience, they can easily make up for that in attitude and flexibility.

Screening for success at the junior level

A junior candidate may not boast a pages-long resume of work experience – and that’s okay! Previous leadership positions and awards can show you just as much about their work ethic and areas of interest. Did they start a biomedical education club in university? Have they won awards or scholarships related to their scientific work? An applicant who loves their field, takes initiative, and enjoys learning new skills will be highly motivated to adapt to a new position.

That said, you’ll still want to see that they’ve previously excelled in a similar environment. Just remember to check your expectations – the fact is, not many junior candidates will have work experience in the exact role you’re hiring for. Take a realistic approach and look for evidence that they’ve been successful in a similar classroom setting, volunteer position, or extracurricular management role.

And remember, it’s not just the hard skills that are important. Emotional intelligence plays a critical role in the workplace, even for technical jobs. When hiring for junior positions, look for these qualities in your candidates: receptivity to feedback, work ethic, and ability to function as part of a team. Candidates with these attributes are likely to thrive in the ecosystem of the workplace.

Sometimes you’ll have a good feeling about a candidate, but not quite enough confidence to take the leap and make them an offer. In this case, consider sending them a skills test. This approach is a win-win: you get to see what they’re capable of, and they get a chance to prove themselves to you.

Benefits of hiring junior employees

It’s no secret that millennials and zoomers are usually proficient with technology. As a result, it shouldn’t take long for them to learn the ropes of any new software required for a position. By the same token, younger candidates are likely to have at least one tech-based skill already. This could be anything from video editing to Microsoft Excel to overall computer-savviness. These skills are great to have in your arsenal should you ever need them.

Younger hires can also offer some much-needed youthful perspective. They’re likely to be up-to-date on trends, such as recent developments in the world of social media or new apps that might help to structure company workflow. Another upside: less experienced employees often show particular enthusiasm for their work, which can inspire others to embrace a positive attitude themselves.

Junior roles in science industries

Communications-based science jobs are often a good fit for junior-level hires. That’s not because they’re easy, but because the skills they require can be developed through various avenues. Positions like medical writer or scientific project manager, for example, can sometimes be filled by candidates with shorter or more diverse resumes.

Currently, many pharma and biotech companies are in the market for junior research associates fresh out of grad school. If this is you, try scanning candidates’ resumes for relevant scientific skill sets. Current top skills required for research associate positions include collaboration, analysis, and experimentation. As you scan candidates’ resumes, look for education or experience that has allowed them to cultivate these skills.

Know what to look for

As you search for the best possible hire for a junior position, ask yourself this: who has the potential to be your next workplace superstar? You can’t expect recent graduates to have decades of work experience in highly skilled, highly specialized positions. You can, however, scout out applicants that demonstrate enthusiasm, some relevant experience, and above all a willingness to learn.

If you’re looking to hire an ambitious and skilled junior level employee, Sci.bio’s recruitment services can help you find the perfect match.


  1. The 6 Qualities To Look For In Entry-Level Candidates
  2. 7 Things You Should Look for When Hiring Entry-Level Workers
  3. Research Associate Must-Have Resume Skills and Keywords
  4. Does Pre-Employment Testing Help Prevent Bad Hires?
  5. Life science recruitment: how to hire and retain top talent

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