50 Microbiology Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 31 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Interviewing for a microbiology position gives you the opportunity to tell a hiring manager about the qualifications you have that may make you a suitable fit for the role. Hiring managers often ask questions about you, your interest in the job and your goals, education, experience and skills. Preparing for your interview by reviewing common questions can help you feel confident when you meet with the interviewer. In this article, we list 50 microbiology interview questions and provide five sample answers you can use to help you prepare your own responses.

General microbiology interview questions

Interviewers typically ask general microbiology interview questions to learn more about you, your professional goals and your interest in the role. Here are 15 questions a hiring manager may ask you:

  1. Can you give me a brief summary of your resume?

  2. What interested you about this role?

  3. Why do you want to work at this organisation?

  4. What motivated you to work in microbiology?

  5. What research fields within microbiology interest you the most?

  6. Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?

  7. What's your ultimate career goal?

  8. Why did you leave your last position?

  9. How do you think your most recent manager would describe you?

  10. What are your three greatest professional strengths?

  11. What are three areas in which you want to improve professionally?

  12. What are your salary expectations for this position?

  13. Do you prefer to work independently or as a member of a team?

  14. What types of duties do you expect this role to involve?

  15. Do you have any questions for me?

Relevant: What Are Long-Term Goals? (With Types, Examples and Tips)

Questions about background and experience

Learning about your work and educational background allows hiring managers to understand the knowledge and skills you have that may help you succeed in a microbiology role. Here are 15 questions about your experience a hiring manager may ask you during your interview:

  1. Can you tell me about the approach you took to complete your most recent project and describe its outcome?

  2. What's your greatest professional achievement in this field?

  3. Do you have experience managing a team in a laboratory setting?

  4. Can you tell me about your most challenging project and what you learnt from the experience?

  5. What types of research do you enjoy performing the most?

  6. Have you ever disagreed with a colleague about how to conduct research? If so, how did you resolve it?

  7. How do you stay organised when completing a research project?

  8. What steps do you take to ensure the lab stays safe and clean?

  9. What types of equipment do you have experience using?

  10. Have you ever used specialised software to perform your analyses?

  11. Can you tell me about a time you faced an ethical challenge at work and how you overcame it?

  12. Have you ever had to confront or report a colleague for violating lab policies? If so, what was the outcome?

  13. What methods do you use to gather and analyse large quantities of data?

  14. How do you stay updated on emerging trends and technologies in microbiology?

  15. What were your primary tasks in your most recent laboratory-based job or internship?

Related: How to Become a Microbiologist (Steps and Qualifications)

In-depth interview questions

Hiring managers may ask a few more in-depth questions to assess your understanding of specific microbiology terms and standard operating procedures. Here are 15 questions you can practise developing answers for:

  1. Can you explain the classifications of different staining techniques?

  2. What conditions can cause gram-positive bacteria to appear as gram-negative?

  3. Can you describe the applications of gram staining and explain why this method is so widely used in bacteriology?

  4. What alternatives can you use in a gram stain?

  5. When would you use DNA sequencing in your work?

  6. Explain what endospores are and whether we can use them as a method of reproduction.

  7. How much experience do you have working with aseptic techniques?

  8. Name the components of a Ziehl-neelsen stain.

  9. What microbial characteristics do you look for when examining microorganisms?

  10. Can you tell me about the differences between the hot method and the cold method of acid-fast staining?

  11. Explain what steps you take to interpret and grade a smear.

  12. What steps do you take to maintain safety standards in the laboratory?

  13. Describe the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.

  14. Why is nutrient broth used as a universal growth medium for bacteria?

  15. Explain how you analyse samples of microorganisms. What's your step-by-step process?

Related: 10 Interesting Careers in Medical Science You Can Pursue

5 interview questions with sample answers

Here are five interview questions for a microbiology role and sample answers that can help you prepare your own responses for your interview:

1. What precautions do you take when preparing smears for acid-fast bacillus (AFB) testing?

Hiring managers may ask a question like this to assess your lab experience and evaluate if you understand the correct procedures. Provide a clear, concise answer by listing the specific steps you would take to ensure accurate results.

Example: 'First, I make sure I have a new slide available for every specimen. This prevents false positives that can appear from scratch marks on reused slides. Then, I use a thick section of the sputum to make a uniform smear on each slide. I also use clean blotting paper to dry each slide to prevent the smear from transferring to other slides.'

2. Can you tell me about a time when you had to share undesirable results with another researcher or professional?

Microbiology professionals often report the findings of their research to their peers, the scientific community or the public. Sometimes, this requires them to share unexpected or unfavourable results. Interviewers may ask this question to determine if you can communicate professionally and to assess your ability to confront challenges in the workplace.

Example: 'During my internship at university, a senior researcher gave me the responsibility of testing a few samples and reporting my findings to them. They asked for my results as soon as possible, as their current study relied on them. While I was preparing equipment to examine the specimens, I accidentally contaminated one of them. Unfortunately, the contamination affected the test. I contacted the researcher right away to tell them what had happened. While they weren't happy with my mistake, the researcher expressed gratitude that I contacted them right away so they could give me a new specimen to test immediately.'

Related: What Does a Medical Researcher Do? (With Steps to Become One)

3. Can you explain your sterilisation technique?

Thoroughly sterilising all laboratory equipment is a critical step to ensure accurate results. Hiring managers may ask this question to determine whether you're capable of following protocols and assess how much experience you have working in a laboratory.

Example: 'I've used the autoclave sterilisation method in my previous lab roles. This method uses moist heat to destroy microorganisms. By applying a high pressure of 15 PSI at a temperature of 121 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes, I ensure complete sterilisation and the destruction of all vegetative and spore forms of the microbial cells. After the process is complete, I store them properly. This allows them to remain sterilised until I'm ready to use them.'

4. If you noticed one of your colleagues wasn't following the standard operating procedures while performing a test, what would you do?

Hiring managers may ask this question to assess your ethics and conflict resolution skills. Focus on the steps you'd take to maintain the integrity of your research.

Example: 'I'd start by asking my colleague to explain their process to me to ensure I understand why they chose not to follow the standard operating procedures. Then I would assess the situation and document everything thoroughly. Ultimately, I'd encourage my colleague to share the steps they took with our supervisor to maintain the integrity of our research. If they refuse to do so, I'd discuss the situation with our supervisor directly. As a microbiologist, I believe communicating with other team members is crucial to ensure our test results are accurate.'

5. What are some skills or qualifications that make you a suitable candidate for this role?

Interviewers may ask this question to determine your suitability for the position. Highlighting your strengths during the interview process can make a positive impression on the hiring manager, and this question provides you with an opportunity to do this. Consider the credentials the employer listed in the job description when crafting a response. Then, emphasise the qualifications you have that can benefit you and the employer in the role.

Example: 'Besides my extensive knowledge of microbiology and experience in medical laboratories, I also take pride in my attention to detail and critical thinking skills. In this field, it's important to know how to apply your knowledge and skills so you can work effectively. Through practice and error, like the time I contaminated a specimen, I learnt to develop organised methods that allow me to work meticulously and choose the right research methods for each project.'

Related: 4 Steps to Emphasise Personal Strengths in an Interview

Explore more articles