5 Rules To Help You Ace Your Leadership Development Program Interview

Are you considering a Leadership Development Program for your first or second job after graduation? If not, then maybe you should.

In case you’re not familiar with them, here’s a quick primer: Leadership Development Programs are rotational management and technical training programs that expose you to a variety of entry-level roles at a company. Apart from providing a range of hands-on experiences, they also help prepare you for a leadership position when the program is complete. They’re basically a fast-track route to a successful career in a field you’re passionate about.

That’s particularly true at Thermo Fisher Scientific—the world leader in serving science—where these programs are incredible opportunities to receive mentorship, network with senior leaders, and pick up the kind of experience necessary for those interested in management positions. Essentially, they’re incubators for the future leaders of the company.

Thermo Fisher’s Leadership Development Programs represent, at their core, a major investment in you on the part of the company. That’s why they pick their candidates for Leadership Development Programs so carefully. But that doesn’t mean you have to be intimidated by the recruitment process. You just need to prepare carefully so you can put your best foot forward. So, where do you begin and how can you stand out while interviewing for an opportunity that can change the course of your career?   

To find out exactly what they’re looking for in their LDP candidates, we spoke to Hannah, a Thermo Fisher recruiter.

Here are her tips for surviving (and thriving) on the road to securing your spot in an LDP.

1. You’re More Than Just Your Work Experience, So Let Them Know That

The reason you got an interview is because the recruiting team liked your resume. Remember, then, that the first interview is a chance for you to show them more than what’s on there. Don’t miss it.

Your resume told the recruiting team about your work and internship experience. While it’s important to use that experience as a base for some of your answers, you should also take the opportunity to go deeper.

The point of this interview, whether it’s in person or on the phone, is to show them a bit of who you are as an individual. Sticking too much to the script of your resume can be a major misstep. But, as Hannah stresses, there are ways to avoid that pitfall.

“One of the biggest things I see that people are missing is centered around their leadership experience,” Hannah says.

Given your experience level, chances are, you haven’t had too many opportunities to take on leadership roles at work. However, school organizations, extracurriculars, and even classroom projects are all great examples of places where you could have exhibited leadership skills. Regardless of what the leadership experience revolves around, the ability to demonstrate your potential is extremely valuable.

2. Definitely Prepare, But Don’t Over-Rehearse Your Answers (AKA Speak Naturally)

In any job interview, the recruiter or hiring manager wants to get a better sense of who you actually are—especially when they’re making such a major investment in you. That’s why over-preparation can actually hurt you.

“One of the things that we see that shoots people in the foot when they’re interviewing is that their answers seem really scripted and almost too perfect,” Hannah says. “And for us, that doesn’t give a sense of who they are. It doesn’t feel authentic. It doesn’t feel genuine.”

It’s true that you want to present the best possible version of yourself, but don’t let that rob your answers of you. Even if you prepared for a question, there’s no harm in taking a moment to think about your answer and move in a different direction. Speak from the heart, because according to Hannah, that’s what they’re hoping you’ll do.

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About Mistakes You’ve Made—Just Do It Tactfully

Many important interview questions focus on how you’d respond to various scenarios, both real and imagined.

“We ask a lot of behavioral-based questions on leadership, because a lot of what we do at Thermo Fisher gives people responsibility and allows people to make decisions and take risks,” Hannah says.

When the stakes are as high as they are in an LDP, the company needs to know how you act under pressure. However, that doesn’t mean they want you to only describe a situation or tell them about a time when everything went perfectly. Why? Because even if it’s true, it doesn’t really demonstrate the kind of adaptability and self-awareness that they’re looking for at Thermo Fisher.

“We really want to see how you took a situation that you maybe struggled in and how did you come out from that? Answering around self-awareness is key instead of just feeling like all of these answers have to be perfect,” she adds.

Self-awareness and adaptability are hard to teach and extremely important for people who plan to grow a lot over the course of their time at a company—which is essential for any successful LDP candidate. That’s why emphasizing adaptability and how you respond to mistakes is so important.

Don’t gloss over these learnings—talk about them and emphasize the lessons you learned that’ll help prevent you from making the same mistakes again. That kind of self-reflection shows real growth, maturity, and potential.

4. As You Progress, Make Sure To Up Your Research Game And Come With Thoughtful Questions

The interview for an LDP at Thermo Fisher is a multistep process, and it’s as much about you getting to know them as it is the opposite. That’s why it’s okay to ask exploratory questions about the company early on.

“I think for that first recruiter conversation, it’s okay to come in and ask questions,” Hannah says. “But I think the biggest mistake that I see a lot of times is, once they get past that first round and they move on to that next step, they haven’t done enough research.”

After that initial conversation, you’ll advance to an on-campus interview with a hiring manager or an LDP graduate who is now a leader at the company. And it’s essential to come prepared. As the interviews progress, don’t rest on your laurels.

“You don’t have to come in knowing everything. But find a recent article about something Thermo Fisher did in the news or in the community or maybe about one of our acquisitions, and then ask questions about that,” Hannah explains.

“That shows our leadership team that you’re interested and that you’re curious. Curiosity is such an important quality in an interview process because it shows that you’re going to be curious when you come to work every day. It shows that you’re going to challenge the norm and ask questions and bring 110 percent every day,” she says.

By the time you get to the last round of interviews (a two-day event at the company’s headquarters in Waltham, MA), you should have a few good talking points ready for any conversation you might have with a leader.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Your Recruiter For Advice

After you pass the first-round phone interview, your recruiter is there to be your ally. After all, they chose you to enter the process and they have a vested interest in your success.

“If you’re curious about something and you’re not sure, reach out to your recruiter and ask them. ‘Is the manager going to want to see a cover letter? Are they going to want references?’ I can always answer that,” Hannah says.

If there are any administrative questions you have about timing, location, or the format of interviews, you don’t have to worry about bothering the hiring manager by asking. Just follow up with your recruiter and they’ll get back to you with the info you need. They can even answer some broader questions like, “What kinds of traits does the hiring manager look for in their top candidates?”

“If you’re ever curious about what kinds of things you should include in your application or bring to an interview, definitely ask your recruiter,” Hannah adds. “Because they’re almost like your secret agent and they know what that manager is looking for and how to best prepare you, so definitely lean on them.”Think you’re ready to apply for a role at Thermo Fisher? Check out open opportunities from Thermo Fisher Scientific on WayUp!

How Leadership Development Programs Are Advancing Women In Tech

For the first time in US history, female representation in the workforce has reached nearly 50 percent. That’s a stark difference from 1950, when it was less than a third. And that’s not all that has changed: Since 1982, women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men, in recent years by as much as 7 percent.

But this wave hasn’t yet reached the leadership level.

Only 15.7 percent of board member seats at Fortune 500 companies were held by women in 2018. And in recent years, only 24 percent of director-level roles and 16.5 percent of the top executive positions at S&P 500 companies were held by women. This problem is especially acute in the science and technology fields, where female representation lags far behind other sectors.

According to a study in the Harvard Business Review, a host of factors—including isolation, hostile company cultures, and a lack of executive mentors and sponsors—all contribute to high dropout rates for women at around the 10-year mark of their careers. That, in turn, leads to a lack of women advancing into senior leadership roles in the science, technology, and engineering industries.

That’s why Leadership Development Programs like the ones at Thermo Fisher Scientific are so important in the push to help women advance in technology. Why? Well, they provide opportunities and support that help overcome each of the factors that contribute to a lack of women in STEM leadership roles.

To get a better sense of how they accomplish that, we spoke to members of Thermo Fisher’s IT Leadership Development Program—who are all at different stages in their careers.

Thermo Fisher Matches Everyone With A Mentor—And Connects Them To Senior Leaders

“It’s not a secret to anybody that there’s not enough women in technology,” Sarah, a two-year veteran of Thermo Fisher’s IT Leadership Development Program, says.

This can make finding a relatable mentor a challenge—which is a bigger deal than it might initially seem. Consider this: Seventy-five percent of executives say that mentorship has been critical to their career growth and development. Mentors also often serve as sponsors, helping you secure promotions and opportunities during your time at a company.

As a member of a Thermo Fisher LDP, you’re connected to senior leaders through events and given access to a mentor through the company’s formal mentorship program. This has been a serious advantage to people like Sarah, who had the confidence of knowing she had someone to both guide her and promote her at Thermo Fisher.

This same network of mentors and leaders also helped connect her to other women in the company—which helps to prevent the feeling of isolation that HBR identified as one of the key “dropout” factors for women at work.

“I’ve been lucky enough where the program connected me with higher-up women in technology who will mentor me and teach me about what their experiences were—as well as connect me with peers,” she says.

Networks Of Leaders And Learners Help Women Shape The Company Culture

These networks that Sarah and her peers were able to tap in to are both formal and informal at Thermo Fisher. One example of a more formalized network is the Women’s Employee Resource Group, which connects Thermo Fisher professionals from across fields for networking events, Lunch and Learns, and more.

That was Sophia’s experience. She’s a former Thermo Fisher intern and Class of 2019 graduate who will be returning in the fall for Thermo Fisher’s IT LDP. “I went with my boss and my mentor. We had lunch and listened to somebody speak,” she says.

The Women’s ERG drives conversations—like the one Sophia and her mentor participated in—that help shape the company culture. By speaking to the experience of women at the company in a setting that includes both men and women, they help to create awareness and understanding and prevent non-inclusive cultures from forming.

Learn Real Leadership Skills—From Real Leaders

This kind of networking is so effective in large part because everyone is so willing to support the LDP members. And that’s no accident.

“When you introduce yourself as an LDP, it’s like, ‘Oh, okay, you’re a high potential person.’ People like to foster you and mentor you,” explains Alexa, who graduated from the IT LDP and became a Marketing Manager on one of Thermo Fisher’s e-commerce teams.

Regardless, something that many talented techies struggle with is developing non-technical skills, especially those foundational soft skills that great leaders are made of. That’s where mentors and managers were especially helpful in the LDP, as was the case for Alexa.

“It was soft skills, she says. This serves the dual purpose of teaching the skills required of leaders—clear communication, setting meetings with senior leaders, etc.—while also preparing them to find their next role after the two-year rotational program comes to a close.

“The program really focuses on networking because that’s how you get your post-program role,” Alexa says.

“No matter which LDP you participate in, you will have visibility throughout the company to take your next step,” she says.

This visibility makes finding your next job at the company much more of an opportunity than a challenge. While it might sound like a lot of pressure, that freedom to explore new departments and forge your own path is actually one of the best parts of the rotational LDP.

“It gives you the gift of seeing if what you think you like is actually what you like,” Sarah says. “I think one of the most amazing things about this program is while you’re gaining this growth and learning, it’s giving you the gift of exploration.”

Thermo Fisher’s IT Leadership Development Program aims to address the universal factors that hold women back in the tech industry—and the needs of each individual participant. The company works to ensure its LDP members are able to find a mentor, learn essential technical skills, and break into leadership roles when they graduate.

How’s that for a first job?

To learn more about Leadership Development Programs, check out Thermo Fisher Scientific on WayUp!

What’s A Leadership Development Program—And Is It Right For Me?

So, you’re an overachiever about to graduate from your undergraduate or graduate program. You have great experience in school and out, and you want to hit the ground running at your first job. The only problem is, how, exactly, are you supposed to find a job that provides everything you’re looking for?

Even the most specialized fields contain endless possibilities when it comes to actually practicing them in the real world. Many students—including and especially the ones who excel in their chosen fields—have trouble deciding on a specific direction to take their career.

If you’re an overachiever with a desire to establish yourself as a leader early on in your career, then a Leadership Development Program could be perfect for you.


What’s a Leadership Development Program?

Are you familiar with Rotational Programs? If you participate in one of these, you’ll be rotating to different departments or teams within the same company over a predetermined period of time.

Well, Leadership Development Programs take that concept and elevate it. You can think of them as elite Rotational Programs designed to fast-track your career in your field of choice. Leadership Development Programs allow recent grads to familiarize themselves with the industry while also learning leadership and management skills that will allow them to advance more quickly within the company.

But unlike a general Rotational Program, a Leadership Development Program offers exposure to different areas within a specific field or industry. They also usually require a degree that aligns with the program you want to apply for. If you apply for a program in Finance, for instance, you’ll most likely need to have studied finance, accounting, or economics.

Thermo Fisher Scientific, the world leader in serving science, offers Leadership Development Programs across their company. Take, for example, their Operations Leadership Development Program. It involves four six-month rotations during which you immerse yourself in various parts of the operations function, including manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain. You’ll have the opportunity to work alongside some of the most respected operations leaders in the world in order to accelerate your technical, professional, and leadership development.

There’s also their Human Resources Leadership Development Program. It focuses on building the next generation of HR leaders through rotational assignments in important fields like mergers and acquisitions, diversity and inclusion, talent management, and employee relations.

Gaining this kind of exposure is what makes Leadership Development Programs such a great way to kick-start your career.

Am I right for a Leadership Development Program?

Leadership Development Programs usually cater to recent grads and graduate students who want to work in a competitive, intensive program centered on their field of study.

This usually entails a commitment—at least a year or two. However, you can have some assurance that, if you perform well, there will be a permanent place for you within the organization.

Even if there isn’t a guaranteed offer, most companies do hire their Leadership Development Program graduates. After all, they chose you from hundreds or thousands of candidates to fill a very small class. (At Thermo Fisher, the final program comprises only 50 or so people.) They also devote considerable time and money in your career development.

They’ll equip you with the knowledge you need to figure out a potential specialty and help you acquire more valuable experience. Not to mention you’ll be building way more contacts at the company, because you’ll be rotating across teams. This will make future job searches a bit easier, giving you a broader network to tap into.

It’s a big commitment that comes with a major payoff.

Leadership Development Programs can be major commitments—some will even ask you to move around to new parts of the country or the world.

Yet a major commitment often means a major payoff down the road. You’ll be in a great position when it comes to long-term employment. You’ll have more—and sharper—skills. You’ll know way more about the industry and the different fields within your space. And, chances are, you’ll have met many interesting and inspiring people along the way.

Interested in working for a company that offers Leadership Development Programs? Learn more about Thermo Fisher and apply for open roles by visiting their WayUp company profile!