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Interview Questions for a Food Safety Technologist Job

food safety interview

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#1 EugeniaSuarez

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Posted 03 January 2020 - 07:08 PM

Hi everyone! happy new year! 

 

I will soon have an interview for a food safety technologist positon and l was wondering if you could help and share with me typical questions l could be asked?(specific to food safety management).

 

In other words and for more experienced members, what would you ask someone you are interviewing for being the responsible for maintaining the food safety program? 

 

thank you!

Euge 



#2 scaime

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Posted 03 January 2020 - 07:26 PM

Hello, Euge.  What country are you in and what type of products would you work with?  (shelf-stable, refrigerated, aseptic, etc)



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#3 EugeniaSuarez

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Posted 03 January 2020 - 07:41 PM

Hi :) I´m based in the UK and products l would work with are shelf stable. I have experience in quality assurance but I have never worked in a food safety focused position. I suppose questions will be related with HACCP implementation? thank you :)



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#4 TimG

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Posted 03 January 2020 - 08:32 PM

Hello Eugenia,

There are a few things to consider. What step in the chain of the shelf stable products will be you handling? Manufacture, storage, distribution? Each has their own challenges that might get specific types of questions but there will also be some overlap. Also, does this company have a currently implemented food safety plan (FSP)? If so, are they looking to you to help make it more efficient, to re-work it because there are known failures, to better implement it, to fully implement it because it's currently just a program in a book? Are they looking to you to write and implement a FSP from scratch?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are a lot of variables involved.

 

Some things you could focus on:

  • Do you have a proven track record of managing systems?
    • Give an example of how you improved a quality system
    • Give an example of how you corrected a failure in the quality system 
  • Be prepared to explain the similarities and differences between your past in quality and your future in food safety and quality
    • Quality usually has a bit more wiggle room depending of course on product. 2000 widgets are out of spec and we have to refund the customer? Bummer
    • There is very little wiggle room in food safety. A product is out of spec that was a key factor in eliminating pathogen growth and we now have an FDA issued recall? BIG BUMMER

Sorry, I'm rambling. I finished all of my work for the week and was enjoying a break before I head home for the weekend.

Good luck on your interview!



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#5 scaime

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Posted 03 January 2020 - 08:51 PM

Hi, Euge.

You'll receive clearer feedback if you post the responsibilities of the role (can just cut and paste).

Not knowing if you're going to be in a lab on a bench, walking the floor of a manufacturing facility, or creating documents, here are some items that can span all three.

CGMPs- understanding them 

Corrective Action and Preventive Actions

Applicable regulations for your country.  If your role involves shipping of finished goods across borders, understand the regulations in the receiving country, too.  For instance, FSMA for the U.S.

HARPC (no longer HACCP)-  emphasis now is placed on prevention and producer's corrective and preventive actions

For shelf-stable products you produce, what makes them safe for human consumption?  Thermal processing, preservatives, pH?  Know/familiarize yourself of methods to retard microbial growth.

Supply chain.  Know how to properly receive and assess raw materials (Cert of Analysis COA, analytical testing).

Hope this helps.



#6 pHruit

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 11:39 AM

Hi everyone! happy new year! 

 

I will soon have an interview for a food safety technologist positon and l was wondering if you could help and share with me typical questions l could be asked?(specific to food safety management).

 

In other words and for more experienced members, what would you ask someone you are interviewing for being the responsible for maintaining the food safety program? 

 

thank you!

Euge 

 

Honestly, as the person who does these interviews, I'm partly interested in your experience, but more interested in how curious you are, how bright you seem, and how quickly I think you'll pick new things up. IMO the best people for quality/technical roles need to be capable of learning new things, as the industry changes, companies change, standards evolves, science and understanding progresses etc.

I'd therefore ask you about your previous experience, what you did, how you worked (with a team / individually), how you take ownership of projects and issues, what you enjoyed, what you found frustrating (N.B. "nothing" is an answer that would make me suspicious - we're all human and I very much doubt any of us enjoy 100% of our roles ;) ), what you learned, how you like to learn (practical, theoretical study etc), where your strengths and weaknesses are - the latter is not a problem if presented in the right way, as it shows that you have a degree of self-awareness and that's a useful attribute when you're trying to manage people...

I'd want to see some familiarity with HACCP, BRC (or something similar), food hygiene regulations, quality systems, what type of analytical methods and equipment you're familiar with (if that's at all relevant to the nature of your role) - the depth if knowledge I'd expect in a candidate will of course depend on the seniority of the role for which you're applying. If it's a relatively junior position then honestly I'd be happy with a general awareness, provided it's coupled with obvious and genuine curiosity to learn more.

It's also likely that you might be asked about how you handle challenging/stressful situations, as the reality of working in this type of role is that you'll potentially have to make decisions or give advice that won't make you popular ("we need to throw it away rather than sell it" is something anyone in this area will come across, but obviously has a cost and that makes it unwelcome amongst our commercial colleagues).

 

Is it an office-based or factory-based role you're going for, or a bit of both?

If they don't give you a tour of the factory facility, then by all means ask for one as it shows interest. They may decline - I'd not normally bother with it until 2nd stage interviews, but it won't hurt to look curious.

Read the companies website. I don't expect people to have memorised every fact on there, but a general awareness of the product types, customer types, nature of the business etc looks good and will potentially allow you to tailor some of your answers, and to ask intelligent and relevant questions.

Ask lots of questions. Is the job spec that the recruiter has given you really comprehensive, or just a brief overview? Ask for more detail about how you'll work, who you'll be working with, what the reporting structure is, what your responsibilities will be, how the company approaches training and development etc.

Personally I'd also ask how long key technical staff have been there (but do it tactfully) - it's a genuine question about how established the team is vs. how much is still new and in need of being written/defined, but also gives you an idea about whether there is a high or low staff turnover in the department. If they are all new and the staff seem to last only a few months, then it's a sign that the working environment might not be great, and should thus lead you to ask yourself whether you want to work there.

A million years ago my father told me to always remember that when you go to an interview, you are interviewing the employer as much as they are interviewing you, and that was fantastic advice that I'd recommend for anyone interviewing for any role - remember that they need to convince you that you want to work there, as much as you need to convince them to employ you. Be confident but not arrogant about it!






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