Career Pathways in Biotech and Pharma: Launch your Career in Industry: Become the Standout Candidate

Recently, I attended a panel Q&A discussion at the American Biomedical Research Conference for Minority students (#ABRCMS2017) with speakers from several biopharmaceutical organisations (Biodesix, Genentech and Novartis) sharing their personal experiences as candidates and recruiters and offering advice on how applicants can be standout candidates.

The discussion was aimed at delegates from all aspects of the bio and medical sciences and included undergraduate, postgraduate, post-doctoral candidates and faculty members.

According to the speakers, there is no one size fits all approach to recruitment and attraction of candidates by employers in the biotech sector however, these employers generally are attracted to stand-out attributes and skills.

The panelists included –

Dr Alex Gaither (Novartis),

Dr Garry Pestano (Biodesix),

Jonathan Zarzar ‎(Genentech) and

Pam Leung (Genentech)

The range of the questions were on CV/resume, culture fit, personal branding and interviews. I have collated some of the questions asked in the session and included some of the responses from the panel.  

For advice on writing a great CV, do read our previous post here

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Image source – E. Adukwu

 

Question – Should I provide CV or resume and is there any need for the covering letter?

The employers generally advised that it is important to provide the #CV and #coveringletter when contacting an employer. One of the employers mentioned that if it is relating to an application, the employers would normally indicate what you as a candidate would need to provide e.g. CV and covering letter or completion of an application process.

One bit of advice offered was for candidates to “Build your CV as early as you can” as this should be an ongoing process to remember the activities you have taken part in and a record of the skills gained

Differences between with academia and industry. Are the skills required similar or different?

This is a very common question asked by students and according to the panel, they look at it differently.

“Obviously your record of accomplishment is important but what we really want to know is how much more can you do?”…”When we hire, in our thinking, we are looking for the person a year or two in advance”…”We also want to know that you can last for the years ahead” – Alex

” if you are determined, you can pick whichever path you want to follow and go for it.”- Garry

Can you expand on culture-fit and what it means?

This question was asked because one of the employers had mentioned that sometimes there is a hidden conversation around “culture-fit” in some organisations he had encountered.

“I have worked with some brilliant scientists that are unable to work well in a team”….we really cannot have such people. You need to be able to fit our culture of teamwork, be a team player and be excited about developing the science and pushing the industry/organisation forward….What we want to know is how well you are going to react and move the company mission forward” – Alex

“You get to work with people in other areas and sometimes you might be the only scientist in your team so the skills you need to have are; how to negotiate, get data from others, communication etc… sometimes we do bring in consultants to help transition our culture and help us create values to shape our culture. Culture allows you the opportunity to have a safe space to excel” – Garry

A short presentation about the importance of branding was delivered by Jonathan (Genentech). He talked about the “elevator pitch” but also mentioned the importance of defining the concept of YOUR personal brand and highlight how it can benefit you at the job or workplace.

For articles on elevator pitch and how to use the elevator pitch to land a job, the Forbes article by Nancy Collamer  is a good place to start.

Anything you do not recommend someone talks about with regard to his or her personal brand?

the idea of a personal brand is about “messaging”, “getting yourself through the door…..think about it in terms of aligning yourself to what the company or your contact is looking for” – Jonathan

“we all have a brand; how we dress, how we carry ourselves and how we engage, these are all parts of that brand. It is something you need to pay attention to; it is the eye contact, level of voice, tone etc. Like it or not, we are constantly being watched and assessed by someone.” – Garry

“every single interaction in a professional space is a part of your brand” – Alex

How do you know it is too much information (TMI) in terms of branding?

“don’t talk about money; don’t continuously talk about what you did in the past; do not always revisit where you were especially if you are at an interview – recognise why you are there!” – Alex

“there is a fine boundary on what you should be sharing and maybe what you should not” – Garry

Should I be applying to a company where there is a lot of competition and many applicants?

“if you did not choose not to apply to university or a specific programme even though it was competitive, you should not shy away from applying for a competitive position.” – Garry

“actually attending a meeting or conference already puts you in a competitive space, you are likely to be recognised, and you can make a good impression, which can go a long way” – Alex

Phone and/or video interviews. Any advice?

One of the key suggestions given here was the importance of preparing like you would if you were going to a face-to-face interview.

Also, speak slowly, it is easier to talk on the phone. Also, make sure you do research the company. (Pretty simple!!) – Jonathan

Interviewers tend to ask, what your biggest weakness is. How do you advise applicants to answer this question?

According to the employers, this is a question that can often trip a lot of applicants and candidates however they remarked that it is a question that candidates can be smart about and be creative.

“it is about recognising what you need to work on and telling the employer what you are planning to do to” – Jonathan

“there is no right answer. What I am impressed by is the creativity in those responses. This question can show how you think, your behaviour and also create interesting conversations or further discussions at the interview.” – Garry

How should students explain gaps in work history when applying for jobs?

biotech is looking for more people at the moment so sometimes we do not look at these when we recruit – Jonathan

The other speakers suggested that it is dependent on the circumstances!

Do you accept international applicants for internships? 

“Genentech does accept international interns. We have about 500 interns and constantly looking for the best” – Pam

Quite a fascinating session and lots of great advice I wish I had as a student. The #ABRCMS2017 is a great four-day conference which had over 4000 student delegates from over 350 colleges and presenting in twelve STEM disciplines. You can find out more and see information about the conference, organisers and sponsors by visiting their website here

Hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you would like to discuss any aspects of this article or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com.

EAdukwu

About the writer – Emmanuel Adukwu, Ph.D. is an academic, scientist innovator and content writer and co-owner of the aspiring professionals Hub . He has a PhD in Microbiology and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). For more about Emmanuel, visit the about us page here.

#CareerChat – 4 Ways to Kickstart your Productivity in 2017!

productivityHappy New Year! It’s the second week of January and we are;
on our detox diets, #wholefoodchallenge, cringing when we look at our credit card statement, waiting for a treadmill at the gym (give it a few weeks) etc. We are also being bombarded by a plethora of adverts about the latest books, articles, podcasts etc. teaching us how we can lose weight, get a better job, find love etc. in 2017!
In the spirit of our tradition in the Hub of starting every year on a reflective note, I started thinking about how I would like 1 January 2018 to look like. Then I worked back to what I would need to get done in 2017 to ensure I hit my target(s). This ‘Beginning with the end in mind’ exercise was a great reminder that to have different outcomes in 2017, I would need to do things differently. In the words of Maya Angelou, ‘Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.‘ In this article, I’ll share four things I am determined to do differently in 2017.
1-computernotepad‘Not resolutions but determinations!‘ – I have no problems with making resolutions at the beginning of the New Year because it indicates at least an exercise in reflection! I didn’t make any resolutions this year because sometimes my list of resolutions ends up looking like a wish list. I decided to change my verb from ‘resolve’ to ‘determine.’ If you have a list of resolutions, try adding ‘I am determined to…’ in front of every action. Making it personal is a reminder that we have an important responsibility in ensuring we get the outcomes we want.
How many people start each year with a resolution to find another job? If January 3 was a tough day for you because it took everything to drag yourself out of bed to a job you hate, why not make 2017 the ‘I am determined to get a new job’ year. There is a way using the word ‘determined’ forces one to set realistic goals. Make a list of 3 things you are determined to do this year and set at least two Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound goals underneath them.
For example, for someone determined to start a new job in 2017, some goals could be,
a. Update CV and LinkedIn profile by January 31 2017.
b. Upskill by attending x number of training workshops.
c. Send x number of job applications off each month.

#UniAdvice – 10 great apps for University students!

It’s September and the beginning of a new academic year. Whether you’re just starting out or preparing for your final year at University, we can guess that your smart devices (phone or tablet) play an important role in your daily activities. Apps should not be left out of University life either and can be used as learning tools, to increase productivity as well as staying healthy. In this article, Amara shares a list of great apps* to kick start your studies this year. All  apps mentioned are available on both iOS and Android platforms with price plans from free!

*This is not a sponsored article. Neither the author nor APH has received any direct or indirect compensation for any products discussed.

Your University’s app – I would always recommend starting here first. As Higher Education continues to embrace technology in facilitating teaching and learning, almost every Higher Education Institution delivers their teaching using an online platform such as Blackboard™ which have associated apps. Apart from giving you access to all the teaching material, you can check your assessment deadlines, get feedback on your coursework, and communicate with other students in your class. Some University apps have more enhanced functionality providing students with information and services anytime, anywhere.

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Blackboard app

Evernote/Penultimate for Evernote – Have you ever written something important on a piece of paper just to lose it when it really mattered? With Evernote, you can have all your important information not only in one place but well organized for instant access. Every smartphone usually has an app for notetaking but with Evernote, you can attach images, embed voice files, scan documents, prepare to-do lists and set reminders. If you find typing your notes in class too difficult, Penultimate for Evernote is a great ‘type to text’ app that can convert your written notes to text and save into Evernote. The app also syncs your notes across devices so you can write a note on your iPhone and read it on your Samsung tablet. Another important advantage is that there is a website behind it so if you ever lose your device, your notes are still available.

Dropbox – My biggest fear at University was leaving my floppy disk in the library’s computer! Yes, there were storage devices before the advent of the memory stick! No more excuses of your dog eating your homework! With Dropbox, you have cloud storage of all your very important work which you can access from your phone/tablet. Ensure you always back up your files so the least you can lose is your latest draft and not all your work from 2010! It is also a good place to store and organize your holiday snaps and other memorable photos. We could all use some more gigabytes!

A flash card app for revision – We are so sure that if you are reading this, you are one of the conscientious students who prepares for revision early on in the semester by making their own notes. If you are, keep it up. If not, what are you waiting for? Flashcards are a great way of summarizing your taught material using your own words. You can note areas you need to conduct more research in or keywords that need to be more clearly defined. If you use flashcards already why not try an electronic version? These are less susceptible to loss and can be synced across your devices. Some allow you to embed pictures and audio into your flash card. What’s not to love about that? Examples include Evernote peek, StudyBlue, Quizlet and Chegg (available for iOS devices, please check for Android).

Read More – Sign up to get our essential checklist for succeeding in Higher Education

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Flashcards have been saving our lives for centuries : )
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Carry your revision everywhere you go!