Paul Kassner, PhD
Criteria: Communication is one of the most important aspects of a scientific
job in either industry or academia. A brilliant and creative scientist
who is unable to pass on his knowledge and insight is of little
value to a company or to a university.
Mistakes: The most common mistake is not being prepared for questions. The
audience will ask questions that range from detailed technical questions
to opinion about results and interpretations by other researchers
in the field. The candidate should be an expert in the topic of
his/her own research and should be ready with an answer for any
question. During the one-on-one interview sessions, the candidate
should be prepared for questions that focus on - job desired, strengths
and weaknesses, career goals, as well as scientific interests.
Advice: Be prepared. Give a practice seminar to your peers both within
and outside your area of expertise. Use the experience to better
organize the flow of your slides, adjust the content within your
slides and prepare your answers to questions that people will have.
Have friends and colleagues conduct practice interviews. Use the
time to practice (out loud) the answers to some common interviewing
questions, as well as get a feeling for the type of questions people
The better prepared you
are for the entire interview experience, the more relaxed and confident
you will be on interview day. This will allow your true personality
and abilities to show themselves, and will give you the best opportunity
for a job offer.
Diane Pennica PhD
always look for people who have a spark
in their eyes, are highly motivated, passionate and excited about
doing research. They must bring to the interview an attitude that
suggests they can't wait to get into the lab to do research.
Not showing any enthusiasm for their previous work.
Advice: Follow your passion, learn everything you can about your project
and always have an "I can do it" attitude, even if you
have no idea whether something will work. Don't give up easily and don't get discouraged when things
fail because when you eventually do make a discovery, it makes all
the hard work and long hours worth it.
Andrew Chan MD PhD
Head of Immmunology
Publications that demonstrate a record of scientific innovation,
high impact and rigor. 2. Biological breadth. 3. Scientific
4. Commitment to drug discovery and passionate
about translating cutting edge science to patient care.
1. Inability to critique their own work. 2. Do not defend their
own scientific opinions and speculations well; confuse speculation
vs data. 3. Inability to relate their work to other biological systems.
4. Can't see the forest from the trees. 5. Didn't do their homework
and/or didn't talk to individuals who have some knowledge of the
1. Take the highest impact projects. It takes the same amount of
hard work to complete a rigorous low impact project as a high impact
project. 2. You have to be committed to drug discovery and really enjoy
meshing cutting-edge research with drug discovery. 3. You
have to enjoy your work and appreciate that you are doing something
important for humankind. There are a lot of other less difficult
things to do in life than drug discovery.
D. Wu MD PhD
Criteria: Problem-solving skills, which include not only technical ability,
but also personal attributes such as independence, flexibility,
sound judgment, intuition, and perseverance. (2) Communication
skills, as shown by the candidate's seminar and ability to answer
Mistakes:Not selling oneself. The job candidate naturally has the
greatest familiarity with his or her own skills and qualifications,
and therefore needs to convey how they match a particular position.
Of course, to do this well, the candidate must understand as much
as possible about the position and the company.
Advice: A good interview should end up being a conversation. Be prepared
to discuss your background and credentials, and be able to provide
specific and relevant examples.
Scientist at Genentech
to resolve and de-convolute complex problems as demonstrated by
high impact publications and during interview
Mistakes: To overstate
and misinterpret own data.
the company and the research programs of the departments.
Jeffrey Browning, PhD
Criteria: Enthusiasm and passion for science and a good publication record.
"A candidate needs to convey to me their passion for science
in some manner. I'll
fish for that enthusiasm during the interview, but usually it is
Mistakes: Not being excited about science during interview.
Advice: Present a poster at a good conference to practice telling your
scientific work to other scientists one-on-one.
Quote: "Cutting edge science is a harsh profession and only a deep
love of the topic and process can get one through the daily tumbles."
Linda C Burkly, PhD
Criteria: Quality of their prior experience and training, evidence that they
performed high quality work and have seen projects through to completion,
passion for science/their specific discipline, high level of motivation
and energy, good writing skills and communication skills.
to be inquisitive about the position they are applying for or the
projects they might be working on, vague personal goals, demeanor
that is very reserved such that they fail to communicate their enthusiasm
Advice: Bring energy, passion, questions, previous papers and offer to
8. Serono Boston
Steve Arkinstall, PhD
Head of Serono Institute
Head of Discovery at Serono
Criteria: Discovering drugs is all about good science and creativity. Scientists
need to be experts in their field but this is not enough. I look
for strong candidates with real competence in their own area but
who also those who can readily "think out-of-the-box"
when challenged. Something else that is often underestimated is
the ability to communicate clearly and understand the value of teamwork.
Mistakes: Don't research the company or organization ahead of time. Too focused
on their own expertise without embracing the bigger picture.
Advice: Research the organization, their strengths and their challenges.
Drug discovery is a complex process with many steps with many teams
working together. The scientist needs to communicate their own talent
but also understand their value in the context of the goals of the
John DeLamarter PhD
Science and Discovery
Criteria: Most importantly I am interested in qualifications. Does the scientist
have the training and the track record to fill the position for
which I am hiring. Next is their ability to fit in. Team work is
Mistakes: Talking to me about salary and hierarchy as the first or most important
mistake. Also not being able to orally demonstrate that what you
claim is true. Serious hesitation by the interviewee on these issues
is a bad sign. You should make sure that your CV emphases the aspects
that make you a good if not the best candidate for the job on offer.
This means understanding the job. Why are they looking for someone
and what is it that will convince them that you will fill their
advice to the candidates called to an interview is to show they
want to take the job and work in the place for which they are interviewing
in a convincing manner. After all, if you are called your
background is seen as acceptable for the job so now you
have to convince the interviewer that you will be happy and productive
in the environment on offer.
10. Human Genome Sciences
Paul Moore PhD
Research - Lead Product
Criteria: A basis of knowledge and technical expertise to fufill job expectations
and a track record of accomplishment - primarily based on publication
Mistakes: Poor communication skills.
Advice: Take as much opportunity in your present position to learn as much
as possible, gaining a sound base of skill sets. Also take opportunity
to collaborate with other labs where possible - to network but to
also expand your accomplishments. Consider how your skill
set can be applied or developed further so that when you apply for
a position you can portray in your application why your an excellent
candidate. Shape your application letter appropriately to meet the
expectations of the job opening.
11. Vertex Pharmaceuticals
John Randle, PhD
Criteria: Relevant formal training, relevant experience in a similar context,
good attitude and communication skills, curiosity about the job,
Mistakes: Being aloof or shy, not an interview mistake, per se, but I cringe
when I see a CV showing that the person has changed jobs several
times after only one or two years.
Advice: Work hard at becoming as qualified as possible by gaining as many
experiences as possible, prepare for the interview by learning as
much about the position and company as possible, learn to present
yourself well, talk about yourself with confidence but not arrogance,
be interested in prospective employers.
12. Raven biotechnologies
Gordon Vehar, PhD
VP of Research,
Factor VIII (Kogenate)
36 issued patents
Criteria: Ability to work on a team; ability to problem solve; flexibility;
the broader the set of skills the better, combined with a strong
technological basis in at least one area; ability to speak clearly
and get their thoughts across.
Mistakes: Being late. Inability to make eye contact with talking with someone.
Advice: For young scientists, I would recommend first going on job interviews
at places that are not of the highest interest. This would allow
the person to become familiar with the interview process, how to
pace you through the day of a lot of talking (frequently rare with
a bench scientist), get over the nervousness of spending
a day with strangers, practicing the scientific presentation and
handling questions, etc. This will allow the applicant to be much
more comfortable when on an important interview. Also: use the work
"I" frequently. Many times it is not clear what the applicant
did and what was done by others; make clear your individual contribution
to the body of work
13. AGY Therapeutics
Karoly Nikolich, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Criteria: Competence, clear communication, confidence. I like scientists
who understand the bigger context of their work, are able to conduct
their experiments using the best techniques, and are able to draw
clear conclusions that they communicate clearly with a strong dedication,
belief, and confidence.
Mistakes: I often meet scientists who are good, did good work at the bench,
but cannot explain how their work may be relevant to a disease or
a concept. I also find that there are many scientists who are wishy-washy,
do not tell their stories with enthusiasm, excitement. Part of appreciating
a good set of experiments is the joy with which a scientist explains
introduces their problems, challenges, tell the solutions, the results
and finally provide a punch line what it all means.
Advice: I think the first two points implicate my suggestions.
Kenneth Carter, PhD
Criteria: I look for Smart people with good publications records and/or good
references. I believe that good publications not only indicate a
person's scientific prowess, but also give a strong indication of
whether they can finish a project - which many smart scientist's
struggles with. Also, because we are in an industrial setting, I
always look for people who work well with others and therefore we
at Avalon rely heavily on checking references.
Mistakes: There are many things that you cannot control about the interview
process, but you can completely control your actions. I believe
the little things can make a big difference. Show up on time. Act
interested. Know at least a little something about the job. Pursue
aggressive but polite follow up. Many times I see good scientist
not pay attention to the small things, perhaps because they think
their brains or background with see them through. But in a competitive
job search, the small things can make a difference.
Advice: Figure out what you want to do and go do it. Follow your bliss.
I almost never interviewed for an advertised position and at no
point in my carrier have I been hired for a job that was being advertised.
It is much better to work hard in a scientific area that you are
interested in and follow your nose through good work, good relationships,
and good networking. As the TaodeChing says - "If you are on
the right path opportunity will show itself", but this sometimes
Grace Wong, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
(Post-Doc at Genentech)
AstraZeneca & Serono
Criteria: Strong passion for scientific
discovery. Not afraid to pursue creative ideas and apply new techniques
to practical applications for improving human health. Willingness
to speak up on controversial issues and to take risks in following
up new leads generated by serendipitous observations. Not afraid
to solve problems independently. Vigor and speed in the conduct
of research projects.
Mistakes: Exhibiting stronger motivation for money and free time from work
than for science. Insufficient efforts to work diligently or think
creatively. Vanity about own scientific achievements and insufficient
recognition to the contributions of coworkers or other researchers
in the same field. Lack of respect for peers and little loyalty
Advice: 1) Find out your true calling by candidly
recognizing your strengths and weaknesses. Don't accept uncritically
the advice of others. Will you be truly happy as a scientist? Listen
to your heart and you will understand. 2) Select projects that genuinely
interest and excite you. 3) Find a honest, highly regarded, secure
and influential boss. 4) Be ready to work beyond the call of duty and continually
learn new skills that may open up in the future. 5) Keep steady
contacts with good scientists. 6) Be ready to seize unexpected opportunities.
7) Keep your expectations modest and realistic and be on guard against
counter-productive ego-inflating attitudes.
Rino Rappuoli, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
(Discovered vaccine drugs)
Quality of science, passion for their work, commitment to achieve
practical results. Excellent publications are linked to excellence
Mistakes: Being formal, not genuine,
Advice: Be natural, engage in conversation, show your passion
What is difference between academia and industry? In academia you can publish
on any subjects which is trendy. The paper is the ultimate goal
of the work. In industry you can only work on the problem you want
to solve, even if not trendy. The publication is not the end, but
the beginning (the scientific basis) of the real work.
What is difference between biotech and big pharma? Big pharma have processes
and critical mass. Many average-good scientists can sustain a pipeline.
Biotech does not have enough mass, so the scientists need to be
excellent in science and application of science
How were you originally motivated to become a scientist? The ideal job not only
to do science but to use science to solve problems
Any hurdles you had to
overcome? Keeping the above vision even in non favorable
Alex L. Harris PhD
Criteria: 1. Well organized and thought-out seminar. 2. Potential for being
a "drug discovery scientist" - someone who understands
the drug discovery process and why we are "here". 3. Prior
experience in the area of expertise we are looking for (obviously)
Mistakes: 1. Poorly organized and "rambling" seminar including
poor time management of that presentation. 2. Making "demands"
during the first interview
Advice: 1. Do your homework - learn about the company you are visiting.
2. Design a seminar/presentation that demonstrates your scientific,
organization and judgmental skills. 3. Be flexible.
Jeffry L. Vaught, Ph.D
Senior Vice President
Research & Development
Criteria: Energetic, highly communicative, team oriented, flexibility, a
fundamental understanding of how to use technology to answer key
biological questions, breadth of knowledge, not -techno centric-
Mistakes: Arrogance, not focusing their seminar to the job they are interviewing
for, not researching the organization and know to whom they are
speaking and info about the group/company, assuming their
science will carry-the-day without considering their personal presentation
and answers to career questions
Advice: Prepare: this is a key. 1) Think carefully about, plan and practice
your seminar and the message to be given (and speak within the time
frame allotted 40 - 45 minutes), this is critical to engender enthusiasm
2) do some homework on the group you are interviewing with and be
prepared to ask questions 3) be flexible (assuming you want
to be) 4) dress appropriately. While we are living in a business
relaxed society, it still is important to make a good first impression
and appearance is one aspect. At the very least, sport coat
and tie for men and business attire (dress slacks or business suit)
Reinhard Ebner, PhD
400 patents filed
(Post-Doc at Genentech)
Criteria: "I look for a hard worker, proven best by a record of achievement
and problem-solving; someone with good concrete as well as abstract
reasoning capabilities; position-related prior experience cannot
hurt, but honest enthusiasm for the research process is more important
than specific area of expertise."
Mistakes: Candidate-position match is not made obvious: When applying to a position, one should tell the truth and never
lie; but it is also important to tailor the application to the open
position, i.e. give the prospective employer the impression that
they have a good chance of getting what they are looking for. poor
layout and spelling errors in cv; list references but fail to inform
them before they are contacted; References are outdated or in a
poor position to judge applicant's qualification. In particular,
if your current supervisor is not listed as a primary reference,
be ready to explain why (e.g. personality conflict), but do not
go into any detail; same for significant gaps in resume; letting
an interviewer and future coworkers know about interests and hobbies
outside of science is ok, but emphasizing them or using them to
distract is not; let the interviewer take the initiative in this;
being late or sleepy.
Advice: Be yourself. if the interview involves giving a seminar, practice
that in front of peers or friends; including one funny slide cannot
hurt, but incorporating an example of how a technical challenge
or conflicting data were resolved is more important;if publication
list is poor, be prepared to present a record of achievement in
other ways; be prepared to describe medium- or long-term career
goals; dress well but professional;
James Strickler, PhD
Former Serono & GSK
Criteria: Training, productivity (as evidenced by papers and/or patents),
enthusiasm, and intellectual curiosity.
Mistakes: The most damning mistake is to show a lack of enthusiasm.
If the applicant is too reticent about their own background, interests,
and accomplishments and appear to show little or no interest in
the job they are applying for, they will not fare well. They should
also appear professional and responsible.
Advice: Learn how to sell yourself. By that I don't mean to come
across as a 5th Ave. advertisement but is prepared to discuss yourself,
your attitude to your responsibilities, and what you have accomplished.
A good candidate can take control of the interview process by relating
the job duties to their experience and asking questions to learn
more about the job and the company.
Roger L. Kaspar, Ph.D
Criteria: 1) necessary background and expertise in the area of interest;
2) the applicant should fit in with the culture of the organization;
3) Communication and organizational skills, 4) high energy levels,
and 5) the ability to work in a team.
Mistakes: 1) not taking the time to understand the needs and culture of the
organization. If the applicant can identify the goals of the organization
and demonstrate how their skills will help the organization achieve
its goals, they will have a tremendous advantage over other applicants.
Advice: 1) Make sure that the environment at the organization is right
for you and that it is a place where you can be happy. One
person's dream job may be another's nightmare. 2) Make sure that
you also take time to interview your potential employers; 3) you
need an appropriate environment where you can flourish as well as
help your future employer meet its goals.
22. Gilead Sciences
Craig S. Gibbs, PhD
(Post-Doc at Genentech)
Criteria: Most important basic criteria are intelligence and technical skill
and knowledge relevant to the job description. These are usually
pretty easy to fulfill what is more difficult to find is passion,
creativity, leadership and communication skills. I tend to look
for these latter attributes since they are harder to find.
Mistakes: Not doing enough homework on the company and the background of
the managers that will be interviewing them. Not preparing their
seminar adequately, not practicing enough it so the delivery is
flawless and not tailoring it to suit audience. Not answering questions
directly. Giving long winded answers to questions and not letting
the interviewer ask follow-up questions.
Advice: Find a position where there will be an opportunity to expand your
skills and responsibility. I.e. a new position where 50% of the
work is already familiar to you but 50% will involve new challenges
23. ARIAD Pharmaceuticals
Roy Pollock, Ph.D
Criteria: 1) Having the requisite qualifications and experience. Good communication
skills. Good social skills. A genuine interest in, and some knowledge
of, the position.
Mistakes: No eye contact. Answers to specific questions filled with irrelevant
details. Not having any questions to ask me.
Advice: Use any contacts you have - a CV from a known source will always
go to the top of the pile. Be prepared to give a brief synopsis
of your background, strengths and what you are looking for in your
next job. Be prepared to explain why you want the job. Don't take
rejection personally, and don't stop looking and applying until
you have a written offer in hand.
R. Gullans PhD
Criteria: 1. Passion for research. 2. Very strong recommendations 3. Ability
to communicate 4. High likelihood of being a team player 5. Likelihood
of being an independent, creative scientist.
Mistakes: 1. Indicating that they plan to work for only 6-12 months before
returning to school. 2. Showing very little interest in our area
Advice: 1. The very best candidates have read our papers and know a lot
about our work before they arrive. 2. Demonstrate your love of research
and discovery as well as your zest for life.
25. Ariad Pharmaceuticals
Tim Clackson PhD
(Post-Doc at Genentech)
Criteria: The most important criteria for hiring scientists is a track record
of being able to follow through on a project (which usually is reflected
Mistakes: Not doing research on the company or the science/projects-- candidates
should be up to speed with information on the company's website
at a minimum. Not admitting if you don't know an answer-- trying
to bluff your way through. Not having questions to ask me.
Advice: A scientific flexibility and curiosity since projects and priorities
always change, and good interpersonal and communicaitons skills.
I would advise applicants to focus on these aspects when "packaging"
themselves for interview.
Martin Leach PhD
Vice President of Informatics
Criteria: Experience, technical
depth, positive personality and breadth of knowledge so that they
can be applied to projects in other 'topics' in the future.
Mistakes: 1. Being verbose and not 'to the point' - keep it succinct. 2.Not
answering questions clearly. 3. Inability to think on the spot or
'out of the box' when asked challenging questions.4. Lack of research
about the department or company
Advice: 1. Do research on the company prior to interview. 2. Be able to
refer to accomplishments with technical depth. 3. Be relaxed, polite,
Yuan-Di Halvorsen, PhD
Criteria: Candidates demonstrate the experience and expertise that meet the
needs of the position.
Mistakes: Candidates describe tasks that they would not do because they do
not fit into the job description. Candidates present seminars that
are narrowly focused on one project but fail to connect with the
field in general.
Advice: Be positive. Do not complain about the current position. Be familiar
with the literature and related works by other scientists.
Anton Beletskii, PhD
Criteria: Good technical match. Good management skills. Ideally, during interview
applicant should tell stories of how they started a project, and
using skills relevant to the position, lead the project to completion. Able to deliver results,
publications. Friendly and outgoing personality. Mention your past
team projects and collaborations and propose potential areas of
Mistakes: Unprepared for the tough questions and standard traps during interview
process. a) Sloppily-prepared interview presentation. b) Presentations
exceeding 45 minutes and boring. c) Self-depreciating humor. Negative
comments and goofy humor. d) Not researching background of the company
and the people. e) Not keeping social talk short or unnecessary
details which may work against you (talk about common friends and
Advice: a) To prepare a good resume. b) Prepare short and captivating slide
presentation. Practice your presentation religiously before interview.
d) It is a numbers game, so persistence is critical. e) Often knock
on doors and go face-to-face with employers, f) Don't be upset by
rejections, it is not personal. g) Follow up persistently with your
contacts even if they fail to reply. h) Do not stop looking until
your first day on the job.
29. Cell Signaling
David Merberg PhD
Director of Informatics,
Criteria: Scientific expertise, problem-solving ability, creativity, ability
to work with people, and of course work-ethic.
1. Not preparing adequately - scientists should do their homework
and learn as much as possible about our organization. Also,
they should be prepared to talk about their previous work. 2.
Displaying a lack of respect to some of
the people who are interviewing them, particularly if the interviewer
is in a more junior position.
Be ready to listen. Don't monopolize
the conversation in an interview. If you are interested in
working at a company, focus on the value you can bring to the organization.
What are the problems in this organization? How has your past
experience prepared you to solve them?
30. Serono, Geneva
Timothy Wells PhD
Head of R & D
Criteria: Someone who be excited about what they are doing, and able to explain
it in simple terms to scientists outside of their field. We
need people who can be multidisciplinary team players - who can
explain their passion without being patronising.
Mistakes:Be prepared and do your homework - many people have no idea about
us when they walk through the door. Listen to the questions and
try to answer them - rather than just talking about what interests
Advice: A job interview is similar
in many ways to a dating agency. You need to be sensitive
as to why you and the company you are interviewing with would make
a good team. Try to see yourself working for the company,
and see what you bring which would really be special. Seeing
the world from their point of view is always good practice.
Keith Robison PhD
Sr Scientist II,
Criteria: A key consideration is imagining how a scientist will fit into
the organizational culture. Is this person creative?
Can they communicate? Can they work independently? Do
they have high aspirations & high ethics? Do they share
the company's vision? Can they successfully integrate a wide
variety of priorities & projects? Are they excited about
Mistakes: It's hard to relax when you are interviewing, but some candidates
are too 'buttoned up'. I like to hear their scientific visions.
Also, too many have too local an outlook - they know how their work
is important but don't have much idea of how it does - or more importantly
could - fit into a much larger picture. Ask lots of questions!
Everything should be fair game in your interview - the science,
the organizational culture,etc
Advice: Interdisciplinary training is increasingly important. If
your focus is the bench, you still need to understand a lot about
computation & physics. Collaboration & teamwork are increasingly critical - drug discovery projects and many other systems biology efforts are too large and/or
require too manydifferent skill sets for one person to tackle them. Also, communication
is critical - you must be able to communicate your ideas & results
to your colleagues & managers. Written, presentation,
and verbal skills are all important. Emphasis should be on
vocabulary and a strong comfort level with spoken communication,
not eliminating an accent.
A. Miller PhD
Criteria: Scientific background and skill set compatible with the
position are the most important criteria. A broad range of
skills is an important element in any hiring decision involving
an area that might need multiple ways of addressing a problem in
the future. The ability to work in a team environment and good interpersonal
Mistakes: Academic scientists often underestimate the level and quality of
science going on in the commercial sector. Talking down to
the interviewer or implying that the applicant has finally made
the decision to forego the academic life for the perceived benefits
of the commercial sector is never a way to make a favorable impression.
Not having looked at the corporate web site or annual report to
understand what the company's main areas of interest are and how
the applicant can fit into those areas.
Advice: Do your homework. Understand why you are applying to a particular
company and how your skills and interests will further the company's
goals and programs.
Michael S. Kinch, PhD
look for individuals who are self-motivated
and passionate about their work. Successful individuals set realistic
goals and then strive towards achieving these goals regardless of
setbacks. Furthermore, they should possess a balance of curiosity,
a desire to learn and critical thinking skills, such that
they do not hesitate to question both new and established ideas.
An inability to recognize that research
is about testing hypotheses, not proving ideas. Many ideas are ultimately disproved but
much can be learned by evaluating "negative" data with
an open mind.
your passion. Identify where you want
to be in 5-10 years and then determine what you need to do today
to achieve these goals.
Herren Wu, PhD
Antibody Discovery &
passion for science; related expertise and integrity.
presentation; not enthusiastic; didn't know much about the company
they were interviewing; didn't know their
own strength and weakness; couldn't say "I don't know or alike"
for questions they couldn't answer.
oral presentation is the key (including question handling); show
strong interest for the position
Spin off of
Dean Hum, PhD
Strong technical and scientific knowledge (publication and patents)
and the ability to interact within a team. 2. Strong knowledge of
the drug discovery process.
3. Innovative spirit and
the ability to propose new programs. 4. Be dedicated to science
Not being curious enough about the jobs, the background and the
philosophy of the company.
2. Too focused on their own experience and scientific background.
3. No clear knowledge of the difference between academic research
and research in industry.
Advice: Be documented about the job/company you'll apply for and try to
predict the needs of the company.
Be open, motivated, and smiling during the interview.
36. Inspire Pharmaceuticals
Edward Brown, Ph.D.
Senior Research Chemist
Criteria: Scientific knowledge and technical ability that fits the job requirements.
Motivation level. Experience working independently and in teams,
and examples of productivity in both environments. A balance between
self-confidence and the need to ask for help in new situations. Honesty. Good communication skills and
people skills, or the potential and willingness to learn these skills
Mistakes: well-rested, interested in the science, and energetic in an interview.
present his talk while seated in a chair. You do not have to be
super-human to get a job. Not speak badly of previous co-workers
important balances between science knowledge, technical skills,
and people skills, persistence, risk-taking, honesty, creativity,
self-assurance, helpfulness, loyalty,
responsibility, kindness, assertiveness, ego-awareness, positive
attitude. Though a technically-outstanding resume may get you an
interview, it is likely that your personality and people skills
will the job. Interview is two-way street.
Quote: If a candidate is good enough
or lucky enough to have a number of job offers to choose from, the
best fit will be the one that matches a person's career goals and
that elicits the most excitement, interest, happiness, confidence
and comfort. It is all a balance.
When presented with several similar job offers, choose happiness
and excitement over cash.
When all is said and done, there is really no comparison.
Criteria: Important criteria I look for in hiring a scientist is a natural
curiosity and an intellectual flexibility- I value innovation and these
qualities are oftentimes the source of innovation. I
also rate a "can do" attitude highly because I
look for problem solvers that thrive in adverse conditions.
Mistakes: A big mistake is arriving at an interview ignorant of the company's
business. This tells me that the applicant has not taken the effort
to find out about us and what we do so why should we be interested
in them? A second problem is an inability to concisely answer questions
or give a concise presentation (eg job talk). The ability of an
employee to effectively communicate peer-to-peer and with senior
management is valued and I typically ask applicants to give a short
presentation to assess this ability.
Advice: Key advice to prospective applicants in an interview is to relax
and show me who you are. Be positive, enthusiastic, answer questions
about yourself and your experience honestly and to the point and,
finally, be knowledgeable and have an interest in the business of
the company in which you are interviewing.
Rich Gregory PhD
Head of Research
Criteria: For first time industrial hires, evidence of scientific creativity
as evidenced through publications in peer reviewed publications,
excellent communication skills demonstrated through seminar presentation
and 1 on 1 conversations, and an understanding of the differences
between academic and industrial research. Particularly the importance
of teamwork and and an understanding that individual scientific
goals are secondary to team and corporate goals. Personality matters
- is this someone I would enjoy working with? For someone
coming from industry for a more senior position I would say that a
demonstrated ability to work productively in teams, evidence of
leadership skills and communiation are most important and publication
is more secondary. Communication skills, good publication
record and a good fit for the group. For Genzyme, we emphasize collaboration
and team work. We also feel it's important to be able
to influence others and deal well with ambiguity.
Mistakes: Coming in flat. I hate interviewing candidates who do not show
enthusiasm for the process as well as enthusaism for science in
general. If someone is excited to be here and has done their
homework on the position and the company I am inclined to be less
stringent regarding publications, etc. I am also not impressed
by arrogance. If they have done their homework they should know
the science here is excellent. Someone who conveys the opinion that
it would be an honor for genzyme to have them is unlikely to get
my vote. Seminar materials not being recent
or relevant to the position for which they are interviewing. Scientists
underestimate the importance of fitting into the group both from
a technical and a cultural perspective. Scientists with excellent
technical skills may be eliminated as candidates if they aren't
Advice: The advice below is good. I would also suggest that when
coming from academia that people be sure they are really interested
in moving to industry. The requirements for success are different.
Sometime's I will ask "why industry?" and will get the
answer that the candidate is exploring their options and has not
definitely decided on industry as a career path. That person
probably just wasted my time. I don't have time for "exploratory"
interviews. On the other hand I am happy to take a phone call from
someone who is trying to figure this out and wants a sense of what
indutrial biotech research is all about. Prepare
well for your seminar and interview. Target your seminar to
the group and position for which you are interviewing. Don't underestimate
the importance of a good seminar. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity.
Ask questions to convey your interest. Interviewers like to
think the person is excited about the possibility of working in
their group and their company. Be aware that your interviewers are
also going to be your co workers. Convey to them your ability
to work in teams and independently. It's always advisable to have
done some "homework" about the Company before coming to
interview - find out what you can about our history, products,
Roy Black, PhD
Criteria: Initiative, intelligence, breadth of knowledge.
Mistakes: Displaying excessive concern about job security; not having
done basic homework on the work we have published.
Advice: Decide what aspect of the scientific enterprise is most important
to you: doing experiments, running a lab, teaching, publishing,
having medical impact. If doing experiments or having
medical impact is most important, industry may be a good choice.
Steven Wiley PhD
most important criterion by far is direct work experience with the
candidate and/or recommendations from trusted people. The
biotech community in Seattle is pretty small, so usually it’s
pretty easy to find someone who has personal experience with the
candidate. Anyone can say anything during an interview. It
is simply human nature to go with those you know and trust rather
than take a chance on someone you don’t know.
don’t want to appear to be personally under ambitious or over
ambitious. You come off as under ambitious, you will appear
to be either unmotivated or uninterested in work, and are just looking
to take home a paycheck. On the other hand, it is fine to
express enthusiasm for the project, but if a relatively junior person
says that they would like to be directing a group, it sounds like
they are more interested in moving up the ladder than in contributing
to the collective effort.
your skills in an honest, open fashion. Don't try to oversell
yourself but be sure that they are aware of your capabilities and
past accomplishments. It is important to project a good collaborative
attitude. You should be the kind of person that people will
want to work with every day. People with big egos do not fit into
that category. Over the years I've seen many candidates rejected
for coming off as overly egotistical, and there is little or no
correlation with having a big ego and being a good scientist.
Also, be certain to make sure that they are aware of any references
you think will be helpful.
Mellis, PhD, VP
Criteria: Real experience in solving scientific questions. Interest in solving
new and varied questions and ideas for how this can be accomplished.
information they shouldn't be discussing. Other people's IP must
the company you are going to interview with. Learn about their science,
administrative structure, and challenges.
Franz Hillenkamp PhD
University of Muenster
go almost entirely by my personal impression in the interview. Adaptability,
openness and ability to react sensibly to challenges in the interview
are the most important criteria. Second come recommendations from
colleagues who I know reasonably well (not so much those who have
a high reputation in the field, but whom I do not know
personally) AND who have had enough contact with the candidate
to give a fair evaluation. I pay very little attention to exam grades
and standard letters of recommendation.
to oversell themselves and not admit if they do not know something
they are asked. I like to challenge candidates with question for
which they presumably do not have an immediate answer and see how
they deal with it. I do that also with candidates in exams.
open and be yourself.
Criteria: a team player
and flexibility. A scientist with out these two characters is unlikely
to be suceeful in biotech industry, though he/she may be sucessful
in academic enviroment. In biotech industry, almost any single project
requires contributions from people with multiple discipline (within
one team, even from multiple teams). Biotech industry is much more
dynamics than tranditional pharmaceutical industry. For example,
many biotech company became sucessful one, but usually not on their
original business ideas. As the consequence, a scientist in biotech
industry should be willing to work on different projects that may
require distinct knowledge and skills.
Mistake: did not prepared well for the position, in particularly
the interview seminar. A sucessful candidate usually prepares himself/herself
well specific for that position and makes the interviewers feel
he/she is the right one for the position. Biotech industry is "short-sight"
and is always looking for someone that can carry the project right
away. The company is not willing to hire someone and spend time
to train he/she for the project. For example, when a candidate gives
a interview seminar, select the topic and information (project and
techniques) as close as possible to the requirements of the postion.
You can give a wonderful seminar, but still lose your chance, if
you can not make a tight connection between your talk and what they
are looking for.
Advice: Know what you are doing. Be
prepared and be confidient. A nice personality help a lot.