16 Questions Top Pharma Applicants Should Ask During the Job Interview
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
It’s fairly obvious what an employer wants to know about a job candidate. It generally is three things:
1. Can you do the job?
2. Does he or she like you, are you going to fit in?
3. Can the company afford you?
There are plenty of tips on what type of questions to expect from biopharma companies during interviews. Even without specifics, most employers focus on behavior-based questions, which works on the assumption that past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior.
Examples of typical questions include:
• Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
• Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
• Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
But less time is given to what you, the interview subject, should ask the recruiter or hiring manager or department head. Typically, you’re encouraged to research the company, to talk to others who work there, and to try and understand what the culture of the company is as well as specifics about the job you’re applying for.
But it can go further than that. Here are 16 possible questions or types of questions you might consider asking your interviewer as you turn the table.
1. How can I make a difference?
How can you, in this position, make a positive impact on the department, the company, on the company’s clients and/or patients? How will you improve health and science? How will you make a difference in the world?
2. How much control will I have?
Generally, people prefer control over their lives, over their decisions. Examples, according to the Wiley Job Network, include, “What decisions will I be allowed to make and how much can I spend without any management control? What information will I have access to? Can you explain how I will have input into my schedule, the projects that I work on and on remote work options?”
3. Where would I start?
If interviewing with the person most likely to be your manager, ask what your first assignment would likely be. Where would you start? How does this fall on the list of department priorities?
4. Salary percentile.
It is generally considered inappropriate to ask how much the job pays on the first interview, since it’s considered to be a get-to-know each-other talk. This doesn’t make that much sense, since many applicants could screen out a company on the basis of poor salary, and it’s a major factor in what they’re looking for. However, that’s standard interview culture—don’t ask, but maybe it’ll come up. But a worthwhile question has to do less with specific salary, but how the company’s pay compares to others in the industry. Wiley Job Network says, “It is above the 50th percentile? What percentile of the pay range might I expect in an offer? Are you willing to meet or exceed my best offer?”
5. What are evaluations like?
If the interview is with a manager, a reasonable question is, “How often are job assessments? What are the goals and metrics that are being evaluated?”
6. Why is this job open?
Which comes down to, what happened to the previous person in this job? Did they quit? Get promoted? Get fired? Is it a new position? Wiley Job Network says, “In what areas would you expect the new hire in this job to be superior to the previous job holder?”
7. What’s great about this job?
And what isn’t? If I want more challenge somewhere along the line, what are the options? Also, possibly ask if you can speak to someone currently in this position.
8. Promotion opportunities.
Although it’s probably not a good idea to show you’re too eager to leave the position, signs of ambition can be a good thing. Ask about opportunities for promotion in the company. Ask how long people typically stay in one position. Are there are a lot of promotions or opportunities for lateral transfers? Are there company restrictions on when you can apply to other positions?
Wiley Job Networks suggests, “What is the current retention rate for high performers in my job title and team? When top performers leave, what are their top three reasons for leaving?”
10. Tools and technology.
It’s always a good idea, particularly in technical fields, when given a tour of a laboratory or company, to pay attention to the technology being used. Is it out-of-date? Is it top-of-the-line? If you’re in a field with particular technology needs, ask what the budget for new equipment is? How many approvals do you get? Does the company have a philosophy about staying on top of new technology or are they a make-do-be-creative company?
11. Ask for a copy of the job description.
With any luck, the advertisement for the job gave an accurate description of the job. But that’s not always the case. Many are written by recruiters that don’t necessary have real knowledge of the job. Ask for a copy of the latest internal job description, preferably before the interview starts.
12. Describe the culture of the company.
Since so many recruiters and interviewers place a priority on the potential employee fitting in, a good question to ask is how they would describe that culture.
13. Where do you think the company will be in five years?
The Big Interview says, “If you plan to be in this role for several years, make sure the company is growing so you can grow with the company.”
14. What are the department’s biggest challenges right now?
A great question to help you find out what the company’s biggest concerns are and how you might fit in. It can also be a bit of a warning sign if the answer is something like, “Well, our CEO is under indictment for racketeering right now, but I’m sure it’ll all blow over soon.”
15. How did I do?
It’s a bold question, and likely only appropriate if you felt rapport with the interviewer. Should probably be asked with a smile. But it can help you see if the interviewer has specific concerns or problems that you might be able to address.
16. What’s next?
The Big Interview says, “This question shows that you are eager to move forward in the process. It will also help you gain important information about the timeline for hiring so that you can follow up appropriately.”
Ready to test out any of these questions? BioSpace has almost 1,400 current job postings in the biopharma industry across the country. A few examples include:
• Spark R&D Developer with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Tarrytown, NY. This job is for someone to join the company’s Genome Informatics team to expand its big data infrastructure and develop new algorithms and tools to support various workflows and analyses.
• Senior QC Analyst with MedImmune in Boulder, Colo. A division of AstraZeneca , this position will had a broad array of routine and non-routine Quality Control Microbiological and Chemical analyses.
• Spark R&D Developer, DMPK Bioanalytical Projects for Biotecher in the South San Francisco Bay area. This position supports in vitro and in vivo pharmacokinetics and metabolism preclinical studies.
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