A Guide to Researching Life Sciences Employers
Why should you research prospective employers as you approach your life sciences job search? Key reasons include:
- As you plan your job search, you will find it helpful to make a list of companies to target.
- Researching employers enables you to learn something about their needs and challenges, so you can tell them how you can meet those needs and challenges.
- You will probably be asked interview questions like:
- What do you know about our organization?
- Why do you want to work here?
Researching employers is also a good way to strive for “fit” between you and the hiring organization. In choosing employers to target, Marissa Fayer points out, “it’s important to research employers because you want to love where you work. That’s especially important in life sciences because it is an ethically based industry, and it’s always best to be on the right side of ethics.
Fayer, who is CEO of HERHealthEQ and president of Fayer Consulting, LLC, notes that since “the industry is about improving and/or saving lives, you should be proud of where you work, so researching the prospective company to ensure they actually help patients will create that sense that you’re moving to somewhere good-natured.” Sharoni Billik, CEO and founder of SBHC, a medical-affairs professional-services firm, agrees, noting, “in addition to cultural or therapeutic area fit, one must make sure of working for a compliant, responsible company with strong senior leadership and a commitment to high-quality work for patients and for regulators.” Billik touts employer research for its ability to “paint a picture of what the company is like.”
In addition to the research tools below, you can conduct primary research through informational interviews.
Social-media venues can yield connections you can talk with to find out more about their employers. To identify other people to talk with about their employers, consider contacting your college alumni office to find out which alumni may be working in companies of interest. Consider also simply walking into the offices of companies of interest and asking for information, such as company literature and annual reports.
Key Tools for Conducting Company Research
(Note: Many research sources charge fees. Only sources offering at least some free information are included).
- The Best Research Sources
- Company Web sites: Find out more about the company you’re interested in by researching them using a reliable search engine. Most public companies have a section of their websites dedicated to investor relations and often have their annual reports online and in downloadable form. “Websites are a great place to research companies,” Billik observes. “One can learn if they are clinical or commercial, how large they are, what their development pipeline looks like, whether they are publicly traded, etc.”
- Online Secondary Sources:
- Glassdoor — a useful site for helping jobseekers get inside information on prospective employers and where you can find anonymous employee job reviews (by searching company names or location) for thousands of companies. Billik cautions, however, that “Websites like Glassdoor can provide an overall schema, but one should avoid paying too much attention to any specific rating or review, as it is usually the unhappiest workers who are the loudest complainers.”
- The Forbes’ Global 2000: comprehensive database of the 2,000 largest global corporations as measured by sales, profits, assets, and market value.
- Fortune.com 500: ranking of the “best” and largest public companies filtered by profitability, size, rate of increase, and more.
- The Inc. 5000: listing with short descriptions of the 5,000 fastest growing privately-held companies in the U.S.
- Better Business Bureau: includes links to companies that are members of the organization.
- SEC Filings: Search for publicly available companies.
- Online Company Research Links:
- Allstocks.com’s World’s Largest Investors Links: where you can find links to all kinds of information about companies and industry analyses.
- Life Sciences News Sources
- Biospace: Search by company name or industry
- Biospace Hotbeds: Search by location
- Science Daily/Life science News
- News Medical Life Sciences: Life Science News
- Biocompare Life science News
- The Economist: Life Sciences
- US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
General Business-Related News, Magazines, and Newspapers:
- Barron’s Magazine
- Bloomberg Business Week
- Financial Times
- MSN Money
- Wall Street Journal
Research Pays Off
Your job search will be much more effective if you research and target specific employers. Demonstrating in your cover letters (and even your resume) your knowledge of the companies you’re writing to will impress employers favorably. The biggest payoff is in interviews, where you can be virtually certain that you’ll be asked a question that tests whether you’ve done your homework about the organization.