How to Prepare a Presentation for a Biopharma Job Interview

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So you’ve been asked to deliver a presentation to a hiring team. What’s expected of you, and what should you expect?

Cicely Zhu, an analytical chemist and writer who worked in biopharma for over a decade, told BioSpace presentations are “standard practice” for research-focused positions. In addition to giving presentations, Zhu sat in on candidate presentations at some companies where she worked.

At Takeda Pharmaceuticals, hiring managers evaluate presentation skills, how knowledgeable a candidate is on their topic and whether they share information in a way that’s easy to understand, according to Kate Booher, head of global talent acquisition enablement at the company. Hiring managers also consider how candidates answer questions from the interviewers and from their scientific peers.

Some Takeda hiring managers assign presentation topics, while others want candidates to pick their own topic, Booher wrote in an email to BioSpace. Examples of assigned topics include “leading change” and “designing a successful launch strategy.” Applicants are assessed on how relevant their presentation is to the requested assignment, so they should ask questions if they are unclear on the topic.

“We do stress to candidates that they are not to present on any content that is considered confidential and/or proprietary,” Booher noted.

Zhu said that if candidates are given a choice in topic, they should choose something relevant to the company’s focus.

“If they’re doing oncology drugs or maybe diabetes drugs—it depends on what the company’s business is oriented on—they will very much appreciate if you could talk about anything in your previous work that’s related to what they’re doing,” Zhu said. She also noted that candidates often present research done in graduate school.

Before starting preparations, candidates should confirm the length of time for the presentation and Q&A with the hiring team, Booher said. If a company doesn’t share how long a presentation should be, Zhu recommends no more than 20 slides (preferably fewer) with a few minutes allocated to each.

Zhu also stressed that candidates should “tell a story” through their presentation about what was done and why.

“You have to have a good outline. People come to listen to your presentation not because they know what you did, because they don’t,” Zhu said. “How do you make them know what you’re talking about?”

Additional recommendations Booher shared include:

  1. Confirm whether you need to share your slides in advance, and to whom
  2. Confirm whether the candidate or someone else will control the slides
  3. Confirm whether the presentation is in-person, virtual or will have a mix of in-person and remote audience members
  4. Confirm how many people will be watching

Some companies, including Takeda, may also evaluate the design, layout and format of your slides or other visual aids. In addition to following best practices for scientific presentations, candidates should also consider accessibility and how audiences may process what’s on their slides. Don’t use a small font or low-contrast colors, and avoid putting too much information on one slide.

Of course, it’s also wise to practice your presentation multiple times before the interview. Candidates should solicit feedback from peers while practicing, including potential audience questions.

Nadia Bey is a freelance writer from North Carolina. Her work and contact information are available at nadiabey.com.

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