Pfizer And Merck & Co. Execs Exclusive: Inside Tips For Getting Hired

Published: Sep 18, 2014

Pfizer And Merck Execs Exclusive: Inside Tips For Getting Hired

September 11, 2014

By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

What to know what’s hot in hiring trends for the world’s 10 largest pharmaceutical companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Novartis, Merck & Co., GlaxoSmithKline, Roche and AstraZeneca? Then check out our guide. With combined annual revenue worth almost half a trillion dollars, BioSpace asked representatives from a couple of these companies they are looking for in new hires—and if the trends they see could make 2015 a banner year.

Science and Leadership Lead the Pack
A strong scientific pedigree and a good foundation education, of course, are high on the list for pharma hiring managers.

“At Pfizer, science is at the core of who we are,” says Beth Keeler, vice president of talent acquisition for Pfizer, “So it drives a good deal of our hiring decisions. However, we look for a combination of skills, core competencies and intangibles.”

Those intangibles can include an understanding of commercial and marketplace considerations, as well as scientific curiosity. Also important, says, Keeler, is “a sense of purpose. A purpose that drives people to discover, to give back and to deliver therapies to patients, regardless of where you sit within the organization.”

Those so-called “soft skills,” which could also fall under the title of “leadership,” are echoed by Rosemarie Ruby, associate director of recruiting and staffing for Merck Research Labs.

Pfizer quote “The hiring profile of our scientists and executives include those who value diversity, are innovative, collaborative and capable decision-makers,” said Ruby. “We are also interested in those who are fully engaged in Merck’s mission to translate breakthrough biomedical research into meaningful new therapies and vaccines that improve and extend the lives of people worldwide.”

Pfizer’s Keeler also indicates that for executives outside of the scientific areas, the company is looking for candidates with a broad skill set, who are able to make an impact on a global scale by driving business results.

“Having the ability to be a leader of leaders [is key],” says Keeler. “Successful pharmaceutical executives build careers off of high performing teams and if a candidate can demonstrate the ability to build and drive a leadership team to exceed business results while driving a collaborative culture, that would be a key driver for us.”

Advice from the Pros
Both Keeler and Ruby advise candidates to keep in mind that every company will have different needs and priorities. What often will rise to the top, however, is a combination of high achievement and success combined with a less definable quality: Passion.

“Our aspiration is to be the premier, research-intensive, biopharmaceutical company in the world,” says Ruby. “If you have the passion to work aligned to this aspiration, along with our mission, then Merck is ideal for you.”

Merck quote Pfizer also is looking for what Keeler describes as “a high degree of credibility in their fields as well as demonstrated ownership in the business.” Clearly the “ownership” requires that the future employee’s goals align with those of the company.

“With a personal connection to the work we do at Pfizer, every colleague takes a greater deal of pride in what we do and the work we produce,” she said. “Showing us how you will own the business is important in our hiring decision to ensure that we are bringing both the right talent and people into Pfizer.”

Ruby adds that aspiring managers at Merck should “share how you engage employees, build capability and develop future leaders.”

Down the Road
Although nobody can read the future, biopharma has a good idea of where the industry is heading, even though individual companies may have unique targets. For example, Merck, said Ruby, is actively recruiting and anticipating focusing on biologics, disease area biology, immunotherapy research, genetics and early and late discovery clinicians, especially medical doctors.

Additional areas of interest include global health outcomes; outcomes research; epidemiology; key roles in global clinical development, operations and regulatory affairs; and business development and licensing.

Particular attention might be paid to Ruby’s use of “global,” as pharmaceutical research and commercialization becomes increasingly international. Keeler says that she believes that “the ability to organize and analyze the vast scientific data available today becomes increasingly important.” This will create high demand for biologists with a strong background in the mechanistic understanding of disease as well as quantitative and computational approaches to research.

It’s More Than Science

Above all, biopharma hiring gurus say it’s important not to rely on scientific knowledge alone. Keeler notes that high-level science ability may not be enough—an understanding of the business side can prove invaluable to growing companies.

“As science rapidly evolves, so do our needs for cutting edge scientists which ultimately drive our talent needs,” said Keeler. “We’re looking more at scientists who have a strong understanding of commercial and marketplace considerations. Ultimately, we need colleagues that challenge the conventional approaches, people that take thoughtful risks, and candidates who are innovative at their core.”

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