Interview Insider: Tips on How to Get Hired at Amgen
Published: Jan 24, 2018 By Mark Terry
Every company, large or small, has its own culture. And with that culture often comes a specific approach to hiring. Some companies, for example, have a reputation for asking fairly odd questions, like: Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses? Most stick to more standard behavioral-based interview questions, such as: Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
Let’s look at what type of experiences job seekers might have with one of the world’s top biotech companies, Amgen.
Headquartered in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Amgen was founded in 1980. It employs about 20,000 people worldwide and in 2016 reported $23 billion in total revenue and research-and-development expenses of $3.8 billion. Its products are marketed in about 100 countries worldwide and focus on six therapeutic areas: cardiovascular diseases, oncology, bone health, neuroscience, nephrology and inflammation. Some of the company’s best-known products are Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa), Blincyto (blinatumomab), Enbrel (etanercept), Kyprolis (carfilzomib), Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) and Repatha (evolocumab).
The company has a strong culture of support for the community and startup researchers. For example, on Dec. 11, 2017, the Amgen Foundation pledged $500,000 in support of victims of the Southern California wildfires that were ravaging the state. The foundation also agreed to match donations made by company staff globally who wanted to contribute their own money to qualified Southern California wildlife relief efforts.
And on Dec. 14, 2017, Amgen and LabCentral announced the winners of the Amgen Golden Ticket at LabCentral. The two winners, Kernal Biologics and QurAlis, received one year of bench space for one scientist at LabCentral’s Kendall Square facilities in Cambridge, Mass., shared equipment and facilities, and participation in LabCentral training modules and seminars. Amgen scientists also provide mentoring.
“The event captured the essence of why Amgen is committed to contributing to and collaborating in the Cambridge biotech ecosystem,” said John Dunlop, Amgen’s vice president of Neuroscience, in a statement at the time. “Not only were we evaluating ideas from five very strong startup companies advancing innovative science right in our own backyard, but we could be joined by our industry colleagues with a diverse set of backgrounds to assess the best innovations to help bring forward.”
Participants in Glassdoor’s rating system provided an overview of Amgen’s hiring system. Two-thirds, or 69 percent, of interviewees indicated the process was positive, with it described as “average” in difficulty.
A candidate who interviewed as an undergraduate but received no offer noted it as an easy interview and a positive experience, saying, “I applied online. The process took two weeks.” It included 30 minutes of behavioral interview questions with 10 minutes for questions at the end. “Very relaxed interview with a lot of time at the end for questions, so make sure to prepare some questions of things you would like to know more about.”
A sample question was: “Describe a time when you did something that went against popular opinion.”
A person who applied for a Scientist I position in Cambridge, Mass., who did not receive an offer, noted it as a positive experience. “I applied through an employee referral. The process took five weeks. Two phone interviews—one with a hiring manager and one with HR. Onsite interview after phone interviews. Onsite interview consisted of dinner the night before and an all-day interview the next day. Interview comprised of a 45-minute seminar followed by a 15-minute question-and-answer session. Remainder of the day was on one’s own, lunch, and included a 30-minute knowledge quizzing session.”
One person who applied for an Associate IS Security Engineer position in Tampa, Florida, was offered and accepted the job and said it was a positive experience. (What is a bit unusual about Amgen on the Glassdoor page is how many people who did not receive job offers, still rated it as a positive experience). This candidate said the process began with a 30-minute phone interview with one of the directors of Information Security, who was also the individual he or she would be reporting to. “The phone screen wasn’t intimidating, it was just so he can get an idea about me, work experience, and make sure the position was something I wanted.”
An example question was: “Name two threat actors and what would their motive be to steal information?”
Although few companies would say they did the opposite, Amgen on its careers page says, “As a values-based organization, we aim to make a positive impact on the world. From investments in education to inspire future generations of scientists, to rewarding our colleagues with robust family-centered and inclusive benefits for all, we believe in making a difference in the lives of our patients, staff and communities.”
Examples of current jobs at Amgen include:
Scientist – Pharmacokinetics & Drug Metabolism in South San Francisco. The position calls for a PhD or a Master’s degree and four years of experience, or a Bachelor’s degree and six years of experience. Preference is for a PhD in pharmaceutical, chemical or biological science and two years of drug discovery and development experience. The candidate will apply cell biology and protein biochemistry to protein therapeutics Target-Mediated Drug Disposition (TMDD) and the impact of TMDD on drug catabolite formation.
Principal Scientist – In Vivo Biology Lead – Neuroscience in Cambridge, Mass. The individual will lead a team of scientists and associates in generating rigorous decision-making data in in vivo and pharmacodynamics model systems, and managing off-site Charles River Accelerator Development Laboratory (CRADL) vivarium facility. Requires a PhD and three years of experience, a Master’s degree and six years of experience, or a Bachelor’s degree and eight years of experience.
Senior Scientist in Thousand Oaks, Calif. This person’s primary responsibilities include developing immunogenicity and pharmacokinetic measurement (PK) assays, validation and GxP use of binding and neutralizing antibody assays. It calls for a PhD and five years of biopharma and CRO industry experience.
Associate Scientist in South San Francisco. This position calls for a bachelor’s degree in life sciences and prefers experience in flow cytometry analysis. As part of a multi-disciplinary team, the individual will be accountable for deliverables related to flow cytometry analysis and potentially cell sorting.