What to Expect From a Pharma Interview

Shaking Hands at Job Interview

Preparing for any job interview is stressful, but preparing for an interview within the pharmaceutical industry can be even more intimidating. The pharma field is filled with high-quality professionals who take their jobs very seriously and are striving to make notable changes in the world through their work in the industry. 

Though there are differences that will come from working at a start-up versus a large, corporate company, the interview process can be similar for both. So whether you've got your eye on a pharma-giant or you're scoping out a start-up, there's a few things you should keep in mind during your job hunt

What to Expect From a Pharma Interview

Candice Richards, the Manager of Talent Acquisition at Kyowa Kirin North America, shed some light on what a typical interview process for a pharma company might look like. Kyowa Kirin North America is a specialty pharmaceutical company that uses technology to discover and develop new medicines to be used by pharma professionals including oncologists, nephrologists, immunologists and allergists. 

Industry Growth

Like many other pharma organizations right now, Richards said Kyowa Kirin is in "top growth mode," so they're constantly searching for new talent to join the company. The pharma industry as a whole has grown 5.8% over the last five years.

This translates into pharma companies growing rapidly, needing new candidates and exploring new aspects of the industry to expand their reach. Richards said that on top of the 477 people already employed at Kyowa Kirin, the company is looking to hire 100 more people by the end of the year. 

Most pharma companies utilize LinkedIn as a primary means to find potential candidates. This is why it's especially important for candidates to update and fill out their LinkedIn profiles fully so they are more marketable to pharma companies searching for talent. 

Internal referrals are another way they've found clients, Richards said. This underscores the importance of attending conferences and other pharma-related events to network with professionals already in the field. Not only will you learn more about the field from a personal perspective, but you can also find people who work in the roles that you would ideally fill one day. 

For example, Richards said that right now, Kyowa Kirin is hiring for their Rare Disease franchise, "with a focus on Medical Affairs, Patient Services and other Commercial Roles." Additionally, Kyowa Kirin is also looking for roles to be filled in the IT and Manufacturing teams. 

There is such a variety of jobs in the pharma industry that many get overlooked or forgotten about – which is why you, as the candidate, have to do your research and figure out the ways you can fit into an organization and enhance it in some way that is unique to your skills. 

Changes Since 2020

Ever since COVID forced most people to work from home, it is standard practice for most interviews to now take place online over Zoom or Teams. 

While technical problems may arise, most human resource managers in the pharma industry say that online interviews are a time-saver and can be ultimately more productive than the way interviews took place prior to 2020. 

Candidates are able to meet multiple people on the team simultaneously, and they may even move along in the interview process quicker than they would if the interview had been held in person. 

Though Zoom or Teams interviews may sound easier, it's important to note that candidates should take it just as seriously as they would had it been in person. Candidates have the advantage of being able to write down notes that they want to bring up during the interview, and they should prepare for the interview by researching the company and writing down some questions they have for the interviewer, too. 

The Interview Process

One thing that hasn't changed since COVID is the number of interviews that most pharma companies will conduct before presenting a formal job offer. 

Larger companies are inclined to have more interviews, but even smaller companies may have several to ensure that the candidate meets multiple people on the team and answers their specific questions. 

Kyowa Kirin, for example, generally conducts around four interviews per candidate. Richards said the initial interview will be with the recruiter. Then, there will be a video conference with the hiring manager, a video call with a manager colleague of the hiring manager, and lastly, the final interview with the National Sales Director. 

Because of the ease of video conferencing, several candidates will not even meet the team in person until after they start the position. 

Preparation is Key

Getting the interview isn't the first step to getting a job in pharma – being noticed on LinkedIn is. Updating your socials and keeping an eye on the social media platforms of companies you are interested in working with will set you apart from other candidates. 

Richards said that with competition in the industry being so tough, successful candidates will be the ones who have done their homework and know details about the therapeutic areas each company focuses on and what products the companies are investing in or developing. 

You're not expected to know everything prior to the interview, but if you can ask thoughtful questions that show you've done your research, you'll be more likely to move forward with the position, and ultimately, secure the job. 

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