What You Need to Know Before Applying to a Small Pharma Company

person searching for ads and job in the newspaper

person searching for ads and job in the newspaper

PK-Photos/Getty Images

BioSpace spoke with Annick Deschoolmeester, Head of Human Resources at Pharvaris, about some of the ways she’s noticed small companies differ from large ones.

When preparing your application and other materials for interviews for pharma jobs, it’s important to consider what you, as the applicant, are looking for in a company.

Considering what you want in a job should be one of the first steps in your job search. The more informed you are, the better questions you’ll ask the recruiter and interviewers, and the easier it will be to know if a job will be a good fit for you.

Not only should you narrow down what types of positions you are interested in, but you should also look into the companies that are hiring to see if their culture speaks to you and if you could see yourself as part of their team. A big point to consider is the size of the company – some people will feel more comfortable with large companies with a recognizable name, whereas others may gravitate toward smaller companies.

Some pharma giants have billion-dollar earnings each quarter and thousands of employees on the roster. Working for companies like this will come with a different set of pros and cons than you would get when working for smaller companies.

BioSpace spoke with Annick Deschoolmeester, Head of Human Resources at Pharvaris, about some of the ways she’s noticed small companies differ from large ones. We also discussed some tips applicants should keep in mind while job searching.

Trust The Process

Working at a smaller company means that every employee carries a little more weight than they might at a larger company. There are also some differences in the recruitment, interview and onboarding processes for companies like Pharvaris.

Pharvaris is a clinical-stage company that is discovering and developing a novel oral treatment for hereditary angioedema (HAE). Since going public in February 2021, Pharvaris has expanded its team and currently has around 60 employees, but there are hopes to reach around 90 employees by the end of the year.

Since smaller companies will have fewer employees, employees may have more responsibility than they would at larger companies and will be given more trust from the beginning, rather than needing to prove themselves over time.

Deschoolmeester described this as each employee having a “bank of trust” when they are hired on, rather than feeling like they need to earn the trust. She said the staff at Phavaris wants to treat all new hires like adults that they already trust, rather than keeping new hires at arm’s length until they prove they are worthy.

Fortunately, that trust isn’t something arnered from years of experience or impressive accolades.

“I do not believe that the element of trust comes with age or years of experience. It’s a mindset,” Deschoolmeester said. “It comes with having the mindset of being comfortable taking accountability and responsibility for the things you do and really, just kind of using your sound judgment.”

Deschoolmeester said she is looking for candidates who can exemplify that they are comfortable taking initiative and expressing their opinions.

Small Companies, Big Expectations

With a smaller company, it’s important for candidates to be able to “do more with less,” Deschoolmeester said.

She wants candidates who are able to think on their feet and apply their unique combination of experience and soft skills to any problem that may arise while at work for their company.

“When you have worked in large organizations, you kind of know what almost perfect looks like with all the bells and whistles that go with it,” she explained. “However, when you join a company like Phavaris, you have to feel comfortable translating that into something that is still really good, being okay that it may not have all the bells and whistles that go with it is pragmatic and being able to translate things into fit for purpose.”

Being pragmatic in the way you approach things is the key to success at any biopharma job, but especially in positions where you have fewer employees.

Job Descriptions and Interviews

Pharvaris is not the only biopharma company looking for confident, capable employees who are not afraid to speak their minds and contribute to the team. Being confident in your work and able to articulate the impact you’ve made is a crucial step to nailing any interview, and that’s even more true in small companies that depend on their employee’s versatility.

Part of being versatile involves not getting too hung up on the job title. Job descriptions for smaller companies are generally broader because of the expectation that employees may wear different hats from time to time. Staffers at Pharvaris have learned to “do more with less” and maximize their impact in the lab.

Similar to the job descriptions, the interview process for a small organization is different than it might be for a larger company. At Pharvaris, there are numerous rounds of interviews with several members of the company.

With these interviews, candidates are encouraged to make connections with as many people on the team as possible. Deschoolmeester said it’s “not so much because we are doubting that the candidates are the right ones [...] but more because we really want the candidates to be set up for success when they join us.”

Meeting more people during the interview process makes onboarding easier, makes the candidates feel more comfortable when they start the position and may help ease any of the nerves that may come with starting a new position.

Words of Wisdom

With so many biotech companies, hiring managers feel like the pool of available talent is getting smaller and smaller compared to how many companies are looking for candidates.

“There are probably more opportunities out there than talents or identified talents,” Deschoolmeester said.

This is great news for anyone in the job market because it means that you have your pick of which company to go for. It’s more important now than ever to do your research into the companies that are hiring so you can make a well-informed decision before accepting the job.

She suggests continuously looking for open positions, sending out your resumes, and making your interests known because there are always new positions needing to be filled.