We recently attended a meeting for job seekers in the biotech industry during which a panel of senior Human Resources professionals answered questions and provided insight for people looking to find work within biotech. The points that they shared were not all that different from what we have discussed in previous blogs, but I think there are many things they said that bear repeating and serve as a reminder of how adept a job seeker must be in today’s marketplace. These are the highlights of what these people shared:

  1. Tailor your resume to the position for which you are applying – include specific elements of the job description in your resume (make it easy for them to see that you are a good fit).
  2. Do not rely on a cover letter to explain why you are a fit. You may want to use it to explain reasons for relocation, but your skills and experience need to be evident within your customized resume. If anything, the cover letter may be used to weed you out.
  3. Do not apply for more than one position within one company. It creates the perception that you are not sure which position is best for you. We recommend applying to one but including a variety of skill sets on your resume so that you indicate you are qualified for more than one position.
  4. Keep everything positive – in your resume and in your communication with the company. Don’t dwell on bad experiences, frustrations, or ineffective bosses. Talk about what you learned, why you are better for it and how you will leverage those experiences to make your new company successful.
  5. Honesty rules – the biotech industry tends to be a tight-knit community. Hiring managers and HR professionals will do informal reference checks with people they know at other firms and you do not want them to be surprised.
  6. Answer salary questions definitively and transparently. Do not try to circumvent these questions. Tell them specifically what you were making and what you are looking to make.
  7. Don’t be shy – let your personality come through in your answers. During an interview, you might be thrown some questions that are asked to assess how your brain works or to find out more about your personality.
  8. When accepting an offer, be enthusiastic. They want to hear the smile and excitement in your voice. This will lay the foundation of a very positive transition into your new company.
  9. Don’t engage in a counteroffer negotiations – you risk alienating yourself from the new hiring manager and your old company. Consider the offer and decide.
  10. Being overqualified is a serious concern for companies, but the solution is not to remove things from your resume as it may create the perception of dishonesty.
  11. End interviews with assertiveness and proactivity. It is very appropriate to end interviews by asking “When would it be appropriate for me to follow-up?”.
  12. Be prepared for behavioral interview questions. Come to the interview prepared with several anecdotes about challenges you have faced before and how you dealt with them. Demonstrate a positive and measurable result whenever possible.
  13. Do your best to incorporate the firm’s core values into your interview responses.
  14. Keep up your knowledge. Companies understand that people may have been out of work for extended periods of time in this economy. However, you must demonstrate your ability to stay current (seminars, certifications, etc.) and to get up to speed quickly.
  15. LinkedIn is a recognized tool, but they disregard most of what they see, including recommendations. Be prepared to provide a supplemental reference sheet during interviews.
  16. Identify and ease their pain. Ask hiring managers about “gaps in their department” to find out where their pain is – and suggest how you can help ease that pain. They need to be sure they are hiring someone who can help with their issues.
  17. Ask good questions. Like, “What does success look like 6 months into this position?” and “What obstacles might I run into?”
  18. Be careful with Facebook – they review these pages and screen people out as a result!

This event covered a multitude of topics; but it’s great insight to see how HR and hiring managers are thinking in the current environment.

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  1. Hi Sid,

    You are absolutely correct that these things apply to any job. The answer to your question about the Biotech industry is “it depends”. Some companies/hiring managers want industry experience, some want people with exposure to biotech through research or internships that they can mold. Just as every person has different and unique experience, every job has different and unique requirements. Unfortunately, there is no standard type of experience. The best thing anyone can do in the biotech world is to get as much experience as possible and apply that knowledge toward a position that interests them.


  2. Aren’t these things a requisite for searching for ANY job? Are there any more facts you learned that are specific to the Bio-tech industry? What is the most important to getting a call back for an interview – Research? Internships? School Projects? Prior work experience? Race?

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