News | News By Subject | News by Disease News By Date | Search News
Get Our FREE
Industry eNewsletter

33 Company-Related Questions to Ask at a Large Pharmaceutical Job Interview

8/14/2017 1:01:28 PM

33 Company-Related Questions to Ask at a Large Pharmaceutical Job Interview August 17, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

A job interview is more than an interview—it is, or should be, a conversation. And that means, as the person being interviewed, you should ask questions, and essentially interview the company.
  Related Jobs  
  QA Associate/Specialist – Regeneron
  Scientist - Flow Cytometry - Apex Life Sciences
  Associate Scientist - Jounce Therapeutics
  Principal Biostatistician - MacroGenics
  Senior Scientist - AstraZeneca
  Sr. Automation Engineer - Regeneron
  View More Jobs

In fact, John Sullivan, in an article on the Wiley Job Network, noted that one thing that recruiters and managers often use to eliminate candidates is whether or not they asked questions during the interview.

With that in mind, let’s look at 10 categories of questions, with some specific examples, that you should consider asking during a job interview in the biopharmaceutical industry.

1. Company culture.

Apple (AAPL), after all, has a different company culture than IBM (IBM). A company like Genentech (RHHBY), part of Swiss international conglomerate Roche (RHHBY), has a different culture than New York-based Pfizer (PFE). So, potential questions include:

• What makes this a great place to work?
• Can you give a quick tour or can I meet some of the people I might be working with?

2. Competitive advantage.

This is not really an opportunity to bash other companies, but as a way to find out what the company values and thinks of itself. Examples:

• What makes the company stand out from the competition?
• Why would it be better working here than at company X, Y or Z?

3. Superior products.

As a general statement, some of this information can be pulled by spending time on the company website, especially by reading a publicly-traded company’s annual report. Here are a couple potential questions:

• What’s the company’s top-selling product?
• Will I be working on that product or similar products?

4. Research & Development investment.

Doing a little research beforehand will provide an answer, but it’ll also help you determine which types of questions to ask. In this case, again, annual reports and websites provide a wealth of useful information. Questions to ask:

• How much does your company spend on R&D?
• How does that compare to similarly-sized companies?

5. Patent support.

On the off-chance that you don’t know this, patent expirations are a huge deal in the biopharmaceutical industry, because a company can be making billions of dollars off a drug, have it fall off the patent cliff, and be battered by generic competition. It’s useful information to know about the company you might be employed by. Examples of questions:

• How many patents does your company get approved each year?
• Are there any major patent cliffs facing your products soon?

6. Profitability.

Some of this information can be found in annual reports, but on a department-by-department basis, it’s unlikely to be found in published materials. This is the type of information a recruiter probably won’t have access to, and in bigger companies it’s unlikely that anybody but the department manager might know, but asking the questions shows interest in the overall business of the company. Examples:

• What’s the gross profit margin of the department or division that I will be working in?
• Is this department’s revenues growing or decreasing?

7. Leadership development.

A good employee is typically interested in advancement, and it shows an interest on your part in a long-term career with the company. It can also show ambition, generally a positive trait in potential employees. Potential questions include:

• What are the opportunities for advancement?
• What kind of leadership training or scientific training opportunities are available to help me move into leadership and/or management positions?

8. Employee experience.

This is related to category #2, in that you’re looking to find how being an employee at this company compares to being an employee at the company’s competitors. Examples:

• What are the best reasons to work here compared to companies A, B or C?
• What are the top reasons people come here and stay here?

9. Diversity.

Companies are generally eager to give the impression that they like a diverse workforce, that they present equal opportunities to all sexes, races and nationality. Examples of questions include:

• Can you give me an example of how the company has a diverse workforce?
• What do you do to promote diversity in the workplace?

10. Bureaucracy.

All companies, even small ones, have their own bureaucratic environments. Large companies, almost by definition, are large bureaucracies. Potential questions include:

• How much freedom would I have to initiate projects?
• How many layers of approval would it take to get a new $100K project idea approved?

Of course, there are numerous questions of a less general nature that can or should be asked about the specific job you’re interviewing for. Examples include:

• What qualities or skills do you look for in candidates for this company?
• What challenges can I expect in the first three months on the job?
• How has this job been performed before and what would you like see be done differently?
• What concerns do you have about this position and the person you hope fills the job?
• What is the most important thing I can accomplish in the first two months?
• What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the current team I would be joining?

A more general type of question to ask are:

• How long does an average employee stay with the company?
• How does the company evaluate your success?
• Now that I’ve talked about my qualifications and the position, do you have any concerns about my being able to successfully fill the job?
• What is the next step in the hiring process?
• When can I expect to hear back?
• What is the expected start date for the job?
• Who should I call if I have any more questions?

Even though it’s a good idea to ask questions and be curious, be careful about taking over the interview. You’re not obligated to ask all of these questions, or even touch on all categories. But consider preparing ahead of time for the types of questions you’d like to ask and do your homework.

A good interviewer won’t allow you to take over the interview, but work on it being a conversation rather than a one-sided question-and-answer session—for either of you.

And, of course, be upbeat, positive and clear. It’s okay to take a moment to think before answering, and be aware of your body language and facial expressions.

Ready? Good luck.

Check out the latest Career Insider eNewsletter - August 17, 2017.
Sign up for the free bi-weekly Career Insider eNewsletter.

Read at

comments powered by Disqus