Biotech hiring basics
This is an exciting time for the biotech industry. After several decades of intense research, staggering expectations and the chastening retrenchment of the last several years, the biotech industry is poised to introduce new products and become profitable. Big Pharma companies are teaming up with biotechs with promising pipelines in an array of partnerships, alliances and co-marketing agreements. The scope of this activity means that new opportunities are opening up for qualified candidates at all levels and within all functions of the industry.
Indeed, top recruiters are consistent in what they look for in candidates. One recruiter stressed the need to exhibit "passion about the work," to be willing "to work hard and do what it takes to succeed, since many companies are lightly staffed" and to express an abiding "desire to make a difference in the health and well being of others." Another recruiter stressed the need for responsiveness in job candidates, so be sure to follow up on job leads if you choose to work with recruiters.
But the more challenging part of getting hired in biotech is that educational requirements and work experience are among the most specific of any industry. That's because the science on which biotech companies are based is still relatively new and the number of graduates from biotech related programs in higher educational institutions relatively few. Recruiters expect shortages of candidates in most functional areas. This means that for those preparing for a career in the industry, the field is wide open.
One last general note about getting hired - if you are intent on working in biotech, you might want to keep in mind the geographic concentration of the industry. In 2002, "six states - California, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey - accounted for about 68% of biotechnology-related employment," according to a Department of Commerce study. The concentration of employers is largely due to a few factors, i.e., "the availability of venture capital and local entrepreneurship, a strong research presence, and proximity to a pool of highly skilled personnel."
How recent graduates are hired
If you are still in school, the first place you should probably go to is the Career Services Center at your college or university. There, you will find postings on when recruiters will be on campus, what internships and co-op working programs are available, and what full-time positions will open up when you graduate. Once you have this basic information, it is up to you to follow-up on the opportunities available.
Most companies post positions in the "Careers" page of their Web sites. In addition to listings, many companies have additional useful information, such as interview tips and guidance on resumes. The Internships section of this Guide contains URLs for a number of company sites. Browse through these sites to get a better sense of what a target company is looking for in entry-level applicants. Note that it's always a good idea to follow their direction - if the company says to apply online only, then comply and don't send a paper resume. It might not get entered into their database and you will have not made the best first impression.
Internships are another great way to get your foot in the door. An Assistant Scientist got her position this way: "I had an Internship the summer before Senior year, then was offered a position during Senior year. Alumni contacts and job fairs are also useful. My Department at college allowed us to have an industrial experience in lieu of writing a Senior thesis. The Department had contacts in HR departments in industry. One of my Professors was an Advisor to the company that hired me, and he forwarded my resume to the HR Department."
How experienced professionals are hired
There is no single hiring process for experienced professionals. However, since many biotech jobs have very specific job requirements, many companies go through Head Hunters to identify qualified candidates. A manufacturing/operations manager reported that she "was contacted by a recruiter, who concentrated in Biotech; they really understood what the position required. They also had a deep network of people - both potential candidates and people who knew potential candidates. I had three interviews:
- An initial screening interview
- An interview with peers and colleagues
- A final interview with the CEO
Then I was offered the position. The entire process was fairly quick, taking approximately one week." This is not atypical of managerial jobs in the industry.