- What questions to ask at an interview in a biotech
or pharmaceutical company
questions to ask at an interview in a biotech or pharmaceutical
are several questions which I find it important to
find out about a prospective employer. This
is certainly an organic document and will be changing
it as I get more suggestions, so check back often!
I before indicated these questions should be asked
during an interview, however, as pointed out by a
visitor to theLabRat.com, this may not always be appropriate.
Please use your judgment on when it is best to ask
and not to ask. A little investigation will yield
most of the answers if not given in an interview.
is the publication policy of the company?
- This can vary a lot. There are companies that don't
publish anything at all. There are other companies
that encourage you to publish and will even give you
incentives for publishing papers. A company a friend
worked for gave incentives of anywhere from $200 to
$1000 for publishing (depending on the journal), and
$1000 for an issued patent. Not that is incentive!
% of company stock is owned by each officer of the
company and each member of the board of directors?
- If it is a public company I believe that this is
a matter of public record but if it is a private
company then they may not want to tell you.
Try to determine if it is greater than 20% for one
person. If one person owns greater than 20%
then I would say you need to be cautious. If
one person owns greater than 50% then I would advise
you to look elsewhere.
is the title structure of the company? - This
is one of those you need to ask to see where your
job fits into the company and if that meets your needs.
there established criteria for review and advancement?
- Many companies don't have an established system
for review of employees or for advancement of employees.
there a bonus or incentive program? - A company
I used to work for talked about incentives but none
ever came through. It is important to have something
to show when someone is doing a good job short of
promotion or salary increases.
much vacation time, sick time, official holidays,
and PTO time? - Companies
manage these issues quite differently.
is the cash position of the company? - This is
a complicated one. I usually like to take the
worst case scenario. That means that you take
the cash on hand and assume there are no contracts
or products and see how long the company would survive
with their current expenses (normally referred to as
'burn rate'). If this time comes out to be less
than one year, be very cautious. If this time
is greater than two years then you are pretty safe.
is the patent position of the company? - Any proprietary
technology? How does the companies patent position
differ from others in the same industry.
is the current status of products and/or contracts?
- Weigh the answers to this question with the cash
position. If a company has a lousy cash position
but a product coming to market, it is not as much
of a risk as a company that won't have a product to
market for years but has a decent cash position.
are your major competitors products and how do they
differ from yours? - Try to gauge from this how
crowded the marketplace is and what chance of success
your prospective employer has.
there been any lay-offs in the last three years?
- A measure of stability in my book. The statute
of limitations on lay-offs is three years according
to J.C. Rat. That is not to say you shouldn't
go with an employer that has had recent lay-offs,
but you certainly should be aware of it.
the company have educational benefits? - Most
companies have the policy in the handbook, but few
people take advantage of it. Comes in handy
for computer training, or if you want to start taking
classes for an advanced degree.
the company currently involved in any litigation that
could negatively effect their patent position or cash
position? - A tricky question! With success
comes lawsuits, especially in biotechnology.
If there could be any drastic change in the companies
position in the industry in the near future you should
know about it!
the upper management been involved with any successful
companies? - Usually I take this question to mean
has any of them produced a product. If it is
a very early stage company, you may want to know only
if they have taken a company through VC funding and
a list of publications, presentations, and patents
from the company (or your department) and academic
collaborators for the last two years. - See if
they are truthful about support of publishing and
presenting. Also, this will allow you to ensure
that sound science is behind the company.
many people have left and how many people have been
hired in the last year? - If more people have
left than have been hired this is a reason to be cautious.
The first thing an ailing company does to save money
is to not replace people who have left.
there been any resignations in the upper management
in the last two years? If so where did they
go? - Certainly people will leave, but make sure
if any key members of the management team have left
then they went for a better job. If several
have left for an equal position or a step down this
is a bad sign
I hope this guide will help you out. I will
be adding more questions in the future. If you have
any suggestions, please email them to me.