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By: Jennifer Hanson

GSK 184 Liberty Corner Road. Warren, NJ 07059 Photograph by Alan Brian Nilsen/ABN photography

You invest in your education and get your advanced degree. You thought you would stay in academia but realize you’ll never be able to repay your student loans if you do. You worked on some school projects with industry partners and really liked the experience. You decide you want to take your new found scientific expertise and get a job at a pharmaceutical company. So now what?

What is one thing that biotech, big pharma, specialty pharma, devices, and consumer health care companies have in common? The way they interview candidates. They use something called competency based interviewing. Competency-based interviewing is based on the principle that past behavior predicts future behavior. It is a systematic, fair, customizable, proven legally defensible process. Interviews include competency based questions. These questions are designed to elicit information on technical and behavioral competencies—or in other words, the knowledge, skills, and abilities that a candidate possesses.

Did your graduate admissions process include an interview? Was it structured, or was it more of a conversation?

Did you work during school? What were those interviews like? Did they ask you to describe a time you worked in a team and someone wasn’t doing what they said they would? Doubtful, as they probably weren’t looking to assess you on team work and conflict resolution. They were interested in your availability to work weekends and ability to communicate effectively. These interviews haven’t prepared you for a pharmaceutical company interview. Competency based interviews assess technical skills and what is referred to as soft skills. You must be able to demonstrate both, as I refer to as the “what” you can do and “how” you do what you do.

Companies also look for scientists with specific expertise on LinkedIn. Do you have a profile that adequately defines your areas of expertise? If not, you’re missing a huge opportunity to land an industry job.

Learn more about how to prepare for pharmaceutical company interviews by attending the 2016 AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition career development session, Marketing Yourself to Industry after Achieving Your Advanced Degree, on Monday, November 14, at 10 am. You’ll hear from recruiters and industry scientists, have the chance to practice competency based interviewing, and gain tips on creating a great LinkedIn profile.

Jennifer is a key member of the GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare HR team and is responsible for all life cycle recruitment activities for North America based vacancies. Her remit includes Research & Development, Global Marketing and Commercial. She also supports Global Supply Chain and Global Support Functions enabling her to drive the Inclusion & Diversity strategy across the business.