Interviewing Skills for Scientists Entering Industry Science

A panel sponsored by Genome Canada
UC-San Francisco, Mission Bay Campus, Genentech Auditorium
7 September 2005

Garth Fowler, Ph.D., Science's Next Wave and ScienceCareers.Org
Photos: Neil Boylan

Workshop Report

Panel: - Dave Jensen , CTI Executive Search and Next Wave Columnist, Chair
- Mallika Singh, Ph.D., Associate Scientist, Genentech
- Ernest N. Prabhakar, PhD, Apple Computers
- Roxie Naes, Employment Manager, SRI International
- Kamyn Kurosu, Recruiting Assistant, Exelixis


THE PANELISTS COMMENT ON THE INTERVIEW AS DAVE JENSEN OF NEXT WAVE, BILL LINDSTAEDT OF UCSF CAREER CENTER AND GARTH FOWLER OF NEXT WAVE LOOK ON.

Over 150 young scientists attended the ScienceCareers.Org Workshop held at the UCSF-Mission Bay campus. Attendees came from institutions such as UC- San Francisco, UC-Berkeley, UC- Santa Cruz, Stanford, and University of San Francisco.

Marc LePage, Consul General of Canada and representative of Genome Canada, introduced the need for scientists to move into nonacademic positions, and presented the wealth of science research opportunities available in Canada. He then turned the show over to Next Wave columnist Dave Jensen to start the workshop.


MARC LEPAGE, CONSUL GENERAL OF CANADA, WELCOMES EVERYONE TO THE WORKSHOP.

The workshop is a critique of a job interview with two actors playing the roles of the interviewee and interviewer. After each round of question and answer from the interview, Dave Jensen and the panel of experts provided comments, critiques, and insight. The scripted interview is designed to highlight common mistakes made during interviews, to give examples of strong answers to sometimes difficult questions, and teach attendees how to view the interview as an opportunity to learn more about the organization (see below for summary of topics covered).

The panelists represented diverse backgrounds from the fields of corporate science, with over 35 years of human resources experience provided by Roxie Naes of SRI International and Kamyn Kurosu of Exelixis. Ernie P. Prabhakar, Ph.D., of Apple Computers and Mallika Singh, Ph.D., of Genentech were able to comment from the perspective of a research scientist, both having gone through industry job interviews and regularly interviewing other scientists for their respective companies.

The workshop itself lasted approximately 40 minutes, with an open question and answer period that followed. Audience members asked the panelists to address topics such as what do companies believe are the benefits of hiring individuals with graduate science training, how to determine competitive salary offers, and how one should follow up the interview. Light food and drinks were provided during a reception afterward allowing audience members and panelists to mingle together.

Points and highlights from the workshop

  • Remember to take the time to prepare for your interview. Panelists stressed that if you were not given an itinerary for your visit, contact the HR office immediately to get one. Know whom you'll be meeting with and what that person's job in the company is.

  • Be ready to talk about your career goals and your personal work style. Although it may not be possible to anticipate every question, you can bet the interviewer will want to know more about you, your career goals and how you will fit into their organization. Think through why you want to work for this particular organization, how the position interests you, and how it will meet your career goals.

  • Be positive when you can. Even if your current adviser is a monster or your current postdoc is grueling, highlight what you have learned, what was enjoyable, and how this has prepared you to move on to the next exciting stage in your career.

  • Prepare questions that will help you gauge how you will fit in this organization. Usually you will meet with many members of the company or organization. Knowing what their roles are in the company helps you plan what questions you might ask. For example, the HR representative is the best person to address questions about fringe benefits, insurance, and career education opportunities (classes or courses you might want or need to take).

  • Gather information that you will need for the follow-up. Get business cards, names, and other contact information before you leave. At the very least you will want to thank your interviewers for taking the time to meet you and discussing the company and the position with you.


EVERYONE ENJOYS FOOD AND DRINK AFTER THE WORKSHOP IN THE NEW MISSION BAY ATRIUM.