Interviewing: Company-Related Questions Top Pharma Pros Should Ask

                                                                                                                                                By Dr John Sullivan

Most applicants fail to realize that one of the top “knockout factors” that both recruiters and managers use is “Did the applicant ask great questions during the interview?” Failing to ask questions at all is a terminal error but it’s also a major mistake to “wing it” and to make up questions during the interview. Instead, the serious Pharma interviewee plans ahead and comes to the interview prepared with a list of powerful questions to ask about the company.

Questions About The Company

Here are 10 powerful categories of questions to ask about large pharmaceutical firms and the business unit in which the position resides. Most of these questions cover factors that differentiate a good company from a great one!

  1. Company culture – Can you give me some examples of the best / worst aspects of the company’s culture? What makes this a great place to work? What are the corporate goals and what is the company planning to do during the next year to make it better? Has the company been recognized with any external rankings or awards as a great place to work? Can I have a quick tour so that I can witness your employee’s energy and enthusiasm?
  2. Competitive advantage – What are your firm’s key competitive advantages over its closest pharma competitors? What are your firm’s key improvement areas and what are you doing to overcome them? What makes this firm stand out among other pharma competitors?
  3. Superior products – Which company product creates the most revenue? What percentage of the market share does it have? How long does the patent protection last? Will I be working on that product or similar key products?
  4. Investment in R&D – What percentage of your company budget (and business unit budget) is spent on new product development, scientific research and R&D? How does that percentage investment compare to your competitors?
  5. Patent support – How many pharmaceutical and scientific patents does your company generate each year? What support is given to scientists and others who desire to win patents?
  6. Profitability – What’s the gross profit margin of the division I will be working in? What % of the company’s total profit does it generate? Is that percentage increasing or decreasing?
  7. Leadership development – As someone that strives to become a leader, what opportunities and formal programs does your firm provide to assist technical and scientific talent to move into team leadership and management positions? What is the average time it takes top performing technical talent to move into a leadership position?
  8. Employee experience comparison – Can you quickly highlight the areas where the employee experience at your firm is clearly superior to the experience at your closest competitor? What are the key employee centric reasons why top talent accept a job and stay at your firm?
  9. Diversity – Because I thrive working in a diverse environment, can you show me that the company has a diverse workforce and give me at least one example of how the organization is tolerant of individual differences?
  10. Not a bureaucracy – I do not thrive in a bureaucratic environment, so I would like to know what are the roadblocks that I can expect to encounter if I initiated a new project during my 1st year? Also, how many approvals and how many months would it typically take to get a new $100k project idea of mine approved?

© Dr. John Sullivan 4/18/13


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