Interviewing in the Bio-Pharma Industry

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Part 4 of a four-part series:

Part 1 — The Telephone Screen
Part 2 — The Face-to-Face Interview
Part 3 — The Scientific Presentation
Part 4 — The Offer Stage

Part 4 — The Offer Stage

The offer stage actually begins long before you have convinced the company with which you are interviewing that you are their ideal candidate. It begins when you have to start talking about salary and expectations.

Either before your interview or the day of your interview, you are going to be asked to fill out an employment application. Each company will ask you slightly different questions, but the point of the document is the usually the same. They want to get permission to run a background check, and they will want you to provide your references and some brief employment and academic history. They will also want to know your current compensation and your salary expectations.

How do you answer questions about your professional, academic, and salary history?

On all questions, be completely truthful. Never misrepresent your professional history, your academic credentials, or your current salary information. If you do, the company will find out in a background check, and you will certainly not be hired. Conversely, don’t leave anything blank either. Information left blank draws a red flag, and it will look as if you are trying to hide something. This is especially true with the current salary question. I sometimes have candidates say to me, “I think I am underpaid, so if I tell them what I am earning, I might get a low-ball offer.” This is not true. Even if you are underpaid, a company is going to take into consideration three things when making you an offer:
  1. Your current base and bonus
  2. Internal equity
  3. How badly they want you
If your base is low, you are not going to escape it, but the company will balance your base against the other factors and make you a fair offer.

As a note, if you receive stock awards or a yearly bonus, make sure you include that information with your current compensation. For instance, if you are earning 100K with a 15% bonus plan, and you receive 1,000 stock options yearly, be sure to include all of that information. You want the company to understand your full compensation story, especially because the company where you are interviewing may not pay their employees in exactly the same way your current employer pays. For example, the company you are interviewing with may not offer stock options at all, and they might want to make that up to you in an increased base or bonus, or a sign-on bonus if necessary.

How do you answer a question about your salary expectations?

The answer is simple. On your application simply write “negotiable.” Nothing more, nothing less.

In your interview, you might also be asked verbally about your salary expectations. This is a key point to remember: when asked about your salary expectations, simply say, “I would consider any reasonable offer.” ™ If the person responds with “No, really, what are you looking for?” Reply again with “No really, I am very excited about your company and the role I would play here, I would really consider any reasonable offer.”™ No interviewer will ask you this question more than twice. It is important that you understand that this is a loaded question, and you can not win if you answer it. If you state a number that is perceived as low, you will likely not get a dime more than the number you have given. If you state a number that is too high, even if the company loved you, they could pass on your candidacy because they don’t think they can afford you. Always let a company make the first move regarding an offer. You can always negotiate from there, as most companies expect you will anyway.

Once an offer has been made, you want to spend some time really thinking about the offer before you accept it or ask for anything. If they really knocked your socks off and the offer is truly more than you expected, don’t bother negotiating. Although negotiating is sometimes necessary, it is not always perceived positively, especially if a company has gone above and beyond to make you happy. Therefore, if you are happy, don’t risk the potential negativity of negotiating for what will amount to usually no more than a few thousand dollars.

However, if you are truly dissatisfied with the offer, but you want the job, then it is appropriate to negotiate. The operative phrase here is, if you want the job. Never waste a company’s time negotiating an offer if you don’t really want the position. You will not look good in the end.

Throughout the offer negotiation, try and put yourself in the shoes of the HR or the hiring manager that you are working with. It will help you keep perspective on a process that can not only be very overwhelming for you, but for them as well. Additionally, remember that your behavior while negotiating the offer and accepting is your first act as an employee of that company, and will set the tone for the first few months of your new career.

If you are interested in learning more interviewing techniques, please visit, where you can buy ''I Would Consider Any Reasonable Offer,'' the only guide devoted exclusively to interviewing in the bio-pharma industry.
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