OK, so you’ve been answering job announcements – Biocareers.com, the HittList, medical communications agency websites, and maybe you’ve been working with a head hunter. Now you’re getting interviews to be a medical writer. That’s a good thing. After all, isn’t that what your CV/resume is supposed to get you?
My opinion on interviews; don’t turn down any offer of a job interview even if you are not sure that the job, for whatever reason, might not be “the” job; even if you are not sure that you are looking to make a change. You can only benefit by seeing, being seen, and meeting people… and you will need all the practice you can get to interview successfully for that job you really do want.
What can you do to prepare for the big day? Do you have friends who might know the agency or someone working there? Ask them for their opinions. If you have been working with a head hunter, be sure to get his or her take on the company and why he or she sees you as a good fit there. “Google” their website and do some research. Look for bios of the people who work there, the projects they specialize in, and their pharma industry clients. In what therapeutic areas do they indicate expertise?
You are mainly looking for conversation points to make during your interview to show you “have done your homework” and to find medical topics their clients are involved in that you would be confident writing about. Does it look like they have several PhDs, PharmDs and/or MDs on staff? Find out “who they are.” Specifically, are they part of an advertising agency or group of agencies, an independent medical communications company, or maybe a contract research organization (CRO)? This is important as each of these entities will have a distinct, characteristic “company culture” that strongly affects the daily routine.
So, what to look for when you go to that interview? How was the commute? Could you do it every day? Where is the office? Is it in a building on a town or city street, in a shopping mall office building or on a business campus? This will also make a difference in your daily routine. For example, is parking available if you need it, and where might you eat lunch? If you have doubts about any of these, consider what “encouragement” you would need to accept the job if offered.
Now you’ve arrived at the office and told the receptionist that you are there for an interview. How were you received? Were they friendly and professional? Did they appear pleased to see you? Did it look as if you were expected? Does the workplace environment seem light, airy, comfortable, and functional? Can you see yourself working there?
Watch and listen to people while you wait for your interview. One of my former directors was fond of saying “people are everything.” That’s true on many levels. Granted, it may not be easy to see, but can you conclude from casual comments and body language that there is a feeling in the office that “all of us are in the same boat,” i.e., collegial? Or simply put, can you tell that your potential co-workers don’t think of the worst part of the day is arriving at work and the best part is leaving (never soon enough)? It happens.
How long do you wait for your interviewer? Does it seem as if you are interrupting, or that this is something he has prepared for and is looking forward to, just as you have been?
Look, this may all seem obvious, basic, simple, and not directly to the point. Maybe it is. But it is a way to develop a clear focus on the event, on what it is that you are really looking for, and it could help you find an environment that you can work well in. Remember, some say that you have 30 seconds to make a good impression. The same can be said of the people with whom you are interviewing. After all, it’s a two way street.
Agency culture shock (and avoiding it)? In the next blog I’ll tell you about some of the things I’ve seen and experienced in various agency interviews and workplaces. Look for them or look out for them.