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Interviewing for a small industry company

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Interviewing for a small industry company

Postby James Tyler » Thu Feb 26, 2015 12:08 pm

I recently interviewed for a small industry company. It is an RA position at the BS level. The interview went well but I have some questions regarding my chances of getting hired.

So far, I have only worked at large industry companies. During the interview, most of the people who interviewed me stressed that at large companies, people usually have their own niche and do routine things but at this company, people wear different hats and the environment will be very dynamic. They also said that at large companies, they usually already have developed SOPs (like using kits), but at this company, they will frequently have to develop their own assays and make their own SOPs. 2 of the people said that I’m not used to this kind of environment because I’ve never worked in this kind of environment and they implied that there will be a learning curve because I have to get used to this new small company environment. It’s true that at every place that I’ve worked at, I had my own niche and it was a routine environment. It’s also true that I’ve only done techniques that already had SOPs written for them and they didn’t really require much modification, and I’ve never developed SOPs. I told them these things when they asked me about it. They did mention that there will be training provided and I’ll shadow people until they feel confident that I can do techniques on my own.

Do you think this will be a problem? Will they not want to hire me because of my lack of experience working at that kind of small company environment? If there is another candidate who has experience working in a dynamic small company environment, will they probably want to hire the other person? I had the skills that they were looking for and the people liked me, but I’m still worried about this.
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Re: Interviewing for a small industry company

Postby Dave Walker » Thu Feb 26, 2015 12:18 pm

Hi James,

Don't worry about what they might think -- do YOU want to work in an environment that you don't have experience in? You did the right thing by telling them you haven't developed SOPs and come from a "routine" background. But, if you wanted this opportunity, perhaps you should have added that these things are not barriers to you being successful there.

The other way to look at it, form my perspective, is as a red flag. If you think you wouldn't like working there, or that it would be too hard to be successful, then either 1) negotiate for the training/environment you will need or 2) consider working elsewhere.

Every interview is a two-way exchange of information. If you want to work there and have further interviewing (phone or otherwise) confront the issue instead of stepping around it: say something like "would you like me to comment on my lack of experience in a small company? I have the skills you were looking for and I don't think this will be a challenge because _______"


Dave
"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder
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Re: Interviewing for a small industry company

Postby Dick Woodward » Thu Feb 26, 2015 1:10 pm

There are many differences between large companies and small companies, and you have just been exposed to one of them. In a small company, you have to do whatever it takes to get the job done (e.g., write the SOPs, develop the test, source the reagents, etc.). At a big company, someone else does that, and you sit in your little niche and run the test. Part of the fun about working in a small company is the unpredictability of what you might need to do on any given day. Some people find this exhilarating, while others are totally terrified by the concept, and look for the routine of a big company. I think that you need to ask yourself whether or not you can function comfortably in the small company environment, or if you prefer a greater degree of predictability. Then move on from there.

As for writing SOPs, you have been following them at your current position, so you know what they look like and what they need to contain. You will have to learn the style and format of the SOPs at the new company, but writing SOPs is not all that difficult.

Good luck,

Dick
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Re: Interviewing for a small industry company

Postby James Tyler » Thu Feb 26, 2015 4:45 pm

How easy is it for someone like me, who is used to having a routine job and working at large companies (never writing SOPs etc.), to transition into the environment and expectations of a small company? Can some people just not handle that type of work? I am eager to learn whatever I need to learn to succeed at a small company, but I want to know if some people just aren’t capable of it because of their personality type (or whatever reason). If the small company environment doesn’t fit my personality or something else, I don’t want to automatically assume that I’m constantly doing things wrong and that I’m a bad employee in general.

Also, how easy is it for someone from a large company background to adapt to a small company environment? What skills would they need already (like inherent skills that are just part of their personality or work ethic) and what skills would they need to learn (meeting tight deadlines etc.)?

I think that working at a small company would provide lots of growth opportunity and learning new skills, but I just want to know what I’m getting into.
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Re: Interviewing for a small industry company

Postby Abby » Thu Feb 26, 2015 5:03 pm

Hi James. I would say if you have been successful at your large company, there is nothing that will make you automatically unsucessful at a small company. I hear more fear of change in your question than red flags. I'm in a small company (50 employees, 12 R&D) and we tell people we interview that we can teach you the processes and specifics to our system. We also think that you can learn several years worth of large company skills in one year in our small company. We all wear multiple hats and each of us interacts with every other department (QA, QC, manufacturing, sales, etc). If a small system isn't your thing, when its time to move again take everything you learned with us small guys and go get 'em at a big one again!
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Re: Interviewing for a small industry company

Postby D.X. » Fri Feb 27, 2015 6:21 am

H James,

From a non-science perspective: I can only echo what others have said. I've been in bigger pharmas and now in a very small Company (very very small for a Global Pharm Company despite market leadership in product catagory) and the Sentiment is correct.

Because you don't have the large bureaucratic landscape resulting in "niched" or "focused" areas of responsibility in small companies, there is opportunity to get your hands wet in many aspects that just would not be possible/feasible in larger organizations (for the most part). Not to mention, the flexibility and nimbleness that allows you to move pretty fast.

The hiring managers, as you relate, have a right to be concerned on your cultural fit, many folks from larger organizations have problems fitting into smaller ones where the scope of responsibility is not narrowly defined. To generalize, most folks from larger companies don't carry the entrepreneurial spirit or empowerment/leadership competencies that would allow for success in a less structured environment. So they have a right to be concerned. My company has let folks go from Big Pharma during their probation period exactly due to this. I'm in a small pharma and I chose to do so because I wanted to do a career shift (expertise expansion), what better place to do it than in a small company, what would take a year in a big company for me to learn, i'm doing it in months, i'm already pushing the envelope, putting teams together and getting my hands wet to many different cross-functional projects, sometimes taking responsibility and accoutablity for things outside my function.

so a lot of your success will depend on your attitude.

This is not to put down big companies, each has its advantages, but a mix of big and small companies in your career path, can be an advantageous plan.

Certainly on the opposite side, a bigger company can have concerns on if one from a smaller company can fit into more bureaucratic, hierarchical, environment; in that case, it is more the adaptation - I am currently interviewing candidates from Big Pharma into my small Pharma and screening for fit into my team, I will be looking to see if they will be able to adapt in an environment with less structure and high-empowerment expectations - That will be my key determinant beyond their experiences (that they already have).

As far as SOPs, eh, the good is you get to set your path and have influence over SOP directed way of work, a nice item to have on the CV, but I had to smile, someone wrote they are easy to write.....maybe..but good luck on the review and approval - but then again my SOPs are subject to auditing by authorities such as the MHRA and FDA and internally tracking/auditing by our compliance/QA department. But I digress.

Be positive and see the upside, take off the big company blinders in your interview and see what you can get out of it.

If you join, expect some insecurity with regards to your scope and sphere of influence, define your scope and grab it. Just keep moving forward.

Good luck

DX
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Re: Interviewing for a small industry company

Postby Dick Woodward » Fri Feb 27, 2015 3:48 pm

James:

It might be worth investing $50 and getting a copy of Carol DeSain's book on documentation basics; you can find it at http://www.amazon.com/Documentation-Support-Manufacturing-Practices-Regulations/dp/097547720X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425069213&sr=1-1&keywords=Carol+DeSain. Even if you don't get the position, it will teach you a lot about how to prepare cGMP documentation, and that might help you advance even if you stay where you are.

I think that you have gotten pretty good advice about the differences between big and small companies. I have found that the differences are really magnified at the senior levels; I have personally observed big pharma people flailing at the VP level in small companies because the environment (duties, politics, relationship with subordinates, etc.) is so very different. I think that as long as you are open to new experiences, and can deal with a bit less routine, you should be fine.

Good luck,

Dick
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Re: Interviewing for a small industry company

Postby D.X. » Sun Mar 01, 2015 12:09 pm

Just one more point, in general despite some of the issues discussed here, Bigger companies tend to be "best practice" , that is then tend to lead the pack - in general due to larger resources and the the stakeholder status they have.

So therefore the smaller companies may look to hire from the bigger companies with an expectation you will bring some of those best practices along. The same is true from my organization, it is common to hear, " this is what we did at Big ABC Pharma, etc.", certainly I am guilty of it and have implimented past ways of doing things in my company, at a minimum your expertise will be appreciated.

So would advise that you are aware of that, thats a key advantage you bring to the table.

Certainly its working for me.

Good luck,

DX
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Re: Interviewing for a small industry company

Postby James Tyler » Wed Apr 01, 2015 4:26 pm

I’m interviewing for a CRO startup soon. Like I said before, I work at a big industry company doing RA work at the B.S. degree level (it is hands-on lab work). The position I’m interviewing for is contract-to-hire and the contract length is 5 months. If I get hired and there is a problem with my performance, will they most likely let me go before the contract expires or will they just not hire me as a permanent employee and end my contract when it is over after 5 months (basically keeping me there until the contract expires and then not extending the contract)?

What kinds of things will cause problems for a new employee at a startup company and how can you overcome them?

Also, is there a difference working at a CRO and industry company (assuming it’s a startup)? Are CROs harder to adapt to? Do they have higher expectations?
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Re: Interviewing for a small industry company

Postby H.L.F. » Thu Apr 02, 2015 10:41 am

Why would you think that there would be issues with your performance?
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