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Job talks

Postby Joseph » Mon Oct 25, 2004 3:30 pm

I am interviewing for a Scientist position at Merck and was asked to give a 45-50 minute scientific presentation as part of my interview. After finishing my Ph.D two years ago, I've been working as a scientist in a small biotech company. Obviously, I can't present any of the company's research for the talk. Is it appropriate to present my Ph.D. research for my "job talk"? The hiring manager who contacted me was very ambiguous when it came to the presentation part of my interview.

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Job talks

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Oct 25, 2004 5:39 pm

Hi Joe,

Everyone, and I mean everyone, will understand your inability to talk about company research. The hiring manager may have been "ambiguous" because he or she doesn't want to lead you in that direction. Companies will sometimes have job talks by people who will "moderately" break confidentiality and talk about their work. This would be the kiss of death for a job at Merck! They sure wouldn't hire a person who would be so uncaring about the confidentiality of their current employer.

Remember that there are other reasons for the job talk besides hearing about your interesting science. "I want to hear what this person's critical thinking skills are all about," one employer told me. That's really more of a concern . . . HOW DOES THIS GUY THINK? What are his problem solving tactics? How did he involve the team he was working with?

You may be able to give a talk on the subject of your thesis, and then spend five or ten minutes at the end of that presentation talking about an "update" in your research activities. Without giving the specifics of any one research program, you can talk about new areas of interest since you've been in the company, or about new skills/techniques you've accumulated, or new teamwork skills you've picked up. I think that companies always enjoy hearing a brief update of what a person is up to currently, even when they can't talk in depth. As long as you give them plenty of your critical thinking skills in evidence on the earlier work, this should be fine.

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Job talks

Postby Chris Buntel » Mon Oct 25, 2004 6:58 pm

Joe:

Be very careful about what you present. Has any of your research been disclosed to the public by the company, and therefore safe? This could be publications, presentations, published patent applications (not just filed -- actually published by the USPTO, PCT, or EPO), etc.

If you have any doubt, don't present it. Merck should completely understand the importance of keeping secret R&D a secret.

Chris Buntel.
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