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Advice from and industry hiring manager: PhDs, please don't apply for BS/MS level position

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Advice from and industry hiring manager: PhDs, please don't apply for BS/MS level position

Postby RSC » Sun Apr 01, 2018 6:20 pm

For the first time in a while, a position has opened in my group and a job announcement was posted online. The posting very specifically states that the position is for a BS/MS level research scientist.

Previous experience has shown that individuals with a PhD will apply, but for this specific position I was shocked to find that 90% of those who have applied so far hold terminal PhD degrees, many with significant postdoc experience as well.

I understand the PhD job market is tough out there, and would be interested in hearing from other hiring managers. Is it ever appropriate for a PhD level scientist to apply for a BS/MS level position? In my experience (biotech and pharma), the answer has always been an unequivocal NO. Please read the job descriptions carefully before applying!
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Re: Advice from and industry hiring manager: PhDs, please don't apply for BS/MS level posi

Postby Rich Lemert » Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:26 am

Since the position you describe is listed as a "research scientist" position, I would agree that PhD's should not be applying to it. If you do you are indicating that you wish to remain in the 'research' pipeline, but you are also indicating that you are not interested in leading or directing this research.

However, I do not believe in a blanket prohibition against PhD's applying for "multi-level" positions (i.e. "seeking BS/MS/PhD applicants"). You need to consider both the nature of the job - and your personal career goals and interests.

I've just spent over fifteen years in "high-tech" (semi-conductor design software). Our "R&D" (really software development) and customer support groups both hire on a "multi-level" basis. Having a PhD gets you the more interesting and challenging assignments - at least initially, but neither is going to have us developing something new. We will be working with those that ae=re doing this however. After ten years, it's more about what you've accomplished in the job than what your background is, anyway.
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Re: Advice from and industry hiring manager: PhDs, please don't apply for BS/MS level posi

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:59 pm

Hello RSC, good question, thanks.

I respect Rich's advice and commentary. I guess that applying a stringent "no PhD" rule could be considered stereotyping. There must be someone out there who would be happy in such a job with a PhD and who wouldn't leave the moment they saw a PhD position open that they fit.

There are unhappy people everywhere in jobs that are not right for them. Today I spoke with one of my son's friends, who is working as an apprentice electrician with a Masters degree from a great school in Sustainability.

My thought is that PhD's applying for a BS/MS level job are clearly stepping into quicksand -- a good description of it would be "career suicide." Just like my son's friend with the Masters, every time he will go to interview for a job in his educational area of expertise, one that fits him, he's going to be asked why he took that apprentice electrician job. And there's no way to talk yourself out of that -- it's a box you stepped into, and there's no way out.

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Re: Advice from and industry hiring manager: PhDs, please don't apply for BS/MS level posi

Postby D.X. » Tue Apr 03, 2018 2:04 pm

Part of the issue is that the academic PhD holder doesn’t know that it’s quick sand.

They think that they just need an “in” and it’s clear sailing afterwards. I remember how I thought when I was a naive academic. Something like that.

Totally no understanding of job title level, what moving up from a lower level means and to Dave’s point the true view hiring managers would have if they try to move. Not to mention the tension to team dynamics of having a PhD holder in a team with BS/MS holders....aye aye aye and yuck!

I do think the checks and balances in place by having managers like RSC. So I don’t think there is a reality of PhDs being hired for BS/MS roles in research.

Another point - for those PhDs holders applying / they are wasting thier efforts applying “down”. At least if one is going to apply for a streatch position why not then waste the time applying “up”! More to gain than lose! Same amount of time invested. Have some self respect! I’d rather be rejected from a job I was labeled at under qualified vs a job where I just wasn’t qualified! (Notice I didbt say overqualified because to this audience over qualification is a myth and poor self view to have). More importantly apply for jobs where one is qualified. If the job description says PhD preferred ... fair game, and good game!


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Re: Advice from and industry hiring manager: PhDs, please don't apply for BS/MS level posi

Postby Rich Lemert » Tue Apr 03, 2018 4:52 pm

DX makes a comment in his latest post that has me a bit curious. He says "If the job description says PhD preferred ... fair game ... ."

I understand why everyone is saying "don't apply for a BS/MS position", but do you tar the "BS/MS/PhD, PhD preferred" positions with the same brush?
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Re: Advice from and industry hiring manager: PhDs, please don't apply for BS/MS level posi

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Apr 04, 2018 10:19 am

Rich Lemert wrote:DX makes a comment in his latest post that has me a bit curious. He says "If the job description says PhD preferred ... fair game ... ."

I understand why everyone is saying "don't apply for a BS/MS position", but do you tar the "BS/MS/PhD, PhD preferred" positions with the same brush?


Personally, I don't think so. I would hope Rich that such a position would have different specs for the PhD if they land that job. But from the job seeker's viewpoint, I would wonder about such a job and whether I'd want it. If the same job could be done by a BS or a PhD, than is it going to be professionally challenging?

I'd say the exception here would be a sales rep job for a scientific instruments or reagents company. There, the PhD might be much more successful in moving up the ladder into Marketing or Business Development, etc, but they'd be down in the trenches to begin with and nothing wrong with that as a learning experience for a business career.

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Re: Advice from and industry hiring manager: PhDs, please don't apply for BS/MS level posi

Postby Dick Woodward » Wed Apr 04, 2018 5:01 pm

Let me just refer to a number of posts over the years that point out that the best way into management in an instrument or reagent company (and many other types of companies as well) is through the sales department. In this case, the PhD often gives you credibility with the client; additionally, in science-centered companies, all else being equal, the PhD is likely to have an advantage when promotion is considered.

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Re: Advice from and industry hiring manager: PhDs, please don't apply for BS/MS level posi

Postby Nate W. » Thu Apr 05, 2018 12:23 pm

I agree with Dick on sales positions. Hasn't this forum talked about a large BayArea biotech company who hires PhDs in technician roles and I know there are academic PIs who are hire post-docs in technician roles. In these situations, even if the PhD can't find work, he is better off continuing to look for the right level position? What if the PhD is strapped for cash? You can make a research position anything you want to it be by effort (but not by title; this applies to mostly academic positions and some pure R&D positions)? I knew techs and students who swam circles around post-docs in the lab. It not always so clear cut in terms of ability.

How much of this comes down to working for the right academic PI who is going to help his students afterwards versus the wrong PI who only thinks about his own lab (i.e. lack of mentorship)?
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Re: Advice from and industry hiring manager: PhDs, please don't apply for BS/MS level posi

Postby D.X. » Thu Apr 05, 2018 2:57 pm

Hi Forum,

Let me challenge Dick a bit regarding the PhD holder having better chances of moving up from Sales based on a better credibility standing with customers.

I agree that credibility in terms of realationhip is fundamental but that may not alone turn a Sale which in Sales is the fundamental KPI for performance. Whether a PhD has more turnover - I don’t know - but on my side, pharma, Sales performance and internal credibility over degree level will predict those who go to management. I guess what I’m saying is Sales performance is more the driver, the credibility with customers is more the tool that hopefullty drive those Sales (I.e. asssuming those relationships will be linked to Sales turnover).

Regarding Dave’s view - I have the view that if one states PhD preferred in a job description then I think those holding the BS/MS would have to have relevant experience to be competitive to those holding the PhD. I wouldn’t see it as a step down at first from a PhD holding point of view rather a bit opposite that thier would need to be strong experiencial rational to hire one without the PhD. Whether or not it’s a lower hierachy level position as Dave alludes to I think is on the burden of the PhD holding applicant to suss out during the interview process with subsequent decision on whether the position is a trench or a level platform to launch thier career from - I.e. is it fair game?

Re Nate’s Q on PI support, I agree I’m in a different area but even with me knowing I would have PI support I never activated them in my ventures into exploring non profit and industry opportunities - never needed a reference from them maybe I’m an exception. To take an Italian expression - Boh?

Only one military application I made did I need that reference letter.

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Re: Advice from and industry hiring manager: PhDs, please don't apply for BS/MS level posi

Postby Dick Woodward » Thu Apr 05, 2018 3:50 pm

DX:

I would agree that in pharma sales the degree is less important. In fact, I advise PhDs not to go into pharma sales because it is so highly regulated that there can be a degree of frustration in not being able to discuss the scientific details with the client.

In instrument, reagent and contract service companies, however, the advanced degree helps, because in many cases the salesperson has to educate the client in order to make the sale, and the knowledge picked up getting the degree helps to do that. Additionally, the letters add credibility in the client's eyes. These types of companies have a sales process that tends to be rather more science-driven than pharma. By this, I mean that while pharma certainly relies on science, the sales aspect relies less upon it that the other types of companies that I mentioned. Because of this science-driven attitude, the PhD will count for more than it might in a pharma company when promotion is being considered.

So I do not really think that we disagree - more like comparing apples and oranges.

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