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Question on being a USPTO examiner

Postby Pedro » Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:15 pm

I recently attended the career fair held at USPTO and interviewed for a patent examiner position. The high salary and the perks, ie tuition reimbursement for grad school or law school and steady pay increase each year, makes this position seem irresistible . As I sat down and thought about it, if this position seemed so enticing, why is it that the majority of people who have posted their frustration about the job market after PhD have not try to venture down this road. As I am contemplating between heading towards grad school or a secure job as a patent examiner, many questions started to appear. I would greatly appreciate any information about becoming a patent examiner and the pros and cons that are associated with it.
Pedro
 

Question on being a USPTO examiner

Postby Bill L. & Naledi S. » Wed Feb 09, 2005 1:12 am

If you've done your research and find yourself feeling really fired up about this opportunity with the USPTO, don't ignore that feeling!

I've talked with many PhD's about alternative career choices. I think, two reasons why more of them are not pursuing careers related to patent work are:
1. Ignorance: You'd be surprised how many people put the blinders on, chug through 5 yrs of grad school, 4 yrs of postdoc and THEN decide to find out what the world can offer them! Many scientists have no idea this USPTO career path even exists!
2. Inertia: After spending many years in scientific training, it's a little scary to consider a major career change from the proscribed career path, even if you're not thrilled with that path.

We're not saying that you shouldn't pursue grad school. But if, 10 years from now, you think you might be a "PhD-plus-postdoc" interviewing for a position as a patent examiner with the USPTO, a position you could get now, it does make you think that maybe you should think about trying out the USPTO first!?

Best wishes --
Bill L. and Naledi S.
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Question on being a USPTO examiner

Postby Chris Buntel » Wed Feb 09, 2005 2:40 pm

Pedro:
I have not worked for the PTO, but know people who either are or were examiners.

Pros: good training, very flexible hours, government benefits, great marketability if you ever leave the PTO, ability to attend night school, constant exposure to new technologies.

Cons: have to work in the DC area (might be a plus if you like the place), high workflow requirements, high turnover, lots of reading and writing.

I suspect that a lot of people think that you need prior IP experience to work as an examiner. This is absolutely not true.
Examiners seem to work for 2-4 years and move on, or they become "lifers" and stay for a long time.

Chris Buntel.
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Question on being a USPTO examiner

Postby John_Mastro » Wed Feb 09, 2005 11:19 pm

About PTO... 10 years ago I attended one of those job fairs and got a 15 minute screening interview. This was at least 6 other senior post docs at the USDA/ARS. The fair was tremendously overcrowded. One collegue , very good at making DNA constructs got a full interview but as not offered a job. I had also applied for a job advertized in Science Magazine a few years earlier. The conclusion was there was a huge number of applicants for a a very few position openings. I made a personal visit to the Crystal City to try to find out what happened to my application.. I never even got a rating . I was told they get thousands of applications for the PTO examiner positions, but had no resources to process all the applications.
I suspect that things have not changed very much and there is still a huge surplus of applicants versus job openings. I also looked into other agencies like those that regulate GTO plants. Remember this is the DC area, NIH and other Govt labs had a large surplus of post-docs looking for full employment. I tend to doubt the situation has changed all that much. This option is one only for a very few of a large, large number of applicants. If things have changed in the last few years please correct my assumption.
John_Mastro
 

Question on being a USPTO examiner

Postby Othello » Thu Feb 10, 2005 3:14 am

wow... i'm sooooo excited to know that upon graduation with my PhD in immunology... i'll be flooded with job offers from various potential career options.... sigh...................
Othello
 

Question on being a USPTO examiner

Postby Pedro » Thu Feb 10, 2005 10:37 am

Thanks for the input everyone. I thought the 15 minute screen interview went very well and I made a really good impression on the interviewers but after John mentioned his experience from the past, I am a little skeptical about my optimisim. Can anyone give me any suggestion as to how to avoid my application being lost in the crowd. Has anyone who actually worked there know an alternative path to get pass through this crowded process? Thank you all for your suggestions and input.
Pedro
 

Question on being a USPTO examiner

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Feb 10, 2005 10:51 pm

Question for Chris/Jill and any others who know the USPTO intimately . . .

Pedro asks if there is a way to keep his application on the top of the pile. If this were an industry opening, I'd recommend that he talk to some other people in the company and keep in touch with the HR department -- sort of a "internal networking and information gathering" process. Would that work with an office of the USG?

Dave
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Question on being a USPTO examiner

Postby Val » Thu Feb 10, 2005 11:29 pm


Dave Jensen wrote:

> a way to keep his application on the top of the pile

I work at a national lab (i.e., for the government), and I believe the approaches to hiring are the same as in USPTO.

The applicant is expected to write an application where he addresses each of the selection criteria. The selection board assesses the claims, and assigns to them the percentage of correspondence of the application to the selection criteria, and ranks the applications. The people from the top of the list are invited for the interview.

In many cases, I send my application with the perfect fit of my skills to the requirements, and do not even get invited to the interview ! The matter is that the head of the selection board, who does the ranking, has his own ideas about what kind of employee he wants. Sometimes the selection board head already knows whom he wants to hire into this position (and often this person already works in this job).

Before I lodge the application, I make the attempt to talk to the selection board head. This has two effects. First, I find out what skills he values most. Second, when he gets my application, he sees a live person behind it and not an abstract piece of paper. This makes it harder for him to toss it out.

When I write my application, I put a table into it. In the left column I write the selection criteria, and in the right column I address (reply) them. I write the reply in short crisp style and bullet it. In reply, I use the keywords from the selection criterion, and make them bold. This makes the application stand out. Also, it makes it very easy to read. Many interviewers complimented me on how well my application was written.

Regards,
Val
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Question on being a USPTO examiner

Postby shawn » Fri Feb 11, 2005 9:07 am

Dave said, "Pedro asks if there is a way to keep his application on the top of the pile. If this were an industry opening, I'd recommend that he talk to some other people in the company and keep in touch with the HR department -- sort of a "internal networking and information gathering" process. Would that work with an office of the USG?"

Dave,

On the PTO webpage there is contact info for their hiring manager for each section -- it is typically posted in the same area as job postings. This may be a good place to start
shawn
 

Question on being a USPTO examiner

Postby Dave Jensen » Fri Feb 11, 2005 9:38 am

Thanks Shawn . . . great news! Wouldn't it be nice if every company and for every position opening listed the person in charge of the decision?

Dave
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