Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Job Interviews for Business positions in the tech world...

EDITED to add this disclaimer :
This post really talks about me (and others) inteviewing people for the business side of a biotech job. I have NO IDEA what this discussion of people applying for technical positions in the company go through. Some of this may apply to them. Some might not. So take this with that addition of salt.

So we are interviewing a lot of people right now, and so every day I am asking people, in effect, "Why should I hire you and not the person who was sitting in that chair a little while ago". We only get to pick one, Why You?

Why have I selected the people that I have?

Ummm... I don't know...but I will tell you some of the knocks on people that I have said, or heard said, in recent days.
  • She wasn't technical and he didn't have her business experience...I pick him as it is shorter to teach business than to teach technical and we have a lot of business experience running around.
  • He didn't listen to the questions and answered before I was done....meaning he didn't actually answer what I was going to ask.
  • He said "Team" too much. What did he do? Did he actually own any part of the thing? Did he own the outcome? I don't want someone who goes to meetings, says a lot, but doesn't come out with anything to do because they have dumped it all on my head.
  • He is in for sticker shock moving here from Iowa, we'll never get him becuase he won't be able to buy a house.
    • OK - this isn't fair, as we wouldn't know that he wouldn't accept, but it is the reality of trying to get people to move to San Diego. They are all over it up until they look at house prices...and then their head explodes. We did feel this guy out for the offer, and forced him to look at housing, and then he withdrew his name.
    • NOTE about above. This followed the week before when we made an offer to a woman to move from New Jersey, and she declined after sticker shock. Once bit, twice shy. We warn people before the interview, but I don't think it sets in until they are looking at an offer. I know that is the way it was for me, but I still came.
  • He really didn't know anything about the company.
  • He wanted to work here because it would be an easy commute not becuase of who we are.
  • He said he hated travel, which is odd for a position that states it will have 70% travel.
SO - If, as several of the people leaving comments (Hi sreen) are going for job interviews, I would say or hear any of this about you....it doesn't help you.

Rules, and these are repetitive to what you will hear elsewhere, and include 1 thing you can do nothing about....
  • KNOW OUR COMPANY. really...you should have looked at our web site and you should know a bit of our history. Know how much money we make. know what our goals are (listen to the replays of our quarterly conference calls in the investor section of the web page). You should understand where we are going as a compay if you want me to think you will help me.
  • KNOW THE PRODUCTS YOU WILL DEAL WITH. To the extent possible, you should know what your talking about. You won't know everything, as we don't publically announce the products we are releasing in 6 months, but anything that we have been selling for greater than 6 months, you should have under control.
  • BE YOURSELF. This is the one that you have no control over, but that is the most important for your future happiness. If you are going for a finance position, I don't want you to be like me. If you are going for a business development position, you should not be anti-social or shy. If you want to be an application scientist, you should be able to talk in public. ETc... there are personalities that match to jobs or too ways of doing jobs, and I (and I think everyone else, whether they admit it or not) have 'ideas' about what those are. If you are in the interview so focussed on who you think I want to see, I will likely be annoyed becuase I can sense something doesnt' feel right, but I won't know what it is. You will get dinged becuase I just didn't like you. This is related tot he BE YOURSELF. If the job is going to be totally wrong for you, you are probably being done a favor by not getting it.
    • STORY : As an Application Scientist, I worked (and this is obvious...) with other application scientists. There was one guy who just wasn't flexible. He was going to give you THE talk he was going to give, regardless of what you wanted to hear. He wasn't evil, he was just very set in his ways. He was miserable in the job, as he was constantly being beaten on for not being the right fit. He moved off to an internal product design position, and flourished. Unfortunatly, he doesn't get those 2 years of his life back.
  • WHAT YOU WEAR MATTERS. You never lose points for wearing a coat and tie (men) or a business suit (woman, and yes I probably have that wording wrong)... point being. I will be in business casual. You should be better dressed than me. This is stupid, I freely admit, but it is true. You are being judged on it.
I will say, just to mess with you a bit further, that I am normally totally unprepared for an interview. I am working on something, Outlook tells me that I have an interview, so I start to wrap up figuring that the schedule will be behind, and then you will show up. I will then be scambling to find out about you and your past and why you want to be there and work with us. I have not thought this through ahead of time, so part of what you are being judged on (and this is probably very specific for me...) is your ability to help me figure out what is important about you. If I think I haven't got anything, I will just flat out ask "What should I know about you for when we make the decision?". This is not the best sign, becuase it means I am running out of time and realized that I need something coherent to say at the discussion meeting.

So - you go in. I will bet, that for the most part, all the hoops that are jumped through don't matter. I think, and my Uncle who is older and a judge said this to me, that the decision is made on how I am going to think about you in the first minute or so that we meet. Most of my questions are pre-set to be judged against this filter. I think most people do this, and the other criteria that are out there are just to give us a way to put that bias out for general review.

I won't tell you "relax" or anything like that, as that never worked for me, but I will say just roll with it, know as much as you can, and be yourself. Say "I don't know" if you don't. BS'ing me won't help you.

This is related to What to do with your Ph.D.


Suhit Anantula said...


Thanks for the info. I do not agree with everything you say, but hey this is your interview.

I had a different question.

how does a non-tech guy get into a business position in a hi-tech company?

What would you ask for and/or look for in a person when you would do an interview.


yes said...

Answered in my latest entry....