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

Monday, September 24, 2007

A comment stream on an Application Science applicant

This comment stream was back here, but I thought it was worthy of moving to a post of it's own as it is a good conversation. Also, this is by far the laziest way to make a new post, and it has been a very long week.

App Sci applicant said...

I don't have a post doc and I am CLEARLY in the running for a field application scientist position. In fact, the interviewers were more concerned about how much and quickly I can learn in-house than how much I knew already.

Which leads me to my question about salary:
The company I have interviewed for sells biotech/medical equipment at pieces in the range of $750K-1.5M to start. The position requires 50% or more travel, international at that, and the rest being in-house demos and some technical writing assistance.
My background works well with their product (I have 4 yrs drug development and animal handling exp. as a research assistant) and if all goes well I will join their company immediately after completion of my PhD this fall. The company is based in Southern California and has under 100 employees but expects to double in growth over the next five years.
That's the overview as best as I can give it. I haven't been offered anything yet but what should I expect for a salary offer? Would 85K be too unreasonable? Thanks!

9/14/2007 8:43 AM

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering the question I posted in that old blog. My plan was to post it in your newest blog if I didn’t get a response. You are very kind and provide information that is very difficult to find for graduate students.

New question anyone can feel free to comment on:

If a given App Scientist job has more than 50% travel, does it matter where you live? I mean, if you are covering all of the Southeast territory, do you have to live in Miami or can you live in Atlanta? I guess it depends in the company, but since I have a significant other with a non-traveling job, I would like to know if that would be an issue during interviews. Right now she makes three times as I do as a graduate student, so I wouldn’t want to relocate her just yet.

Also, a question for the App Scientist Applicant’s comment: When did you start applying for the jobs? If you will be done this fall, when did you send the resumes or CV’s? When did they start paying attention to you? Did you have to write a date on your documents?


9/14/2007 10:01 AM

app sci applicant said...

In response to a second commenter:

I applied to this particular job in July with a very clear description that my PhD would not conclude until late October. Realistically, I think I lucked out. My background happened to fit their requirements and they had a so-far unsuccessful local search. I received a quick email perhaps a week after I applied asking about my availability (in regards to starting time), my specific background and my reception to the amount of travel.

That being said, a second application Scientist position at a different company showed promise for me but point-blank told me that it was too early for me to be taken seriously. I have an email address from an HR rep and was told to let her know when I was much closer to graduation. Originally I contacted them 3 months from graduating and they were hiring within 3 weeks. I've yet to follow that up.

If your background meshes well with the position then your application will definitely turn heads. Otherwise I think it has more to do with good timing and tenacity on your part. Good luck and keep posting (commenting). I've been reading this blog for the last 6 months and I find it VERY insightful.

9/14/2007 3:34 PM

yes said...

to the second commenter - I agree with the "app sci applicant" statements as to when and how HR will look at you. We never do what it sounds like he has lined up, but I can easily see how in a specialized example we would. We have thought about it in other contexts but then lucked in to an "available" person.

With regard to the travel question.


It doesn't really matter where you live. However, it helps a lot for your sanity if you live somewhere you will working a lot. By this I mean, If you are in New England and in BioTech, living in Boston will be a lot easier on you than living in Burlington Vermont. From Burlington you will ALWAYS be travelling. From Boston, much of your travel will be local and WAY easier.

Your example of Miami vs. Atlanta is fine (for me). You will need to travel to both of those cities (and in fact, I think Atlanta has more than Miami, so you are probably in the right one as far as reduction of travel is concerned).

I don't think, for the field questions, that I have ever worried about that unless someone was WAY out in the boonies. If they are so far out, it is a given that their travel will creep well over 50% just becuase there is nothing they can do without travel. It is normal as well that the middle of nowhere never has direct flights to anywhere, so they spend longer travelling than someone who lives in an actual real live city.

....and my wife supported me through grad school as well. She is getting the payback now (only took 10 years....)

9/14/2007 8:23 PM

app sci applicant said...

How strange is this: without even a face-to-face interview (we are on different continents at the moment), I was given a preliminary offer of $63K and relocation expenses. This, if you read my above comment, is much lower than I was anticipating. Anyone have insight on this offer and situation? How much further up can I push the salary, especially since I haven't even met anyone from the company and they STILL want me?

9/15/2007 2:39 AM

yes said...

"App Sci Applicant"

After I went to bed last night, I remembered I forgot to answer this. Oooppss...

There are other components of salary.

Is there a bonus program?
Is there commission for sales?
Is there Car reimbursement?
How much vacation?

Anything else?

If they aren't putting you in a major metro area, then $63 isn't that weird , as long as there is a bonus or commission in there. A 10% bonus for hitting targets would be expected.

If they are putting you in Southern California, I would push a bit on this salary and expect mid $70's with a bonus or commission on top of that.

For reasons that are unclear for me, the entry levels for salary's on app scientists haven't really been going up over time.

9/15/2007 7:49 AM

app sci applicant said...

Reply to yes:

Thanks for getting back to me. The location is just outside of LA, a suburb of it. Due to the location, amount of travel, price of sales I thought I would have a higher offer. The position has nothing to do with sales other than prospecting so there is no commission. I haven't discussed other benefits just yet but I am going to assume no company car and standard vacations (2-3 wks). The only immediate extra that was mentioned is relocation, and even then I don't have specifics just yet. My feeling is that the hiring manager wants to have a base salary to keep in mind while we talk about the other benefits. I'm not sure how the travel is handled as far as expenses paid; I'm not even sure what to expect.

My thinking is that I would have a bit of play with the salary and benefits because they want to hire without even a face-to-face meeting. It was disheartening to read $63K but if this is standard then maybe I'm overreaching. Thanks for your opinion.

My next move I'm contemplating an email back to the company saying that the salary was lower than I had expected and that I needed clarification with health insurance, benefits, travel expenses, etc. Then I'll have the full story to negotiate a higher value. What do you think? That's sounds reasonable, right?

But whatever I end up with, it'll be higher than a post-doc salary.

9/15/2007 8:32 AM

bill said...

I'm not surprised by the person getting a comment from HR about wanting people to have a postdoc. Basically its a question of the market. If you live in an area with a ton of postdocs (i.e. Boston) most companies will prefer to hire people with postdoc experience, just because they can. The market is saturated with postdocs looking to get out of academia, so they are in a better position to get a job than someone with less experience. On the other hand, as Yes points out, most positions (like field app scientist) don't require that you have a postdoc.

By the way, 63K in Southern California is pretty poor. Have you looked into cost of living there? Its astronomical.

9/15/2007 9:52 AM

yes said...

Good to see you Bill!

App Sci, As Bill points out $63K is poor for So. Cal. I live here, and it will be hard at that level.

BUT - you need to find out the rest of the package. Bonus/Commission and other stuff can make it up. i.e. if they pay you for your car or give you a free one, that goes a long way.

I would not negotiate salary first, then other stuff. You have to negotiate as a package.

I would most certainly ask for an increase, as they pretty obviously want you. I don't think you will get the base in to the $80's, but you should get to the $70's

For the travel - You should not pay a dime out of your own pocket. If you are travelling for them, they pay. The way mine works is that I put it on my credit card and get reimbursed within 2 weeks of submitting the expense report.

I use credit cards with frequent flyer points of some kind attached, and ended up with $200K worth of expenses flowing through my credit cards last year. This does wonders for your credit rating, but doesn't count as part of your compensation from the company.

SO - Ask for the TOTAL picture all at once. You can't negotiate one peice at a time.

If you want to ask more, once they give you an offer, just put it in the comments. I would definatly hold out to see the complete picture though.

9/15/2007 10:12 AM

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see how much "app sci applicant" was able to negotiate....any updates?

9/20/2007 3:04 PM

app sci applicant said...

Unfortunately, no response so far from the company. I had emailed them on the 16th to request more information about the offer (benefits, profit sharing, how travel is handled, commissions, etc) and here we are at the 22nd with no contact. It hasn't been a week; I won't call until the 26th. My expectations are for a higher base and inclusion of some bonus/profit sharing plan for total cash/yr being around 72-75K. Anything less and it would set off my instincts to walk.

I'd hate to pass on the opportunity. The company seems to be in a good niche that could put me into medical diagnostics sales after about 5 years. When I think of that possibility I just have $$ in my eyes. I'll update again when I have more information. Thanks all.

9/22/2007 12:00 PM

app sci applicant said...

The offer given to me today in more detail:

* base would be 65K/yr
* bonus was not emphasized, and worded as "all bonuses and raises are performed in summertime", so sounds like no bonus
* 2 weeks paid vacation
* travel is paid for by company-issued AmEX, no company car but gas is reimbursed if within town
* medical/dental/vision coverage
* some relocation money but not given specifics. They asked for more details on what I would need.

All in all not a stellar offer but I can't say that I'm surprised. Any suggestions or comments?

Oh, and the company is rushing a start date of late Nov. I probably will JUST be able to make that.

9/24/2007 3:57 PM

yes said...

all in all I would call that not a stellar offer.

No details on Bonus/commission etc... is worrisome. "will be paid in summer" is a very weird statement. Your assessment of "no bonus" would be my conclusion as well.

Any stock options?

Travel is normal.

"help us" with the relocation package is an odd thing to do.

I would suggest pushing back by asking for full pack and move, 3 months temp housing, and your cars moved. They won't (and at your level shouldn't) give that to you, but at least puts it back in their court. Worst case - they give it to you.

At the very least, their HR department is very weird. There are some red flags there, but entry in to business is a hard thing to do, so you may have to make some comprises to get your head in the door. Sort of a gut check for what you want to do.


Anonymous said...

I live in the Mid West, and that offer would only just be acceptable even in this region. A So Cal package should be higher.

How does a company expect an employee to do so much travel, and then agree to such an average offer?

Is it okay to ask what company this is? Is it a norm that smaller companies pay 20% or so less than the major players in that market?

Finding a job is one tough thing, but as I have quickly learnt from my job search experience, finding a good job is a complete another monster!

Anonymous said...

Its interesting to see this thread develop. From my perspective (having been in the scientific industry for several years now in GE and Philips), an app sci should make a lot more than that, and more so in LA. The major players in the market, and this company seems to be one, must make a better offer. GE, for example, tends to offer upwards of $80K for fresh grads in an app sci position. I must mention that the next job the applicant would get is HIGHLY dependent on what he makes at this company, so you have to watch out and avoid getting stuck in a situation where it is later hard to come out of. In addition, the wording "all bonuses and raises are performed in summertime" is definitely an innuendo towards "no bonus", so don't expect much of a raise for a long time after you join. And stock options at such a position would be highly unlikely. Travel is obviously paid for, but check the list of approved hotels by this company for major cities and you will get an idea on what you are getting into.

As someone mentioned, anything less than 70-75K in LA would be simply too hard to live on. Thats not something that one wants after all the struggles of grad school! Keep us posted, and good luck!

And yes, a great blog you run here...will be checking it out regularly.

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app sci applicant said...

I haven't formally accepted the offer but I plan to do so. Though now I am really questioning the salary.

A few points:
* it's a small company (100 or so employees) but growing well
* the salary of 72.5K would be adequate for me but definitely not heart-stopping. But coming from an initial offer of 63K I'm not sure if could push it further
* the travel is extensive, but isn't past 50%. In-house demonstrations play a large part.

Now here are some additional questions if anyone wants to chime in. I have been sent a formal letter for the position. How would I negotiate salary beyond what is written on the letter? And secondly, with a start of Dec 1st the letter states that benefits would not be covered until March 1st, 2008. That strikes me as extremely strange, particularly since they want me to travel internationally after the first 2 months. Anyone find a reason for this? I just received the letter yesterday and I have not questioned the company about it. And lastly, the starting bonus is JUST enough to cover relocation. I'm not sure how to ask for more without being a dick about it seeing as I'm the one who suggested these numbers in the first place.


Anonymous said...

App Sci applicant has a wonderful success story! Starting from 60K, you have managed to negotiate so well upto 72.5K. Please update us who are still in the job hunt as to how you managed this, and what is the final dollar number you were able to obtain. It will be a source of motivation for the other PhDs out there!

app sci applicant said...

Hello.. I'm the originator of the big Application Scientist offer in L.A.

Turns out I didn't accept their offer. They needed someone pronto to run an installation overseas and I couldn't meet their start deadline. However, I wasn't too upset because I still think their final salary offer of $72500 with no bonus program and no commission was too low for the SoCal area.

Which leads me to a dilemma... the company has recently gotten back in touch with me and wants me to interview again for the position. I am not in desperate need of the job (I have several interviews lined up) but I am curious on my leverage with them. I would assume salary negotiations are back open. How far can I push?? I am fairly sure that commission isn't going to be apart of it, and vacation at 2 wks/yr will be standard. I would need a 5K relo or starting bonus. Any ballpark guesses for base salary for L.A. on a app sci position with ~50% international travel?

Thanks for the support. The company obviously wants me but I don't want to blow a deal.

J.C. said...

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