Interviewing: Position-Related Questions Top Pharma Pros Should Ask

If you’ve ever regretted taking a Pharma job, you have already learned the value of doing extensive research into a job opportunity. Unfortunately, there’s only so much research you can do externally. So to supplement that external research, it’s wise to ask questions during your job interviews in order to gather important information about the company, your manager and perhaps most importantly, the job you may hold for the next few years.

Questions the top applicants should ask about the job

Here are 12 powerful categories of questions to ask about the position for which you are interviewing.

  1. Making an impact – One of my goals is to make a difference with my work. Can you explain to me how the work that I will be doing will have a positive impact on customers, health, science and a better world?
  2. Some degree of control – I thrive when I have some degree of control in a job. What decisions will I be allowed to make and how much can I spend without any management approval? What information will I have access to? Can you explain how I will have input into my schedule, the projects that I work on and on remote work options?
  3. My 1st assignment – If you’re interviewing with your future manager, ask “If I was given this position, what is the most likely first assignment that I can expect to be given the first month on the job?” What makes this assignment a great opportunity? Where does my 1st assignment rank on the departmental priorities?
  4. Salary percentile – What is your company’s targeted pay percentile compared to others in the industry? Is it above the 50th percentile? What percentile of the pay range might I expect in an offer? Are you willing to meet or exceed my best offer?
  5. Performance appraisal and improvement – If you’re interviewing with your future manager, ask “How will my performance be assessed?” What will be my goals and what are the methods and metrics that you will use to assess my performance in this job? If I do a great/ bad job during the first 6 months, how specifically will I be alerted? What are the steps you would take to help me improve? Consider asking for a copy of the performance appraisal form.
  6. What happened to the previous job holder – What happened to the last person in this job (i.e. where they promoted, transferred or did they quit)? In what areas would you expect the new hire in this job to be superior to the previous job holder?
  7. What makes this job exciting – What are the best parts of this job? The worst? If I wanted more excitement or challenge, what steps will you take to provide me with that challenge? Can I talk to someone that currently works in this position?
  8. Promotional opportunities – How many months can I expect to be in this position before I get the next one? What is the average tenure in this job until promotion/ transfer? Are there company policies restricting the number of months I must be in a position before I can apply for another?
  9. Team turnover – What is the current retention rate for high performers in my job title and team? When top performers leave, what are their top 3 reasons for leaving?
  10. Modern tools – What level of computer and software can I expect to be issued? How much money can I expect to be able spend on equipment and supplies during my first year? How many approvals do I have to get (and how long does it take to get them) to spend $3,000 on tools or equipment? What percentage of the total department’s budget is allocated to new equipment/ software?
  11. Ask for a copy of the job description – Many job postings are written by recruiters that have little knowledge of the actual job. In addition, most provide only a short truncated version of the job duties. And finally, the job description for your position may have been updated since the position was posted. If you really want to know job details, the solution is to ask for a copy of the latest internal position or job description. It’s best to ask someone for it before the interview actually starts, so that you have time to review it. If that’s not possible, ask for a copy from the interviewer just as the interview begins or at the very end, as the interview is winding down.
  12. Support for salespeople – Since I am focused on pharmaceutical sales, can you highlight the factors and the key sales support tools that you provide to your sales staff? What percent of sales commission do you offer?

© Dr. John Sullivan 4/19/13

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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