Friday, February 24, 2012

Midyear & Fellowships

Posted by Eric Zhao at Friday, February 24, 2012

Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowships
Since a majority of Michigan students pursue a post-graduate residency, I’ll post a bit about industry fellowships (there were only 3 of us who applied). Before I begin, please take a look at a previous blog post by Michigan alumnus, Jeffrey Huang, a clinical research fellow at GlaxoSmithKline. His advice and wisdom was instrumental in helping me succeed.

Midyear PPS
Where do I begin? The Rutgers Industry Fellowship program could be one of the most intense interview processes I have ever experienced (14 interviews and 6 receptions over 4 days; see schedule at end). Before you are allowed to sign up for interview slots, you have to watch a 30-minute crash course about the Rutgers program. You can bypass this and sign up for interviews immediately if you attended the Fellowship Information Day at Rutgers in New Jersey about a month before Midyear. I did not attend Fellowship Information Day, so despite being one of the first people in line, I was sent to the middle of the pack after watching the video onsite.

This line is silly

Get there early! I got there about 2 hours before opening and there was already a line forming. I guess it doesn’t really matter, but interview slots are given out on a first come, first serve basis.

Interview Tips
Mock interviews: Do at least one mock interview with another fellowship candidate and ask all the tough questions. You’ll thank yourself later.

Curriculum Vitaes: They say to bring 50 copies, but I only handed out 21. Future candidates can get away with only bringing 30 or so. If you can, print at least 10 (ideally all of them) on resume paper and paper clip them instead of stapling them.

Between interviews: Space your interviews out by 30 minutes, so you can take notes and breathe. Bring some snack foods because sometimes you won’t have time to go eat. There can also be a lot of sitting and waiting if you scheduled your interviews far enough apart.

Presentations: While this isn’t necessary, you can print off any past presentations or materials to show to interviewers if they ask for it. It really drives the point home when you’re talking about your past experience while they are actually viewing it. I brought my PharmD Project, seminar, and pharmaceutical industry presentations.

Research the companies: Be smart.

Interview Process
First round interview: These are with the current fellows and last about 15-30 minutes. They want to see if you have the qualifications and desire to be in the industry. Practice answering “tell me about yourself,” “why a fellowship?” and “why this company?” Sign up and get these out of the way early. If they like you, they’ll set you up for a second round.

Second round interview: These interviews can be either with a fellow or preceptor or both, depending on the company and can last anywhere between 30-60 minutes. The questions are more difficult and typically involve behavioral questions.

Tell me about a time when…

Third round interview: After passing second rounds, the third round is with the preceptors and directors of the departments (one company brought in a vice-president!). Again, the majority of questions are behavioral. If they like you, they will extend an invite to their reception.

Reception: If you want to succeed, you’d best go to these receptions, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Most will have hors d’oeuvres (pronounced HORES DE' VORES*) and an open bar, but it’s not a time to party. Make connections and try to meet everyone at the company, as they may be potential supervisors and mentors. Here is where pharmacy student business cards might come in handy…but they are not necessary.

*not really, but I petition for an alternative pronunciation…Kudos to Bernie Marini, Andrew Wechter, and Brian Dekarske for this wonderful pronunciation.

Thank you cards: Send one to each interviewer. They had a basket at PPS for these, but I ended up mailing all of mine once I came back from New Orleans. I don’t think it matters either way, but if I had to do it again, I’d bring a set of blank cards to Midyear.

Sample Schedule
To give you a taste of what to expect, here was my schedule for PPS:

  • 12:00pm PPS Opens
  • 4:00pm 1st round
  • 8:20am 1st round
  • 9:30am 1st round
  • 10:30am 1st round
  • 11:30am 1st round
  • 12:30pm 2nd round
  • 3:30pm 2nd round
  • 4:30pm 2nd round
  • 10:15am 2nd round
  • 11:30am 3rd round
  • 1:00pm Residency Showcase
  • 3:00pm 3rd round
  • 4:00pm 3rd round
  • 5:30pm Reception
  • 6:00pm Reception
  • 7:00pm Reception
  • 8:30am 1st round (non-Rutgers)
  • 9:00am Residency Showcase
  • 1:00pm Residency Showcase
  • 3:00pm 1st round (non-Rutgers)
  • 6:00pm Reception
  • 7:00pm Reception
  • 8:00pm Reception
  • 8:30am Breakfast Reception
  • 11:00am Sleep until 4:00pm
I had a fantastic time at Midyear and had no regrets going through the process. I liken it to running a triathlon: the training and actual event is very tedious, but once you are finished, you feel a great sense of accomplishment. I will leave you with some words of wisdom for all you future candidates out there.

Clinical Pearls
  • Get to PPS early.
  • Go to Fellowship Information Day to skip the line at PPS to sign up for interviews. Plane tickets can be expensive, so perform a cost-benefit analysis. I didn’t think it was worth the cost and did just fine.
  • Mock interview with a friend.
  • Print CVs on resume paper and bring past presentations.
  • Bring a set of business cards and about 30 blank Thank You cards.
  • Snacks on snacks on snacks.
  • Go to receptions.
  • Get some sleep.
  • Reward yourself and sight-see after it’s all done.
That’s all folks!

Eric Zhao

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