August 2010

How to Prepare for a Job in Industry


Industry insiders give tips on how to apply for a job in industry, what to expect during the interview and how to maximize your chances of landing a position.



When applying for a job in industry, “it’s a given that you are an expert,” says Jonathan Jacobs, a staff scientist and recent hire at MedImmune Inc. “It’s the other things that are important in the decision on a hire.” As an expert in bioinformatics and molecular genetics, Jacobs was headhunted by MedImmune for his combination of skills and knowledge. Even so, his selection for the job included several interviews and took a number of months. “Some [people] on the hiring committee were unsure of my prospects in industry,” recalls Jacobs. “Apparently I had already spent too much time in academia.” He was only partway through his second postdoctoral position.

Jacobs’ experience reflects a divide that exists between academia and industry based on a perception of the type and quality of science each produces and the type of scientist each must then attract. One important difference between academic and industry-based research is that projects are shared between collaborators within a company. “You can’t monopolize a project,” says Jacobs. “Staff scientists aren’t dependent on first authorships for their standing among peers and further funding, but they must be able to meet project milestones and move projects forward. This is where collaborations come in.”

Although working toward project milestones may sound boring and not very creative, Jacobs is very enthusiastic about the industry work culture. “You work on a number of projects – I’m currently involved in five – and you get to work with different people who bring their own specialist viewpoint to bear on the problem. It’s very dynamic.”

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