E011 How Does the Recruitment Process in Biomedical Companies Look? What Recruiters Value in PhDs

July 19th 2020

Dr Patrick Britz holds a PhD degree in Biopsychology and worked on combining EEG and fMRI as well as on the interaction of emotion and attention. During his PhD, he started working for Brain Products GmbH as a Scientific Consultant and was offered to go to North America to work for Brain Vision LLC. From beginning as a Scientific Consultant, Patrick soon took over more responsibilities and in 2013-2019, was the President of Brain Vision LLC and in 2017-2019 was the President of Brain Vision Solutions Inc. in Canada. Brain Vision LLC provides solutions to the leading institutes, minds, and companies in North America to drive the most innovative research, as the distribution partner for companies of all sizes from academic startup companies to multinational concerns including Brain Products, NIRx, CGX (Cognionics), EasyCap, and CREmedical to name a few.

Since December 2019, Patrick works as the General Manager at NIRx GmbH in Berlin, an international company that provides life science comprehensive technology solutions for the most demanding investigative applications. NIRx GmbH offers a range of products based on multi-distance spectroscopic measurements. Patrick’s role is to drive innovation so that NIRx GmbH can offer the solutions that you – as a customer – want to use in the future. Patrick perfected the art of predicting where science will go next!

In this webinar, Patrick spilt some beans about the principles of the recruitment process. He acquired this knowledge during the times when he was working as the CEO and President of Brain Vision LLC and he used to review over 200 job applications (mostly, coming from researchers) a year.

Patrick’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-britz-phd-6a526116/

Please contact Patrick if you need some advice concerning:
(1) Recent developments in the field of NIRx and opportunities for working in this space,
(2) Good practices in recruitment,
(3) Dos and don’ts in the job application process.

The episode was recorded on July 19th, 2020. This material represents the speaker’s personal views and not the opinions of their employer(s).

Natalia 00:09 Hello, everyone. Very nice to meet you today. Today, we have a distinguished guest, Dr. Patrick Britz. Patrick holds a PhD degree in biopsychology. During his PhD, he started working for brain products as a scientific consultant, and later also for brain vision. Between 2013 and 2019, he was the president of brain vision, LLC. Between 2017 and 2019, he was also president of brain vision solutions. And that was in Canada. But today, he works as a general manager at NIRx, in Berlin. Thank you so much, Patrick, for accepting our invitation today.

I’m very happy about this webinar. Now, I would like to give the floor to you so that you can tell us your story in fine detail. Please tell us all your stories so far, how it happened that you became the general manager, and where you’re working right now. Thank you so much again, and please tell us.

Patrick 01:23 Thank you so much for having me here. It’s the first time I’m introduced as distinguished. I’m very happy that this is the first time that word was used. Thank you so much. For everyone’s time here, I’m not 100% sure what you hope to get out of this one hour. I’m very happy if you post any questions you have. If you don’t post any questions, about what I’m going to talk about, I would say quickly, how I ended up in the industry, and why I think this is a more relevant topic. This is the first thing. The second thing that I talk about maybe is that I now run a couple of companies and had to hire several people out of academia.

I’m a trained psychologist. I always had a little bit of interest in hiring good people. It’s very important for a company and I think it’s core to being so successful. There’s a lot of effort at a company does not always successful, not always you will see it from the outset. But theoretically, every company tries to hire good candidates. I can tell you what efforts I do, what I think other companies are doing, and how you can counter this game. But you can look to be successful at that. Then in the next step, I would go over the mechanics of an application and the process.

Because I see some slight 200 plus applications a year. I see from very good ones to a lot of ones that do very basic mistakes that you could avoid. It’s not just the application that sorts the process. How do you get to an employer because just sending the application is not the most effective way? That is how I would do it unless you guide me. Otherwise, what are your questions? Do I see if I’m not at this chat window? And I don’t see any questions. I just continue at the moment. I wanted to be a professor. You can straightforwardly call me a failed academic because I wanted to be a professor and I didn’t manage.

I was in an EEG lab in the first semester in the methods department. We did research basically from semester one. We did a lot of cool stuff and cool experiments and cool data analysis and wrote software and programs. The one thing that we didn’t do was publish. There was very little publishing going on in this lab and I learned we’re way too late. There’s a certain way to an academic career in which you are measured in publications, a little bit the network being with the right people. If you’re finishing your PhD, and you have zero papers out there, and the papers you have are based on tons and tons of experiments, but not politically wise and not well connected.

I was in a bad spot. My English writing was also not that good. This is the case if you try to get English publications. I was in a tough spot and I had a partner. I should put that out there. The first kid partner wasn’t too keen on having another six-year of uncertainty and fighting for Professor because as you all know, it’s a pretty damn hard game. There comes questions. Are you up for that? There are chances of success and a long battle ahead of you with six years of uncertainty. Then I applied to this company where I was a customer for eight years.

I wrote that I use their equipment. I use their analysis software and I wrote to their support monthly. They were very happy to hire me. That brain products company does EEG research. I think they are the market leader. Anyways, how did I end up there? Did I write a fantastic application? No, they asked me to put in my CV. And they did. I anticipated that they would Google me. Back then, I went to a workshop on search engine optimization, and I make myself a WordPress blog for the sole purpose of showing up first on Google.

If you Google my name, you would find me and all my achievements there. And I was pretty successful because my EEG fMRI article on WordPress came up before Wikipedia. I don’t think that is necessary. It was 12 years ago. Nowadays, some people have very stupid stuff about themselves on the internet. Back then, it was something that make you look good. They hired me and they were very happy with me. That is one of my career choices. We can get to that a bit later. But how do I end up being a CEO?

It’s a work-life balance choice in parts. In the company, when new problems were going around, one of them was that they didn’t find anyone to run the US. And I said, okay, I move with my family. I moved to the US. I started up companies. It was just me. I grew this company and that was again the bad choice. If you talk, work-life balance is something where there’s no wrong and right. It’s a question if you want to end up there. And I could easily imagine 10 other ways of going in life. In the end, who was happier? I couldn’t say that. Let’s keep that in mind.

It was a lot of work to run this company for five years very successfully. It grew from one person to some 16 people and 10 fold and turnover, and so on. It was very nice to come back from the US trying to implement all those methods in the base company. Unfortunately, the US company on the new management didn’t do well. I went back this time by myself. I commuted for a year. I, in between, founded the Canadian company to do the same thing in Canada that we were doing in the US. And it was commuted for a year.

That was not a situation that I was too happy with. I got my next job from a company. They knew as a competitor. I sold against them. And I was made aware of this thing later on and published it on YouTube. I’m trying to how do I say that? Well, let’s put it this way. I was successful in the way how you want to be successful towards your competitors. They weren’t doing well, in the times of competition, then we were friends. This is another thing that I learned from research. It’s a very small market. They know all the companies. You don’t want to be nasty to anyone or be negative to any person. It’s not personal because sites which you’re sometimes working together and three years later, you can end up being competitive.

We ended up being very good friends. I sold a lot of their equipment. They were looking for somebody to run their German office. That was perfect for me. I wanted to come back. I wanted to come back to Germany. They were looking for GM in Germany. I told him, Hey, I’m looking for a job in Germany, and they told me basically, same time they’re looking for a new GM. That was a very easy and very good fix or match. I think that concludes my career in why I’m and where I am. We’re working in NIRx right now. We haven’t figured that out how to pronounce that properly. We make a poll here, and you tell me which one sounds better.

We measure functional brain activity with near-infrared light. You get to measure how much light comes back. And because infrared light, two wavelengths are differently absorbed by the blood, whereas oxygenated or not oxygenated. You can see the ratio of the amount of oxygen needed and the amount of deoxygenated hemoglobin is changing, and you can use that to interfere with your brain activity. It’s like fMRI, but much better in terms because fMRI gives you only one and has a much better signal-to-noise ratio because you have a higher sampling rate to get the artifact.

It has a disadvantage because it doesn’t go low. It can’t get any deep structures and spatial resolution. It’s not as good as the fMRI. The last year’s Nobel Prize was for oxygen homeostasis. And it turns out that the newest technology can measure oxygen homeostasis on an organ level. This is a new very hot topic where at the moment, a lot is going around. We are in a fast-growing field because there are already established big players for new players. It’s the same thing, but it’s only focused on the research market.

People that can sell this equipment need to understand the research. To make it even a little bit clear, researchers, as I mentioned, before, we pay former researchers, we are measured in publications, and that depends on you having the right equipment and being on top of it. Because if you are published second, it’s a huge difference between being first. There are little differences that can make a lot of effects, whether you’re the first or not you have to be smart, and all of that, you have to have good ideas. 

But I see a lot that scientists are working. There are always a couple of groups working on very similar topics. The competition is fierce. If a scientist decides to purchase equipment, this is something where you bet your career for the next three years. If you have the feeling that other companies just want to sell and dump you, even if other companies cost more or if they’re lacking some features, if you find, this is a true partner do understand.

My experience is that people would choose a partner that they find reliable. They have to make the context sample. In a hospital, there’s the buyer of the hospital who cares for the lowest price, there’s the medical doctor who just wants the equipment to work somehow, and then there’s the patient who suffers if things are not working. The buyer has very little interest in the game. While on the other hand, the researcher has all his career bet on making all the right choices.

For that reason, I have our brain products at brain vision and NIRx always tries to hire scientists because they really walked in the shoes of the customers and they do understand a little story there. If you and I had back in New York where customer trouble with equipment and one company writes other that and I write something else. The one company wrote him back about the trouble with the equipment, and pay $3,000. And we look at it. And I wrote back and said you’re having trouble with the equipment? How is your study going? You know, if it’s a longitudinal study, like get you some loan equipment. It was all the customer care at that moment

Natalia 14:37 Okay. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I don’t see questions in the chat yet. Let me start by asking you. Which one of these many decisions you took so far was the hardest for you? Which one was the biggest dilemma so far?

Patrick 15:06 None of the decisions were easy. Leaving academia is the hardest. Nowadays, it’s knowing that your chances PhDs to tenure track professorships, plus ratio, you can read it up. And I mean, in England, the latest one was one in 220 people doing a PhD, and one of them can get a professorship. It’s not everywhere. It’s bad in the US. It’s at least one in 10. But that was three years old, I would say is one in fifteen. But if you fight hard, you should get a professorship. It’s just a matter of really fighting hard. I know the numbers. That’s not true. But anyway, leaving academia felt like I’m failing there.

This is a humble decision. That’s the right thing to do. You know, kind of family and safety and whatnot. That was hard. It took some six months, a year before I was an ultimate expert on EEG equipment. And I felt it was the right decision.

Natalia Okay, great. I think this decision is hard. I know some people who could make this decision in literally one day. They just woke up one day and said, this is enough, I’m done. For me, it was also a long process. I can see your point probably even longer than a year. But now, we have a question from Laxmi. Hi, I’m Laxmi from India. I want to know, what are your views on alternatives to measure researchers based on the number of publications? Or I guess, is this the impact factor of the journal they published in?

Patrick 17:13 It’s a very good question. I feel that I’m the wrong person to discuss the judgment on two things. The one thing is how the academic system functions to an outsider and looking at it. I have the feeling. And I’ve been part of many discussions where people’s said it’s so unfair, and it’s not good. And there are so many flaws in it. There are many flaws in the academic system and how we judge people within the academic system. It’s also very hard to change. 

The other thing that I found is that it takes quite some personality to be in a system that puts pressure on you. And when you’re on the one-to-one site, you complain about how it is unfair towards the PhDs and whatnot. But as soon as your professor let’s say half positions, why are we giving half positions? Yeah, we because you get double the people that doing work for you.

I saw some people switching from being not a professor and complaining about how the system is flawed, and then being on the other side and changing something and I have all the respect for it. I saw some people that switched to a professor and six months later told you that, it was all my hard work. And there was no problem with the system anymore. Having alternative measures to judge within academia is not meant to tell. Academia has to figure that out.

Being outside of academia, and looking at the people from the industry, we don’t judge by the number of publications, we look at the knowledge that brings you to the position? Have you done your research in a timely fashion? How is your network? It’s not my measure. That depends on the job that you’re looking for. But the industry doesn’t measure up the number of publications. I hope that answers the questions.

Natalia 19:14 I think it’s a difficult question. I think this is the material for a Nobel Prize. Whoever can solve this problem for academia deserves one because it’s a problem going on and on for decades now, or even centuries. Okay. We have more questions. The question from Emily is if you were not asked to start a company abroad, where would you see yourself by now?

Patrick 19:50 There are two answers. Your question aims at a very specific point in my life. I started with this German company, and then I was offered, I think after six months or so all ready to go to the US to run this company. If I wouldn’t have been offered by this company, there were two or three places where I would have realistically ended. I would have not minded climbing the ranks of the company in Germany, on obviously ending up one day as the CEO, General Manager, or head scientist in this company. This is the one thing.

The other thing which was where I was always inclined to be, at one point, jumping off making your own company. And the distribution part was interesting. Maybe, I say something about that own company in a moment. Bring products work distribution partners, and I became a distribution partner in the US. I would never mind being a distribution partner somewhere in Germany, or Europe, or something like that, and would have run such a business.

Because as a distribution partner, we work with all the scientists and you go to the same conferences, you have all the fun parts of academia, you talk to all the smart people. It’s a very nice job. That were alternatives for me and the other one making your own company.

I always had some crazy side ideas. One was to make a biofeedback t-shirt that would just give you feedback on your posture, just the pen sensor in there. Being second I wrote the patent together for that. Then I found out that some Canadian guy patented for very different applications. I gave up on that. But on the other hand, my career was going too quickly for me to ever have enough time to do my own company. I want to summarise in one sentence if you’re not working on your dream, like Natalia is doing that time here.

Natalia 22:01 Did you mean me? Thank you.

Patrick 22:07 Natalia, you’re working on your dream, and you’re doing great. If you’re not working on your dream, you get hired by somebody else like me to work on their dream. The owner of the company that I’m responsible for, they dream of their company. This is a sentence. But having your own company as you can hear, it’s not just all fun and games. But it’s something that always has intrigued me. And because I also had that mindset, I think that qualified me to run a company for somebody else.

Natalia 22:40 If I can add something to this, like, whenever I talk to you, I smell an entrepreneur. I think that there is something higher on the back of your head that will come to the surface one day. I would bet that in 20 years, you will have this one company. I could bet about it.

Patrick 23:02 I helped a lot of people get their company started. Brainvision is a distribution company and people that had solutions for scientists, are doing something in their lab for their people. I pushed them and said, Hey, how about you offered that and I’m going to sell that all over the US. And I’ve worked with the company. The company that I’m working with, for now, NIRx, was a tiny company that was building devices far away from solutions for researchers. It did help them a lot to grow. Then other companies have helped them to grow. I see this as a very viable path.

Natalia 23:37 I think it’s also good to be a professional advisor. I think you’re good at advising people and you’re good at pitching. It’s also sometimes good to be on the professional advisory board. Maybe, you also end up with shares in multiple companies just because you’re a good advisor. That was not a question.

Patrick 23:59 And again, we’re putting that on YouTube. There’s stuff that you shouldn’t hit.

Natalia 24:09 Alright. One note about dreams is funny. When I was in academia, I had this dream to become a professor in neuroscience. My father is a chess player, and he always says, you have to go for the win. If you go for a tie, you will lose. If you do something, do it 100%. When I was studying neuroscience, I was thinking of doing it all the way. And I had a very precise dream. But my daily life was sometimes miserable. Now, it’s completely the other way around.

I don’t even know what I will be doing in 10 years but I just know that it will be something awesome. That’s just completely the other way around. It’s also like interesting that you know what dreams can change.

Patrick 25:00 Shall I answer the next question? Okay, what part of being in academia do you miss? Obviously being in academia. I’m very lucky that I’m dealing only with smart people. But being outside of academia, I was always afraid that there’s a different crowd. But I can honestly say, I’m very happy whenever I’m at a conference with all the smart people. If I have to go somewhere to a different event, I don’t want to have that. If I wouldn’t be in this lucky situation, where I am right now that I, with academic people, despite being in academia, did the vibe around, that’s what I would miss, if I would go any step further away.

Once you’re a professor and have a lifelong position, and you have all that freedom, that is unique. That is where I was going for, and I wanted to have all that freedom. And then a company, even if it’s your own company, you do serve a purpose. As a company has a mission, and you have a playbook by your owners. 

Even the GM has a boss, and you do what it’s requested of you to do. Your degrees of freedom are much less than what the professor has to have just a professorship. I never had it. So I can’t say that I’m missing it, but they’re envisioning it. I know, they have paperwork and teaching and whatnot. But I still think what I miss is something I never had had.

Natalia 26:50 I can add something to this. I think mental health in academia is also getting more and more attention in the media right now and on social media as well. And actually, one of the taboos that are not being talked about too much is depression among professors because they are under unbelievable pressure. That’s an unfortunate case. It’s not known what are the precise numbers, but it’s known that many professors have burned on them.

They are under such pressure and are not supposed to share because they have to be role models. It’s also like double pressure. It’s unknown to what extent a professorship is a happy life because there is no hard data on that. But it’s known that it can also be not as shiny as we believe, from our side.

Patrick 27:48 I don’t know. I’ve never been okay. I see the questions coming in. I think the change will come from us people in academia. It seems to be very hard because if you’re the first person that changes, give you a PhD, or your postdoc will give you a PhD. So full position, then you have only one employee, but that employee will hopefully focus then you can select the best. There’s hope that academia is changing the system from within? It’s not a question.

Natalia 28:37 Shall I read the next question? I did hear you say earlier that you are dealing relatively a lot with hiring new staff. I think that’s also very interesting to us. I know for the first time involved in hiring a new colleague and taking the lead in work in that who will be working closely with me in the next three years. Do you have any tips for selecting candidates?

Patrick 29:08 We only have one hour and after hours have gone I will try to put it in a nutshell. Hiring people is not something you should do out of your gut feeling but there’s a lot to read about how that is done. I tried to do it in three minutes. Hiring whatever you do so and this is something I firmly believe when I did my PhD part of the time I financed myself working in HR. We build this assessment centre and I did the statistics behind this assessment centre. If you ever come across a latent state trade model that I tried to apply to a German insurance company. What it is even if you hire one person, you can put a lot of effort in there to follow a good applicant for you.

It’s time very well spent. The first thing that is very hard to spend too much effort there is finding a very good colleague. If you don’t know what you’re searching for, it’s very hard to make a need analysis. Let’s start even earlier and read up on how hiring is done. There is I couldn’t pull a book, but I’m pretty sure there is stuff out there that you could get a basic idea of what is important, then the basic idea here is your measure.

Your whole hiring test is measuring a human for a fit in a position. Write down what you think is what this person should be doing. Write out what this person should bring to the company, how’s my team? What is special about us? How do we work? What would bother me and what makes me happy? What is that for personality? Write it all down. Get some sounding board, somebody you can talk to see this the position who hired a couple of people before and say here, this is, this is what I need.

Once you know what you need, from this position, you have to do translations, you have to translate that into a job dropout. It’s a very fine balance between getting too many people that you don’t want, making it too specific, and curing people that actually would fit nicely. This is just something about if you have a prediction of let’s say job fit versus test score. 

If you have a perfect test, you would get a linear relation between them. If you have a random test, you would just end up with a circle. The slimmer you get it, the better your test predicts the job fit. But no matter how good your test is, the more people you throw in there, as the test works is just a tiny bit. The more people you throw in that test, the more likely you will find somebody who is doing good. This is just statistics.

You don’t want to hire the first person that comes across you. But you do any other scientific test, you want to make it a scientific test, you want to construct your scientific test, you want to run your test, you want to make sure you have the big enough numbers, if possible. Then this job ad is also a balance between making an advertisement for you and asking what you want to have, then I would do at least two more steps one telephone interview, have your questions ready like what you want to ask again. Make sure that what you believe your measure up is reflected in your questions. Roll out criterion. How do you find out something but then make an in-person interview and spend some time?

There are very fun questions if you hire somebody for a team. Google and Facebook spend millions on building better assessment centres and hiring tests. One of the things that they came up with is, imagine you’re sitting at the airport, the last flight is gone, you are stuck with this person at the airport, it’s 11 p.m., too late to go to the hotel, shops are closed, and you have to get through the night without person talking, or how you feel. Is that the most interesting night and we will not run out of topics to talk or is that gonna be awkward.

That’s a question that you can ask yourself. Ask people independently. We know that if you sit down and build an opinion that people just go with the flow of the leader. Whoever kind of says an opinion first and you have bias. Write down your question, interview the people separately, have them answer it separately, and then aggregate it later. And if you have big discrepancies and how people see your candidate, it is always a good indicator that something is off. Spend a lot of time and take it scientifically.

Natalia 34:09 Can I ask you an additional question? From what I see and also a lot of people looking for jobs, they often complain and I think it’s a justified complaint that the job offers often sound very similar to each other. It’s pseudo-language. This convention of putting a job offer together that everyone is looking for a motivated team player, an enthusiastic person. You read through 100 job offers and they all sound the same. What would be your advice on how to make your job offer either stand out or be more concrete or more descriptive than this standard?

Patrick 34:54 There are three things. One, it’s 2020. You want to look for somebody motivated. To start as a team player, this is the best we come up with. The company comes up and I’m writing that my job ad, even after thinking for a week about it, what do we need, because that’s what we need. And this is, unfortunately, something. I know you have some thinking about that which we can’t measure yet. We need someone to build a company that measures all of those features and make sure that we have more of a team player and more of a self-starter, depending on what positions we are looking for.

The companies are writing that because they’re looking for that. And here comes the point, if you’re smart, and I’m flipping it around, you’re not searching, but you’re applying, take this job but take it as a grant. There’s a call for a grant. If you read that line by line, then you answer line by line. If they say, show how it’s relevant for humans, and you say to them that so many humans have these conditions, and we’re gonna fix it and it is not done before. And this work is not done before, and you go line by line. And then there’s a job ad, and you completely ignore it, you say, Okay, I’m gonna apply there, and then you write your normal application.

You take the job up, and you go line by line. You look for a team player. I did the following. Since in a team, either I play hockey or whatever. I’m doing this for 10 years, and I know how to play a team. We were five people and we had to organize ourselves and I was always the guy who organized the team. was the lady behind the coherence of the lap, whatever. And then they say a self-starter, and then you say, Hey, I did my PhD, how much myself started can I be, but you have to translate that. If they put it out there, this is the best thing they can carpet. This is the one thing.

Now how do I stand up if I’m putting the job out there? Write a bit more about the personality, write what is important. Don’t write in all the things that are given. I would still write startup, but you can write them, Hey, we are a team where do people work for weeks on their own projects, hence, you need to be a self-starter. We are working with six people sharing the project. We have shared code on GitHub. People need to communicate with us and tell us that you’re a team player, you can make it a bit more personal, a bit more fitting if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Go a little bit more on the marketing side and say we are an awesome team. One more thing. It’s not a secret last job out. It’s now not on the website anymore. The last job that I wrote about was on benefits. The benefits are salary, vacation days, and insurance or something like that. You can also go benefits is your work on an awesome project. We make a difference. This is something with the meaning we have great motivated people. List 10 benefits before you put out the salary and the vacation days.

Natalia 37:53 Okay, great. Can I ask you one additional question here? Given that you were hiring for a long time, what are the red lights for you that when you see that in the application, then that’s a no go for you?

Patrick 38:08 There’s the job ad, then I’m getting an application, I have no criterion that the phone call I have no work criterion and at an interview at an in-person interview, I have a no go criterion. Going back to the ladder is the interview criterion, for example, the team fit is poor, I would not hire in the telephone interview if the start date is outside the limits that we need if the salary expectation or salary expectation. 

In the written thing, you do an internet search. If you find somebody having extremist views somewhere on the internet, you wouldn’t write that in your official guidelines. And I noticed this on YouTube. But I would still say that in public if you find that somebody has supported something very problematic and extremist, you would try to exclude this person from the hiring process.

You have really to fix the criterion. I do have criteria on if the application is full of errors, you don’t waste your time, you have so much time in the day. If they say to the hiring manager, I’m looking forward to starting in your lab. You’re not a lab company, I hope to further my career in science. That was not meant for me. And if that are typos from the beginning to the end, you wouldn’t think of a grant application if you wouldn’t write a grant like this.

Some people said that I bought 100 applications the last month and I didn’t hear back I said would you write 100 grant applications and be surprised that you did not win any of those grants? Write one where you really think you win it and write it well. You want to win one out of 10. Maybe you don’t want to miss 100. I hope that answers the question.

Natalia 39:57 I have the same experience. We only ask hard questions here. The hard question for you is did you ever make a mistake? Did you ever feel that this was not a good hire?

Patrick 40:15 Did I ever make a mistake in hiring people? Yes. I don’t want to say publicly who the fool’s mistake was. But I made all my scientific. And it’s very simple. I made all my documents on hiring a scientific consultant, some 20 pages long. And back then I made it a weighted average of the team fit social components and knowledge. I had one extremely bright candidate who was scoring low in the team fit. On average, she just made the threshold. I said, okay, it’s fine. And it turned out, that was a bad idea. Now, I would never hire anyone, again, that is a bad team fit.

I’m now making it to independent criteria. You have to pass both. You cannot compensate with technical knowledge for social skills and team fit. I made a mistake there and got the advantage. If you hire in such a systematic fashion, you can go back and look at your criteria and say, what did I do wrong? Which of these parameters to fit?

Natalia 41:23Okay. I have one related question to this one. What is the optimal amount of candidates that should pass through the first round of interviews to the second round? What’s your typical choice?

Patrick 41:45 I’m contemplating how deep to answer this question. You can calculate that there is a formula where you have to estimate about four factors, how much does a bad person cost versus how much does a good person gain you is a difference in the time that this you need to figure out whether it’s good or bad. It’s a distribution of how good could somebody perform in this job. 

This is you invest a certain amount of money, you want to have a certain outcome. This is even a ratio. The gain to the company can be negative if you hire the wrong person. You should run this exercise. If you hire a bad person, it cost you a hell of a lot of money because you lose time, you have to retrain a person.

It does depend on the position, on your time, and how bad you are in it. It also depends on how good your test is. The better your test is, the fewer people you need to put in there. This is very hard for the first time to estimate how good your tests are. I would say, if you’re getting less than 20 applications, you’re not casting a wide enough net. You would say all of those 20 applications are great, then you have fished in the right pond.

Let’s put it this way. But in general, If you’re looking for a scientist, you put it on the website, on Glassdoor, or whatever. You get some 50 60 applications back then I try to have 10 to 12 phone interviews at least. That leads to 455 in-person interviews that are done with the whole team. If you think that this is done the whole team overall. I would say 20 man-hours invested from the team, then you get an idea of how much money if you just think how much an hour of a team member costs, how much money is spent on finding good team members. My experience is that it’s so cool if you have a team. That’s fun to work with.

It’s worth it. Breaking it down to a ballpark number, you have to go exercise yourself and think about how valuable it is and how damaging it is if you find the wrong person, that should convince you that you can do a lot of effort. I would say your job should yield something like 40 applications. You’re doing a little bit too much, but it could happen. If you have less than 20 you’re maybe not fishing in the right conditions or it’s not attractive what you’re offering and then have it there and do your telephone interviews.

Natalia 44:45 This is something we are completely missing in academia. Why hiring PhD students is doing this team feat right. This is something nonexistent and it should be there.

Patrick 45:00 It’s not my field to talk and I want to be very careful there because hiring in academia is not like hiring in the industry. Hiring in academia doesn’t mean that you have to fit a team. There’s a Principal Investigator professor who needs to get something done. They don’t even care about people but you’re the only PhD often PIs where you don’t necessarily have to be a team, or you work three years in your one room and you do not even care what the other person in the other room is doing. Because they want a different grant on a different project.

You share a coffeemaker but other than that you have nothing to do with each other. This is one reason why it’s different. The other thing is, you’re also much more following your own goal. And again, the PI is following its own goal and you are following your own goal. It’s not like a company where your boss and you hopefully have much more of an overlap. I’m not sure.

Natalia 46:04 It’s debatable because it also depends on the branch of science because this big consortium is supposed to be something more in some other branches. It’s much more individualistic. It’s a big topic. Let us proceed to the next question. Let us first answer a question from Laxmi. And then we will be going forward to questions from Emily. Laxmi says, what are your views on a two-way interview where the candidate is also interviewing you? They don’t end up in the wrong position because lots of people take it as disrespectful or playing smart. What would be a good balance between this two-way process?

Patrick 46:53 You’re right. Whenever I did this type of early career consulting. I asked one question that everyone gets wrong. I asked what is the worst outcome of a job interview, often the application process? What’s the worst contact, you could have during an application process? I would say you’re never hearing back getting rejected. The worst outcome that you could have, is getting a job that you don’t like in a company that you don’t like with colleagues that you don’t like a job in which you’re not good. They hate you. You hate them. You have a kink in your resume. You come fresh from university.

You’re sparkly and you have done just a ladder up and now you’re going to a job. And from that job, after two years, you have nothing to show for it. But a company that you don’t want to give us a reference and a job that you hate. No. It is also your opportunity. And you have to be careful. You have to be clear about jobs you like or not.

If you take it that way, and only apply to the jobs that you are interested in and you put there the effort and not just oh, I will do anything I need to have my first job and get my first experience. And I take it very positively and I also make sure that the company is a fit because it’s all too costly for me. I hire you because you made this fantastic forsake. And I think now hire you and I turn out being unhappy. You’ve been unhappy.

It’s not gonna go anywhere. Let’s be a little bit honest. It presents you in nice light. You don’t want to end up in your job. That is not for you or your values. You spend the majority of your waking hours in that place with those people following their goals. If it’s something that sucks, don’t do it.

Natalia 48:54 I understood this question a little bit differently. I think, the question is also about this, there’s this popular belief that another job interview is a good strategy to ask questions as an applicant. Show interest in the company by asking a lot of questions, and the question is, where’s the balance? To what extent should you be asking questions not to overdo?

Patrick 49:31 It’s a good question. I never encounter applicants that would ask too many questions. I do encounter a lot of applicants that don’t ask enough questions. I’m speaking from my perspective only. I think maybe in a big company where you run into a professional recruiter who just has the task to bring the best people on board, and they think they are choosing between too many applicants that they have. This would be seen as negative but in general, if they are asking for all those soft skills of Team fit and whatnot, you have to ask what is important in your team? What is important in your culture? What is important in your values?

Read their mission statement on their website even if it’s outdated. Read the latest newsletter and know about the company. But if you have done and you ask the basic questions and says, what’s your company about? It’s not good. But if you have read up on them, and now you have the questions, so you say that your mission value is this and this? I want you to know, is that you’re living that day today? Is that fitting my position? Would you expect me to position how do we treat you? What is your relationship with customers? You’re not saying anything on the website? Or what are your guidelines for employees? Do you have a handbook or whatever?

Natalia 51:17 Okay. Since you had people working under you, so my question would be, what is your leadership style? How would you describe your attitude to your employees?

Patrick 51:39 Let’s put it this way. As a leader, this is one of the things that you should be aware of if you aim at somebody. Emily, you’re asking the question of how to step up in a hierarchy. The biggest thing about stepping up is that you’re lonely and you’re not getting honest feedback. There’s a book radical calendar. I worked with a very good HR, and she helped me a lot. She coached me in all possible ways to get feedback from my employees. Because as a leader, it’s very hard to get feedback. The guy who controls your salary shortly and they don’t want to tell you that they do something shitty.

And you have to be extremely open and mindful to get good feedback. I wouldn’t be foolish enough to assume that I hear all the truth about myself. The feedback that I’m getting is about my leadership style. There are still things that you can fill out and organize, like, what is your leadership style, and so on. I like being brief. I like integrity. This is about me. I’m trying to be that as a leader to succeed. Most of the time, not always start my meetings with how can I help you with your meeting? It’s servant, but then I’m not a good listener. My HR always told me, Patrick, you need to listen more. I’m going into meetings because 90% of the time my predictions are right. I missed that I’m wrong 10% of the time, and I tend to go in there and say, I wouldn’t feel more comfortable with other people asking about my leadership style.

But one thing I know, I am putting a lot of work and effort in there and having the HR lady back then, and now I have a new HR person starting Monday, tomorrow. I put a lot of effort into getting feedback. And if I do something wrong, I want to know directly. After every big meeting, I was having a meeting with HR and I got, you interrupted this person, you brought something up, this was not in the agenda, this person seemed to have checked out and you missed this. She always gave me positive news that she told me everything is wrong. Then she told me how overall everything went well. I think this is just a leadership style.

Natalia 54:25 We’re happy with this answer. My next question would be, since you’re a general manager now and feels like there is not much more movement for you to step up the game in your current place. My question would be, what are your dreams? What are your plans for the next few years? How would you like to develop yourself further?

Patrick 54:50 Personal development is a must. It doesn’t depend on the position as As General Manager. You can’t go any further than then being the general manager. You can be the owner of the company. There is a place above that if you will. If you no matter where you are in the, in a company, if you do just your job, if you work in your job all the time, you’re missing to work on your job to work on you. I try to read one book a month. That doesn’t sound much. But I have failed the last two months.

I try to go to some seminars to learn a new skill and learn something new and be a better leader. This is the one thing in developing yourself personally. And where do I want to be in three years? In three years, I’m responsible for a company, now the question is, where do I see this company in four years. I could tell you all my big dreams. Let’s stay humble if we’re still in the market. If we’re doing fine, and for customers publishing Nature and Science, then I think I’m doing already really great.

Natalia 56:03 Great. Okay, so my next question will be, keeping in mind all the things you already achieved and all your decisions. Do you have some general advice for young researchers?

Patrick 56:21 My general feedback for young researchers at this level is that if you’re still considering going to academia, then there are three things. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not getting there. I saw a lot of people that wanted to be professors. I no more than a handful that went on and became professors. And what I think distinguishes them the most was that they have a plan. I’m going to this famous lab in this lab has nature and science publications. And this lab has sparked some other professorships. And hence I’m learning at the moment this technique because this topic is something that brings me there. All the people that became professors were big names for who they were in those labs.

They went there and you could tell people, the number of publications. I would say that came second. That was the mobility of being in the network, going to the big names, and having publications with the big names in that field and having also done that networks in the field. If you want to go to academia, you should be in a network of people. Second, it does count in the publication. I know a lady. Last time I talked to her at SBR. She’s 30. And she has 78 publications. This is what you’re up against. Publish whatever you do. And the last one you don’t have to be in academia. I’m extremely happy outside or close to it.

There are a lot of fantastic jobs. Here’s the most important message for the whole thing today, don’t underestimate how good you are. This is because you’re in a pitch against a hand-selected top of the top, you know, you have to first enter university in your field, which is already less than 40% of the population to a PhD less than 5% of the population.

And then be good in there that you are at the outer edge of the spectrum. This gives you this comparison to your right and left. It’s not real. The moment that you completed PhD, and moved into the industry, you feel like in an overpowered computer game. If you go back 20 levels because you redo the early missions, you feel overpowered. 

That’s an experience you will get because fighting for that PhD is hard on your ego because you’re dealing with the smartest people in a very narrow field and experts that have been there for 20 years. And suddenly you go out there and you have all the skills of acquiring knowledge hard, self-driven, self-motivation, self-organized, and suddenly you encounter people that haven’t been through such hard training, and you’re good. If you get out of academia, you’re better than you think you are.

Natalia 1:00:07 Okay, fantastic. Shall we now get back to Emily’s question for a second?

Patrick 1:00:13 Okay. What’s the best strategy to step up in the hierarchy of a company? I don’t know if there’s one strategy. I can tell you my strategy. My strategy was a shitty work-life balance. I worked too much. And I have two kids. I made it a habit to take the time that I have with them to take seriously and take my time off there with them. But other things that you could have done in life when I talk to people now sound like I’m old.

But you talk to people and you think, oh, I did my month there. And I did my work and travel there. And I took a year off there and whatnot. People that play fantastic instruments and band and whatnot, sort of hobbies. I don’t want to give anyone the impression that this is the choice. No, I have something. Forget about that. Yes, it’s hard work to move up.

It depends on which company you are in. But the things that decide make a difference. If you’re in a company with core competencies, I wasn’t a scientific company, and innocent and I had the scientific background, I was fitting well and that does help. That’s the one thing you understand that my philosophy personally, is to work that way, or how to protect your job. Some people try to not share their knowledge. Programmers that don’t document their code, people that write everything in a private folder, and they don’t teach the students how they did the analysis.

And some people are trying to hold on to their knowledge. That protects you against being fired. But it also protects you against being promoted. Because I can’t promote you. You’re the only person that knows this code, you’re the only person who knows how to do it. I’ve made sure that whatever I know, I shared with other people. I documented. I give it to the last job I had before this one brain vision.

When I left all positions, the one common theme is that I leave them under good conditions. My assistant went five promotions later. She inherited my CEO position at Brain Vision. She never called me afterward. But everything I knew was taught to somebody, every relationship I had, I had somebody with me and handed this relationship before I left the company, everything I had was documented, taught to somebody was put down. It’s a risky business. Because if I give all my knowledge, then I could be replaced. But I can also be promoted.

That was my strategy. There’s a lot more to be said. Figure out what is important in this position to that person that would hire you in the next job. There’s the Peter Principle, just because you’re a very good salesperson doesn’t mean you’re a very good manager. This is always a huge risk. I always trained with a little bit in mind, what do I need to have in the next position? What is the personal development that I have to bring?

Natalia 1:03:51 I have one more question. Do you believe that there is some natural charisma that every CEO should have? Because that’s also a debate. Is it that everyone can be in a good situation, good conditions, and have a strategy? Can anyone become a CEO? Or do you have to be born with the sparkle that is kind of you know, this is something you’re given?

Patrick 1:04:18 In the end, It’s a little bit like the professorship. We can’t be all professors. There has to be somebody willing to sacrifice his 30s in the pursuit of the scientific area. You’re not getting those 70 publications by going out and partying. You’re getting them by sitting in the lab till midnight and bleeding over your next publication, and some talent and whatnot. I don’t think that there are a lot of people motivated.

The moment you’re in higher management, you feel that you have to be friendly to everyone and understanding in balancing their emotions and leading those people. Those people are not coming to you and say hey, such a great job company, you did well, you did amazing. They don’t know what you’re doing there. Most of them think he’s in his office writing emails all day long. I have no idea what he’s doing.

The first thing, I don’t know, a lot of people think it’s fun to go up the ladder, but it’s not all fun and games. That’s the one thing not everyone can be there. Because if you have a company or 50 people, you have one CEO and three C level there. It’s natural if it is the path that you’re pursuing. Getting a mentor would be very helpful. Be strategic about it, like the professorship thinks of which skills are needed.

To bring this personality, do what it takes. To me it was, they needed me in the US, I went to the US, they needed me in another position, I went to the data position, whatever has the most value to the company stayed close too quickly to what generates the value in the company? What are your questions? I’m drifting here. You see, I sometimes have soapboxes and have very quick and good answers. This is something I haven’t thought about.

Natalia 1:06:12 That’s great. I mean, I see that you’re thinking on the fly. That’s good that you don’t give us ready answers. But I’m very happy with your answer. If I understand correctly, you have to have focus. That’s more important than this sparkle. Okay, we have two questions, and let’s make them the last questions. Because we’re going overtime. A question from Laxmi is do you think that some qualities that you gained from academia helped you to be where you are today and stand out?

Patrick 1:06:50 Absolutely, yes. I have anticipated us going off on that brought some more time. So I’m good. But thanks for being mindful there. I learned in academia the three things that have helped me. The one thing is, while I was in the statistics department and applying this scientific rigor to your company, to your jobs to whatever you do there, absolutely hope it’s a numbers game. I decide whether I go to a conference or not, I could just say, the conference last year, how was it? We had nice talks. We should go there. Again, I think it’s important.

I say, okay, what are the statistics? How many leads do we get? What’s the conversion rate on the leads? How many happy customer or unhappy customer wants to talk? What does it cost? We spent all 15,000. At the conference, we get all these types of companies’ stream revenue, and most importantly, we are talking to those four, six people about how important is it to you?

We don’t feel right putting a number on your customers. But to make a decision, you have to put it down to numbers and then look at the variance and how that differs. If you hire somebody, it’s the same. As I said, it’s the same, you make a measuring test and the theories that you have learned, you just apply them there. Again, in the company, you need a little bit of economy, and you have a tax consultant, and you have all those people that contribute their type of knowledge. But getting to the bottom of knowledge and being rigorous about it and reading up on new knowledge and driving your conclusion is stuff you learned during your PhD. Don’t underestimate the methods. Maybe here’s another scene, all that what I did in my experiments myself, this is not very relevant, if I’m now consulting a customer, what’s the difference between a good system whatever I’m selling, and a bad system.

It’s that you get better data and better data will give you less error variance and more effect variance that translates into needing fewer subjects or finding smaller effects and can do things that other people cannot do. And publishing first, because I went through all of the things and I can use all of the things now. I’m using a lot of the knowledge.

I have gained half of it because I’m in a job that is close to academia but half of it because I use the very same techniques and mindset that you have learned to apply just to the business. And it makes sense. You want to know how a good leader leads a company. There’s literature, go to the publication, read up what is a good leading style, there are publications on it, and they are peer-reviewed. They’re certainly better than anything that your friends tell you on Facebook or other sources.

Natalia 1:09:50 Great. Okay, so our last question for today would be, do you have any specific tips on writing a successful application for PhDs, or transitioning to the industry?

Patrick 1:10:04 I was expecting that question first. And basically, it could be a lot of set about it. But to put it in a nutshell, I think, take it as writing a scientific grant. You would not write a grant without reading up on how this specific grant is written. You shouldn’t write an application without reading up on how this should be done. Just a little example, in Germany, you add your picture to an application. Not putting your picture in there is a minus. I don’t consider it the minus because it’s the international crowd that I’m hiring. 

But most companies say, this is already your first time, and you didn’t even put the effort to make it formally correct. In the US big companies, you put a picture in there, you are sorted out, no questions asked. This is not acceptable. This is a big no. You need to read up on how this grant is done, or how the public sees grant applications. You should know how this thing is correctly done. That’s the first thing. You can avoid a lot of errors if you write a grant, you would use Grammarly and Hemingway to check your spelling and your grammar.

You would write well. You would tailor your prior work. For the grant your prior research for the application your CV, you would tailor that to your grant or your application. You would not apply to 100 grants in two months. You would apply to maybe five or 10. You want to apply to a few more, but you want to take it the same way. Most importantly, you want to get to the next level, if the next level is the phone interview.

You’re getting there by your cover letter. I would write this cover letter line by line matching this application with a nice intro that gets this person to read with interest. Read up on the company because now I know what it’s important to the company and know what’s important in the job. I make my cover letter match that. Many people lose this chance by writing a cover letter. In the first paragraph, you exchange Company A for Company B. In the last paragraph, you change Company A for Company B. The middle has nothing to do.

If you write a cover letter, tell the company how your knowledge helps them. I see a lot of cover letters that are straightforward saying, I want you my next career step because that’s going to help me. It’s cool. I know that you think that way. But I wouldn’t write that. I would write them in mind because they should come to you and tell you how it helps them. How you get help from the company, but you should write the company how you help them. I have this type of knowledge that fixes your problem. You look for somebody in sales, development, whatever. This is my knowledge that helps you in sales, development, whatever. Make it about them.

One thing is, even before your application, what is even more powerful is to start early. Once you have more time, you can do some magic called social engineering. You have a LinkedIn profile. You see this company at the conference. You follow them and read their newsletter and apply to go to the virtual conference. You talk to the people there from the conference. And you know a lot you can ask current employees at a conference, like, how was it to work there? Do you have somebody on the inside who already knows your name? It’s like marketing.

The best case scenario is you have somebody saying hey, this is so cool what you’re doing here, would you mind putting me in touch with whoever is hiring, and now imagine instead of just responding to a job ad at Siemens wherever you have an employee of Siemens sending your resume to somebody else, including a cover letter and giving you tips what is important for their company, having somebody on the inside man. That makes an 80% difference.

Make it about them. And don’t make mistakes. Don’t have somebody proofread it. I think this would make the 90% better than the average that I’m seeing.

Natalia 1:14:31 Okay, fantastic. Thank you so much, Patrick. It’s a very extensive answer. Thank you so much. I think that we have to come come come to the end of this meeting. Thank you again for joining us and I’m looking forward to seeing what you’re up to in the next years, but I cannot get over the impression that one day I hear about Patrick, the co-founder of some company.

Patrick 1:15:08 Running a company is fun. At the moment, I’m in a good spot. I’m with a fantastic company. I can see myself growing old here. At the moment, just as much as I was before always toying with the idea of having my own company. It’s not my company and I’m very aware of it. You have ownership of a company but it is nearly as good as having your own company. You said, where am I in three years. 

I think in three years, I hope to be still with this company but doing some even more exciting stuff. I should have said a bit more about how I came to the point when you asked me, in the beginning, you know my career path and I said, you know, I was commuting and wants to go here. There’s another thing I was in the EEG field, which is quite an old field and it’s around for a bit, you’re still exciting stuff going on.

The newest field is very new. It’s fairly new. And it’s a technology just not that far distributed. This means if you’re asking for a grant for a new system, you’re not getting the answer, or there are already three systems at your university. That’s exciting. There may be even other people at your university interested in it. It’s a growing market. And obviously, you want to advise everyone, you want to be in the front of a wave somewhere where things are rising.

This was a very strong argument for this technology where they have not even yet figured out all the applications that you can do with it. Let’s say at the moment, like machine learning or stuff like that, but people are starting to play it. That’s a great field to be because there is more and more interest in it. If you’re just average, you would expand within the field.

If you just do it, you’re already in a growing field. This is also a factor why I think I’m in a good place. Maybe, I will have an advisor role. I will be on many advisory boards and hopefully help other pupils to grow their companies.

Natalia 1:17:31 I’m looking forward because I’m working on business plans. Okay.

Patrick 1:17:44 Thanks for having me.

Natalia 1:17:45 Thank you so much, Patrick. I hope you have a great evening. I’m sure you have a very shiny future, wherever you can or whatever you’re gonna do. Thank you. Goodbye.

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2020, July 19th). E011 How Does the Recruitment Process in Biomedical Companies Look? What Recruiters Value in PhDs? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/career-development-strategies-e011-how-does-the-recruitment-process-in-biomedical-companies-look-what-recruiters-value-in-phds/

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