Apex Blog



Noa Nakamura is a pharmaceutical recruitment consultant and specializes in multiple areas including medical affairs, Medical Doctors, and drug safety. She has been at Apex since 2011 and enjoys working with a variety of people and helping them move to the next step in their career.

She discusses how careers in the pharmaceutical industry differ from other industries and provides advice for people looking to switch to a career in pharmaceuticals.



What do you like about recruitment?

I love being involved in such an important decision in people’s lives. What I do has an impact on their career, so I like that I can help find the right position for them.


What is an example of an exciting search you recently worked on?

I met a PHD candidate who was originally from academia and was currently working at a pharmaceutical company, and he was not happy at his current company. We found him an a new opportunity and he ended up receiving an offer. However, after reviewing the new offer we both felt that it was not the perfect match for him. We discussed the positives and negatives and decided it would be best not to accept. Afterwards, we kept in touch and after a few months he was still unhappy with his current company and decided to look for new opportunities again. I knew of a company that could be a great match for him and he was very interested in meeting. Coincidentally right as I was going to introduce his profile to them, they had an opportunity open up that was perfect for his background. Although they were interested in hiring internally, I introduced his profile and they agreed to consider him as well. He met with the company and the process went smoothly from there. It was a perfect match as his experience was a great fit and it was the therapeutic area that was passionate about.


In your experience, what is the interview process like in pharmaceutical companies?

The interview process is usually 2 to 3 interviews, though it does vary depending on the company. Typically the first and interview is with either HR or the hiring manager and the third interview would be with a more senior person in the company. The entire job change process from when they initially send their resume to when they sign the offer letter is around 2-3 months, this of course is case by case as well.


What is unique about the job change process in your industry?

Something that is unique to Medical Doctors specifically moving into a pharmaceutical company from a hospital is that unlike the typical 1 month resignation, they need to provide a 6 month resignation period. This is because they have patients they are still caring for, they may have appointments or operations already scheduled, and in some cases because they need to find their replacement themselves. In that case the time frame from initial resume send to start date would be around 9 months.


What are common mistakes you see people make when changing jobs?

A big mistake I see many people make is that in the interview they say negative things about their previous company or boss. People may think that they are being honest and saying the real reason why they want to leave, but actually saying negative things about your previous employer makes you come across as negative and leaves a bad impression with the hiring manager. This gives the hiring manager the impression that the candidate will also complain and be negative at their company should they be hired.

Instead of talking about negative things, they should focus on the positive aspects of the new job or company that they are looking forward to in the future.


How does working at a pharmaceutical company differ from working in academia?

We find that it is common for people switching from academia to a pharmaceutical company to struggle with communication. In a pharmaceutical company, there are more stakeholders that candidates must speak with as well as clients. Because of this, communication skills are very important. However, if they were mainly working more independently in academia or aren't used collaborating with many stakeholders, this can pose quite a challenge if they move into a pharmaceutical company.


What is challenging about job change in the pharmaceutical industry?

Another challenge for people moving from academia as well as some Medical Doctors coming from hospitals, is business manners such as exchanging meishi. For the Medical Doctors, English is usually a requirement so for those who do not have any English abilities, it can be challenging as well.

For people working in commercial roles, understanding scientific terms can be a challenge at the beginning of their career in a pharmaceutical company. Getting hired by a pharmaceutical company without previous experience in healthcare can be difficult as industry experience is a big requirement, and age can also play a factor.


What can job seekers expect from the interviews?

For job seekers who have not changed their job recently or ever, we find that they are sometimes overwhelmed by multiple steps in the process. Specifically, preparing their resume, interviewing, negotiation, and resignation. Luckily, we specialize in this so we provide support through all of these stages. An important one is especially the negotiation phase when a candidate receives a job offer. Many people find negotiation uncomfortable, or they are not very experienced in it. That’s why it’s best to let the recruiter handle things like negotiating salary, start date, title, and additional perks like working from home. We always make sure that both the client and candidate are happy with the offer and that for the candidate it is the best match for their career.


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