Jobs and interviewing in Market Access, Health Economics and Pricing

Dear All,

a little post from the beach, I trust most of the readers enjoying their well deserved summer vacation. By popular demand in the past when I conducted and published my salary review, and actually due to a lot of personal experience, I am finally getting around on writing a little about the topic of interviews and job search. Most positions in our field are recruited by headhunters or company talent scouts but also network and other ads, e.g. on pages like healtheconomics.com and healtheconomics.org are important information for job seekers. Networking through linkedin.com has also proven very valuable for many of my colleagues and fiends. But nothing beats a personal recommendation or contact that puts you in touch with a potential employer. Therefore in identifying positions you should not find it too difficult as this market is rather transparent and demand for health economists, market access and pricing as well as health policy people seems to be still steadily increasing.

What is interesting is how different companies conduct their interviews. I must say I came across the whole spectrum from very professionally conducted and fast processes to total odd behavior. One day for example I went to an interview for a position of EU market access head with a specialty pharma company and flew about 8 hours in one day taking 4 flights, and changed an important family event travel in order to get to a city in Eastern Europe where they were at a conference. Finding the meeting room the head of Europe of this firm shows up, and with very little introduction and barely a 'hello' and combined with a rather odd and impatient behavior asked me about an old story that he had encountered years back in one EU country where a drug was supposed to be introduced into the market and they had some package insert issue of a cardiovascular agent that the agency apparently had been misplaced etc. etc... now wanting to know what I would have done... I was a bit puzzled about the wired case and answered that this was a regulatory matter usually not in my shop but as in any interaction with authorities would have gone back to them with another copy of the package insert and asking them politely to reconsider and approving  bla bla bla.. that was apparently not a very satisfying answer and even more impatient now the guy rambled on about how this would have delayed his launch in the country as the agency would have found another excuses and bla bla bla.. now me getting tired I simply said (so smartass I thought to myself) what did you finally do? ..well he said he put the updated package insert and launched without approval of the regulatory agency and than creating some political pressure and bla bla bla.. as you can guess by now we are talking about a Southern European country here with lovely pasta tough... anyhow, I just responded dry, coming from a couple of companies that take compliance as a serious value, that is an answer he couldn't have expected to receive from me... anyway the talk didn't get better, we went through a few more odd cases alike and the second guy that showed up thereafter, equally arrogant, didn't really improve my day.

A few days later they (I had advanced already another process with a biotech that professionally quick conducted two interviews in one day, plus a few on Skype the day thereafter) wasted more time by having had the headhunter call one of my references etc.. just to tell me two weeks later, via the recruiter, they were still deliberating and thinking and needed to ask more references about my strategic abilities... probably due to my answers on the package insert discussion beforehand ;)

That's when I decided I had enough of this BS and emailed the headhunter to call it a day with this process, which I should have probably done right after the second round 8 hour trip... after all in my career I had launched more than 4 major products in Europe each of them largely exceeding their one or two product portfolio and therefore concluded to myself that I had no desire no need for additional nonsense from this company. I was wondering anyway what they really wanted here.. it seemed like they were selling a glorified "head" as sort of an assistant to the two guys probably wanting to get rid of stuff they didn't wanted to do anymore... outside voices later on confirmed my sensation about a wired climate there...

But why am I telling you all this, what's the morale of the story here. Well, know your worth and live it! Don't sell yourself too cheap or too fast nor let yourself in strange situation be diverted from what your true experience but moreover your values are. Don't settle for any compromise that doesn't feel right even if you may get impatient with your job search. And remembering Steve job's famous words from a Stanford graduation, don't let your inner voice be drowned by other peoples opinion, don't settle if it doesn't feel right, keep looking, stay hungry, stay foolish ;) !!! and listen to your gut feeling...

And here my personal checklist:

- do your background research very well, ask around, this is a small world, you quickly would find out why a role is vacant too often or takes too long too fill.. there might be personality issues at this company
- ask about the real responsibilities, who decides what, what can you do, are you going to be part of negotiations/authority contacts etc? Who decides your travel, can you attend certain professional meetings/conferences? What budget does the role have, reporting lines etc as titles often are inflated or mean little. From a certain level onwards you don't want to sit around in the headquarter talking about the payer needs but actually never seeing the payer
- be wary of two many rounds and hick hack, the best jobs and match in my experience are those where the process is closed from first call to signature in 4-6 weeks max. Imagine if the process is a major pain, what will the work environment be like ???
- don't become a quotation filler, in other words feel when you are being put forward just to fill the candidate pipeline, don't waste your time with silly presentations unless you need interview practice
- be open and transparent about your situation, financials and expectations but also request the same
- people who don't hold their word... will call you back by Friday, and don't.. drop them, no worth considering, they will continue like this
- you get an offer with the one you like, they have been quick, honest, with professional style and ethics - take it quickly and don't be too fussy about unimportant things, negotiate the big items important to you, if the salary is great and you get stock  .. don't patronize about canteen vouchers for example ;) .. you are laughing, I have seen it...
- and I repeat it, trust your gut, if something doesn't feel right it will be most likely not be good in the end
- remember for skilled people with experience this is a buyers market, far more demand than qualified people, get the right job for you and wait if the first one that comes along casts any doubts

Cheers to all readers, happy summer holidays!

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