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Guide to Obtaining an Industry Fellowship (PharmD)

The majority of pharmaceutical industry fellowships for PharmDs recruit at the ASHP Midyear conference held in December annually. Generally, the first 1 to 3 rounds of interviews take place on-site at the conference with 2-5 candidates per role being called for on-site interviews at company locations in the following January. Many companies also have receptions or dinners on Sunday or Monday night for select candidates that they are interested in.

Preparing for Midyear

ASHP Midyear can be an overwhelming experience with thousands of people and many opportunities abound. It is important to come into the conference prepared in terms of what you are pursuing, your key talking points on why you are right for the positions (and companies) you are interested in, and simple logistical items like having the tools to remain comfortable and organized throughout the process. Below are some points to go through prior to the conference to ensure the best chances at success:

  1. Know what functional area you want to go for and learn as much as you can about it. Interviewers do not expect candidates to know everything, but they do expect you to have a high-level understanding of what the position you are applying to is responsible for. Do your research by reading websites and content like that on Rxference to figure out what functional areas you are most interested in. If possible, try to get experience in the areas or at least exposure via internships or rotations. Even talking to people in the area or in industry in general can help you learn about potential functional areas. Looking at entry level jobs in the functional area of interest on LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. can also be helpful.
  2. Tie the experiences on your resume back to the functional area you want to pursue (we recommend sticking to 1-2 functional areas). The heavily cross-functional nature of pharma means that most areas can be tied back to various parts of the healthcare system in one way or another. To give an example, if you are pursing a marketing fellowship pay special attention to marketing materials in your hospital or retail rotations and if you come across sales reps take some time to talk to them, see how they present on their product, etc. – these are things you can potentially speak to in an interview. If you are pursing a fellowship in HEOR or market access, exposure to formulary decisionmaking can be relevant – including a P&T committee in a hospital. Of course the earlier you decide what you want to pursue, the more proactive you can be in trying to tailor your experiences to that functional area through things like research experiences, the APPEs and internships you go for, etc.
  3. Decide what fellowship programs to apply to. Go into Midyear with your list of programs you plan to apply to including reasons for why you are interested in those programs and the companies that sponsor them. We recommend applying to 8-13 programs.
  4. Create a list of what you need for each application and knock out anything that you can before Midyear. Many programs will have separate applications you need to fill out, potentially requiring recommendation letters, etc. – try to get as much done prior to Midyear as possible (for some things you will have to wait until after the conference if it is contingent on your conversations, etc.). You will almost certainly have a lot going on following the conference if you have a successful Midyear, so minimizing what you need to do afterwards will help.
  5. Have you resume reviewed, printed, and ready. Be proactive with these things and you won’t have to worry about it last minute. If you know someone in the functional area you are applying to, ask them if they mind reviewing your resume with the intention of applying to their area. Faculty can be an option as well. The Rxference team also reviews a few resumes every year – if you are interested Tweet at us and we’ll be in touch!
  6. Bring thank you cards to write on the spot. Most programs have a box where you can drop thank you notes for interviewers following interviews. Choose some conservative cards and make sure to pack your pen so you can write a short, professional note to your interviewers thanking them for their time. Try to personalize it to the conversation you had with each if possible.
  7. Pack comfortable and professional clothes. Dress professionally, but comfortably. Midyear can be a marathon and fatigue will creep. Especially for ladies, if you choose to wear heels make sure they are comfortable or you may regret it! Expect to walk a lot. You may also want to make some small amenities you may want in your bag – things like snacks (granola bars, etc.), maybe chapstick, gum, etc.
  8. Book your flights and hotel in advance. You don’t want to have to worry about this last minute.

At the ASHP Midyear

Now is the time to execute. Trust yourself and the preparation you have done and take things one step at a time. Do not focus on other candidates or how your last interview went or anything else. Try to stay in the here and now and speak from your heart on why you want the role in front of you and why you are the right candidate for the role. Passion and professionalism go a long way here. Interviewers are looking for someone who is committed to learning and growing in these development programs and is able to handle the corporate environment in terms of professionalism and maturity. Technical knowledge, while a plus, is not always the most important thing. It is important to remember that.

Hopefully your first round interviews will lead to second round interviews that lead to reception invites. Carry yourself as if you are in a professional environment at the reception. It is fine to have a drink or two, but know yourself and do not do anything that may call your candidacy into question. This includes when you leave the conference center and are out in the town with friends, etc. – you never know where your interviewer from the afternoon before or the one you meet with tomorrow is.

Some few programs may offer you a role right at Midyear in which congratulations! You may be in a dilemma of having other programs that have on-site interviews following the conference and there is no perfect advice on what to do here. Just trust yourself. It’s all any of us can do.

Following Midyear

Following Midyear, you may get called for on-site interviews. These are often scheduled prior to the Christmas holiday. Make sure you are answering your phone during this time and know your schedule (or have it readily available on your cell phone).

Companies will typically pay for travel if you are far from their location. This may mean a plane ticket, train ride, or reimbursement for a car ride depending on your situation. They will also usually put you in a hotel the night before so you can interview early the next morning. Treat all aspects as if they are the interview – again you never know who you may run into and where.

You will typically get an itinerary of the day and who you will meet with. Try to do some research on who you will be talking to (LinkedIn is great for this) and what you may want to ask them. Have copies of your resume ready for each interviewer as well.

Again, take it one interview at a time as you did at Midyear. Ask for business cards from each interviewer at the end of each interview. The day will surely fly by.

Send thank you emails after the day to each of the interviewers. And hope for the best! Regardless of what happens, the fellowship application process is one in which you will learn a lot about yourself. Use that knowledge to grow and further yourself.