31 Dec 2019

5 Recruitment and Hiring Tips to Help You Land a Field Application Scientist

Understanding What Field Application Scientists Are: 

The field applications scientist (often referred to by the acronym FAS) works in the field, helping customers do their own work and working on collaborative projects. 

They also provide training, set up equipment, and deliver presentations and product demonstrations at customer sites and conferences. (Jensen, Science 2010)

Defining the Ideal FAS Candidate: 

The skill sets that the FAS candidate will be required to possess are determined by the rapid pace of technology development. The more advanced the technique, the fewer the candidates in the pool. Skills related to newer technologies such as single-cell genomics, multi-color flow cytometry, next-generation sequencing (NGS), and CRISPR will be found in fewer candidates overall.

The molecular diagnostics space is one of the most rapidly growing areas hiring FAS candidates as advances in genetic testing are driving precision medicine. Healthcare professionals can now tailor therapies to an individual patient’s genetic profile.  Finding FAS candidates to provide education and technical support is critical for the effective use of these new diagnostic tools that will greatly impact patient care. 

Some limitations on the size of the FAS Candidate Pool include the degree required, prior industry/customer-facing experience, size of the territory, and desired location of the candidate. 

Challenges in Finding PhD-level Candidates

  1. Openness to a new opportunity: Many of the Ph.D. candidates that I contact will not be actively looking for their next opportunity. These passive candidates have to decide if they are willing to leave the academic world for the industry. 
  2. Ability to give 2 weeks’ notice: A major challenge of seeking a Ph.D. is finding a qualified candidate that is prepared to move from the lab bench to the field at the speed that the industry requires when hiring.  Before a Ph.D. or post-doc would be ready to move to an industry opportunity, there may be projects and papers that must be completed.  
  3. Awareness of the FAS role: The FAS role is not well known as a potential career path for scientists. In fact, 75% of the people I placed in FAS positions in the past year had never even heard of the FAS role before I contacted them. 
  4. Personality fit: Candidates must be able to work well with customers, be very articulate, demonstrate critical thinking skills, and be resilient to the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of the  FAS role. 
  5. Amount of travel: Many lab scientists may not desire to be on the road or be able to adjust to a multi-state travel territory after years at the bench. 

The hiring manager must clarify what qualities and training are required for a candidate to be successful as a FAS at their company. All company employees involved in interviewing the FAS candidate must be working from the same page of requirements. 

Challenge 1:  The higher the degree, the smaller the candidate pool. Define the degree requirement for a FAS as they can range from a Bachelor’s in Science to Ph.D. with post-doctoral experience. Be clear on why a Ph.D. or someone with post-doctoral training would be a benefit or if this level of training is really a requirement.  

Challenge 2: Level of industry/ customer service experience. Many scientists have been focused on completing research as individual contributors or as part of a lab group. They may not have acquired training in customer service as the focus has been on obtaining a Ph.D. degree.  Working as a teaching assistant may be an indicator of academic “customer service” training. 

Challenge 3:  Multiple offers are common. Hiring top talent in biotech/pharma hubs such as San Francisco is extremely competitive. Most active candidates are interviewing with two to five companies at the same time. 

Challenge 4: Timeline for interviewing. The timeliness of moving the candidate from the initial phone screen to the offer is crucial in order to secure your top pick for the FAS role. Having many people involved in the interview process may increase the risk that you will lose out on your first choice in a candidate. 

Challenge 5: Pay the going rate.  Candidates often reach out to people in the industry and look for salary information online in order to make a career decision. Candidates may want to know the whole package, especially if they have multiple opportunities. Don’t waste the time and energy already spent in finding a great candidate for your FAS role by putting forth an offer that is below the industry standard.

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