Answering the Interview Question: “Why do you want to work here?”

In an article I read recently, the author wrote that the best answers to this question are personalized. I agree with that but as someone who is a recruiter and a former hiring manager for 25 years, I believe that the answer must go further and be stronger.

The author* made three helpful suggestions:

  1. Professional: Tell how the job aligns with your skills and there would be mutual benefit.
  2. Cultural Fit: Do research and find out if they are the type of company you want to work for.
  3. Personal Fit: Great location, easy commute, it’s a product you’ve used and liked.

I feel these are “soft” answers. Communicate passionately, with conviction! Here’s what I liked to hear:

  1. COMPANY: “I really like the company/technology/product. I researched the company online and with my knowledge of the field and an understanding of your products, I believe the opportunity for corporate and personal success is great”. This tells them that you have done your homework, know the market, understand their products, and that you believe what they believe: that the company has tremendous upside.
  2. ALIGNMENT and UNDERSTANDING: “I know people that use your products; they are cutting-edge and perform very well. In addition, I’ve heard that your customer support is top-notch. I’d really like to be part of this, as these company values align with my personal values”. If their mode of operation aligns with yours, let them know that. It will make it easier to hire you as they will not have to spend time “indoctrinating” you. This also addresses the cultural fit and means that you will continue to espouse their values as you integrate and move up in the company.
  3. PERSONAL CONTRIBUTION: “I am CONVINCED that I can help to further your success. With my market and customer knowledge, technical/product expertise and work ethic that’s second to none, I can help in ways that are within in the job description and hopefully other ways as well”. A clear and decisive statement that you WILL help further the company’s success is powerful. Don’t equivocate; state in strong and convincing ways how you can help. It also shows that you want to contribute above and beyond, not just do your job, 9-5. Note: Be prepared for the follow on question of HOW you can help.
  4. THE PEOPLE: “Everyone that I have met in the interview process has been great. You have a really good team here, one that I can contribute to, learn from and would like to be a part of. Also, there are contributions that I can make coming in as an outsider with a fresh set of eyes”.

The people you are interviewing with work at the company for a reason, and like it there for a reason. If you want to work there for the same reasons, and can show them that, you are demonstrating a fit, focusing on your ability to help and that you are ready to jump in and get it done.

This is the kind of person that I would hire.

*Note: Credit to Peggy McKee the article’s author. The article provokes thought about preparing for a successful interview.


As a Commercial and Executive Life Science recruiter, I often receive unsolicited LinkedIn notes from persons looking for new jobs in our market. This is certainly one way to go but there are many other avenues. I will deal with this in two parts: Recruiters and Other.

RECRUITERS: Frankly, the best way to find new opportunities if done the right way.

DO’s for working with Recruiters:

  • It can never hurt to ask/reach out to a recruiter. They may focus on Life Sciences but not specialize in the type of role you are seeking, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • When writing to a recruiter give them a VERY brief background overview and what you’re looking for.
  • “Work with recruiters”. By that I mean, if you’re contacted and asked for help networking, try to help. With an established relationship, you are more likely to hear from that recruiter in the future with a good opportunity.
  • Something you are not likely to hear from other recruiters: I believe that sharing your resume with multiple recruiters can help. We all have our own networks, companies we work with and jobs to fill.
  • “Link” with recruiters. You won’t get fired for having recruiters as connections.


DON’Ts for working with Recruiters

  • Don’t send a note asking recruiters to keep you in mind; it’s impossible. Once you have established communication, send a resume for their database.
  • Don’t send multiple recruiters your resume for the same role or apply to the company and the recruiter. You are wasting your time and theirs. Pick one avenue and use it.
  • Don’t close yourself off to inquiries from recruiters. Keep an open mind. Even if you are not looking, their position could be a great opportunity. Recruiters can be a resource if you allow them to be.
  • COMPANIES: If you are a manager, use recruiters. DON’T try to do it yourself. You will waste more money (in the form of your time) doing it alone, your network is not as extensive as someone who does it for a living AND while you are spending half your time recruiting, you are only doing your job half the time.


  • Large companies often use internal recruiters or post positions on their sites. Go directly to their sites to find out what is available. Still use recruiters but know that some companies prefer to use this approach.
  • Network: Your friend, or your friend’s friend may know of an opening. Create relationships and make LinkedIn Connections. It certainly can’t hurt to be connected to a lot of people.
  • Join LinkedIn discussion groups that are pertinent to what you do: Most have “jobs” pages which include paid-for ads and a “Jobs Discussion section” where you will find many more potential opportunities.
  • If you are actively looking, call your friends. Don’t just email. Emails are easy to blow off but calls are not.
  • There are other sites to look for jobs besides LinkedIn (“Indeed” is one).
  • Post (relevant) updates on your profile and in the Discussion groups. If you have interesting info related to your field of endeavor, the update will get you seen by your network and potentially by others.
  • Try many things, not just one or two. The more you do, the greater is the likelihood of success.

The key to an effective search is NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK.

The Relative Importance of Price: It’s QUALITY First

Recently I posted a quote that I like on LinkedIn. It is: “Price is only ever an issue in the absence of value”. From both a sales and marketing strategy, truer words were never spoken.

There are many layers to this statement but I’ll start with the obvious: If you sell or market based on price, you must have no real advantages or “value” to the customers’ science. What does that say about your product? If the only value you can deliver is a low price then you are missing most of what the customers need. While people are cost-conscious for sure, what they want/need more than anything is quality results. Did any drug ever make it to market faster because the research cost less? Did anyone ever publish the first paper on an important topic because they paid less for their reagents? Of course not. Quality, the enabling of better research and unique attributes of the benefits you can bring to their research are deliver value and enhance the value of what you sell.

There are hidden messages as well. If your price is low, the automatic assumption is that your quality is low. So, even if you are lucky enough to have the lowest price, you must FIRST POSITION QUALITY or key differentiators that make your product unique, enabling, and have value to the customer. THEN you can add in, that in addition to the great capability of your products/services you offer a price advantage; a double win for your customer base. This strengthens the perception of what you have to offer rather than weakens it. If your price is higher, you will have to sell value even harder but in the end, this is what people buy; they are investing in their own success.

Finally, almost anyone can find a way to undercut your price. If that is your only value to the customer, once someone can offer the same products/services at a lower price your choices are to get out of the business or cut your prices (margins, profits, revenues, etc.) in an effort to stay below the competition. Then, the “race to the bottom” is on; no one wins that race.

Value is what sells products or services, not price. WHY you can help the customer succeed, WHAT you do to make their research more productive/effective, HOW you can deliver the highest quality results the first time to enable their science to more quickly and flawlessly are what delivers value.

Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing

The end-goal of sales and marketing organizations is the same: increase revenue. The tactics are also very similar. Find the target audience, get them to listen to what you have to say, help them make a buying decision and guide them to the fact that your product/technology/service is the one that they need.

In the middle of the process the two groups diverge in their approach. This negatively impacts the end goal of revenue generation. The problem lies in how the two teams go about convincing people that theirs is the right product to buy.

In life sciences, marketing tends to be product focused. What the product is, how it works and what it does. Someone visiting a web site or looking at a brochure may be able to figure out how that will help them. But not often. There is too much info vying for their attention and not enough time to dive deeply enough to understand all the technologies.

Sales persons are taught to “sell the value”. This means determining the customer’s pain points and positioning your product/service as the solution. “Sell, don’t tell” is the general rule of sales. Talking about the product is not the way to sell. Meeting a customer’s needs is. So, why doesn’t marketing do that in our industry?


Sales and marketing need to align. Find your target audience, determine their needs and then Market AND Sell your solution to meet those needs. Make your Web Site, your Message, your Sales Collateral customer-centric rather than product or technology-centric. After all, people don’t buy technology, they buy what is going to help make them more successful. While marketing can’t find out what every customer needs, it is not hard to define the target customer profile, then find them and determine their needs. THEN MARKET TO THOSE NEEDS on a macro level.

Sales will find the the target customers and, through one-on-one or small group meetings, deliver the message and sell the need on a micro level.

When done correctly, with the two groups in “lock-step” the message is consistent, it is clear and it is communicated both to a mass audience and a small one. This creates synergy and helps the customer buy the solution they need rather than forcing them to figure out, “How is this going to help me?”


Successful sales people understand the importance of finding a customer’s pain/need and selling a solution to their problem. Many scientifically oriented reps, however, try to sell the technology rather than its value. This mode of operation is repeated in Marketing being done by many Life Science companies which are founded and run by scientifically astute persons who have spent their careers immersed in science. Often they miss a key to commercializing successfully: branding, positioning and marketing their product as a solution, not just a technology.


In the Life Science field too many companies focus their web site, sales collateral and sales training on their products and technology. Too few focus on customers, their needs and how the technology provides solutions to a problem.


The Problem:

  • Companies understand what their technology does, how it can be used and its benefits because they’re immersed in it. Potential customers are NOT. They’re immersed in their work and their challenges. They don’t have time to look at a technology, kick back and determine how it could help. That’s not their job, it’s the company’s.
  • Many companies assume that giving potential customers technical information will help them understand what it means for them; after all they’re scientists, they’ll figure it out. This is a faulty assumption. Customers are bombarded with information; if the company isn’t explicit about how their technology will solve the customer’s problems, customers don’t hear about a solution, they only hear about a technology.
  • “We have built it, they will come” is an approach often taken. But they will not. They aren’t browsing in search of technology; they need answers and they need them fast (and easy).

Six Keys to Fixing the Branding and Positioning Problem:

  • Customers constantly receive communications from companies touting their technology. If you want to stand out, tout your benefits. “Here is how we can help you succeed” is much more powerful than, “Here is how we do sample prep.” Ask yourself, which one would get your attention?
  • View marketing and selling of your product from the customers’ standpoint. Do they need to know HOW it works? Maybe, maybe not. First they need to know how it will help them. When buying a car do you surf the internet to understand internal combustion engines and various methods of fuel injection? No. You need an SUV, a hybrid or (ugh) a minivan. Your NEED is what you focus on first.
  • Since customers will not connect the dots you must connect the dots for them. You have to be explicit in how they will benefit personally and professionally from using your offering.
  • Leave nothing to interpretation; interpret for them. This makes it easier AND faster for them to understand your message and value. Spoon-feed them the solution-oriented information.
  • You can’t determine every individual’s needs so understand your market and the needs of scientists in that market. Then position and brand yourself as a solution for those needs.


Marketing and selling are an art not a science. Market/Sell Professionally and you give your company the best chance for your great technology to be commercially successful.

The Introductory Sales/Marketing Email: Getting Your Message Out

Email, whether it’s from a salesperson trying to get a meeting or from marketing trying to generate leads is vital for getting the word out. However, it’s only a useful effort if it gets read and it’s only effective if it is done well. It MUST convey the gains the recipient will realize by using your product or service, but there are practical hurdles to getting your message communicated.

 Spam Filters and Subject Lines:

  1. Your email has to get past spam filters. To do this it’s best to avoid:
    • Sending an initial email with an attachment. Filters look for unrecognized email addresses. Couple that with an attachment and your email is toast
    • Avoid using words in the subject line that trigger filters. Terms such as: “Discount”, “Special Offer”, “Pricing”, etc., will send your email to the Land of Junk Mail
    • Your company name in the subject line may or may not activate a spam filter. I suggest avoiding it unless you are a market leader.
  2. Enticing people to read the email: The Alluring Subject Line
    • The goal is to get the viewer to open your email. The way to do that is convince them via a subject line with impact that there is worthwhile information inside.
    • Unless you are a market leader the name of your company will not help. Will they care if they see, “New Product from Unknown Company”?
    • Avoid product names unless they’re well-known; the product isn’t compelling.
    • What IS compelling is how they will benefit. The Subject Line MUST contain something of meaning to them and to their work. For instance, if one is marketing to geneticists, the subject line, “10X More Effective PCR” WILL get their attention whereas “Reagents for PCR” ensures a quick trip to the “deleted” folder.

Email Content: Grabbing “Mindshare”

  1. Make an Impact. This is your first (and possibly last) chance to get them to listen.
    • Focus on THE CUSTOMER and how the service/product will help them succeed
    • Focus on how using your technology to do “10X more effective PCR” will be a boon to their research.
    • As tempting as it may be, avoid technology discussions in initial emails and a list of features/benefits
    • It’s about THE CUSTOMER and THE BENEFITS that they will experience.
  2. Be Succinct: They’re busy and will devote little time to reading. If it’s long they may hit delete without ever reading or, at best, make it only part way through. Hit ’em hard and hit ’em fast.
    • Introductory sentence regarding your 10X PCR improvement
    • 3 sentences about how your product will help their research and enhance their success
    • 4 bullet points to drive home the points powerfully and succinctly
    • One sentence validation about publications, other users, etc.
  3. Call to Action: The purpose of this email is not to inform, it is to create leads and sales opportunities. You must have a call to action (“To learn more, visit…”) or a promised action from you (“We’d like to explore your research and discuss how we can help…”)

Getting Results

Turning Your Email into Results requires focus and follow up both of which should be directed at the customers’ needs and the way their research will benefit. After all, they are not shopping for products; they are working to find solutions.

Be the messenger of the solution to their problem.

“Content Marketing”: Buzzword or Best Practice?

The first question that needs to be answered is, “What is content marketing?” Of course there are as many answers as there are marketing “experts”, but here is one man’s opinion.

Content marketing is the technique of creating informative and pertinent information in an effort to entice and engage a clearly defined target audience. The goal is to drive a successful customer action; one in which both parties benefit. It is definitely a “best practice” if practiced correctly.

What do visitors need to see?

Too many companies in our industry, run by scientist/founders, believe that content marketing and data dumping are the same thing which, in my opinion, couldn’t be further from the truth. If I place myself in the consumer’s shoes, when I visit a web site, trade show booth or read a brochure, I have three basic questions that I want answered quickly:

  • HOW is this going to help me succeed?
  • WHAT is different about this product/technology/service that will make a difference?
  • WHY should I choose this company to help me solve my problems?

Many marketing experts believe that the scientific community is skeptical and hard to sell to, that these are the reasons for challenges associated with marketing successfully. While there is truth to this assertion, my belief is that, just like the rest of us, these people are incredibly busy and time is short. To market successfully you must understand their need for rapid gathering of pertinent information to develop their interest quickly and powerfully.

Marketing Successfully

How does that impact the way to market/sell to them successfully?

  • Make it easy for them: Tell them what you do differently, why it matters and how you will help them.
  • Do it quickly: communicate via bullet points, powerful but succinct text and some data but NOT too much
  • Don’t present them with technology and expect them to figure out how they can use it to their advantage; TELL THEM.
  • In short, keep it short, easy and impactful.

There are thousands of companies trying to get their attention. If they spent a minutes on each company’s site or in their booth, that would be their job. Rapidly and powerfully give them insight on what they need to know and why it matters to them. Just like the cover of a book, your sales and marketing communications should entice them to open up the cover and begin to read inside. You have 30-40 seconds to make them want to spend another 1-2 minutes with you. Use those first 30-40 seconds wisely and you will more frequently “win” the right to the next few minutes whether you are making a sales call, doing a presentation or creating a marketing campaign.

What do YOU care about?

Put yourself in their shoes. What do YOU do when you receive an email blast or a phone call from a salesperson? What are YOU looking for once they engage you? If you don’t have a need, how likely is it that they can create one? All these questions and so many more are part of what I consider content marketing and selling.

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Successful Selling: The Value of The Value Proposition

Life Science companies often attempt to sell their product or service by telling people what it is and how it works. Their focus is on The Technology. The key to successfully selling and positioning is to focus on THE CUSTOMER. In time, they will want to know how it works but first and foremost they will want to know how you and your offering will help them succeed. Life Science companies need to communicate the merit that their technology brings to their prospective customers: THE VALUE PROPOSITION.

Value Proposition-Key to Successful Selling

The Value Proposition is a summary of the value that your company and its products/services bring to your customers. This helps to distinguish you from your competitors and aids in the selling your company’s offerings. Components of The Value Proposition are:

  • Key Attributes of your company and its offerings
  • Pivotal Advantages of your company’s solutions
  • Vital Differentiators that make your company’s products or services unique
  • Primary Benefits that the customer will realize by working with your company

When a scientist visits a booth, a website, or reads a document they want to know how they will benefit from working with your company. With thousands of companies begging for their attention this must be communicated powerfully and succinctly. You must address these three questions to draw them in:

  • HOW will this product help the customer succeed?
  • WHAT is different or better about this product or service?
  • WHY should the customer choose your company over its many competitors?

The Messaging of the Value Proposition is as important as the Value Proposition itself. Developing a strong value proposition is imperative; communicating it effectively is vital. Marketers must resist the temptation to list dozens of advantages, attributes, etc. Pick the most powerful in each category (Quality over Quantity) to avoid diluting the value of your most persuasive selling points.

Focus on The Customer

Successfully positioning your company requires framing the benefits, advantages and differentiators with the viewpoint of THE CUSTOMER in mind. Yes, they will want to know how you’re technology works and you will want to tell them. But before they click away from your website, walk out of your booth or put down your brochure they must understand why they should listen, read and pay attention. The Value Proposition and its underpinnings gives your prospective client clear insight as to why they should do business with your company.

Trade Show Success

Attending shows is important but they aren’t “technology shopping junkets” as they used to be. People still walk the halls to see what’s new so depending on your product (high price/high tech versus low priced commodity) you need to determine the best strategy for generating useful leads.

Trade Show Effectiveness

Pre-Show: Mailings or emailings to announce new products and talks or posters enhances booth traffic. I am not a fan of announcing give-aways because people looking for gifts will block out potential “real” leads. Almost all the gift-seekers are not going to be customers and will not be followed up on by sales reps who know a bad lead when they see one.

Enhancing Trade Show Communication

Booth Personnel: It’s important to have skilled people who are knowledgeable, can ask quality questions and who can drive customers – the right customers – into the booth. A combination of sales people to engage the clients and technical people to answer tough questions is an ideal personnel mix to ensure high quality interactions. Have a meeting before the show to ensure that everyone understands expectations, the show goals and what the focus should be.

Increasing Booth Traffic

Booth Traffic: In-booth seminars drive booth traffic. If you can do a live demonstration it captivates people and enhances credibility. Talks given by customers as part of the meeting are the pinnacle of credibility building and have a big impact on traffic. Workshops for important product launches can be useful but they are very expensive and must be used judiciously. Sales Reps setting up meetings in the booth create traffic and “buzz”. The worst thing to do is just set up a booth and wait for people to stop in.

Lead Qualification

Lead Capture: A name without information on need, interest level, next action, etc, is nothing more than a mailing list addition. Without this key info the rep knows nothing about how hot the lead is, what it’s for or what the customer needs and this type of lead is useless. Booth personnel must capture this vital information or your money is being poorly spent.

Booth Demeanor

Engaging the Customer: People that have important calls to make or computer work to do should leave the booth to do that. Congregating as a team for a group chat may make potential customers feel that they are interrupting. Be ready, open and receptive for someone to approach and ask a question. People that are otherwise engaged (phone, computer, conversation) tend to make passersby continue to pass by.

Lead Follow Up: Key to Success

Follow Up: Don’t expect that Trade Show leads are business; they are leads. Either Sales or Marketing management should set up a systematic program for tracking the leads and the follow up activity. Good money and time has been spent on those leads, make sure that the follow up is well executed.

In Summary:

Understand the market’s needs, be able to articulate why it’s a your product is a good solution for the booth visitors’ problem and follow up. You generate the most quality leads if your pre-show email strategy, your booth, and your reps focus on just a few, key problems which you solve better than anyone.

Early-Stage Life Science companies want to generate sales first, then invest in marketing. Will this strategy work?

“Sales” is more than just generating orders. It has been my experience that successful selling starts with an integrated sales and marketing plan. While early-stage Life Science companies often feel the need to get sales before proceeding with all other  “non-revenue generating” commercial activity this has proven to be a  misguided strategy which is likely to fall short of reaching the desired goals. To commercialize successfully companies need to undertake an integrated sales and marketing plan and invest in it as a long-term program rather than a short term activity. If done right, it needn’t cost a lot but it will pay big dividends.


A good marketing plan sets the framework from which the sales effort can move forward in a directed manner. Good products or services need a well thought out plan to maximize the likelihood of success. Without such a program, the company will not realize its full commercial potential. Of course small companies are under a lot of pressure to generate near-term revenue and the seemingly simple answer is to start selling. However, to optimize the ROI salespeople need to understand who their markets are, how to position the products for those markets and must possess the right selling tools. In the absence of such guidance, sales revenues will be disappointing and much of the sales budget will be wasted in a hit-or-miss sales effort. Thus, the effort to sell first and market later actually delivers a much lower return.


Holding off on strategic or tactical marketing in favor of getting out and selling will limit your revenue potential. It is the intangibles (target market ID, messaging, positioning) as well as the tangibles (web site, sales collateral, demand generation,etc.) that, together, comprise a sales and marketing program. It may cost money to go this route but it will costs more not to. Trying one thing (such as a technology-centric web site or an email blast that is lacking in message and focus) may give you some payback but nowhere near what could be achieved with a well-designed program.


The most productive route for early-stage life science companies to take is to start strategically:

  • ID the target market
  • Determine what your product/service does for them that others don’t.
  • Develop your message: HOW your product will help them succeed and what are its key differentiators?

Then, using this laser-like focus on your target you begin to perform tactical marketing (for awareness and leads) and jump-start your sales effort. With a properly equipped team and a well executed plan (with value proposition, messaging, leads, web site, etc.) your sales effort is enabled to achieve its full potential.