Within the past few months, the medical device industry saw a surge in new job opportunities. Between February and April alone, the number of advertised management roles in the medical device industry grew by 38%.
Darwin Shurig, President of Shurig Solutions, a medical device recruitment firm and affiliate of MRINetwork, spoke with PM360 about the likely reasons for this recent job spike and what it could mean for the industry. He also gives his best advice for sprucing up your resume and improving your interview skills so you can turn the table on your job interviewer and guide the interview yourself—putting yourself in the best position to land the job you want.
PM360: Can you put this surge in medical device jobs into perspective?
Darwin Shurig: In 2015, quite a few mergers and purchases of medical device companies took place as the medical device tax loomed, so a lot of companies laid off employees. But as we came into this New Year, companies received new budgets to work with. Plus, in December, it was announced the medical device tax would be held back for the next two years. This has created an opportunity for significant hiring. A lot of positions that were on hold, or scenarios in which companies had downsized early or were working with skeleton crews, now all of a sudden are starting to look to fill some of those positions.
Another thing that companies are realizing: When your scenarios include working with small skeleton teams of 7 to 10 people, you’re going to have teams that are overworked—so you see retention rates for your top talent drop. So that’s a significant piece as well.
One final factor: Emergo’s annual survey of medical device executives revealed that their top concern in 2016 was in regard to understanding the new regulations and how they are going to affect business moving forward. So companies are specifically looking for people who understand the regulations and can help in that area.
You mentioned how the tax being pushed back is probably a factor here. So what does that mean when the tax actually takes effect? Will the industry go back to laying people off and reinstating skeleton crews?
That’s a great question, and obviously if we had a crystal ball, you and I’d be in Vegas right now and probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation. But any time you have companies that are looking to grow, they will look for areas to streamline, to create efficiencies. They have to do that either through cutting cost or creating more efficiencies within their systems.
So there’s no doubt that certain companies, particularly those without a strong pipeline of new products, are going to revert back to the situations we saw in 2015. At the same time, it depends on what market niche you’re in. We focus on quality, regulatory, and manufacturing, and I think that if you’re an engineer or you’re a technical person in those areas, then you’re going to have a lot of opportunities. Certainly if you’re in marketing or sales or other aspects that may not be as high on the food chain, then maybe it’s a little bit more volatile of a place to enter.
Most of our readers are in that marketing end. Do you think that is a less stable position in the medical device industry?
Obviously there is a huge place for marketing—just like there’s a huge place for sales. My background is in clinical and sales. But I’m just saying that it depends on what that company’s situation is, where their deficiencies are, and what their needs are. Regardless of what aspect of the business that you’re in, I wouldn’t discourage people from seeking employment in the medical device industry because this sector is going to continue to grow by default. I’m just saying that, obviously, there’s a hierarchy of what you can cut and what you can’t cut. In terms of quality and regulatory, you can’t operate as a skeleton crew as it may get you sued if you are unable to put the best product out there.
When you talk to the companies in this space what do they want in their candidates? In other words, what can candidates do to stand out?
The best way that I can answer that question is really to talk about the process. When you look at the bottom line, most people in HR have a lot of responsibilities. If you are applying to companies and you’re just doing it online, then essentially you are hoping an HR clerk takes your information out of a pile of 300 to 500 people and that they are able to get enough from your resume in the 20 seconds to a minute they spend looking at it. And, it is important to remember that this HR person probably doesn’t have any expertise in that area, so they may not know what certain acronyms means. Or what certain talents mean. They may have been told to look for this or that, but they probably have no understanding of the intangibles or what is really important to the hiring manager. A lot of times cover letters are just completely ignored.
So I would highly recommend candidates get with a recruiting firm or work with an executive recruiter that has a relationship with that manager. Then instead of your resume going into a pile, the recruiter can bypass that process and get that information directly to the hiring manager. You want to work with somebody who is not what I call resume pusher. They’re more of a resume or a talent positioner—they’re going to take people that really match up with what that company’s looking for because it goes past that job description.
To be fair you are from a recruiting firm, so it seems obvious you would recommend that approach. But is there any advice you could give to people looking to improve their resume who may be unable to work with a recruiting firm?
The first thing that I would note: Candidates don’t pay us a dime. We only get paid from our clients if they hire somebody. I would just throw that out there so it’s understood.
On the second piece, I obviously see a lot of resumes and it’s amazing that even with people who are extremely intelligent and have multiple degrees—many aren’t able to put a good resume together. Either it is too long or it’s not structured very well. I would say the vast majority of the time we get resumes—and it’s not a whole lot different from the HR companies out there—they don’t even come close to matching up with the job description.
So if you’re going through the normal processes, you need to do some research on resumes. Maybe pay somebody to get a better template so it looks cleaner. Because you have to think about it from the standpoint of whether it’s somebody who has some sort of a resume reviewing software that’s trying to pick out key words. Or even if it is an HR person whose looking at these on a computer and getting bleary-eyed. You need to make sure that your context and the way it is set up is correct.
Let me give you a quick example. An engineer that I’m working with right now is a fantastic candidate. 15 years. Quality certified. Has some unique talents that are hard to find in the industry. But he has two to three significant skills that are very relevant—that don’t even show up in the resume. Candidates really need to make sure that they’re putting out the best that they have. Make sure to highlight or bold specific skill sets that can solve a manager’s problem so that it tells your story in the best possible way.
What about the interview process? Do you have any advice you can offer?
I say this as somebody who was a hiring manager in the sales world for medical companies for 12 years: Most people don’t interview people very well. There are any number of things that can affect an interviewer that have nothing to do with you. Maybe something happened with their significant other that morning. Or one of their kids did something. Or a client’s done something. Who knows what whirlwind you just walked into? Now all of a sudden they’re trying to fit this into their already busy day. So they’re distracted. They come in and the three safest questions that an interviewer asks are: Tell me about yourself. Take me through your resume. Tell me why you’re interested in this position or company.
We work with candidates not to help them control the interview, but to guide the interview in a way that allows them the best opportunity to answer the question of whether or not they can do the job. We always recommend that after the initial question is answered, or after the small chitchat, or whatever introduction piece there is, to do what we call: Accomplishments, problems, and ability. Tell the interviewer, “I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you, but you’ve obviously had the opportunity to review my resume. I have a lot of experience. Can you tell me what you would like me to accomplish in this position and why is that important to you?”
Next up is the problem aspect. Your follow up question should be: “What kind of problems do you anticipate I will deal with?” Now that question is so important. Because the person they are going to hire is either going to help them—or cause them more trouble than they want. So if that candidate cannot distinctly answer that question and show through experiences the things that they’ve done previously to solve similar problems, then those problems are going to end up on that manager’s desk. And not only do you end up understanding that piece up front on your end, which allows you to evaluate whether it’s the opportunity that you want, but you are also putting a mental image in that interviewer’s mind that you will make their life easier.
The last thing: Ability. At the end of an interview, if you really want to move forward with this opportunity, you need to let them know. Ask, “Do you have any questions about my ability to fill this job?” By asking that question, you will get one of two answers. You either get, “This has been fantastic. I really want to move you forward.” Or, you will hear something like, “This has been great. We’ll be in touch.” Or, “This has been fantastic but…” Now who knows what the “but” is? I’ve seen three examples of this in the last three months alone. One guy got hired in February for a position and there was a “but.” If he hadn’t been able to overcome it, then he would not have been hired. It could simply have been due to a misperception of something he said previously in the interview. So when you get that “but,” now the candidate knows what that concern or objection is and has the opportunity to overcome it before it is too late.
Those are just some of the little things you can do to prepare to put yourself in the best position to ensure that hiring manager knows what you can do for the company.