I’m a University Recruiter at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Here’s What I Look For was originally published on uConnect External Content.
Gabrielle Ellerbrock, Ed.D., is a university relations recruiter for Thermo Fisher Scientific, a world leader in science that delivers innovative technologies and pharmaceutical services. Thermo Fisher Scientific employs 130,000 people worldwide and generates approximately $40 billion in annual revenue. Thermo Fisher Scientific’s mission is to enable customers to make the world healthier, cleaner, and safer.
As part of Forage’s ongoing “Hiring Diaries” series, we interviewed Ellerbrock to gain insight into the Thermo Fisher Scientific recruitment process for students and entry-level applicants. In this interview, she discusses:
- What values are important to Thermo Fisher Scientific that entry-level or internship applicants should be aware of?
- What do you look for on a resume?
- What do you look for in a job interview?
- What can entry-level or internship applicants do in this competitive market to set themselves apart?
- What kind of questions should these candidates ask in the interview process?
- What types of interview questions should candidates prepare for?
- What advice would you give to students and entry-level applicants who have already applied or want to apply for roles with Thermo Fisher Scientific?
- Do you have any tips for soon-to-be college grads on navigating the start of their career?
- How is Thermo Fisher Scientific different from other companies in the same space?
- What is it like to work for Thermo Fisher Scientific?
What values are important to Thermo Fisher Scientific that entry-level or internship applicants should be aware of?
We have our 4i values of Integrity, Intensity, Innovation, and Involvement. What’s really essential about our core values is how they help drive accountability with our internal colleagues and how they help us manage relationships with our external customers. When you visit our careers site, you can find descriptions as to how our 4i values have different applications across the business, and you’ll also see how Thermo Fisher is very much a culture-first organization.
Another critical part of our culture consists of our business resource groups (BRGs) and how they foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have nine BRGs across a range of affiliations. For example, I was one of the leads for our Latino Hispanic Heritage BRG back in the day and also partnered with our Women’s Empowerment BRG – in addition to a few others.
Essentially, our BRGs really help drive community, a greater sense of belonging, and offer our colleagues the resources they need to bring their best selves to work.
Our BRGs also make a great impact within our local communities. For example, I’m located at the Carlsbad, California, site within San Diego County, and our Women’s Empowerment BRG has partnered with local women’s shelters, nonprofit organizations, Girl Scouts of San Diego County, etc. Our groups are committed to driving change not only internally as a business, but also externally to give back in a meaningful way, which I think is phenomenal. Social responsibility is something I personally looked for when I was researching organizations as both a former intern and a full-time employee. It’s really amazing to see how we’re empowering our colleagues and communities as we serve as an overall catalyst for change.
What do you look for on a resume?
There are three key components that really stand out to recruiters and managers: 1) Metrics, 2) Leadership Experience, and 3) Personal Brand.
Metrics help us better understand the tangible contributions that a student is making, whatever that role or experience may be. Whether it’s something that’s more corporate-facing, a retail job, or a volunteer opportunity. For example, if I see a resume from someone who’s had corporate experience, it would be great to see how they contributed to the overall business, such as ‘increased cost savings by X% over a four-month period.’ That is an awesome metric to have. When I first joined the company as an intern, I came in with no previous internships, but I had a strong retail background, so a metric I included on my resume was ‘interacted with X amount of clients per week’ and ‘ranked top two in sales.’
One of my favorite stories to share is from when I interviewed a student who had a side hustle. He said, ‘I don’t really have a lot of corporate applicable experiences. I have my own business, though, but it’s not that big of a deal.’ It wasn’t on his resume, so I asked what it was, and he said, ‘It’s me and these three other guys, and we started painting houses last summer.’ So I followed up with, ‘well, how many houses did you paint?’ He said between the three of them, they did about 320 houses. I came back with, ‘that’s amazing! You need to put that on your resume. Put down the number of houses, how many stakeholders you have invested, and, since it’s a team of four, if you’re supervising the rest of the team, and anything else to that effect to show what you’re doing.’
When you’re speaking about metrics, students should also include the different relationships they’ve had across their experience. What I mean is, highlight the instrumental relationships that have supported your career growth. For example, you could say how you regularly interface with senior and director-level leaders, faculty, administration, etc. Listing the stakeholders also indicates that you’re comfortable connecting with all different kinds of leadership.
In reference to leadership experience, whether it’s work-related, school-related, or volunteer-related, these types of experiences are unique identifiers that candidates can really leverage in terms of how they are trying to develop themselves. Not only professionally, but also personally. Whatever you’re involved in says something about how you’re looking to grow and your growth factor is what sets you apart from other candidates.
Finally, personal brand makes a difference as to how your resume is perceived as well. It’s something I actually coach interns on as part of our summer intern programming. I know it seems like a small thing, but it makes a big difference, especially in the culture that we’re in of content creators and influencers. It could be as simple as picking a resume template that’s on point with your personal aesthetic – at least for the first impression. Also, your resume should be replicated on your LinkedIn. If a student doesn’t have LinkedIn, sign-up and create a profile. LinkedIn is basically corporate Facebook and Instagram combined. It’s a great way to start building your personal brand, and it’s also something that recruiters and managers will likely check before the interview.
What do you look for in a job interview?
Someone who has done their research on what our mission and vision looks like is always a great baseline. You’ll be surprised how many candidates come into an interview and ask me, ‘So what does Thermo Fisher do?’ Candidates really need to do their research on the company they are applying to and really hone in on that organization’s culture. For Thermo Fisher, our 4i values are key, but also look at what we’re doing in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion, social justice, social responsibility, etc.
I’m not expecting students to leverage all those initiatives and bring them up during the interview, but for a candidate to reference something a little extra that’s unique and authentic to them is a big differentiator. Someone who’s familiar with our culture demonstrates that they are seriously considering coming on board with us for this opportunity and potentially long-term.
I remember this one candidate for an environmental health and safety internship who had clearly done her research. During our interview, she said, ‘I looked at last year’s published [Corporate Social Responsibility] CSR report, and I saw that you’re driving zero emissions and you also have a lot of related philanthropic efforts. Also, you have 100% compliance with [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] OSHA.’
Then she said, ‘so I’m wondering… how do you think those elements would evolve over time and would I be able to impact those kinds of changes in this role?’ To me, that really demonstrated how passionate she was about the [Environmental health and safety] EHS space and like I mentioned, being part of a culture-first organization, we’re looking for a true next-gen leader who is going to make some kind of positive impact with us – regardless of what space that is – versus someone who is just looking for a job.
What can entry-level or internship applicants do in this competitive market to set themselves apart?
Going back to the idea of showcasing your passion, students should talk about what they’re passionate about during the interview, and their passion should tie back to their personal brand. One factor I consider during the interview is, how clearly is the candidate able to articulate the investment of their time across their experiences? Candidates should be prepared to have a reply like, ‘I decided to pursue X because I’m looking to do Y going forward.’ That tells me there’s a rhyme or reason to what their resume’s trajectory looks like that leads to an overarching purpose.
With that in mind, I know a lot of students are told to diversify their portfolio and get diverse experiences across the board, like swim team or student government – things like that. Which is good overall, but students should really only get involved in opportunities that are authentic to them versus just “nice-to-have” experiences. If there’s no overall sense of consistency within a student’s resume, it’s not going to be perceived as attractive to that recruiter or hiring manager. There needs to be some kind of overarching, transcendent goal that you’re looking to hit.
Unfortunately, there’s this perpetual narrative from educators and universities for students to “do it all” to cover their bases, and a lot of students follow that advice – it was the same for me since high school and going into college. Having been in the higher education space for 10 years, I know the advisors mean well, but there continues to be this gap between what higher education is preparing students for versus what corporate actually needs. As a recruiter and strategic consultant to our interns, I actively look to close this gap, and Thermo Fisher also looks to bridge that gap between what students have been taught and what are the practical applications of their accumulated education and experiences.
>>MORE: Explore a day-in-the-life of working in genetic sciences at Thermo Fisher Scientific with its Genetic Sciences Virtual Experience Program.
What kind of questions should these candidates ask in the interview process?
Similar to what I mentioned about students doing their research about our culture, they should ask questions about our 4i values and what those look like on a day-to-day basis for the person they are interviewing with – whether that’s the recruiter or the manager. For instance, ‘how do you identify with the 4i value system and how are you able to incorporate them in your role?’
Some questions that students should specifically ask managers are: ‘How would you define your personal leadership style?’ and ‘How would you describe your team dynamic?’ For example, the manager might say they identify as a servant leader, a situational leader, or say that their team prefers direct communication and so on. Essentially, our interns will be with us for three months, so it’s super important for them to determine if both their values and personality style are complementary to that of the leader they’ll be partnering with and the greater team.
Also, during the interview, I’ll mention that I was a previous intern with the organization – twice, actually – and I’ll bring that up to invite students to ask me questions like, ‘you were an intern? What was that experience like? Is it still the same? How has it changed?’ So whether it’s a recruiter, a manager, one of the manager’s colleagues, or whoever is in that interview, if someone offers up information that is unique to their experience with the company, students need to lean into that. It will help them better determine if they want to have a similar experience or if that experience is not attractive to them.
What types of interview questions should candidates prepare for?
Our interviews are conversational, but they are also more targeted toward behavioral questions. The behavioral questions might be across work experiences or experiences affiliated with what that student is involved in at their university or even volunteer work. The first thing I ask candidates is, ‘why this opportunity with Thermo Fisher as opposed to another life sciences company?’ How they answer that question lets me know that they’ve benchmarked us across other companies in the industry and identified something unique that draws them to working with us specifically.
If the candidate doesn’t have life sciences experience, then I’ll ask, ‘why get into the life sciences industry as opposed to something else?’ For example, I was hiring for a digital advertising internship, and I asked that question to a student who had a degree in marketing. She was able to articulate why she wanted to pivot into life sciences, but some students might say, ‘I just want to explore something different.’ That statement pretty much lets me know that they’re not particularly committed to the opportunity, and the interview tends to go fairly poor after that.
Also, I’ll ask candidates if they are familiar with our 4i value system. Some will be able to list them but, if they don’t know, I tell them what they are and ask, ‘based on the different experiences articulated on your resume, I’d really love to hear which of the 4i values you would identify as your key strength as a leader and why?’ Once they answer that, I’ll say, ‘on the flip side of that question, which one would you identify as your greatest opportunity for growth?’
We certainly don’t expect students, not even our colleagues, to be a jack of all trades and great at all of them from the get-go. It’s more about having that self-awareness to know what you excel in and where you can develop.
What advice would you give to students and entry-level applicants who have already applied or want to apply for roles with Thermo Fisher Scientific?
My mantra to students and one of my life mantras is ‘fortune favors the bold.’ If you’ve already applied and for whatever reason you haven’t heard back – maybe it’s been a handful of days or a week – here’s where that LinkedIn account comes in handy. Every recruiter is going to be on LinkedIn. Type in keywords like ‘recruiter, Thermo Fisher Scientific’ and send connect requests. On my profile, I list which functions I support so candidates will know if the role they applied to aligns with me or another recruiter.
Next, send that recruiter a message like, ‘hi X, my name is X, and I recently applied to X (always list the title and the job code because each opportunity is unique and tied to a specific recruiter). I think I’m a really great fit because of X, Y, and Z. Hope to hear from you and thank you for your time.’ List two or three quick bullets as to why you’re a fit – just make sure the message is short and sweet – and if you want to attach your resume, that’s even better. Last year, I had this happen seven times, and I actually hired all seven. Essentially, this type of engagement tells me that the student is super interested in working with us, confident in their abilities, and comfortable reaching out when they need or want help which makes for a great intern.
Do you have any tips for soon-to-be college grads on navigating the start of their career?
Career mapping is something I started during my doctoral program and something I continue to do as I progress with Thermo Fisher. I also speak about this formally with our interns during their summer with us. I challenge them to ask themselves questions like, ‘what’s the ultimate role that I would want?’ Whether that’s a manager role, director, [vice president] VP or C-suite, think about that role you want to hit and then work backwards from that position so you can visualize your next step. Also, in addition to considering the tangible markers of the roles along the way, think about the leadership attributes that will get you there. For instance, you can have someone who’s great on paper and great in their role, but they have yet to hone their personal development and leadership skills in the position they’re currently in. The latter is what leadership considers when they are looking to promote someone.
At the company, we have what’s called Thermo Fisher University. It’s a platform that enables our colleagues to have the agency to drive their career development and one of the really innovative aspects about Thermo Fisher University is what we call ‘stretch assignments.’ Stretch assignments are for those colleagues who are looking to either evolve in their current role or maybe even try another position that’s outside their function. For example, we recently had someone who is part of our graphic design team who wanted a stretch assignment in talent acquisition, so they ended up helping the team and based on their experience, they discovered a passion for merging their graphic design skills with talent-related initiatives and are considering moving into Employer Brand.
Finally, as you’re doing your career mapping and thinking about your ideal role, make sure to allow for some flexibility – I initially carved out three different routes to get to where I want to be. After my first year with the company and gaining more familiarity with how corporate structure operates, I realized that one of my routes was no longer an option and that I needed to modify one of the others. Regardless, having an initial plan and vision brings clarity, and lived experience helps you fine-tune your mapping process. Overall, I would say make a plan but keep yourself open to new opportunities.
How is Thermo Fisher Scientific different from other companies in the same space?
The most significant way Thermo Fisher stands out to me and the talent we bring on board is our culture-first mentality and how we shape community and belonging. You’re able to feel like you’re living a life that is contributing back to something meaningful. For us to continue to drive innovation and be a world leader in our industry, it really is essential to create a culture-first experience and make sure that our colleagues are invested in our mission and vision.
Also, we ensure that we’re tapping into our talent regularly. Similar to the stretch assignments I mentioned, Thermo Fisher wants to educate our colleagues on how to enrich their careers with us and empower individuals to have autonomy over their trajectory and own their career growth.
Our Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Lisa Britt, recently visited the Carlsbad, California, site for a town hall and spoke to the concept of career development versus role enrichment. Sometimes people are looking to develop their career – moving from one role to the next – while others are looking for role enrichment, which is more about how to evolve in your current position. However you’re looking to grow, Thermo Fisher supports it.
The reason why I’ve been a two-time intern and now going on five years with the talent acquisition team is because I’m able to capitalize on both personal and professional development that’s supported by the company and also leverage what’s unique and authentic to me – it’s a symbiotic, win-win relationship.
What is it like to work for Thermo Fisher Scientific?
Collaborating with Thermo Fisher is to partner with a company in which you can enjoy a deep sense of meaning and purpose. I think it’s critical to consistently experience meaningful work because it really does shape a person’s idea of who they are in this life. We all tell ourselves stories about ourselves, right? Whether they’re for better or for worse, whether they’re positive or negative. I’m a big believer in self-fulfilling prophecy and, as such, I want to make sure that what I’m contributing to on the day-to-day ultimately shapes me into the best version of myself, and that’s what I get to enjoy in my role partnering with Thermo Fisher.
So when you think about Thermo Fisher, think about the story you want to tell and if you decide to join our team, get ready to live it!
Gabrielle Ellerbrock, Ed.D., in collaboration with the Early Talent team at Thermo Fisher Scientific, strategically engages next-gen talent to propel dynamic thought leadership and support the evolution of the organization. As a previous intern with Thermo Fisher, Gabrielle is uniquely positioned to champion the Early Talent experience and loves to connect aspiring leaders with amazing opportunities.
Gabrielle’s background consists of a Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership from Pepperdine University. Her dissertation was entitled “Intergenerational Ontology & Leadership: Uniting the Multigenerational Workforce” and was published with ProQuest and the Library of Congress. Gabrielle also received her Master of Arts in Religion from Point Loma Nazarene University and her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from San Diego State University.
This interview was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.
Image credit: Courtesy of Gabrielle Ellerbrock, Ed.D.
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