Phone Interviews for Equity Research Associate – Biotechnology

I want to put myself back into the job market and brush up my interview skills. I want to test whether or not my PSIC experience would generate any interest with equity research firms.

Two weeks ago, I applied to three “Equity Research Associate – Biotechnology” positions. Much to my positive surprise, I got two phone interviews out of those three applications. Both are in New York. I’d like to share my phone interview experience here.

Interview #1 12/02

Prior to interview

I did research on:

  • The Company – A Public Full-service Company
  • The Interviewer – 1 year analyst associate, PhD.
  • Job description

Interview (33min):

Q1: Tell me about your self. (Put you under the spotlight)
A1: (I explained my motivation and results running the PSIC club.)
Q2: Why into finance? Why not after phD? (Do you apply to this job because you hate/fail at science?)
A2: Always interested. Not as prepared then.
Q3: Research fellowship, funding, publication list.(How good you are at research.)
A3: (Be honest. What gained doing postdoc.)
Q4: NFKB and muscle degeneration disease (Knowledge test.)
A4: Not familiar. Inflammation?
Q5: Are you familiar with Bluebird Bio, any company with revenue? (Thinking process)
A5: (Explain ACAD, what’s unique, inverse 5HT agonist)
Q6: How does your club work? How to screen? How to discuss?
A6: (Explain accordingly.)
End: Please follow-up with your publication list.

My own questions (not so good):

Q1: What do you like most as an analyst?
A1: Zoom back out to big picture, many technologies, many companies.
Q2: What’s most people’s next step after analyst?

Interview #2 12/7

Prior to interview

I did research on:

  • The Company – Smaller private biotech-focused research firm.
  • The Interviewer – Senior management, experienced CFA, no PhD
  • Job description

Interview (24min)

Q1: Tell me about yourself.
A1: (Motivation for science and finance. PSIC Club.)
Q1.1: When did you do CFA? Why not finish level 3?
A1.1: In 2012-2013. Decided to focus on current research work.
Q2: I usually recommend to finish all 3 levels in a row, since curriculum changes over time. What is APY in your resume?
A2: Thanks for the suggestion. (Explain performance of PSIC candidates.)
Q3: No. APY means yield, usually for dividends and bonds. Should be APR.
A3: Thanks.
Q4: How do you/club analyse company?
A4: (Explain how club does equity research.)
Q5: Example?
A5: (Candidates)
Q6: Specific example please. I am trying to assess whether you are qualified as analyst.
A6: Explain CHTP. then Switch to DVAX. Explain advantage.
Q7: How do you screen/select candidate?
A7: Explain screening process and criteria.
Q8: Example?
A8: Mannkind. Another company with hormone product, simple dose change. No innovation.
Q9: Do you produce a product/report? or simply discuss.
A9: Yes, we do produce PPTs.
Q10: Do you invest?
A10: Not as group and why (decided to focus on research). Yes for me. Plan to start fund.
End: We will be in touch.

My own questions

Q1: What characteristics make the best analysts?
A1: Buy-side: breath of knowledge. 100-150 companies.
Sell-side: depth of knowledge. ~20 companies, also require excellent writing and verbal skills to sell a stock.
Q2: How about PhD vs non-PhD analysts?
A2: PhDs usually great for technical sectors, such as biotech. Non-PhDs better for other regular business, such as provider, insurance, pharma etc.

Notes:

  1. Research about the interviewer should help you know him/her. But simply stating you did those research will not flatter or impress him/her.

  2. You should not ask too-simple questions. That will show you are ignorant or not competent.

  3. Take notes for follow-up.

Onsite interview (from my friend Kyle)

If you do get onsite invitations, I suggest you prepare a well rounded stock pitch (from fundamentals to pipelines to comps, etc);

there will also be brain tease questions which I think everyone from PKU would find easy.

The night before the interviews, they might host a dinner party for the candidates, they want to see if you fit in the culture and get along with other associates/analysts.