What is GSK looking for in an MBA?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 12am

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) makes a number of consumer products with which you may be familiar, including Sensodyne, Aquafresh, Horlicks, Panadol and Tums. However, GSK is also one of the few healthcare companies that are conducting research into medicines and vaccines for the World Health Organization’s three priority diseases: HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

GSK's pharmaceutical leadership development program, Esprit, is aimed at giving MBAs the opportunity to gain international work experience early on in their careers. In this interview, their university recruitment team describes the type of MBA job opportunities available with the global healthcare company and offers some insights into what it takes to secure a job there.

Can you please describe GlaxoSmithKline’s MBA internship programs? What makes them unique?

GSK offers two summer internship programs for individuals pursuing a MBA degree; one in the pharmaceutical commercial business and the other with the consumer healthcare marketing business. Both programs run for 12 weeks. The locations for the pharma business internship are in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The consumer healthcare internship is based in Warren, New Jersey.

For the pharma internship program, interns are able to select projects from across the pharmaceutical commercial business. They are paired with projects based on their areas of interest and backgrounds. Throughout the summer, interns have access to a variety of senior leaders to get a broader view of the business, both within the US and globally. Additionally, they are provided with a robust support network which includes their line manager, a mentor beyond their business unit, and a recent MBA hire to the company. During the summer, the interns will also have the opportunity to experience a day in the field and the program concludes with a presentation of their work to senior leadership. The program is unique as it is small, tailored and it directly feeds into our full-time hiring efforts for Esprit, which is GSK’s flagship rotation leadership development program for MBA hires.

For the consumer healthcare internship program, interns will be aligned to one of the business units based on their skillset and desire for specific opportunities. Once there, they work on projects critical to the GSK business and will be required to show strategic insight, application of marketing skills, analytical ability and leadership capabilities. The roles are designed to offer a perspective on the healthcare sector, the consumer healthcare business, the marketing function, as well as GSK and our senior management. Interns’ responsibilities will include the development and management of short and medium-term brand strategies, including assisting in the development and execution of comprehensive marketing plans that align with a brand strategy, including advertising, promotion, pricing, digital and customer marketing strategy. At the end of the summer, interns have the opportunity to interview for an assistant brand manager position on a full-time basis after they complete their MBA degree.

GSK and MBA internships. What are common job roles for MBA graduates at GlaxoSmithKline?

For our pharmaceuticals business, Esprit is GSK’s flagship MBA leadership development program. Esprit is there to create a pipeline of future leaders for GSK and is a four-year rotational program which includes an international move. For consumer healthcare, a common first role for MBA graduates is an assistant brand manager position.

What are some of the top reasons MBAs choose to work at GlaxoSmithKline?

GSK is a company that is committed to improving the lives of its customers. This overarching connection to a career that has a meaningful impact on the lives of others is one of the key drivers for MBAs who join the Esprit program. Additionally, MBAs are attracted to the global opportunity component of Esprit. It is often difficult early on in a career to gain experience outside of the US. At GSK, this experience is not only valued but is also a requirement of the program that we hire into.

Could you please provide an overview of GlaxoSmithKline’s MBA recruitment and hiring process?

We use our internship program to fill positions in our MBA rotational program and some of our direct-entry marketing roles. Therefore, we heavily target first-year MBA students for summer internships. In order to be considered for an internship, a candidate must first apply through our careers website when intern recruitment starts in November/December, be selected for interview, and then receive an offer to join GSK for the summer. Out of that intern pool, we make full-time offers based on success during the internship as well as a robust assessment and selection process at the end of the summer.

What do you look for when evaluating a candidate’s résumé and work experience?

We are looking for candidates who have a desire to positively impact the lives of others through a commitment to a career in healthcare. Additionally, we are looking for flexible thinkers, with high learning agility and long-term leadership potential. Relevant industry experience, specifically marketing experience in healthcare, is highly desirable.

Do MBAs need to have a healthcare background in order to work for GlaxoSmithKline?

Although helpful, it is not required.

Which business schools does GlaxoSmithKline recruit from?

We look at candidates from all business schools. We are able to be present on campus at a small handful of schools each year, including Wharton, Kellogg, Michigan, Duke, and UNC Kenan-Flagler, as part of the core schools for the pharma Esprit program. For consumer healthcare, we focus more on individuals who have the right background and a passion for what we do. Our target schools in this area currently include: NYU Stern, Carnegie Mellon, and UNC, although we also visit Kellogg and Duke. As we cannot be everywhere in person, we encourage applicants from all schools and will screen, interview, and select candidates based on their qualifications for the open roles.

How many MBA interns did GlaxoSmithKline have this year? How many left with job offers?

We keep the internship program small in order to ensure the quality of the program and also to increase the percentage of interns we are able to offer roles to at the end of their internship. Each year we average five to seven interns for pharma and about the same for consumer healthcare. We hire approximately three to five per year combined into full-time roles.

What steps should MBAs take in order to make a good impression? Conversely, what are some common mistakes MBAs should avoid when contacting recruiters?

It is important to be authentic in the interview and hiring process, and have a clear understanding of why you want to work in healthcare and, in particular, why you are attracted to GSK. Candidates should take the time to research the company and roles before engaging with a recruiter. Being uninformed about the employer and the industry as well as the type of program an employer is offering is a common mistake MBAs make.

What does GlaxoSmithKline expect from its new hires? What can they do to increase their chances for advancement down the road?

We expect new hires to be able to hit the ground running, progress rapidly through their careers and underpin all their decision making with an understanding of how it would impact the lives of patients. To increase chances for advancement, candidates need to have a strong work product, be agile thinkers and be able to navigate a highly matrixed organization by successfully developing and managing relationships with key stakeholders and growing their network. Additionally, making the most of the early career international experience encompassed in the Esprit program is key to long-term success.

What are the biggest misconceptions MBAs have about GlaxoSmithKline and the pharmaceutical industry?

There can be a misconception that MBAs with backgrounds in science or engineering might not be considered for commercial or marketing roles. We value students who have a STEM background and are interested in pursuing a career on the commercial side of the healthcare industry.

Published originally on www.topmba.com

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