MBA Employer Interview: Eli Lilly

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at 12am

Founded in 1876, Eli Lilly was the first company to mass-produce penicillin, the Salk polio vaccine and insulin. Today, Lilly’s is well known for its range of psychiatric medications, the lung cancer drug, Alimta (pemetrexed), and the insulin products, Humalog and Humulin.

As an employer, Lilly has a reputation for offering a diverse workplace in which MBAs can make a difference. In this interview, Eli Lilly’s director of global diversity and HR communications, Janice Chavers, discusses what it’s like to work at Lilly as well as how MBAs can make a good impression on recruiters.

Can you please describe Lilly’s MBA internship program? What makes it unique?

Lilly’s internship program starts with robust projects that address complex business challenges. Internships run for 10 weeks between May and August and take place at our sites in and around Indianapolis. Interns receive subsidized housing, living in communities with other interns in furnished apartments that are convenient to our plant sites and close to other amenities.

Our interns work hard and play hard; we want them to have a well-rounded experience that is a solid foundation for their career while providing a true sense of what it’s like to work here. There are numerous opportunities to learn about Lilly, explore the city, participate in social activities and interact with people at all levels within the company, including executives and senior leaders.

What are the top reasons MBAs choose to work at Lilly?

Our company currently has one of the strongest mid-to-late stage pipelines in its history resulting in career opportunities throughout the organization.

A career in business at Lilly offers the opportunity for MBAs to apply their skills and expertise in all corporate functions and they find tremendous satisfaction from knowing their contributions ultimately improve the lives of others. Many employees are also attracted to Lilly for its strong commitment to diversity and inclusion as well as the importance placed on being a good corporate citizen through a long history of volunteerism and philanthropic contributions. Lilly employees devote time, resources and expertise to advancing health and improving lives.

In addition, employees are attracted to our corporate headquarters because of the opportunities our urban area offers. For example, this year Indianapolis ranked second in a list of the top 10 US metro areas for college graduates compiled by Trulia in partnership with LinkedIn.

In 2016, Business Insider ranked Lilly as one of the top companies to work for in order to have an impact on the world. What opportunities do MBAs have to make a difference while working at Lilly?

Lilly’s employees make a difference for people around the world by discovering, developing and delivering medicines that help people live longer, healthier and more active lives. Not only do we deliver breakthrough medications, but you also can count on us to develop creative solutions to support communities through philanthropy and volunteerism.

For example, the Connecting Hearts Abroad program was launched in 2011 and has since seen about 1,000 employees volunteer for two weeks of paid leave in some of the world’s most impoverished communities. The Lilly volunteers are providing hands-on support in four categories: Healthcare, caregiving for children and the elderly, teaching, and community development. Those who participate in the program return home as better employees and stronger leaders, and many of the participants describe their experiences as, "life changing."

Lilly has a reputation for offering a diverse workplace in which MBAs can make a differenceDiversityInc named Lilly as one of its top companies for diversity in 2016. What does workforce diversity look like at Lilly?

Our efforts to ensure a diverse and inclusive environment for our employees span the globe. For us, embracing diversity means understanding, respecting and valuing differences, including but not limited to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, protected veteran status, disability, or any other legally protected status.

We strongly believe that the interests of our company are best served by a Lilly team that reflects the diversity represented within our communities and that takes full advantage of the unique inputs, perspectives, talents and experiences of each and every person whom we engage in our work.

Lilly has received a number of honors for its diversity initiatives in the workplace and marketplace. One of the many honors is placing 26th on DiversityInc’s latest list and we have been on the list six years in a row.

What are common job roles for MBA graduates at Lilly?

MBAs work throughout our company around the world. We market in 120 countries. Focus areas are finance, human resources, marketing, technology management and market access, strategy and analytics.

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

We are always looking for outstanding talent to come work for Lilly, from our research scientists and MBAs to our sales team and engineers. While we proactively recruit at select partner colleges, universities and conferences across the country, we welcome all applicants. We begin our search for campus talent in the fall (autumn) and conclude our search in late winter, or sooner, if we fill our intern class. Many begin their Lilly careers as interns.

We also are present at a number of conferences for professional associations, including the Consortium (for Graduate Study in Management), Boston Career Forum, Forté Foundation, National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA), and MBA Veterans, to name just a few.

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

First, candidates need to make sure their résumés are accurate and free of any typographical errors. They also need to be easy to read. Beyond that, we’re looking at the person as a whole. We want people with different backgrounds and experiences as that diversity builds a stronger workforce for Lilly. We don’t get to the best solutions when we all have similar backgrounds and experiences and think alike. In addition, we prefer that candidates have at least three years of previous work experience.

What are some dos and don’ts that MBAs should keep in mind when approaching recruiters?

When approaching our recruiters, it’s vital that MBAs are informed about the company and can articulate why they want to work for us. We are looking for people who are passionate about healthcare and making life better for people around the world. Our recruiters also are looking for people who are engaged in the discussions and are asking questions beyond basic facts about the company – and listening to the answers.

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

One of the biggest misconceptions is that MBAs must have extensive knowledge of healthcare and pharma; this is not true! We are looking for MBAs who have a passion for what we do. We will teach you everything you need to know to have a successful internship and career at Lilly.

Another misconception is that a career in the pharmaceutical industry is less challenging than say, one in consumer goods or medical devices because those industries launch new products several times faster than Lilly does. But the level of complexity in pharma is very challenging and dynamic. The healthcare landscape is changing quickly and pharmaceutical companies are all competing to be the first to skate to where the puck is going.

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

We extended offers to 65% of interns in 2015 and intend to extend offers to 68% of this year’s intern class.

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

We expect all our employees to live the Lilly values. These are crucial to success at Lilly. Our values – integrity, excellence, and respect for people – remain the foundation of all we do.

Is there anything I did not ask about that you think MBAs should know before applying to jobs at Lilly?

They should know that there are many opportunities to make friends and build a life here. Many join our employee resource groups (ERGs). Just a few of these groups are the Early Career Professionals, African American Network, Organization of Latinos at Lilly and PRIDE. Our ERGs offer strong support networks for their members and help our company develop talented individuals for future leadership roles at Lilly.

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