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Recruitment process in Europe: a panel discussion by ABG for the University of Torino

Author: Bérénice Kimpe (Head of International Department)

For the second edition of its PhD Day organized by Lucia Salto, project manager for PhD career development at the University of Torino, ABG invited 6 speakers from  European companies to talk about the recruitment of PhDs in their organisations. The topics covered include the different steps from sourcing to recruiting, the do’s and don’ts in the application and interview, their expectations towards PhDs…


Different types and activity sectors were represented among the companies:
- large and small
- pharma, food, IT, energy, sociology/anthropology, recruitment

Speakers were:
- Dr Luca Arista from Novartis, Switzerland – Senior investigator
- Filippo Armellino from Ferrero, Italy – HR manager
- Dr Isabel Caballero from Amadeus, Spain – Data scientist
- Dr Isabelle Hafini from Ethnodata, France - Founder
- Fabien Imbault from Evolution Energie, France - Founder
- Laurent Masschelyn from RD2 Conseils, France – Headhunter


You will find below a summary of what has been said. More information in the video here!

Watch the video


About finding candidates

When it comes to identify candidates, companies (and especially large ones) rely on their own webpage to advertise vacancies.

In the same time, recruiters are using additional methods to find good candidates: they ask their own network, including their academic partners, if they know someone who could meet the requirements. In Switzerland, 70% of jobs are not advertised so you need to be known. That’s also true for your development within the company you’re already working for: some of them enhance the networking among their staff, join this kind of events!

More about networking here

Selection process: application

The first step is to get selected for job interviews. For large companies, your application will be screened first by the computer and if it can’t find the keywords of this job ad in your CV, your application will be discarded. Take the example of “crossdisciplinary” and “multidisciplinary”: basically, the same meaning but depending on the company you apply for (Roche or Novartis eg), you have to choose one word rather than the other. So browse the company’s website and identify their wording.

Regarding the CV, it is mandatory to adapt it to the company you’re targeting. You can’t just send the same CV to all employers. For example, a company like Ferrero is expecting a Europass CV. So keep yourself up to date regarding your target’s recruitment codes.

Most recruiters are checking your online presence, LinkedIn and Facebook in particular. They may be reluctant to invite you for an interview if they have a negative image of you because of the content you share. Be careful about the settings of your personal profile and select the information you post on your professional profile.

Selection process: interview

Depending on your location, you will be invited for an interview on site or by Skype.

The first interview, most often on the phone, aims to check the main requirements for the position. Then, the second step: meeting HR managers and in-line managers will have you go through a behavioral interview, which is a technique enabling recruiters to assess your potential and your future performances based on your past experiences and your achievements. If you have a portfolio of what you have done, especially for PhDs in Humanities, bring it along with you for the interview. It will increase your credibility and it will have a reassuring impact on the recruiter.

If you apply at Ferrero, you will most likely have to go through language and logics tests (a minimum level of B1-B2 is required in English). You may also be invited to an assessment center, which is a way of assessing a small group of candidates on their interpersonal skills.

In most cases, you will go through a round of interviews, during which you will be invited to meet different people, including your direct manager and your future colleagues. At Novartis, if you’re invited on their campus, it is very positive: you are on the very short-list and they may offer you to choose the position you would prefer (if several vacancies). During this visit, you will have a lunch with your future colleagues: that’s how they check if you fit with the team and for the team to check if you can really be part of them.

As a conclusion, recruiters can only recommend you to be yourself during the whole process: don’t play a role, it would be a waste of time for both you and the recruiter. Be clear on your motivations and the reasons why you want to join this specific company: applying in industry just because you can’t have a permanent position in academia is not a real choice.

At the end of the panel discussion, speakers delivered a take-home message:

  • “there’s hope!”
  • “enjoy what you do!”
  • “being recruited is only the beginning”
  • “negociate”
  • “flexibility: seize the opportunities!”
  • “be who you want to be!”

Author: Bérénice Kimpe