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Culture Fit Interviews: What Are They and Why Do We Do Them?

Posted by Brook White on Tue, Jul 17, 2018 @ 09:53 AM
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If you’ve ever interviewed for a job at Rho, you know that one part of our process is a little different from what many other companies do.  Each prospective employee goes through a culture fit interview.  So, what is a culture fit interview? (And equally important, what isn’t a culture fit interview?)  Why do we think they are important?

What it is

Rho team  members Liz, Daniel, and SeanThe purpose of the culture fit interview is to make sure that each employee we bring on board shares and embodies the same values that we do.  You can read more about our core values here.  These interviews are conducted by a select set of senior leaders who have been with the company for quite a while.  The interviews do not assess skills or technical qualifications, and, generally speaking, won’t be performed by someone who shares the same expertise as you do.

We use the same bank of questions for all culture fit interviews whether you are applying for an entry level position straight out of college or a senior leadership position.  These questions ask for examples or stories from your past experience that assess qualities that we think are important—ability to work as part of a team, to think critically and creatively when solving problems, to communicate effectively, and  to demonstrate integrity.

What it isn’t

We recognize that one of the dangers of this type of screening is that it provides an opportunity to weed out candidates that aren’t “just like us.”  That is not what we are doing.  We value diversity of all kinds—demographic diversity, diversity of experience, and diversity of perspective.  We are not looking to create a homogeneous workplace where everyone thinks and acts the same.  

We are, however, looking to select candidates that can succeed and thrive in our workplace.  From experience, we’ve identified some of the attributes that can make otherwise similar candidates succeed or fail at Rho.  There are people who are highly skilled and who can be highly successful in other corporate climates who won’t do well here.  We owe it to them and the people who would work with them to try and identify them ahead of time.

In addition to the qualities listed above, there are aspects of our environment that can cause otherwise successful professionals struggle here at Rho.  Rho has a very flat organization structure that relies heavily on project teams’ ability to execute in a fairly independent way.  That allows a high degree of autonomy but also creates higher expectations for collaboration and communication.

Some people love this—they get a great deal of say in both what work they are doing and how they do it.  They don’t feel micromanaged and they enjoy close collaboration with their teams.  Some people don’t love it—some people prefer more firm direction and less fluid hierarchies.  If you need a lot of structure and close oversight from a supervisor to be successful, this may not be the best environment for you.  If you don’t like being part of a self-directing team and want a manager to negotiate your work priorities and interactions with other groups, this may not be the best environment for you.  There’s nothing wrong with that!  There are plenty of places that operate that way, but Rho is not one of them.

Why we do it

Rho super heroesWe believe our employees are our greatest asset.   Attracting and retaining the most talented employees is critical to our success, so we put a huge emphasis on selecting the right people to join us and maintaining a culture where talented people want to stay long-term.  

A number of years ago, we went through a period of accelerated growth where we hired a large number of people very quickly.  Despite carefully vetting the technical capabilities of these individuals, a high percentage failed to succeed here.  We began to experience a lot of turnover—a new and unpleasant problem.  The culture and work environment began to drift from what had made us successful and what had made many of our long-term employees so excited about working here.  It took a lot of effort to correct that drift and stop the turnover, but we did it—and we don’t want to have to repeat that effort.  

We now view maintaining our culture as another key component to continued success.  Culture fit interviews are one way we do this.  It is a significant investment we are making—it takes a substantial amount of time to conduct these interviews and it means we sometimes can’t grow as quickly as we might otherwise.  It is also a step in the selection process that we take very seriously.  We never skip this step, and we don’t make an offer to a candidate unless the culture fit interviewer is satisfied.

How can you prepare?

rho_portraits_Spencer-080Are you interested in working at Rho, but this part of the interview process makes you nervous?  Here’s some advice to help you prepare.  This isn’t supposed to be a “gotcha” process.  It is supposed to help us—and you—evaluate whether this is a working environment where you can be successful.

Start by reviewing our core values.  All of the questions we ask directly relate to these values.  Think about examples and stories from your past experiences that demonstrate your strengths in relationship to each of these values.  Think about some examples that show:

  • Times when you’ve gone above and beyond to help your team or a coworker succeed
  • Clever ways you’ve solved complicated problems
  • Situations where your integrity has been tested
  • Ways you’ve ensured the quality of your work

Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of work experience to draw from.  We’ve had plenty of early career candidates who have answered our questions with examples from school projects, internships, volunteer experiences, and extracurricular activities.  

Interested in learning more about working at Rho?  Find out more about why Rho is a great place to work or meet some of the interesting people you could be working with.

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What Makes a SuperheRho: More Than a Coworker in a Cape

Posted by Karley St. Pierre on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 @ 09:33 AM
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“Who’s your favorite superhero?” No matter your age or gender, this question is commonly asked. It’s an ice-breaker of sorts—a response can tell a lot about someone’s personality and values. There are the typical, almost obvious answers—Batman, Superman, etc. Maybe you’d have a Marvel enthusiast throw in Iron Man for good measure. Or you could have someone aptly choose Wonder Woman as their favorite, what with this year’s blockbuster film making great strides in its genre. Regardless of who you choose the idea behind it is the same: who is someone you look up to, someone who can do anything incredibly. Superheroes are often thought of as being larger-than-life, having these unbelievable powers and instincts. They make great characters because their attributes are so incredible and uncommon. Yet, what we often forget is that we actually have superheroes around us every day, in real life—and at Rho. Between conducting clinical trials, giving keynote speeches at conferences, and participating in local philanthropy events, employees at Rho consistently go above and beyond. So, it comes as no surprise that we showcase our superhero staff when the time is right.

This past September, Rho celebrated being named to the Triangle Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” list for 2017. The local publication holds nominations each year and honors the winners at a celebratory luncheon. Rho has been fortunate to receive this honor for 6 consecutive years, and each year Rho’s attendees choose their favorite hero-inspired shirt to wear. “When I was asked what character I wanted to be, at first I thought it was silly,” said Lane Bissett, a Business Development Associate with Rho. “Of course, I picked Wonder Woman like all the other ladies, but when I put on the shirt, it hit me.” Lane said that seeing herself alongside her Rho teammates, all wearing their chosen superhero tees, put an idea in her head. “We all are so different, but we all have these qualities that make us work great as a team. Representing Rho as this unified group of people felt really surreal.” Much like superhero squads in the movies, our team at Rho consists of many different personalities, strengths and talents. Whether it be a Clinical Research Associate or a Clinical Project Manager, every Rho employee has the opportunity to showcase their skill and knowledge while also learning from others. It’s a kind of collaboration that not only works but can be hard to find. 

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It’s this idea that makes Rho special—this unification of people and personalities towards one purpose and goal.  At Rho, that core purpose is to improve health, extend life, and enhance quality of life through corporate and research excellence. Each employee who represented Rho at the Triangle Business Journal Luncheon came from different sectors, holding different positions within the organization. “I was really proud when the announcers mentioned how Rho has won for the past 6 years,” said Joyce Lau, Research Associate. “It made us all feel kind of invincible,” she continued, “and it made me realize that there is a reason we can call ourselves superheroes here. We definitely had the most spirit, and it showed!” Throughout those 6 years, Rho has continued to see tremendous growth and opportunity, especially when it comes to adding more superheroes to the team. “When I came to Rho, the first thing I noticed was how great the people are,” Lane added. “Every day I feel lucky to work with the people I do, and it makes me excited to think of new hires joining and getting to see how amazing we are.” 

Shortly after Rho was honored at TBJ’s luncheon, we also celebrated our fiscal year end. At the celebration, employees were able to enjoy delicious food, interact with our CEOs and founders, and take home some pretty awesome Rho backpacks. “It felt like an early Christmas,”  said Joyce. “It just goes to show how much the people at Rho really care about you, really going above and beyond what you’d expect.” The year end celebration was a superhero convention it its own way—all our phenomenal heroes in one place.

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It’s not just the luncheons and gatherings that make us excited and proud to wear the title of “SuperheRho.” Just like the characters in comic books, every day brings a new challenge to face and every day we get to use our strengths to rise to the occasion. Recognition can be nice, but that’s not why superheroes do what they do. There’s an internal push for excellence and success, which Rho mirrors in our core values. So when we get asked who our favorite superhero is, chances are it’s someone here at Rho.

 

50 Must Have Travel Tips from Experienced CRAs

Posted by Brook White on Wed, Oct 25, 2017 @ 09:57 AM
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Recently, I sat down with Clinical Team Leads Caitlin Hirschman and Jamie Christensen who have a combined 25 years of monitoring experience to learn more about the travel tips they’ve acquired over the years.  Here’s what they had to share:

luggage and packing

General

1.  Expect the unexpected.  Things will go wrong, so you just have to be patient and stay calm when you are traveling.  Going in with the expectation that everything will go according to plan is a recipe for dissatisfaction.

2.  Get loyal with an airline and hotel chain so you can reap the benefits of their rewards systems (when it isn’t cost prohibitive).  You’ll appreciate the free upgrades and other goodies that you’ll collect over time. 

3.  Have cash. It comes in handy for tips and other small items.

4.  Invest in comfortable shoes.  Wear flats and bring sneakers.

Luggage & Packing

5.  Travel with a backpack and a carry-on.  Using a backpack rather than a purse or tote bag leaves your hands free which will make things much easier.  The backpack can also serve as the go to bag while you are on-site.

6. Invest in a good carry-on.  Consider one that is small enough to fit under the seat if you’ll be going on lots of overnight trips.  That way you won’t have to gate check your bag if they run out of room in the overhead compartments or if you are on a small regional flight that doesn’t accommodate roller boards.

7. Keep a ready-to-go toiletry kit that you don’t have to repack each time that contains carry-on size liquids.

8. Aveeno makes face wipes that work well as a non-liquid facial cleanser.

9. Pack light. A good rule is to pack two shirts for each pair of pants and re-wear the pants.
10. Pack clothes that don’t require ironing.

11. Bring some candy. It can make a good pick me up when you are feeling worn down.
12. Gum can come in handy too.

13. Don’t forget your chargers.

14. De-clutter your wallet so you are only carrying what you really need.

Air Travel

15. TSA pre-check is totally worth it. Not only does it provide the convenience of not needing to take off your shoes and take things out of your bags at airport security, but the shorter lines can save you a lot of time especially at larger airports. (Rho pays for TSA pre-check for frequent travelers).

16. Delta and Southwest are favorites for airlines. If you take Southwest, it’s worth it to pay for the early bird check-in so you get a better seat assignment. The cost will be offset by what you might have spent checking your bag.air travel

17. Consider joining an airline club. It can provide a really nice break during a long layover or if you get stuck because of a flight cancellation. (Rho pays for airline club membership for frequent travelers).

18. In general, aisle seats are preferred, but window seats may be better for a redeye.

19. Make sure to get a seat close to the front of the plane if you have a close connection, even if it means taking a middle seat. A middle seat is definitely preferable to a missed connection.

20. Don’t bring fish or beef jerky to eat on the plane. Your fellow passengers will appreciate it.

21. Avoid connecting flights through New York area airports. Atlanta is a good airport for transfers.

Ground Transportation & Parking

22. Consider using Uber to get from home to the airport depending on how long you will be gone and what time your flights are departing and arriving. It can be substantially cheaper than parking and you get dropped off close to the terminal at most airports.

23. If you do need to park, consider using an off-site parking service. You can earn points, they provide amenities like coffee and newspapers, and drop you off right by the terminal and your car. It can also feel safer than walking through a parking garage late at night.

24. Consider using Uber or other ride-sharing services in cities where parking can be a problem. This may also be a good plan if your visit is at an academic site. University parking is notoriously problematic.

25. If you have a good taxi driver, get their card so you can use them for the rest of the trip or future trips to the same city. It also allows you to call ahead for a ride.

Hotels

26. Download a noise machine app. It can help you sleep better in new places—particularly noisy ones.

27. Don’t sleep naked. You never know when there will be an unexpected hotel fire alarm.

28. When visiting a new site, ask them for hotel and restaurant recommendations.

29. Ask for a higher level hotel floor (never ground floor).

Health and Wellness

30. Bring an empty refillable water bottle and then fill it once you are on the other side of airport security. It’s easy to get dehydrated while you are traveling, and this is an easy, cheap, and environmentally-friendly solution.

31. Bring snacks. You never know when you are going to be stuck somewhere that it isn’t convenient to get food or where food options aren’t great. You can also choose healthier snack foods when you pack them yourself rather than purchasing them at the airport.

32. Make a plan to get in a workout wherever you go. It is easy to ignore your health when you are traveling frequently. Bring workout clothes and sneakers.eat healthy when you travvel

33. Check with your gym to find out if they have satellite locations in areas where you frequently travel.

34. Some hotels offer workout clothes and shoes that you can rent.

35. Keep your sneakers in your backpack, so you can take a walk and explore the city after work.

36. Keep hand sanitizer or baby wipes handy. Planes and airports are germy places.

37. Look under the mattress to check for bedbugs.

38. Beach Body Workouts is super cheap for a year membership. Just log onto the app and choose a workout like yoga or T25, which is a super quick great workout.

Safety

39. Make sure someone has your contact information and also knows your travel plans. Make sure to give the airline an emergency contact number. This is especially important for single folks who aren’t necessarily checking in with anyone regularly.

40. When the hotel asks you how many keys you want, always tell them two so that no one overhears that you are traveling alone.

41. Do a safety check of the hotel room before settling in. Check behind doors and in closets where someone could be hiding and make sure windows and sliding glass doors are locked.

42. If you are traveling to a new place, try to arrive when it is still light outside.

Food & Entertainment

43. Headphones for the plane are a must. You can use them to listen to music or movies, and to drown out the noise of the plane (or unruly passengers).

44. Before you leave on your next trip, download movies, books, or audiobooks to entertain yourself on the plane or when you have some free time back at your room.

45. Learn to enjoy travel by exploring each place you go. There are a number of “Best of” apps that tell you the best sandwich, beer, dessert, etc. in each state. It can be fun to see how many you can collect.

46. Some restaurant and hotel chains have happy hours which can save you some money if you are traveling on a per diem reimbursement plan. In some cases, hotel happy hours provide free food that make for a decent light dinner.

47. Bring a bathing suit. If you have free time you can get some exercise in the pool or some relaxation time beside it.

48. Go see landmarks in new cities you visit—the Seattle Space Needle, Millennium Park in Chicago, Duck Tours in Boston, Riverwalk in San Antonio.

49. Baseball games are a great way to take in some local flavor at a reasonable cost.

50. Check out some local restaurants.

What are your best travel tips?  Share in the comments below!

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12 Resume Tips That Can Help You Get a Clinical Research Job

Posted by Brook White on Wed, Sep 13, 2017 @ 11:36 AM
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resume tips for clinical research jobsI’ve been working at Rho for 10 years and at CROs for more than 15 years, and in that time, I’ve reviewed a lot of resumes for job seekers in many different positions. Here are some resume and CV tips to help you stand out with the recruiters, hiring managers, and interview teams that make the difference between getting an interview or a rejection letter for the clinical research job you really want.

Note: The tips I’m sharing here are for job seekers in the US. International standards can differ.

Keywords Matter

In most cases, the first look at your resume won’t be a thorough one. During that first pass, a recruiter is probably looking for a handful of keywords that they associate with the position. What terms are you using to search for jobs? Those same terms should show up prominently on your resume.

Does that mean you can’t get a job if you haven’t held that job before? No. You just need to make sure that it is clear how your experience is applicable. For example, if you are seeking a job as a CRA but haven’t had CRA as your title, you can still make sure that words like monitoring and site visit show up in the accomplishments and descriptions of your roles. For competitive positions, most candidates are screened out during this step. Make sure you’re not one of them.

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

I’m always surprised by the number of resumes I see that have basic spelling, grammar and formatting errors. Generally, I wouldn’t consider hiring someone with these sorts of errors. This may sound picky, but clinical research requires close attention to detail for nearly every position at every level.

You should carefully proofread your resume. Then, ask someone with strong writing and editing skills to do the same. Don’t have access to someone that’s up to the job? Check out Grammarly. It is a free online tool that will eliminate most of these errors. Make sure you list the correct company and job title for which you are applyi

best candidate for a clinical research job

ng. Listing either one incorrectly shows a lack of attention to detail and tells the recruiter you aren’t committed to their company.

Tailor Your Resume to the Position

Start by carefully reading the posted job description.  What specific skills and experience does the job require?  Make sure you highlight these skills on your resume and that it is obvious how your experience aligns with the required experience for the job.  What are the primary job duties and responsibilities?  Call-out how you have accomplished similar tasks in your previous work.  Finally, review the company’s website to see what values they highlight.  Quality? Teamwork? Fast-paced environment?  Think about how you can demonstrate the attributes they are looking for in the materials you are submitting.  This may seem daunting, but submitting 10 tailored resumes will produce better results than submitting 100 generic ones.  List your applicable skills at the beginning of your resume, not the end.  You want to capture the attention of the resume reviewer quickly.  

Demonstrate Knowledge of the Industry

Whether you are a clinical research veteran with 20 years of experience or are seeking an entry level position, your resume should reflect awareness of what is happening in the industry. If you are new to the industry or returning to the industry, there are a number of great free news sources that can help you with this. A few of my favorites are FierceCRO and FierceBiotech, Clinical Leader, and Applied Clinical Trials.

Consider how to work in key trends. Searching for a clinical operations role? Highlight your experience with risk-based monitoring. Looking for a job in clinical project management? Mention your experience working with patient advocacy groups to improve patient recruitment. Obviously, the depth of knowledge and awareness expected will differ based on your role and experience level, but these are the kinds of things that can be differentiators in a competitive field. One thing to note – make sure you can speak to every item on your resume if asked about your experience – no fabrications. If you can’t articulate that particular skill or ability during an interview, don’t list it on your resume or CV.

Formatting

This is not a creative or design-focused industry.  Your resume does not need to be a work of art, but basic proper formatting is expected.  Use an easy to read font and font size with a light background color and a dark font color.  Have reasonable margins.  Use bullets.  Limit your resume to 2-3 pages maximum.  Focus on making it easy to read and easy to find desired information.  There are plenty of good free templates out there, so consider using one of those if you aren’t sure what good formatting looks like.

Cover Letter—Yes or No?

happy_business_colleauges.jpgWhether or not to include a cover letter depends both on your resume and the position for which you are applying. In some cases, it will be obvious how your skills and experience are transferable to the posted position. For example, you currently are a clinical data manager with experience in EDC system x and skills y and z applying for a job as a clinical data manager with experience in EDC system x and skills y and z. In this case, a cover letter isn’t necessary, although it would provide an opportunity for you to explain why you are interested in that company or that position.

In some cases, there isn’t a straight line between your work experience and the position you’re applying for. Or, maybe there is something on your resume that you would like to explain like a gap in your work history. Or, maybe the position is in another location and you want to voice your willingness to relocate. A cover letter can help you with any of these situations. If you do include a cover letter, make sure it is concise, well-written, and offers something more than what would be obvious from reading your resume. And don’t forget to ask a friend to proofread your cover letter! A great resume will be overlooked by a poorly written and grammatically incorrect cover letter.

Accomplishments Not Duties

For each position, you should include a brief summary of the responsibilities followed by a couple of core accomplishments.  It should not be a bulleted list of the twenty duties in the job description.  Finally, accomplishments should be specific and should include metrics where possible.  For example, a clinical project manager might list an accomplishment like “For a global phase 3 study, completed enrollment 6 weeks early and delivered topline results 3 days after database lock.”  This resume will get a lot further than one with a list that says managed global phase 3 studies, oversaw data management and statistical deliverables, and managed timelines.

Technical Skills

Recruiters and hiring managers are often looking for specific technology skills and even experience with specific software systems.  Ideally, these would be listed in the job posting, but that isn’t always the case.  Include both industry system types like CTMS, EDC, IRT, and statistical programming languages as well as specific system names like Medidata Rave and SAS.  Also include industry agnostic technologies that may be applicable to your role like MS Project, HTML, or Java.  If you have experience in clinical research, you should also list the therapeutic areas where you have experience. Also make sure to list any certifications like the Regulatory Affairs Certification (RAC), Project Management Professional (PMP), or Certified Clinical Research Associate (CCRA).

How Long Should My Resume Be?

The answer to how long your resume should be depends on how much work experience you have and the type of job you are seeking.  For recent graduates and early career candidates, about a page is a good rule of thumb.  For experienced candidates in most roles, 2-3 pages is an appropriate length.  For scientific roles where publications are expected to be included, CV length is highly variable and should be driven by career length, number of professional positions, and number of publications; however, you still want your biggest selling points on the first couple of pages.

Things You Don’t Need to Include on Your Resume

There are also a number of things you shouldn’t include on your resume:

  • Personal or demographic information like age, race, gender, religious preference, social security number, or marital status.
  • Photos.
  • Salary history or salary requirements.
  • “References available on request”—this is assumed, takes up space, and can make your resume seem dated.
  • Objective—I’ve never seen an objective that has made a difference in my decision for the positive.  However, an objective that isn’t well written or doesn’t align with what I’m looking for has caused me to rule candidates out.

Advice for Recent Graduates

Many recent college graduates struggle with what to include on their resumes besides their education if they don’t have professional work experience.  That is totally fine—when we are hiring entry level candidates we don’t expect them to have professional work experience.  Some beneficial things you can include are:

  • Volunteer experience
  • Non-professional work experience from restaurant jobs to dog walking to mowing lawns in the summer
  • Study abroad programs
  • Internships
  • Extracurricular activities, especially leadership positions
  • Class projects that are relevant to the position

Each of these provides valuable information about you.

Interested in working at Rho? Learn more about working at Rho!

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