The company told in-Pharmatechnologist.com it placed mysterious adverts for jobs at its large production site in Strängnäs, near Stockholm, without specifying anything about the roles.
“We had a couple of vacancies this spring and we sent out an announcement, ‘we are looking for the future employee.’ And that was about it,” said Kim Sandell, Director of Supply and Operational Excellence at Pfizer Health AB in Sweden.
“We tried it because we don’t really know what the future Pfizer employee looks like. We know it’s more focused on how I am and how I interact with other people than which PhD I have.”
The result was 200 applicants for six varied positions – but Pfizer still did not reveal the job descriptions to candidates. It also did not ask to see their résumés or qualifications.
“I didn’t want to rule out people because their CV wasn’t good. I think we unconsciously [reject] people if we read a CV and I’m sure we miss out on talent that way.”
‘How do you feel about healthcare?’
Instead, the pharma giant whittled down job applicants by asking them “five questions about their core beliefs – anything from the political state of Sweden to how you feel about healthcare.”
The next step “was sort of American Idol,” said Sandell. “We had three [staff] from the site and we brought in four or five applicants at the same time and we told them to talk for three minutes about the most burning question for you.”
The task revealed important insights into candidates’ personalities and how they interact with other people, Sandell said. “From that we started to pick good talent. And then we opened their CVs and saw what kind of background they had.”
The mystery applicants turned out to have a mixture of backgrounds – from chemistry PhDs with years in the pharma industry to people with two or three years’ experience as an operator.
Pfizer hired six people across different positions – “who are still there, getting up to speed. To some extent we’re shopping for other employees now.”
‘We like tension’
Pfizer maintains the unusual hiring process is good for employees as well as the company, changing the way they view their working environment.
“The recruitment process gives them a very interesting starting point – it gives you [different] expectations of the workplace,” said Malin Parkler, MD of Swedish Pfizer.
Perhaps more than qualifications and experience, the company looks for staff willing to adjust to its culture and patterns of working.
“We said we want people who are prepared to work anywhere in the production flow. They shouldn’t be afraid to go into the production area – they might do some analytical testing. And we work 24/7 so they have to be prepared to do shifts,” said Sandell.
The director also revealed that perfect harmony between employees doesn’t always produce the best results. “Our leadership team believes opposites are good. We like to have that tension – you have one opinion and I have another. But you need to do something productive with the tension.”
Pfizer’s Strängnäs site manufactures proprietary biopharmaceuticals – including the synthetic human growth hormone, Genotropin – as well as performing contract manufacturing work for rival companies.