A Fair Day in Frankfurt

Editor's note: The German employment scene currently looks gloomy; all the more reason to be as proactive as possible when on the hunt for a job. Last month the 5th Frankfurt JobBörse (job fair) for Natural Sciences was hosted at the Biozentrum of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University. Next Wave went along to check it out.

The Frankfurt JobBörse already has a strong 4-year tradition and is one of the most important job market events for natural scientists. Jointly organised by the Frankfurt Branch of the Young Chemists Forum ( Jungechemikerforum) and the Frankfurt Employment Office, all the major German-based biotech, pharma, and chemical industries were represented. Biologists were the single largest group of scientists attending the fair, followed by chemists, physicists, and geologists, in that order. The programme also includes a day-long symposium consisting of talks on a spectrum of career perspectives, from project management to drug discovery to careers in the development of future energy sources.

Extremely practical advice was also on hand. In Bewerbung Live Dabei, a live interview was conducted on stage in front of an auditorium packed with over 400 people. A (brave) young chemist from Würzburg was interviewed by Mr Manfred Hund from the human resources department of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma KG and a personal trainer, Doris Brenner. Neither of the interviewers had seen the candidate's CV beforehand. The interview itself took about 45 minutes and was followed by expert feedback. The audience was then invited to ask questions and comment on the proceedings. The questions came flooding in and the event stimulated an extremely lively and informative discussion.

So what were the most salient tips from the interviewers? Both really emphasised the importance of answering questions in a plausible way. Hund warned that "experienced interviewers easily see through fabricated answers, even if you think it is what they wanted to hear." Brenner also agreed that "authenticity" is critical, adding, "always have practical examples of your skills, experience, etc." She also admitted that the success of an interview may not always correlate with having the most suitable skills and qualifications, as other factors play a role. "If we are honest, sometimes it simply is just down to chemistry, and if that isn't right, the person may not be hired just for that reason."

The massive interest in this particular event clearly highlights that young Germans are very keen to brush up on their interview skills. Despite the availability of numerous publications on this subject, it definitely seemed that the opportunity to see interview techniques live was of great interest to many.

Back on the exhibition floor the mood at participating companies was relatively positive. Lothar Fischer from Henkel felt that although the job market is tight, there is always room for good people.

In the natural sciences, it appears that the companies still consider a PhD important. Torsten Mau explained to Next Wave that Boehringer Ingelheim "still take a large range of natural scientists, and a PhD is considered advantageous, but should not be mutually exclusive of communication skills." BASF's Dr. Marvin Karos said he would encourage people to send speculative applications and advised, "don't give up if you don't get the first position, I certainly didn't!"

According to the organisers, the general feedback from all attending and exhibiting was very positive. Monika Haberecht, one of main organisers, told Next Wave that attendance was estimated to be as high as 1500 to 2000 people, as opposed to 1200 last year, and they received visitors from as far away as Hamburg, Munich, and Berlin.

The fact that this not-for-profit job fair is organised by a student society in conjunction with the Arbeitsamt gives it a definite grass-roots element, and therefore it can meet the needs of the students themselves. Considering that the organisers started planning 9 months ahead, 26-year-old Haberecht felt it was definitely worth the work. Being so involved was "very exciting and challenging, as well as rewarding [to be] doing actively something for student careers," she said.

Are you planning a career-related event in Germany which you would like to see advertised on Next Wave? Would you like to learn about interview skills in a live setting? Why not help us to bring a Next Wave outreach event to your institution? Please e-mail me!

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