Browsing through various Czech job boards online, you often come across Novartis Prague jobs that look quite attractive on the backdrop of countless corporate openings. They have a prominent employer brand. They are known for paying their employees well. And, having a Novartis episode in your CV might elevate your professional profile. But is it such a good employer, after all? Before applying for open jobs, it’s good to know something about the hiring process, salaries, atmosphere and career opportunities that Novartis Prague offers. That’s why I spoke to one of their former employees who worked for their Prague office for several years. Let’s call him Josh, since we don’t want to disclose his real name. 🙂 Ready to learn the truth about working for Novartis in Prague?
PragueReferral (PR): Hi, Josh, thank you for agreeing to share your experience with working for Novartis in Prague. The first question I’d like to ask you is about their hiring process: what is it like?
Josh: I found the hiring process for jobs at Novartis Prague quite frustrating, to be honest. As a Business Analyst I understand that each person hired for this role would need to have a very specific set of skills and experience for a particular project. So, I’d expect a tailored hiring process for each case. Well, I ended up interviewing 9 times for three different Analysis roles. Each time, applying online, the interview process at Novartis Prague looked like this:
- First, I spoke to an internal HR person, who liked me and referred me to the jobholder.
- Then I spoke to the jobholder who also liked me and forwarded my case to the Program Lead.
- The final interview was held by the Program Lead.
What happened after those interviews?
So, once they told me another candidate got the job. Which is fine, that can happen. But what’s interesting is what happened with the other two roles I was interviewed for. In one case, they didn’t hire me because I didn’t have enough experience. And I thought if that specific kind of experience was fundamental for the role, why would they allow me to pass through the first round with the HR!?
The other time was even more frustrating: they said “Oh, you weren’t referred!” I’m sorry?! Since I already spent 9 hours interviewing for jobs at Novartis, it was clear to me that there was quite some mutual interest in cooperation. Why does that even matter at that stage? Hearing something like that after the third interview was quite disappointing…
On the other hand, I guess it just proves that being referred by another employee, like with PragueReferral, does give you a slight competitive advantage in some cases. I just hope people don’t just blindly refer each other and really focus on qualified candidates. (PR note: join our job referral group on Facebook to find a relevant contact at Novartis)
So, how did you end up getting the job at Novartis, after all?
Josh: After these 9 interviews, I decided I wouldn’t even try applying for jobs at Novartis anymore. And, one day, I was talking to a friend of mine who worked for them at that time. After I told him my “interviewing story” he asked me if I would consider working for Novartis as a contractor. And I said yes. From that point, the process was very smooth:
- He reviewed my CV and referred me to the hiring manager.
- I had an interview with the hiring manager who asked me questions focused on my analytical skills and the tools and processes I was familiar with.
- I set up my trade licence (živnost) and I started working a couple of days later.
So, in my case, the path of an independent contractor was way smoother than that of a full-time employee. It seems like they can be much more flexible when they’re hiring contractors. Which is what they probably do when they urgently need a specific skillset. So, I just happened to be in the right place, in the right moment. (PR note: Be cautious when an employer offers you to work as a contractor. The Czech legal framework for this kind of “employment” is very tricky. For example, you shouldn’t be working using devices provided by the company, e.g. laptop or phone. Also, as a contractor, you don’t get all the regular benefits that employees do.)
And what did the onboarding process look like at Novartis Prague?
Josh: When they hire you as a contractor, Novartis is probably not going to invest in you as much as they would if you were a regular employee. So, I didn’t have any formal training or sort of robust onboarding process. On the other hand, everything was very efficient and smooth. I got my laptop set pretty much immediately, and I got a very good hand-over from the guy who was doing my job before me. Now, I credit that to the approach of that particular individual; but, in general, you could say that this sort of efficiency is a part of the corporate culture at Novartis.
One thing I’d want to warn about, specifically for potential contractors looking for a job here: manage the financial aspects of your contract work well. You may easily end up commencing work even before Novartis issues a PO for you to invoice your services against. These processes may take some time. That’s a kind of situation that can easily give you anxiety and something you’d certainly want to avoid.
What was roughly the split between locals and foreigners working for Novartis in Prague?
Josh: I’d say it was 60% foreigners and 40% Czechs, maybe 70/30, something like that. In general, people at Novartis Prague do a lot of work overseas. And you can see different teams split by their focus on certain territories, based on their language skills.
Does Novartis support its employees who are not EU citizens with their migration papers?
Josh: I don’t know if Novartis Prague office provides visa sponsorship to its non-EU employees here, but we had a lot of foreigners, including, for example, many Indians. There was a lot of business travel between Czech Republic and India, because Novartis operates a major office in Hyderabad. So, I guess the Indian employees of the Prague office are sort of the connecting points between the teams. So, considering how important this part of the business is, I think there must be some budget for sorting out such paperwork. But, honestly, I don’t know. (PR note: Looking for an employer who would sponsor your visa – we have a work visa guide for that.)
What are the salaries like at Novartis Prague?
Josh: Generally, Novartis are known for paying their employees well. When you compare the offer with what you get at SAP or Exxon Mobil for a similar job, then Novartis Prague salaries are much more attractive. In general, I think Pharma companies tend to be more generous with the pay.
So, when I started back in 2017, they offered me 600 CZK/hour, which was a very decent pay for Prague back then. That’s like a 100K per month before tax. However, you must keep in mind that this is not a regular employment contract. Here you don’t get the standard employee benefits that Novartis Prague offers – meal vouchers, paid holidays, pension contributions, MultiSport card etc. But, in terms of cash in the pocket, it was a good deal. (PR note: check out the full list of employee benefits at Novartis Prague at the bottom of that page)
PragueReferral’s job-hunting tip!
Before applying for any job, check 80+ salaries at Novartis Prague on Glassdoor
Do you have any advice on salary negotiations?
Josh: The thing with salary negotiations here in Czech Republic is that employers are not being very upfront about how much they’re willing to offer. In a way, you must get a sense of your own worth on the job market and aim for a bit higher than that. Also, being aware of the potential gender pay gap is important. Especially for female professionals in the corporate world.
You can easily end up in a situation when you’re doing almost (or entirely) the same job as someone who makes up to 50% more than you do. Within a reasonable range, your salary largely depends on how much you ask for during your negotiations. So, don’t underestimate that. (PR note: Salary negotiations are extremely important when you’re job-hunting or moving from one role to another within the company. We offer detailed guidance on this in our Career Talks.)
And how was your workload spread throughout the week / month / year?
Josh: I can confidently say that at Novartis there aren’t many people sitting around, twiddling their pencils. The corporate culture is very performance oriented, and people play along. Many jobs at Novartis Prague are the sort of jobs where you have processes mapped out, KPIs set and there is a dashboard that tracks your performance. So, in a way, there is always a person above you who can see how you’re performing without speaking to you.
While, as I mentioned before, you don’t feel underpaid at any point, you must constantly deliver value. They were very good at keeping me busy – there was a lot of work, all the time, especially towards the end of the year.
How much flexibility does Novartis offer in terms of working from home, abroad, part-time etc.?
Josh: So, to certain extent the flexibility that a contractor gets is, of course, much higher than that of a regular employee. However, Novartis Prague are known for being very generous with the amount of flexibility that they offer. I worked for several companies in Prague. I got an impression that Novartis sets the pace for other employers in terms of the amount of flexibility they give to employees.
So, for example, when it comes to home-office policy, normally you’d get 200 days of working from home per year, which you can use. What it means in practice is that you’d simply organize your workweek in a way that you have several days without on-site meetings. And then you just work from home on those days.
How were your relationships with your direct managers at Novartis Prague?
Josh: I have to say that my managers at Novartis were all great. They were very-very senior people, yet very respectful and lovely with me. The amount of trust I got there, in terms of independently managing very big projects, made me really enjoy my work. It’s also worth mentioning that my goals and objectives were always very clearly defined, and therefore I always had a good idea of what I’m working towards.
Also, having the experience of working as a contractor for other big companies in Prague, there is something to be said about the way they treat you based on your contract. Unlike in other companies, my managers at Novartis never made me feel like an outcast for being a contractor.
To what extent can you describe one’s career path at Novartis as dynamic?
Josh: Probably, as a contractor I shouldn’t comment on this. I’ve seen people being promoted, and I think that in all those cases the right people were promoted. However, as a contractor, you’re in a bit of a peculiar situation – you are there to do the job. And, once your job is done, or automated, or potentially moved overseas – you’re out! In fact, the latter was my case.
So, every time I got a contract it would only last for 6 months. So, twice a year I’d go through a brief period of job insecurity. This lasted for almost 3 years, and towards the end I got a 1-month notice. My boss informed me that they were moving my job overseas. They were looking to retain me, by assigning me to another project. However, that would come with a significant cut in my pay, so I didn’t think it was an adequate offer. Nevertheless, I left without a negative “after-taste”. My manager gave me very good references which also helped me with my future career moves.
What were the relationships between colleagues at Novartis like?
Josh: It’s a difficult question! The atmosphere at Novartis wasn’t… very sociable! I have developed very good relationships with my colleagues from other companies, where I worked before Novartis. And, in general, I am an outgoing person by my nature. But I have to say, that my experience at Novartis wasn’t the same as in other companies.
To some degree this might be because I was a contractor. For example, when the company organizes some social events, they don’t always invite contractors. But, at the same time, the fact that so many people worked from home so often didn’t really support bonding. Quite frankly, you could have worked four desks away from me, and we would have met 3 times per year.
Would you recommend Novartis to people who are looking for a good corporate career in Prague?
Josh: It depends on what you’re looking for. I wouldn’t go back there for the people; I would go back for the money and for the good management I had. It’s a place with a grey carpet, white walls, screens everywhere – somewhere, where you go to exploit your skills and get paid well for that. In my view, it’s a good employer for people who have a specific professional background in software development, SCRUM etc. At Novartis Prague they will pay you very well for using your skills, but there might not be any additional value for you in there.
To be fair, someone who worked there as a full-time employee and didn’t take much of home office might have a different opinion on this. So, I don’t want to discourage people who are looking for career opportunities in HR, Finance and other Shared Services Centre teams. I know people who built exciting careers at Novartis across different departments. But my general impression was that it’s rather a corporation that drains your skills and is ready to pay well for that. (PR note: Novartis Prague Office hosts a large Global Service Center, hence why they hire in many different disciplines and need you to have different language skills.)
Novartis Prague jobs: final thoughts
It’s true that Novartis Prague jobs offer a great financial package. Also, working for this company is a good line in your CV if you’re aiming for a corporate career. However, as you can see, you probably shouldn’t expect a vibrant, sociable atmosphere and an opportunity for robust networking here. While you certainly can make very good money at Novartis, if you are new to Prague or you are a fresh graduate, you might want to get to this company later in your career. If you need to build your professional network and your social circle in Prague, Novartis might not be the right option for you right now.
At the same time, keep in mind that as relevant as this former Novartis employee’s story is, it is only the experience and observations of one person. Your career here might be completely different – maybe it’s worth checking open vacancies at Novartis Prague. Take the information in this interview as a general guidance, and make your smart career choices based on what feels right for you. Interested in insights on careers in other companies in Czech Republic? Check this interview about jobs at JnJ Prague office, and stay tuned for more.
Want me to spill more tea on careers across Prague’s corporate world? 😉 Consider supporting me and this project – buy me a coffee! ☕ You can also join our job referral group for expats on Facebook, to network with other expat professionals in Prague like yourself.
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- Novartis Prague jobs: all career insights you need before applying
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