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A Hiring Manager’s 3 Step Guide to Attracting Top Life Sciences Candidates

07 December 2021

By Jay Freeman

 A Hiring Manager’s 3 Step Guide to Attracting Top Life Sciences Candidates

The life sciences sector is dynamic, innovative, and rapidly growing – particularly due to the changes brought by the pandemic which saw rapid digitization and newer ways of working.

This year has set the high watermark for the most private capital invested in life sciences, and 2021 will also set a record for life sciences IPOs, led by biotech.

Though, from a hiring perspective, the life sciences industry has returned to pre-pandemic hiring rates (with biotech research seeing the largest increase), respondents in an RSM survey reported the labour shortage as the greatest challenge they expect their organisations to face over the next six to twelve months.

With this growth has come a high level of global competition for highly-skilled talent amidst the ‘great resignation’, as employees quit in record numbers to seek new opportunities.

How can you compete with both other life sciences companies and other sectors for the most highly-skilled candidates?

  1. Consider what matters to candidates

Life sciences has always had a reputation for competitiveness which is driven by the need for niche skills, making the search for talent more intensive.

What is important for hiring managers to remember, however, is that candidate expectations should be at the forefront of the hiring and retention process.

Even the largest, most successful companies are having to adapt to the demand for greater work/life balance and other benefits, which has set the precedent for the industry at large.

Take a look at Marsh & McLennan Agency’s life science survey of employee benefits:

  • 9 out of 10 employers surveyed offer a retirement plan

  • 39% have an onsite gym, with 19% offering gym reimbursement

  • 70% offer flexible work schedules

  • 29% offer commuter benefits 

To attract ideal candidates, it is important for hiring managers to know which elements are most important to them.

Additionally, elements of the ‘greater good’ effect are rising on the agenda, with sustainability being an area of note as candidates consider the impact that they have through their work on society at large.

A study found that 70% of millennial employees said they were more likely to work at a company with a strong environmental agenda, with 30% saying they’ve left a job in the past because of a company’s lack of a sustainability plan – making sustainability efforts influential in recruitment and retention efforts. 

In a survey conducted by Hobson Prior asking professionals across the life sciences industry which elements are most important to them when assessing a job opportunity, the top motivators were:

  • Career progression and leadership: candidates want assurance that their career journey won’t stagnate, making it essential for a company to highlight potential career pathways and growth opportunities in job vacancies and interviews.

  • Flexibility: this won’t come as a surprise for most hiring managers, as the demand for more flexibility and greater work/life balance has increased over the last few years, and even more-so after the pandemic highlighted the ability for most companies to use hybrid working models.

  • Salary: though other factors may be increasing in popularity, salary is still a key core motivator for candidates during their job search. Hiring managers would be well advised to avoid downplaying salary or not sharing salary expectations, as this could be detrimental.

  • Company reputation: candidates, put simply, want to work with companies and on projects that are making a positive impact. Highlighting that candidates can take part in exciting, meaningful projects is essential in this regard.

  1. What is your employer proposition?

As mentioned above, company reputation is important.

When making a decision on where to apply for a role, 84% of job seekers stated the reputation of a company is important, with 80% of talent acquisition managers believing that employer branding has a significant impact on the ability to hire the best talent.

There are multiple factors that make up company reputation, including employer brand, company vision/values, media presence, and employee reviews.

These factors are related to perception – how do candidates perceive your company? Why should they want to work there? 

What matters to candidates will be extremely relevant here, of course, yet there is also the importance of building an employer brand that is appealing and clearly articulated.

To have a successful employer brand, you should be able to articulate why you do what you do, the difference/impact that your company intends to make in the world and industry, and add specificity.

For example, a company with strong diversity and inclusion practices can benefit from higher levels of wellbeing and engagement in their employees, being twice as likely to meet or surpass financial goals, and improved retention rates.

This is a strong element of a company’s brand, as it influences the way in which current employees speak about the business, and also acts as an incentive for candidates that wish to be a part of diversity and inclusion efforts.

Keep in mind that the life sciences industry aims at large to save lives and make a positive impact, so standing out is reliant on:

  • Highlighting the benefits of joining your company (as outlined above)

  • Utilising examples of your company culture across social media, networking and business review sites (e.g., Glassdoor)

  • Concisely articulating your company vision online and in person

  1. Choose the best recruiter

To find the best talent, you’ll also need to partner with the best recruiter.

This is vital, as the best recruiters will have access to highly coveted candidates due to their close relationships with elite talent, and ideally, will utilise their knowledge to assist you along the way by discussing areas such as the current state of the job market, what candidates are looking for, and the competition.

Looking into past and present clients of a recruiter is an ideal place to start, as you can get an indication of how they work and what you can expect from them.

Make sure to ask questions when interviewing a recruiter to get the full scope of their potential, such as:

  • Can you provide us with testimonials?

  • What screening techniques do you use when selecting candidates?

  • How do you guarantee the best candidates on the market for your clients?

  • Do you meet your candidates?

  • What kind of guarantees do you offer in your fees?

Your choice of recruiter will undoubtedly impact your ability to recruit, which is why you need to be very wise in the recruiter that you choose – keep in mind that the top 1% of life sciences professionals are not active job seekers either, which means proactive headhunting is required.

When utilising a collaborative hiring approach – with recruitment efforts spread among teams rather than centralised, in collaboration with recruiters – results include better-quality hires, a falling time-to-hire, rising employee engagement, decreased burnout rate, and improved candidate experience survey ratings.

This clearly shows the long-term value of choosing the best recruiter for your company.

You want quality, not quantity, so you’ll want to secure a recruiter that offers a great return on investment in order to secure higher grade talent, rather than second-rate hires.

  • Important factors to note

It is paramount that a company has alignment with what it is they’re looking for in a hire, so a consensus amongst internal stakeholders is necessary to avoid issues in the long-term.

Defining the necessary skills and competencies gives a framework for the interview and makes it easier to provide questions that identify evidence of these skills from the candidate.

It’s good practice to review your recruitment process to ensure that you aren’t overwhelming your resources by having too many stages or stretching the process out for too long.

Hiring managers are at the forefront of the process and as such, need to always remember that the candidate is interviewing the company as much as the company is interviewing them – if a candidate leaves an interview without knowing why they should work for you, the odds are, they won’t.

With all of this in mind, the more robust your recruitment process is, the more likely you are to retain highly-skilled talent, rather than suffer from a high turnover rate that impacts your ability to recruit effectively.

For further information on how to attract top talent for your life sciences company, get in touch with the Panda team today.

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