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YOU’RE (PROBABLY) DOING IT ALL WRONG: Identifying and avoiding hiring mistakes in the life sciences

YOU’RE (PROBABLY) DOING IT ALL WRONG: Identifying and avoiding hiring mistakes in the life sciences

Hiring science talent is not for the faint of heart. All too often, that rare bird you rescued from the candidate slush pile turns out to be a common pigeon—or flies the coop well before your investment pays off. If you’re having trouble bringing in and holding onto the best people, these common hiring mistakes could be standing in your way.

Getting mired in generalities:

If you registered with a dating service and requested a “sincere person who likes long walks, good food, and travel,” you wouldn’t get very far. It’s too broad a filter to sort the wheat from the chaff. Similarly, terms such as “dynamic,” “hard-working,” and “flexible” won’t help you find the medical science liaison of your dreams. Specifics are your ally.

Prioritizing qualities that don’t matter:

Is a typo in a resume a good reason to disqualify a candidate? If you’re hiring a science writer, it may well be. If you need someone who knows her way around Petri dishes, however, insisting on a flawless resume could lead you to miss the perfect hire. Asking all interviewees to prepare presentations falls in the same category: not all positions call for this skill. The same goes for the much-valued skill of performing well in front of an audience—a common interview filter that, according to a new study by the University of South Carolina, could end up eliminating many well-qualified candidates.1

Relying on surface impressions:

Who doesn’t love a smiling candidate with a relaxed posture? The interview process tends to tilt the scales toward people who make a good impression, rather than those best suited to the job. It pays to remember that first impressions reflect not only an interviewee’s qualities but our own biases.1 Besides, a warm personality won’t help a biochemist develop a killer assay.

Overvaluing ambition:

The appetite to “move up in an organization” may seem an obvious asset, but an ambitious person may well decide to move away from the organization when greener pastures beckon. The scientist with an undivided passion for the lab bench, meanwhile, may offer a far greater ROI for your organization. As noted in a Science Magazine article about hiring PhDs, “hiring managers should appreciate that obsessing over a single topic can be a hugely positive quality, especially if you can hire the [candidate] to obsess over your company’s topic.”2

Making the interviewee feel uncomfortable:

Interviewers often seek to catch candidates off-guard with “gotcha” questions such as “Can you describe a situation you didn’t handle perfectly?” Or an employer may adopt a stiff and distant tone to send the message that “we’re interested in working hard around here, not in making friends.” Here’s the problem: the best candidates—meaning those you want to hire—tend to have options. If you make your organization sound like a distasteful place to work, a top-notch candidate may run with a competitor’s offer.

Relying on tired and inefficient interview formats:

The conversational interview remains a staple of hiring, but science hasn’t found much evidence for its effectiveness.3 To identify the best person for a job, you need to observe candidates through various lenses. Depending on the position you seek to fill, strategies could include behavioral interviews, psychometrics, or direct demonstrations of skills. Along similar lines, subjecting a candidate to a barrage of serial interviews, each covering the same ground, wastes valuable staff time without much additional yield. Sequential interviews with independent themes—overcoming challenges, teamwork, and long-term goals, for example—generate a much better ROI. By the same token, there’s no reason to include every member of a department in the interview team.

Arguably your most important hiring decision is your choice of recruiting partner.  According to a Harvard Business Review article on outsourcing, about 40% of US companies rely on “recruitment process outsourcers” for their hiring needs.4 These intermediaries often subcontract people from distant countries to sift through candidates using key words—a blunt and impersonal instrument that can let superstars slip through the cracks. It’s exactly to avoid this outcome that Sci.bio hires recruiters with a scientific background, giving them a leg up in identifying the brightest lights. As the saying goes, “it takes one to know one.”

While neither your gut nor a software program will guarantee the best science hire, a systematic, multifaceted approach will work to your advantage. With a deep understanding of the science, psychology, and strategy of hiring, Sci.bio offers the layered intelligence that leads to outstanding hires. As Louis Pasteur once noted about science itself, fortune favors the well prepared.

References

Hiring in Biotech

Hiring in Biotech

This one-stop overview covers the basics and connects you to the fine points of hiring in biotech Talent. In biotech, it’s everything. From startups to powerhouses, biotech companies depend on talent to make their mark. Their fortunes rise and fall on the backs of the...
Strategic Volunteering Could be the Key to Your Next Bio Job!

Strategic Volunteering Could be the Key to Your Next Bio Job!

Are you considering a career change, or preparing to hunt for your first biotech job? Sometimes you might worry that your education and previous work experience isn’t enough to land your dream position. Perhaps the positions you seek are competitive, or you’re missing one or two things the job listing’s ‘ideal candidate’ should possess.

If that’s the case, don’t worry! Volunteering is a time-honored method of acquiring new skills and experiences to facilitate career transitions and secure exciting professional opportunities. The barriers to securing a volunteer position are usually lower than paid positions. Sometimes volunteering can take place while at your existing job…and it’s often a lot of fun! Recruiters and hiring managers often look favorably upon volunteering experiences, because they highlight the job applicant’s motivation and drive.

When volunteering becomes ‘strategic’

The term ‘strategic volunteering’ might be unfamiliar, but the concept is straightforward. Strategic volunteering simply means you choose volunteering roles based on technical or personal skills and experiences you wish to develop – as opposed to choosing volunteer positions solely because it’s a cause you support, or it’s convenient. But even with strategic volunteering, you want to choose causes you enjoy supporting or else you won’t be motivated to stick with it!

Strategic volunteering doesn’t just have to be about acquiring skills and experience – it can also be an opportunity to network with people who may be able to help move you to the next stage of your career. It could also involve applying the skills you already have in a new context.

All you have to do is think about the skills you’re missing, and what volunteering opportunities can help you address those deficits. For example, if the job positions you’re interested in list experience in Adobe Creative Suite as a recommended candidate skill, consider volunteering as a social media or marketing coordinator for a regional or campus science group, and use Adobe to create promotional flyers or videos for them.

Examples of strategic volunteering opportunities for scientists

It’s great if you already know what organizations you’d like to volunteer with! If you aren’t sure, here’s a couple of science-related volunteering ideas to get you started:

● Leadership or a committee role in a professional science organization
● Assist at a conference or symposium (e.g. helping at the registration desk or guiding attendees around the venue)
● Science outreach in high schools
● Participate in a crowdsourced science project

Getting the most out of your strategic volunteering

Once you’re sorted in your new volunteering role, here are a few things to keep in mind once you start, so you get the most out of every new position:

● Volunteering is a long-term commitment. It’s easy to identify someone who is just volunteering to add a few lines to their CV and put in the bare minimum effort and time while doing so. Although there’s nothing wrong with being strategic and honest about your goals as a volunteer, you want to cultivate goodwill among your fellow volunteers and make a meaningful impact on the organisations you choose to support.

● Be open-minded and say yes. The point of strategic volunteering is to diversify and strengthen your skill set, so don’t be afraid to try out new things that may take you in unexpected directions, even if you worry you’re not qualified.

● Align volunteering with your personal brand. Beyond simply a list of skills and experiences you hope to acquire, you want your strategic volunteering to fit within – and strengthen – your personal brand.

The biotech job market is often confusing for candidates, and the hidden expectations for listed positions can surprise even experienced professionals. The seasoned recruiters at Sci.bio will be able to identify skills gaps in your CV and help you chase your dream jobs. Get in touch with us today to schedule a chat.

Corporate Espionage Part 2: Beyond the Interview Process

Corporate Espionage Part 2: Beyond the Interview Process

Contributing Authors: Eric Celidonio and Lauren E. Perna

In the first part of this series, we told the story of a candidate that used the interview process to steal proprietary information from a potential employee.  The interview process can provide a perfect opportunity for IP theft, but it can take place under other clever circumstances. For example, previous employees of your organization may still be able to access sensitive corporate data on your company’s servers. Or current employees can be bribed and or offer sensitive detail in interviews or social settings. Some other examples include:

  • Trespassing on company property
  • Posing as an employee to gain on sight or IT access
  • Recording a phone conversation
  • Email phishing and server hacking

Technologies used in corporate espionage technologies can include hacking USBs, which can contain malware which allows malicious entities to access corporate servers to steal data.  In 2013, hackers working for the Chinese government stole trade secrets from U.S. and European aviation companies.  Chinese hackers who visited the Suzhou headquarters of French aviation company Safran left a USB drive containing malware which allowed them to access corporate data.

password security graphic

However, corporate espionage technology doesn’t have to be sophisticated.  Recall that, in the example we related at the beginning of the article, Marc brought a pen camera with a microphone to record conversations and obtain trade secrets.  Corporate spies can steal computers or thumb drives, or use video or audio recording, to facilitate their intellectual property theft.

According to CSO online the most common IP breaches occur through:

  • External email like a Gmail or Yahoo account (51%)
  • Corporate email (46%)
  • File sharing via FTP (40%)
  • Collaboration tools like Slack or Dropbox (38%)
  • SMS or instant messaging apps like Whatsapp (35%)

Recent Cases of Corporate Espionage

Just a few weeks ago, a striking case of corporate espionage hit the local news.  On December 10th, a Chinese National medical student was caught at Logan Airport smuggling vials of research specimens in his luggage. Zaosong Zheng, 29, came here on a Harvard University sponsored visa and spent the past year doing cancer research at Beth Israel Hospital.  Zheng was also caught with the laptop of a fellow Chinese researcher, who was in on his plan to steal the specimens, continue the research at home, and take credit for the work. This may sound rather brazen, but according to the Boston Globe it is not uncommon, as there have been about 18 similar cases at Logan Airport.

This case comes just a few months after several biotech leaders wrote an open letter to the NIH admonishing the dismissal of five Asian-American scientists from MD Anderson Cancer Center and Emory University on the basis they did not report their foreign ties.  These dismissals were part of a larger NIH campaign to address concerns of IP theft among foreign nationals, especially those from China. The target is often oncology, and with China encroaching on the U.S.’s progress, NIH feels their concerns are valid.  The biotech leaders worry the campaign is xenophobic and could hinder progress.

The NIH began their campaign in 2018 after several major cases of biopharma corporate espionage were made public, including one out of GSK’s Philadelphia R&D facility. A researcher pleaded guilty to stealing confidential research and sending it to China; she was working in conjunction with several other Chinese nationals.  The other highly publicized case involved three scientists at Genetech transferring trade secrets to a Taiwannese competitor.

These cases illustrate how easily proprietary information can get into the wrong hands. The good news is that there are ways to make sure this doesn’t happen. In the final section of this piece, we’ll talk about how to protect yourself against such threats.

 

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Enhancing Your LinkedIn Profile

Enhancing Your LinkedIn Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is often the first thing recruiters will look at to learn more about you and your experience. So polishing up your profile can make all the difference when trying to establish lasting impressions.

Much like resume preparation, you want your profile to pop! Recruiters and hiring managers go through droves of applicants each day.  You need to ensure you do not get passed over because of a sloppy LinkedIn profile.

Here are some key aspects for enhancing your LinkedIn profile:

1.      Quality Headshots

Your profile picture should be indicative of how you present yourself in the workplace. This doesn’t mean you have to run out and get professional headshots taken. Instead, you want to make sure you are using a photo with a purposeful setting. Position yourself in such a way that you have complementary lighting as well as a simple backdrop. Try to avoid grainy group pictures that need to be awkwardly cropped to include only you.

“Statistics show that LinkedIn members with a photo receive far more engagement: 21 times more profile views and 9 times more connection requests.” – LinkedIn.com

LinkedIn quote graphic

2.      Brief yet Informative

Again, recruiters go through tons of profiles.  Make sure to include key points at each position and leave it at that. You want to present the cliff notes of your background and not an autobiography. If your highlighted skills are of interest, they will reach out and ask for more in-depth information on your background.

3.      Creative Summary

Your summary statement is at the very top of your profile and you can use this to quickly grab people’s attention. Do not only say things like “Research Scientist – Cell Biology.” This is uninformative, broad, and lacks personality. Viewers want to not only see your professional experience, but they are also looking to get to know you as a person.

“You get 2,000 characters total for your summary, but only the first three lines display by default. That means you either need to pack the most essential information in up front, or you need to create suspense  This encourages profile viewers to click the Show more link… Customizing your headline also gets you to All-Star status (assuming you’ve completed all of the steps listed in the last section), which, according to LinkedIn, makes your profile 27 times more likely to appear in recruiter searches.” – Zapier.com

4.      Banner Image

Most people do not change the banner portion of their profile. While the default LinkedIn banner image is appropriate, spicing it up is a great way to stand out from other profiles. You could include cover art from a paper you were on or your favorite fluorescent image of cells you work with. The key is to keep it professional.

Linked In banner image best practices

 

5.      Joining Societies and Groups

There are thousands of society and group pages on LinkedIn. Join pages that are applicable to your work, such as the American Chemical Society or local groups for networking. You’ll be surprised at how many connections you can make online through common groups.

“There are around 2 million groups on LinkedIn and nearly 90% of users are a member of at least one group. It’s like a field ready to harvest when you join groups where your perfect market is and with a small amount of engagement and adding value you can start generating clicks through to your profile. Don’t make groups all about you and what you’re currently doing but add value to its members and they will want to check you out!” – Linkedin.com

6.      Link to Other Digital Work

You worked hard for your publications!  They should be showcased. You can include publications and patents on your LinkedIn profile.  You can also add in a link to your Google Scholar profile or e-portfolio. Make sure to cross-pollinate as much as possible so that it is very easy for viewers to find your publications.

7.      Keep your Information Up to Date

This point cannot be stressed enough! If you have a new position, location, certification, etc., you need to update your profile with this information. Including all your updated information makes it much easier for recruiters to identify jobs that fit you best.  It also makes it easy for them to contact you. Make sure things such as your email and phone number are updated so that you aren’t getting job listings sent to an email you never open anymore.

The Reward of Enhancing Your LinkedIn Profile:

Your online presence is a critical component to initial sourcing for positions. Setting up a professional LinkedIn profile with key information and easy-to-access links to your portfolio is imperative. Having a sloppy profile can give recruiters and employers the wrong first impression. Shoot for a blend of essential information and personality.  This way viewers see you and your experience. Try and customize your profile as much as possible! Your goal is to entice viewers with your skills and expertise in such a way that you are memorable.

5 tips for crafting a professional resume