The Precarious State of Life Sciences Employment in Massachusetts Part 1: The Annual Massachusetts Life Sciences Employment Report Abridged

The Precarious State of Life Sciences Employment in Massachusetts Part 1: The Annual Massachusetts Life Sciences Employment Report Abridged

Contributing Authors: Eric Celidonio, Lauren E. Perna, and Sheeva Azma

Several weeks ago, MassBioEd, the sister organization of MassBio that focuses on workforce development, released its Annual Massachusetts Life Sciences Employment Report. The 60-page report offers a look into the local industry’s impressive history of growth over the past decade while putting the past year under the microscope. The report paints a clear picture of an industry that’s growing faster than the workforce that maintains it—an issue that has become abundantly clear over the past several years. It’s an issue that doesn’t just impact one subsector of the industry—it reaches across verticals, impacting the most junior positions through the most senior leadership roles.

While we’ve made incredible strides in the name of science, we have not done the same for science education. The consequence is that the Massachusetts life sciences industry does not have enough workers to maintain the level of growth it’s experiencing, and the concern is real.   As recruiters, we are on the front lines of this issue. It’s a challenge that we face daily with all clients and all roles, giving us a unique vantage point.

MassBioEd offers a multi-pronged approach to remedy the issue, with the understanding there is no quick fix. The talent shortage is a deep-seated issue that requires far-reaching support.  For that reason, report author Karla Talanian, MassBioEd’s Director of Talent & Workforce Development, encourages readers to engage in conversation on “how to grow our talent pipeline and maintain the rate of advancement in the life sciences.”

In this series, we start by providing a cliff notes version of the report by highlighting the top facts. We then move to an analysis and broader look in the second part. We close out by following up on Talanian’s request to talk about the outlook with our take on the matter.

A few things to note. The report talks about life sciences employment, it’s not just talking about people working directly for biopharma companies (industry jobs). It’s also talking about employees that focus on life sciences in academia, corporations, or clinical labs (non-industry life sciences jobs). The research is primarily based on 2018 data, unless otherwise noted.

The Facts: There are many variables that have led to the life sciences talent shortage in the US and in Massachusetts. In order to fully understand the scope of the issue, we have highlighted 10 key facts from the report along with some additional research.

  • Fact 1: The effect of the life sciences on the overall labor economy is 2.5 times greater for Massachusetts than the next closest states.
    • How is this calculated? The data compares the number of advertised jobs with every 10,000 employed persons in the state. For every 10,000 employed persons in Massachusetts, there were 108 non-industry life science jobs posted in 2018. The runner up was Maryland with 42. For industry jobs the number was 80 jobs, and the runner up was New Jersey with 33.
  • Fact 2: The past decade has seen a 35% increase in life sciences employment in Massachusetts with the most growth being in R&D (up 53%).
    • For comparison purposes, in the past decade overall employment in Massachusetts has risen by 12%. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Fact 3: Job growth in the industry is projected to keep rising over the next 5 years–12,000 new jobs. That’s up from 74,000 total jobs today, which gives us 86,000 total jobs by 2024.
  • Fact 4: Data from The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP) says that between 2009 and 2015, U.S. elementary and middle school students have only somewhat increased in proficiency in science, and high school students have pretty much stayed the same in proficiency. In essence, U.S. students are not receiving better preparation to pursue scientific careers.
  • Fact 5: Since 2010 the demand for High School and Associate level candidates in the life sciences has significantly increased both Nationwide and in Massachusetts (128% and 140%, respectively). Yet the number of community college graduates has not increased.
  • Fact 6: The demand for Bachelor level candidates in the life sciences has also steadily increased since 2010, yet lately the number of college graduates has become stagnant. Note that between 2010 and 2017 this number was steadily increasing.
    • The other issue is that while the number of students studying life sciences related majors has increased, it’s still nowhere near the demand.
    • And the other issue with this subsector is that many students with science related majors do not choose life sciences related career paths, rather they go into computer science or healthcare.
  • Fact 7: The trend continues at the Master’s level, where the demand far outweighs the supply. For this subsector, the number of students pursuing STEM related degrees has significantly increased, but these students still make up such a small number of students pursuing degrees at the Master’s level.
  • Fact 8: The industry is reliant upon doctoral level candidates to take on leadership roles, but the number of graduates pursuing the PhD level course of study is projected to remain the same if not possibly decline.
  • Fact 9: Foreign-born talent plays an important role in Science & Engineering Occupations in the US. In 2016, 23.3% of employees in those occupations were foreign-born (v. 29.5% in Massachusetts).
  • Fact 10: The report also featured the results from a comprehensive employment survey of life science companies of all sizes in Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, most respondents said that competition was their biggest obstacle in hiring and retaining talent.

So now we have the facts. What does this all mean? In the next part, we dive into a short analysis of the situation at hand.

The Key to Recruiting Success: Social Media 

The Key to Recruiting Success: Social Media 

Social recruiting is no longer a novelty—it’s the cornerstone of a successful recruiting strategy and is an essential tool for businesses looking to market themselves online. Utilizing your social pages and profiles to advertise open positions will help you reduce recruiting costs compared to more traditional methods and is more likely to result in a good cultural match for your company.

Attracting Employees via Social Media

Sharing job openings on social media is a great first step, but you can use these tips to take your company’s social recruitment to the next level.

Spotlight Company Culture

Your business becomes infinitely more relatable when you discuss company culture online. This not only attracts customers and clients, but potential job candidates as well. If someone is already a follower of your company’s social media, there’s a pretty good chance that they connect with you on a personal level and that their values align with your brand. This eliminates the need to ask candidates what they know about your company because they’re already well informed.

Show Off Your Employees

Everyone wants to feel valued. Use your company’s social media to show off your employees and their accomplishments. These images will also show potential candidates what their colleagues would be like and gives them a feel on whether or not they think they could fit into the dynamic. Check out Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Twitter page. He is a great example of showing off and praising employees on a regular basis.

Publish Valuable Content

Potential employees and customers need a reason to follow you. Publishing valuable content is a great way to convince them. The easiest way to expand your reach and then keep those followers is posting at least once per weekday. Share original content or relevant posts from an external source that you believe will benefit your audience.

Use a Social Media Management Platform

Don’t let social media and the need to post on multiple platforms scare you. Programs like Buffer, HootSuite, HubSpot, MeetEdgar, TweetDeck, Sprout Social, etc. brings all of your accounts into one convenient place for you to manage.

Strive for Rich Media

Text-only posts are boring and won’t stand out. In fact, posts on LinkedIn that include images receive 98 percent more comments compared to those that don’t. Adding videos to your posts is another great way to include rich media.

Encourage Employee Participation

Employees [LINK TO IT TAKES A VILLAGE ARTICLE THAT I WROTE] are the face of your brand and encouraging them to share workplace culture will only benefit your recruitment efforts. Follow employees with your company’s accounts and share their posts about work in order to add authenticity to your pages.

social media platforms for job recruiting

Social Platforms


LinkedIn is the most professional social networking site and boasts over 560 million users. With over 40 million students and recent college graduates on the site, it is a great place to recruit new talent entering the workforce.

The first step to recruiting on LinkedIn is setting up a company page. LinkedIn provides you with the template, so all you have to do is fill in the details. Once your page is set up, it is important to add followers in order to expand your company’s reach.

LinkedIn Recruiter

LinkedIn Recruiter is a platform within the social network created to help recruiters find, connect with and manage candidates. This tool also allows you to connect to your applicant tracking system (ATS) in order to collaborate with others more efficiently, save time, and ensure accuracy across systems.


Use LinkedIn Groups to connect with other professionals in your field, kind of like a virtual professional association. Posting job openings in those groups will allow you to target the specific candidates you are looking for.


Use targeted ads to attract potential candidates to your job openings. LinkedIn allows you to hone in on specific people by several factors, including job function, seniority, company name, geography, industry, skills, field of study and more.


Facebook is the largest social network with more than 1.5 billion members. The site was originally intended to connect friends, family and coworkers, but has expanded to include organizations, businesses and interests.

Job Openings Tab

Create a custom job openings tab on your Facebook page for current openings. This way, you can attract applicants out of the pool of followers you already have and potentially increase the number of qualified applicants to your open positions.


Like LinkedIn, Facebook offers targeted ads, which you could use to promote job openings. Facebook Core Audiences helps you select the right recipients for your ad based on several factors such as location, demographics, behavior, connections and interests.


According to research, 85 percent of followers feel more connected with a small business after following them on Twitter and 42 percent of Twitter users use the site to learn more about products and services.


Using hashtags will expand your audience by allowing people to find tweets that interest them. The first step is to come up with a hashtag that will be used with all recruitment-related posts. It should be simple, unique and relevant. Starbucks uses #sbuxjobstalk and Disney uses #LifeAtDisney.

It is also wise to use existing broad hashtags so that more people will see your posts. Terms like #jobs, #jobsearch, #jobhunt, #careers and #jobopening will help people find you.


Instagram is now the king of social engagement, according to a report by Forrester, so if you want to attract high quality candidates via social media, a business account is a must-have.

Keep it real

Instagram is very visual, so take real photos and video of your products and employees to give potential candidates a sneak peek into what it’s like to work at your company—the work, the play and everything in between. Take Novartis’ lead and share stories from patients who have benefited from using your products.


Half of all Internet users (about 1.9 billion users) visit YouTube every month and they watch billions of hours of video. That means that there is a huge untapped pool of potential candidates waiting for you on the social network.

Utilize Video Marketing

Creating a short, fun video about what it’s like to work at your company and why candidates should apply for a job opening is a great way to use video marketing to your advantage.

Your Website or Blog

Don’t forget to create a permanent Careers page on your website to post job listings. This is a great place to link back to from social posts so that candidates can easily find out more information on your company.

Selecting Your Recruiter: The Do’s and Don’ts

Selecting Your Recruiter: The Do’s and Don’ts

Hiring is an extensive and rewarding process, but it’s not immune to stagnancy. From long stretches without any fresh candidates to getting turned down when using outreach marketing to advertise your role, many obstacles present themselves in the task of hiring new employees. Sometimes there’s only so much you can do and you need someone else to lend a hand. In these types of situations, it’s often wise to bring in the expertise and support of a third party staffing resource to get the role filled.

Selecting the right recruiter is extraordinarily similar to choosing the right candidate; there are aspects of both technical and cultural fit to consider. In a highly competitive market, many staffing agencies, firms, and companies will do anything possible to place themselves on a preferred vendors list. So, bringing in the right partner is a critical step to not only fill an open position but also to incorporate sustainable growth for your company. But, how do you go about doing so in an honest, efficient, and value-based manner?

Look for honesty.

We’ve all met recruiters who say, “Of course, I can get this filled for you in a week!” or “Everyone I send over will be perfect.” As enticing as these promises may be, accepting such temporary relief will often lead to more stress and long-term headaches. Sourcing for talent is not a step-by-step lab experiment but rather an abstract puzzle; since there isn’t one right answer, you’re often left with many alternate solutions. During the initial introduction call, poor recruiters will emphasize false beliefs so as to impress you and gain your trust. Not to invoke a cliché, but trust should be earned.

Talented and efficient recruiters often walk you through their methodology and approach and discuss how to integrate those with your preferences and your company’s process. Keep an ear out for questions such as, “What have been your pain points in finding competitive candidates?” and “To be frank, there is currently no one in my active pool who fits this role, but I will reach out to my network which has always helped point me in the right direction.”

Find out what their niche is.

Often times, a recruiter will state “Sure, I can work on any role that comes my way!” during their first conversation with you, and in some cases, this could actually serve as a huge benefit if hiring is across multiple departments. For more specialized circumstances, however, that same recruiter may not provide effective resolutions. So, don’t be shy in asking a recruiter specifics regarding their recent and related placements.

When a recruiter has built up a talent pool with direct contacts, they have a natural jump start, which often lends to impressive referrals – a jackpot in our industry. For example, let’s say you have a Senior Medical Science Liaison role that targets an individual with not only a doctorate degree and at least five years of experience, but also hands-on research experience in epilepsy and the flexibility to travel to Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah. Recruiters who have never worked in Medical Affairs roles may have a tough time stepping in and efficiently sourcing for this position. Don’t write them off yet! Rather, inquire about their background in neurological Medical Affairs and their approach for this search. If they mention referring back to a previous search/pool or colleagues who have a related network, then that’s a good start and a potentially good partner for this position!

Set expectations up front.

Possibly, the most antagonizing aspect of hiring is not during ruts, but when issues arise in the contract/agreement phase that puts everything to a grinding halt. When a problem crops up so late in the process, it can be related to a misstep or oversight during early communication efforts. Again, look for honesty. You need to find recruiters who not only value, but also practice it. In the initial call, such issues can be deftly navigated before it proceeds to review. Even after the discussion, ask for paperwork regarding agreements and contracts to be sent over and have your legal team review it.

Moreover, to avoid constant rescheduling and unqualified or non-ideal candidates, be sure to set up a weekly meeting with your recruiter. Hiring will always be an addition to your day-to-day responsibilities, but ten minutes each week of clear communication with your recruiter could save hours later.

At the end of the day, do not let hiring create an unwarranted burden on your business. Staffing resources are vital because finding the right addition to your team will impact how the company grows and even how you develop as a leader.


Is GDPR the End of Recruiting?

Is GDPR the End of Recruiting?

Have you noticed the increase in privacy policy emails from companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, and LinkedIn over the past year? Although the emails do not advertise it, they are the direct result of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enacted in April 2016 and implemented by the European Union (EU) in May 25, 2018.This new ruling is governing the collection of personal information of individuals within the EU, ultimately causing a paradigm shift in how personal data sharing occurs on the internet.

So, why was GDPR introduced?

Prior to GDPR, laws were written for a world without smartphones that could collect massive amounts of sensitive information for companies such as Google and Facebook. GDPR now provides companies guidelines on how they may utilize personal data, while giving users clarity on how their data is being used.

Legislators in the United States are working on regulation that would be similar while also monitoring GDPR’s effects. No matter where you are located, however, GDPR impacts companies and users everywhere. Although it’s only law in the EU, it’s become a de facto world regulation.

But, what exactly is personal data under GDPR?

GDPR was designed to protect the data of European users, but because the “cloud” is not on one computer and software services have a global reach, GDPR takes into account all EU users even if they work internationally. Any business hosting personal identifiable information (PII) – any data that can identify you such as your name, email address,  social security number, picture, phone number, username, location, and internet protocol (IP) address – falls under GDPR’s supervision.

Well, how did the US react?

Similar to the GDPR, California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) of 2018 – which will go into effect on January 1, 2020 – affecting how personal data is collected, processed, and shared in California.

The CCPA was designed with three major themes: ownership, control, and security.

  1. Ownership gives users the right to know what personal information is being collected and whether that personal identifiable information is being sold, or disclosed, and to whom.
  2. Control gives users the right to say no to the sale of personal information and the right for equal service or price; so if you opt out of a sale, you will not be penalized. If the principle of control sounds similar, it’s because the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) put into place rules to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from selling your data without obtaining an opt-in. CCPA reinstates this legislation at the state level, requiring the ISP to ask you before they can sell or market your personal information.
  3. To uphold security, a business that suffers a breach of their system will be penalized up to $75,000 for each violation for each affected user. Although this isn’t as strict as GDPR, it’s more than just a slap on the wrist.

Even though that CCPA is only in one state right now, it may be the most impactful start to a GDPR-like act in the US.


Ultimately, where are the ethical lines?

When data is used in ways that benefit others while adversely affecting you, ethical problems will arise. Complying with changing privacy regulations is stressful for companies, as well as a drain on resources, but many are embracing it as an opportunity to increase trust and transparency.

As we enter into the age of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and facial recognition, your data profile stems from your social network activity. When it comes to our data, many Americans see this as a black-and-white issue. In fact, an overwhelming 63 percent of Americans believe that social media platforms have far too much power.

But, how can data collection be immoral when it serves as the backbone of so many of these services we use every day? How many helpful job recommendations have been given by software that matches job seekers’ skills and attributes? How many human connections have been built through recommendations on social media platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn?

Social media, particularly with Facebook and Twitter, has been found to reflect people’s personality and intelligence as well as characteristics such as sexual orientation and political views. So, could it be ethical to mine this data for hiring purposes when users typically used these online applications with a different intent – and therefore, without consent for data analytics to draw conclusions from their social media postings?

Federal legislation was recently passed, via the Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2019, which intends to prevent inaccuracies, bias, and discrimination in automated decisions – particularly in the hiring process. So, as the adage goes, “great power does come with great responsibility”. Data and its collection is not the issue – but rather the improper use of it is.


How to Get Past Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

How to Get Past Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

If you’re here, you’re probably on the hunt for a job. And if you’re on the hunt for a job, there’s a secret you should know: according to a study by CareerArc, “Almost 40 percent of employers use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to screen candidates for job openings.” Alarmingly, “62 percent of employers who use this software admit that some qualified candidates are likely being filtered out of the vetting process by mistake.”

The name Applicant Tracking System is somewhat misleading. ATS doesn’t track your application status or where you are in the recruitment process. Instead, the purpose of these systems is to sift through resumes, separating the “strong” candidates from the “weak.” This ultimately saves companies valuable time and manpower.

It is estimated that ATS reject 70 percent or more of the resumes submitted because (1) the documents don’t reflect the desired job qualifications and/or (2) are formatted in a way that doesn’t make sense to the system. This means that your resume could be rejected solely based on the formatting and word choice, rather than the information and experience it contains.

Companies in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries are most certainly using this software, which means that you’re going to have to do more than follow the basics for crafting a professional resume. That’s why spending time to carefully format and compose your resume can increase your chances of moving past this initial screening process. So, we put together a list of tips to help you beat the system and increase your chances of getting an interview:

Keep it simple.

Although Applicant Tracking Systems are becoming more advanced every year, they still have limitations. Most systems can’t read tables or non-standard resume sections like “What I’ve Done” vs “Work Experience,” so it’s best to keep formatting and word choice simple and traditional. Microsoft Word documents are the safest file option, however, many systems will tell you what other file types are compatible.

Your font may also be working against you. Some ATS have trouble reading serif fonts like Times New Roman or Cambria—serif fonts have little marks or “feet” on the ends of the letters, sans serif fonts do not. Play it safe and use Calibri or a similar sans serif font.

Resume SEO matters.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is what writers, marketers and website designers use to move their content up in search engine rankings. SEO is important in applicant tracking systems, too. Experts recommend rewriting your resume every time you apply for a new job and incorporating keywords from the job posting’s expected duties, responsibilities and skills sections. Those keywords are what the ATS uses to assess your resume.

However, not just any keyword will do. Applicant Tracking Systems will only find what they’ve been told to look for—a list of keywords from the hiring manager. So you need to use the exact same keywords and punctuation found in the job description. For example, some systems can’t distinguish between front-end and front end, or Master of Business Administration, Masters of Business Administration and MBA.

Don’t overdo it.

If SEO matters, adding in tons of extra keywords is a good idea, right?


There is a fine line between resume keyword optimization and “keyword stuffing” and overdoing it will likely cause the ATS to red flag your resume and sort it into the “weak” pile. If your resume does happen to get through the ATS and in front of a human being, it probably won’t land you an interview. Overdone resumes are often poorly written and tend to sound awkward, which won’t impress the recruiter.

Play it safe and follow the general rule of thumb, which is to use a keyword two to three times.

Previous job titles should mirror the company you’re applying to.

This one may feel wrong, but stick with us for a second while we explain…

Your job title matters in an applicant tracking system (remember SEO keywords?) and small changes can make a huge difference. Professional resume writers fine-tune job titles all the time to fit the position their client is applying for.

Consider this example: Your current title is Business Advisor, but at the company you’re applying to, the comparable position is called Business Consultant. Tweaking your title to fit the new company can make a world of difference when your resume is processed by the ATS.

Keep it human.

Congratulations! You optimized your resume and you were flagged as a strong candidate by the ATS. Now your resume will be reviewed by a real person. Keep this in mind when you are writing your resume and ensure that it will impress a human reader who knows proper grammar and not just computer software.

Optimizing a resume to impress an applicant tracking system and a human requires careful planning, but the time invested is well worth it when you land that dream job. If you are concerned about how your resume will perform in an Applicant Tracking System, check out this handy tool from Jobscan.

Tools for Setting SMART Goals

Tools for Setting SMART Goals

Setting goals, whether short or long term, is an ongoing and effortful process. Many people tend to set personal and professional goals with a to-do list mindset and superficial consideration. Goal-setting is adeptly illustrated by Aesop’s “The Tortoise and The Hare” fable. When we rush to set goals and consistently compare our progress against others, we become the hare who eventually loses the race. So, let’s take a look at the tortoise’s strategy. And find out how you can begin to set smart goals. 

  1. The hare ran the race to ridicule and beat the tortoise. The tortoise ran the race to prove he could run. They both ran for the specific reason why, a reason that reiterated or added to their self-image. Similarly, start with why you want to set goals in the first place. By understanding the origins of your ambitions, you can discern in which ways your goals will set you up to succeed. When goals tie back into your long-term vision, even if they are short-term in nature, you are much more likely to adhere to them. By framing the why behind the what, you can better define what your goals are and develop strategies to maintain your commitment to them.
  1. The extract above from the fable dually serves as a reminder of how to effectively define our goals. For the hare to be successful, it mattered solely on the tortoise’s progress – not his own. He is not the main character in his definition of success. But, the tortoise established a firm, self-relying reason why he proposed the race. After creating a list of goals, evaluate if how you define success relies on you or others. When you define success in relation to your ability only, you are more readily accepting of difficulties as challenges you can overcome rather than setbacks you cannot surmount. 
  1. The tortoise set an extremely effective goal following the SMART framework: run one marked distance (specific), timed by a judge (measurable), a task he knows he can accomplish (achievable), to prove he can run (relevant), starting as soon as possible (timely). When you adhere to the SMART framework of goal-setting, you provide an effective way to measure your progress towards a goal you know is both doable and supportive of your vision. The more ambiguous you are when defining your goals, the less likely you are in maintaining your drive to achieve them.
  1. As extensive as the process is in setting your goals, the journey to fulfilling them is equally as intensive. Unlike the hare, do not get complacent and procrastinate! The tortoise was able to achieve his goal because he remained steadfast in his pacing and his focus. Be sure to keep your goals in a visible area.  In this way, you will be frequently reminded of your potential destination. Schedule reminders to check on the progress of your goals weekly or biweekly so you can evaluate if your current strategy is effective enough. Goals should not be viewed as something to achieve in the future. They should be seen as daily tasks. If the process of achieving your goal is embedded within your daily routine, then you will be that much more likely to stick to it. 

With the holiday season around the corner, we all have the opportunity to get an early start on our goal-setting for the upcoming year!