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Work-Life Balance in Biotech

Work-Life Balance in Biotech

Author: Claire Jarvis

A career in the biotech industry is a dream for many STEM professionals, though it can be a challenging, demanding career. As in all industries, there’s a lot you can do to prevent burnout and enjoy a healthy work-life balance.

Challenges of work-life balance in biotech

STEM professionals seek biotech careers because they want to make a difference to the lives of patients, and they enjoy working in a stimulating environment. Working at a small biotech start-up, where the long-term success of the company isn’t guaranteed, can be stressful, but agile biotech employment also comes with the possibility of greater responsibility and rewards than at a more established pharma company.

While larger pharmaceutical companies may offer better job security, project deadlines mean that employees are always “on” and expected to be reachable via email. However, in return there is usually good compensation and opportunities for advancement.

Remote and flexible working patterns

COVID-19 has disrupted most of our working patterns, and increased the flexibility of most employers regarding remote work. Even as companies are returning on-site, many still allow employees to work from home several times a week. In return, employees appreciate the reduced commute times, and feel better able to look after family.

The benefits of remote working for improved work-life balance are obvious. The downside of remote working is that it’s important to set boundaries, or else the lines between work and homelife become blurred. For instance, employees who work remotely may find it easier to reply to emails on the weekend or in the evenings.

Negotiate for what you value

To reduce burnout and improve your work-life balance, it’s important to decide what you value and discuss this with recruiters and hiring managers as you consider new biotech roles. Your initial allowance of vacation days can be negotiated for, alongside starting salary. If the job conditions are more competitive, it is important that the number of vacation days, flexible working options and salary compensates.

Struggling with work-life balance? Sci.bio is hosting a work-life balance event on April 28th, 2022!  Registration details here.

Screen for Success

Screen for Success

Author: Gabrielle Bauer

Pre-interview screening helps you hire the right people faster

The hiring process is a pyramid: you start out with a platform of candidates, and stack it up with smaller and smaller platforms until you get to the golden egg at the summit. Effective screening can make the stacking process more efficient and productive.

The why

Screening is a way to weed out unsuitable candidates early on. It ensures the employer doesn’t waste time on lengthy interviews with candidates who lack a deal-breaking requirement for a position. You can screen for criminal record, cultural fit, skills, and leadership qualities, among other parameters.

A well-thought-out screening strategy takes some of the routine aspects of hiring out of your hands, so you don’t need to waste time on basic questions during the all-important face-to-face interviews. Most importantly, a good screening process lowers the odds that you’ll hire an underperformer or chronic job-hopper—a scenario that could cost your organization both in dollars and reputation.

Why screen? The numbers tell the story

A 2015 survey by Aberdeen Strategy Research found that pre-screening candidates has significant benefits:

  • Hiring managers who pre-screen candidates report 36% more satisfaction with their final decision than those who don’t.
  • Screening lowers the employee turnover rate by 39%.
  • Organizations that screen candidates are 24% more likely to have employees who exceed performance goals.
  • Pre-hire screening cuts down on the time and cost of hiring.

The how

Today, the search for new talent often begins with background screens, like police checks or drug tests, to minimize the risk of hiring someone who will act in bad faith or endanger others. Such background screening adds a layer of complexity to the hiring process, but an increasing number of employers consider it an essential step.

“The worker represents the employer’s brand; therefore, background screening—particularly when access to people or sensitive material is involved—is a critical risk mitigation tool.” 
Melissa Sorenson, executive director
National Association of Professional Background Screeners

To screen candidates for skills and fit—the core of the screening process—you have several methods to choose from. Tried-and-true strategies include resume reviews, skills tests, personality tests, one-on-one phone interviews, or group panel interviews conducted virtually or in person.2 In today’s world, 92% of employers also rely on social media screens, as a person’s online presence can leave important clues about character.

Depending on your priorities, you can mix and match these channels in different ways. For instance, you can administer a skills test to ensure an assay developer can identify the organic chemicals she’ll be working with, followed by a panel interview to help size up personality traits such as detail orientation and adaptability. Phone interviews, meanwhile, could help you screen candidates for cultural fit.

The who

In today’s ultra-competitive hiring market, with hundreds of applicants vying for life sciences jobs, the screening process may seem overwhelming. Indeed, unless your organization has a dedicated screening team within the HR department, you may not have the time or expertise to screen candidates without help.

That’s where a recruiting agency comes in. A reputable agency with expertise in the life sciences knows what works and what doesn’t. They’ll adapt the screening process to the position, using one set of tools to screen lab directors and another to screen lab technicians.

Experienced recruiters also use technology to get the most out of screening. Items in their toolkit may include:

  • Advanced artificial intelligence (AI) software to predict candidate outcomes
  • AI-powered chatbots to extract basic information from candidates
  • Mobile apps to communicate with candidates about next steps.
  • Cloud computing to back up valuable data

If you don’t have such capacities in-house, Sci.bio can help. Our specialized experience and comprehensive screening toolkit take the guesswork out of the screening process. Contact us today to learn more.



What Is Short-Term Recruiting?

What Is Short-Term Recruiting?

Author: Claire Jarvis

The 2022 biotech job market is set to continue the previous years’ trends of great opportunity combined with great upheaval. Qualified job candidates are hard to find, and employment turnover remains high. This has led to an increased need in the biotech job market for contingency and short-term recruiting solutions.

Benefits of Short-Term Hiring

Short-term (also called temporary) recruiting is used to help companies cope with seasonal or temporary business demands such as the run-up to a product launch, or start of a clinical trial. As biotechs grow from start-ups to mid-sized organizations, temporary recruiting smoothes the transition period, allowing permanent hiring to continue at a slower pace in the background.

IT and large healthcare organizations have a particular need for temporary workers, and temporary hires are often used to fill admin roles. However, pharma companies use and benefit from temporary technical hires or 6 to 12 month contracts.

The other advantages of short-term hiring is it brings in fresh and diverse talent into the company quickly. Short-term workers with recent experience at multiple companies can provide useful insights that improve best practices and drive innovation.

Lastly, since temporary workers draw lower salaries with fewer benefits, there is a significant cost benefit to their hire.

Temporary or temp-to-hire?

Although the terms sound similar, “temporary” and “temp-to-hire” are two recruiting approaches to fulfill distinct strategic needs.

Temporary recruiting is solely concerned with meeting the company’s short-term business demands. Temp-to-hire or temp-to-permanent recruiting is a way to trial job candidates, who are hired with the expectation that their temporary position may be converted into permanent employment with satisfactory performance. The temp-to-hire approach is more cost effective and carries a lower risk of liability than a probationary period prefixed to permanent employment. It may also allow the company greater exposure to candidates under consideration.

Like short-term recruiting, biotech companies are seeing an increase in temp-to-hire roles as they deal with a fluctuating workforce and high turnover rates, and the demand can only continue to grow.

Looking to augment your workforce? Reach out to Sci.bio and learn about our flexible recruiting solutions today.

Six Recruiting Models And When To Use Them

Six Recruiting Models And When To Use Them

Author: Gabrielle Bauer

Whichever model meets your needs, remember not to skimp on quality

What makes a good recruiter? It depends. The perfect recruiter for one hiring scenario may miss the mark in another one. Here’s a quick rundown of the different recruiting models you may want to consider at different points along your hiring journey.

  1. In-house recruiter: An in-house recruiter does everything an external recruiter does, but from within the company. They work for you full-time, whether as a salaried employee or a contractor, and devote all their time to filling your hiring needs. This solution makes sense for larger organizations with continuous hiring needs.
  2. Contingency recruiter: A contingency recruiter gets paid when they hire a candidate—either a flat fee or a percentage of the new hire’s salary. Consider this model for hard-to-fill positions that call for recruitment expertise beyond your usual requirements.
  3. Retained recruiter: A variation on the contingency recruiter, the retained recruiter gets part of the fee paid upfront. This model may work well if you have a difficult-to-fill position that will require your recruiter to invest a lot of time in the search.
  4. Staffing agency: Recruiters in staffing agencies help companies fill vacant positions with temporary employees. This model may work if you have a lot of short-term projects on the go (such as developing software applications to accompany drug launches).
  5. Outplacement agency: Recruiters in an outplacement agency help downsized or otherwise-displaced employees find jobs. Employers sometimes hire such companies as a gesture of goodwill, to help their displaced employees find work.
  6. Headhunter: A headhunter uses multiple sources, from job boards to professional associations, to find candidates to fit specific job openings. They often charge a fee to find a match, typically between 20 and 35 percent of the candidate’s salary.
Headhunter vs recruiter: What’s the difference?

In a nutshell: headhunters find a “head” to fill a specific job, while recruiters work to fill many different job openings. Headhunters are typically called in to fill senior positions that require a unique blend of experience and skills. Recruiters often have an industry specialty and tend to establish longer-term relationships with both clients and candidates.

Irrespective of the model you choose, you’ll want your recruiter to have certain basic competencies, like expertise in the life sciences and connections within the sector. Look for a recruiter who shows initiative, rather than simply reacting to your instructions. A good recruiter will collaborate with you to forecast hiring needs, so they can put the right candidates in front of you when the right time comes. If the recruiter happens to meet the perfect molecular biologist for your pipeline program, they’ll keep the candidate in reserve for the next time you need to expand your drug development team.

Arguably the most important quality for a recruiter is emotional intelligence. Good recruiters don’t just match candidates with positions: they build relationships, both with clients and with candidates they can’t place right away. They remember small details about people. They use modern tools such as AI software, but don’t let the tools replace their intuition and experience.

Above all, good recruiters give you their full and personalized attention. They don’t sound like they’re reading from a script. They “get” you. They sense what you need and know where to find it.

“It’s all about relationships and nurturing those relationships both professionally and personally. I invest in my network and my contacts, in turn, take time to help me back.”
Stacy Zapar, recruiter and keynote speaker

At some point, your recruiter will have to demonstrate their worth. Just be sure to use the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess them. Don’t get bogged down in stats such as number of emails sent or LinkedIn searches conducted: these “vanity metrics” may give you an indication of how much work they’ve put in, but tell you nothing about its quality. Instead, focus on the KPIs that truly matter: quality of hires and retention rates.

At Sci.bio, we understand that we’ll be judged on our results—and expect nothing less. With our consistent track record and deep expertise in the life sciences, we’re confident we can meet and exceed your expectations. We’re also versatile and can adapt to the recruiting model that fits your needs and constraints. We invite you to contact us for more details.

1. The top 7 types of recruiters in the industry. Aviahire. Aug. 6, 2020.
2. Recruiters vs headhunters: what’s the difference? Ranstad. May 8, 2019.
3. What defines a good recruiter? Workable. 
4. 5 metrics that tell you nothing about a recruiter’s performance. Beamery. 

Do You Know the Newest Hiring Challenge for Biotechs?

Do You Know the Newest Hiring Challenge for Biotechs?

Author: Gabrielle Bauer

These days, it can be especially hard to hire at the entry level.

The next time a recruiting firm boasts about their superior ability to attract senior leaders, don’t be too impressed. Instead, ask them how well they can attract the next generation of talent. It may seem counterintuitive, but today’s market economies have made good junior people as challenging to find as corner-office-ready VPs.

STEM scarcity

It starts with a basic supply problem. For several years now, observers of the recruiting scene have noted the shortage of qualified junior scientists. A 2018 article in Recruiting Daily anticipated that the global shortage of new talent, already in evidence at the time, would become worse over the coming years, especially in STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] fields. Indeed, a report by the National Association of Manufacturing and Deloitte estimates that the US will have 3.5 million STEM jobs to fill by 2025—but will struggle to fill 2 million of them because of the lack of appropriately skilled candidates.

Much has been written about the root causes of this drought, from lack of encouragement for women to pursue STEM careers to university course content that doesn’t match the highly specialized requirements of today’s biotech employers. What’s more, events such as the OxyContin and Vioxx recalls have tarnished the industry’s reputation in the minds of some people. This “branding problem” may lead young people to turn away from the field.

Add a new influx of biotech seed money to the mix and you end up with a marked imbalance between the number of job opportunities (a lot) and the number of qualified candidates to fill them (a lot less).

“STEM has a branding problem with younger generations. [They] don’t understand how STEM skills translate into real-life applications.”
-Recruiting Daily

The COVID conundrum

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t exactly made things easier. Throughout the world, the pandemic has pressed pause on young scientists and science students’ formative activities. An article by CBI, a business association representing 190,000 firms in the UK, reports that, while the volume and calibre of junior applicants was higher than ever in fall 2021, applicants may have “COVID-19 skills gaps” that may escape recruiters’ notice. Issues that may impact the “pandemic generation may include:

  • No formal exams: With widespread cancellation of exams over the course of the pandemic, candidates have not had to perform under the usual pressures.
  • Gap in transferable skills: After sheltering at home for so long and missing extra-curricular activities such as team sports or theatre, many young adults have not had the usual opportunities to build up such transferable skills as cooperation and leadership—and the confidence that goes with these skills.
  • Lack of interview preparation: With career fairs and mock interviews much harder to organize during the pandemic, new graduates may lack awareness of how to behave during interviews.

As an employer, you may have trouble differentiating these pandemic-related gaps, which a candidate can presumably surmount over time, from more fundamental weaknesses. Can you trust that the A+ in organic chemistry signals true competence? Does a candidate’s awkward interview style reflect a pandemic-related skills gap or an inherently poor communication style? While there are no easy answers, questioning a candidate about how the pandemic has affected them may offer useful insights.

Bringing junior talent on board

In this scarcity environment, attracting and retaining the best young scientific minds—or reliable back-benchers—calls for some strategy. Employers must understand that the perks that mean the most to older generations, such as salary and stability, mean a lot less to millennials, who fully expect to switch jobs several times during their careers—and even welcome it.

In a series of three surveys, which garnered a total of 236 responses, researchers sought to gain insight into the values espoused by young scientists and engineers. Dominant themes in the responses included the ability to work on innovative research and freedom to set research direction.

  • Start ups too focused on technology and not enough on cultural underpinnings
  • Huge delta in pay, i.e. overpaid senior leaders and underpaid new associates
  • Harder to find building blocks but easier to place them in the base of the pyramid. At the top is where it is easier to find but harder to place candidates in position.

Base of the pyramid

While your senior hires may accomplish great things, they depend on a team of juniors—the base of the pyramid—to get the job done. Today’s environment has made it especially difficult to source out the right building blocks for that base. There’s no lack of bricks: it’s finding the solid ones that poses a challenge.

At Sci.bio, we understand that life sciences superstars cannot accomplish great things without solid shoulders to stand on. We put the same effort—and science—into recruiting at the entry and senior levels. Talk to us to find out how we do it.

1. Why the US has a STEM shortage and how we fix it. Recruiting Daily. Nov. 6, 2018.
2. John G. The unique challenges of recruiting for entry level positions in 2021 and beyond. The CBI. May 17, 2021.
3. Northern TR et al. Attracting and retaining top scientists and engineers at U.S. national laboratories and universities: Listening to the next generation. Electrochemical Society Interface 2019;28.


Hiring in a Candidate’s Market

Hiring in a Candidate’s Market

It’s a common refrain among biotech recruiters and clients that right now we’re in a candidate-driven job market, which has made it harder for some companies hiring to fill technical roles. Attracting and retaining the best talent in these conditions requires clients to rethink established recruitment strategies.

A candidate-driven market is one where demand for candidates outstrips supply, and qualified candidates receive multiple job offers during their search. It also means employees are regularly approached by recruiters with opportunities, even when they are not actively looking for work, and that an employee dissatisfied with their current company will find it easy moving into another position.

The onus therefore shifts to the client and recruiters to convince candidates to accept their offer, and to make sure their valued employees remain satisfied at the company.

There’s no ignoring the reality that candidates can afford to pick and choose between companies. Biotechs cannot afford to lose out on top scientific talent. For instance, while the majority of STEM jobseekers have the basic laboratory skills necessary to succeed in an R&D environment, a smaller proportion has the knowledge of industry standards necessary to bring a company’s product to market.

Bringing In The Best

How clients should make job offers appealing to candidates:

  • Compelling company brand and vision. Not just an enticing offer package and company perks, but an attractive company culture and working environment.
  • Match of values and aspirations between client and candidate. In a candidate-driven market, jobseekers care about matching their personal values with those of a company. Clients must pay attention to candidates’ values, emphasize their own values and identify alignment.
  • Listen to what the candidate is asking for and tailor your offer. What will make your company stand out from the crowd – in addition to values and offer packages – is the attention you pay to your candidate’s priorities and career goals. Make sure you ask the candidate about their desired career path and demonstrate in the interview and offer stage that your company is able to align on.
  • Fast and user-friendly job application process. With the rise of ‘one-click’ online applications, candidates are coming to expect a streamlined job application process. They also aren’t willing to wait weeks to hear back about another job offer if they’ve already received one. Clients therefore need to create a positive application experience for all candidates, and to make hiring decisions quickly.

Looking to recruit top STEM talent to your company? The recruiting and sourcing experts at Sci.bio are here to help. Reach out to us today and start the conversation.