How to Build Your Professional Network

How to Build Your Professional Network

Author:  Tara Smylie

About one thing, modern psychology is certain: we humans are social creatures. Whether you’re looking to skill up, or take on new projects as a freelancer – don’t underestimate the power of connections!

Below you’ll find some useful tips to help you build a thriving network of connections in your professional life.

1. Social Media Is Your Friend

Intentional outreach on Linkedin is a fabulous place to start. Don’t be scared to pull the trigger and connect with someone you don’t know – especially if you add a short, sweet, and to-the-point note to go along with it.

Joining intentional groups on Linkedin is another great way to meet people in your field. Let’s say you’re a chemical engineer looking to learn more about the management aspect of the life science field. By joining a group of like-minded individuals, you’ll be exposed to a wide variety of perspectives, resources, and ideas that you may never have even thought of.

2. Expand your reach – geographically and topically

You never know who you’re going to cross paths with, and how you might help each other when you do. Though it’s important to know people with similar goals, another key part of building a solid network is finding people different from yourself to connect with. If you’re all bringing the same thing to the table, there’s a limit to how much you can partner with each other and learn from each other.

3. Get out to in-person events

They’re not obsolete yet! There’s nothing quite like in-person connection to get the ball rolling with someone new – and your wheels spinning with new ideas for collaboration. In-person events allow you to gain a sense of someone’s personality more quickly, and to ask questions that you might not feel comfortable asking in an online setting. Often there are activities, workshops, or other focal points of in-person networking events too – so you’ll likely have a career-relevant icebreaker to get the blood flowing.

4. Reach out for assistance

People love being asked for help. It makes them feel important, and builds their confidence in their own skills and reputation. If you’re seeking opportunities to learn something new, are trying to start a new group, or simply desire someone to talk to about your latest career undertakings, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone. Asking for help is a vulnerable thing to do, and will only deepen the connections you have.

And as long as you’re not being pushy about it, don’t worry about being a burden. Before you know it, the shoe will be on the other foot, and it will be the helpers who came through for you that need your assistance.

5. Enroll in a course

What better way to meet others in your chosen field than to learn the same new skills together, at the same time?

Nowadays, it’s trickier than ever to meet people in a school setting – so many offerings are online-only. Of course, it’s possible to connect with classmates online if you’re determined enough – but consider in-person courses first if you’re looking to fast-track the expansion of your network.

In an educational environment, everyone is looking to improve themselves somehow, and to add something new to their lives. This openness to change makes people especially open to new connections, too – so grab the chance to take in-person courses and classes whenever you can.

The Takeaway

If there’s one thing we know about connections, it’s that they lead to more connections. Stay home and think about how great it would be to have a network, and you’ll probably find yourself expanding your circle at a snail’s pace. But choose to leap out of your nest and into the world – even if you have to flail and fumble a little bit – and you’ll come away happier, more fulfilled, and ready to soar into the next phase of your career.

Here at, we work with a variety of candidates from new graduates to experienced executives, and have myriad open roles. We pride ourselves on connecting our highly discerning clients with candidates who fit their specific needs. Check out our job search page to see current openings and follow us on LinkedIn for more information.

Related Blogs:

  1. Why Online Networking Can Make a Difference in a Job Search
  2. How to Build Relationships with Recruiters
  3. Useful Online Courses to Beef Up your Resume

Upcoming FDA Decision Dates (PDUFAs)

When you work in an industry as rapidly changing as biotechnology, it’s crucial to stay up to date. Awareness of the FDA’s new drug approval dates is especially crucial: the decisions put forth on these dates can significantly affect the outlook of the companies involved, and these ramifications often reverberate through the industry as a whole.

Read on for a rundown of the FDA’s upcoming decision dates for new drug approvals in the first quarter of 2024.








Keytruda (pembrolizumab)

Locally Advanced Unresectable or Metastatic Gastric or Gastroesophageal Junction Adenocarcinoma



Tesamorelin F8 Formulation

Reduction of excess abdominal fat in adults with HIV who have lipodystrophy


Heron Therapeutics

ZYNRELEF (bupivacaine and meloxicam)

Post-Operative Pain


Liquidia Corporation

Yutrepia (treprostinil)

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH); Pulmonary Hypertension associated with Interstitial Lung Disease (PH-ILD)


Defender Pharmaceuticals

scopolamine (DPI-386)

Motion Sickness


Sanofi and Regeneron

Dupixent (dupilumab)

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE)







Onivyde (irinotecan liposome injection)

Metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma


Venatorx Pharmaceuticals


Complicated Urinary Tract Infections (cUTI), including Pyelonephritis


Iovance Biotherapeutics


Advanced Melanoma




Inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis


Minerva Neurosciences


Schizophrenia- Negative Symptoms




Post-operative inflammation and pain following ocular surgery


Vanda Pharmaceuticals

HETLIOZ (tasimelteon)

Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder (Non-24) in adults


Viatris and Mapi Pharma

Copaxone (Glatiramer Acetate Depot)

Relapsed forms of multiple sclerosis (MS)


Mirum Pharmaceuticals

Livmarli (maralixibat)

Cholestatic pruritus in patients with progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis (PFIC)


Madrigal Pharmaceuticals


Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)


Bristol Myers Squibb

Breyanzi (lisocabtagene maraleucel)

Relapsed/refractory large B-cell lymphoma (LBCL)




Chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps (CRSwNP)


Orchard Therapeutics


Metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD)


Italfarmaco Group


Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD)




myelofibrosis, polycythemia vera, and graft vs. host disease (GVHD)




Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH)


Akebia Therapeutics


Anemia in patients with CKD undergoing dialysis



NEXLETOL (bempedoic acid)

Lowers the level of cholesterol in the blood


Vertex and CRISPR Therapeutics

Casgevy (exagamglogene autotemcel)

Severe Sickle Cell Disease and Transfusion-Dependent Beta Thalassemia


Rocket Pharmaceuticals

RP-L201 (marnetegragene autotemcel)

Leukocyte adhesion deficiency-I (LAD-I)


Regeneron Pharmaceuticals

Odronextamab (REGN1979)

Relapsed/refractory follicular lymphoma or relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)

Best Practices in Recruiting

Best Practices in Recruiting

Authors: Gabrielle Bauer & Tara Smylie

Big-picture ideas to help recruiters—and those who use them—play their A game


In an era of rapid growth for biotech and life science companies, STEM-savvy talent experts play an especially important role in the ecosystem. Becoming a life science recruiter takes knowledge of the industry, a wide social network, and business acumen. Working with one takes a keen sense of what you’re looking for, and the ability to put it into words.

Whether you’re considering becoming a recruiter, in the midst of a recruiting career, or interested in using recruiting services, this survey article will give you the insights and confidence to do it right.


Before you walk the recruiter’s walk, you need to know who you are and where you’re heading.

Recruiting: who knew? Most life science grads don’t immediately think of recruiting as a career option – but they should. Variety, flexibility, and mobility into a variety of other career paths are just some of the perks it offers. And let’s not forget about the money: if working on commission, recruiters can enjoy an uncapped earning potential.

Working as a recruiter, you’ll also get the chance to draw on your own previous work experience. As an example, perhaps you’ve spent your most recent working years in a lab, dealing with regulations and assisting with complex processes. In such a case, you can start out by billing yourself as a recruiter specializing in lab operations, and build out your services from there.

Another reason to consider recruiting: getting a head start on future career ideas for yourself. This holds especially true if you’re still looking to map out a long-term career trajectory, but it can apply to anyone. There’s nothing like being a matchmaker to show you what makes a great partnership – workplace or otherwise. As you learn the qualities most important for different roles, you’ll naturally gain insights about the positions that would suit you best.

But skills are just one piece of the pie: personality also comes into play. According to a survey of nearly 9,000 talent experts, recruiters tend to be enterprising, outgoing, and have a strong sense of social responsibility. The through-line: they fundamentally enjoy being with people. If you’re a natural networker and enjoy leveraging your contacts to help out friends in need, recruiting ticks all the important boxes. This doesn’t mean the profession is off-limits to quieter types, though. If recruiting appeals to you, start exploring the possibilities.

What to expect

As of April 2022, the life sciences had the second-lowest unemployment rate of all U.S. industries. It’s a job-seeker’s market, with companies often scrambling to find talent they urgently need. Business is booming for recruiters, too: 86% of life science talent acquisition professionals say they expect their teams to either grow or remain stable in 2023.

In many ways, the life sciences are a dream come true for recruiters. The industry features a higher-than-average percentage of highly skilled positions, and turnover is high. Career possibilities in the field continue to diversify, with burgeoning niches in personalized medicine, data analytics, and digital health, among others. As a life science recruiter, you’ll participate in the excitement of matching these novel skills with organizations who desperately need them.

Top trends in talent acquisition and recruiting

If you want to attract candidates who are up-to-date and in-the-know, you’ll have to get on their level. As of 2023, top trends in recruiting include:

  • Remote interviewing: This facilitates collaborative hiring.
  • Emphasis on candidate experience: Companies that prioritize employee well-being are more successful than those that don’t.
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion: Statistics show that a culturally rich workplace is good for business.
  • Contingent workers. Businesses and workers alike have realized how profitable contract work can be.

Niching and branding

As a new recruiter, you may feel torn. Do you take on as many projects as possible, or niche up early to establish a specialized reputation and client base? The short answer: a bit of both. While you don’t need to specialize too quickly or narrowly, it’s worth honing in on some areas of specialty as you develop your business.

Let’s say you’ve established some connections with microbiologists and feel confident you can quickly place top-quality talent in the field. If you promote yourself accordingly, your clients and network associates will pick up on your specialized knowledge and experience in this area. Should they ever need a microbiologist, they’ll remember your name.

Examples of recruitment specialties in the life sciences include gene therapy, immuno-oncology, clinical development, medical devices, medical writing, and many more. To narrow it down, ask yourself the following:

  • What kinds of positions do you find most interesting?
  • Does your previous recruiting experience point you in an obvious direction?
  • Do you have especially large networks in certain areas?

Use your answers to guide your decision process. Next step: spread the word. To create a compelling personal brand, keep a few fundamental W’s in mind: who do you recruit for, and what do you offer them? Why does recruiting mean so much to you? Answer these questions honestly and specifically, and you’ll attract a customer base that wants to buy what you’re selling.

As far as possible, keep your brand visuals consistent across all marketing tools, from your website to your business cards. Decide as soon as possible which font types, color scheme, design style, and logo you’re going to use for all your content. That’s not to say you can never change your style – just remember that consistency builds brand recognition and “brand memory,” leading clients and candidates to think of you first.


Like most professions, effective recruiting is more about working smart than about putting in long hours and hoping something sticks. A skilled recruiter understands the value of a network, and the synergy between professionalism and personal connections.

Nuts and bolts

Keep your expectations realistic. A biotech start-up, no matter how promising, won’t have the same gravitational pull that a large pharma company does. That said, the way you present a company to candidates carries a lot of power. Don’t misrepresent the organization, but feel free to talk about organizational goals, backstory, or employee mobility to pique their interest.

Second in your toolbox: face-to-face networking events. Where possible, add all new connections on LinkedIn and exchange social media identifiers. And as you forge new connections, remember: just because you don’t need a candidate now doesn’t mean they won’t be a great match for a future project. Relationship-building forms the core of recruiting, so you’ll want to cast a wide net to maximize your success.

To maximize social media engagement, make sure your social content is – you guessed it – engaging. Think images, graphics, and open-ended questions that stimulate discussion. On LinkedIn, posts that include photo content receive 98 percent more comments than those that feature text only. Keep this in mind as you build an online presence.

Another digital trend: today’s social media users are looking to see the “human” side of a brand or organization. As you optimize your social media for recruitment, don’t only post about projects and accomplishments. Mix things up a bit by posting about networking events, what led you to this career choice, and/or the difference you hope to make in the world as a recruiter.

Assessing your social media strategy

Every strategy must have an evaluation component, and social media is no exception. Here’s how to make sure you’re packing a punch with your digital outreach.

  • Set goals and priorities: Create a ranked list of your social media goals.
  • Audit your audience: Find out the type of content your audience likes best – or just ask them – and give them more of the same.
  • Monitor the competition: Find out how the successful competition is engaging their audience and consider pulling a few tricks from their book.
  • Set up a monitoring program: The popular Google Analytics reporting system, for example, can help you segment and identify the sources of your social traffic.

Keep it personal

Treat your candidates like people so they don’t fall through the cracks. When they don’t get the job, let them know why. This makes for a better end-to-end experience for them – and as a result, increases the likelihood that they’ll take your feedback, skill up, and come back even better prepared when the next opportunity arises.

To forge and maintain a connection with your candidate pool, advertise all new openings on social media, making sure your job postings are readable on mobile, and invite people to send you referrals. And don’t discount previous candidates who impressed you, but weren’t quite right at the time. Reconnecting with previous applicants can save you time, dollars, and a whole lot of stress. When you reach out, make sure to remind these former candidates who you are, how you know them, and what impressed you about their application the first time around.

Skill up during down times

When the hiring market is down, take the opportunity to hone your skills, strategize, and connect (or reconnect). The circumstances may have you feeling uncertain or anxious, but consider the bright side: less time spent on the daily grind means more time to work on your long-term goals. During a slower season, you can still reach out to employers and candidates and start building relationships for when you really need them.

A slower season also affords you the time to review your process. In particular, hone in on four key metrics: time to hire, cost per hire, usual sources of hire, and employment acceptance rates. Are these stats stacking up as you’d like them to? Maybe you could cut out a few formalities to streamline your process, or maybe you’re still subscribed to web recruitment services you no longer need. What feels like an endless lull in work will soon become a distant memory –and your current efforts will pay off when business picks up again.


If you’re a life sciences company thinking of working with a recruiter, start with a basic assessment: why do it, which recruiter to work with, and how to work together.

Why use a recruiter in the first place

Specialized roles require a specialized search process. If you’re looking for an entry-level data analyst, you may be able to conduct the search on your own. But if you’re looking for, say, an experienced immunology consultant, a recruiter becomes a strategic asset. Sure, it costs more than doing it yourself – but considering the talent you find could stick around for years, the ROI will likely work in your favor.

Recruiters can also help you zero in on “cross-functional” candidates—people who bring unusual combinations of skills to the table. You’re more likely to find that microbiologist with management skills through a recruiter than on your own. And don’t underestimate the value of referrals from existing employees – especially when working with recruiters. A full 88 percent of businesses view referrals as their best hires, so it’s worth considering the value of this hiring pipeline. To maximize efficiency and avoid misunderstandings, you and your recruiter should establish a process for them to obtain employee referrals and follow up on the best ones.

Choose with care

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When selecting a talent scout, the biggest red flag is dishonesty. If a recruiter displays “toxic positivity,” makes claims that sound unrealistic, or has an overly pushy sales pitch, they’re most likely trying to cover up a gap in their abilities.

Along with honesty and professionalism, experience in STEM fields should top your list of criteria. This doesn’t have to be a degree or a long-term job – courses, workshops, and previous recruitment experience in the industry can all give you a sense of their scientific background. If their LinkedIn profile doesn’t offer proof either way, but you still have a good feeling about working with them, reach out to them with questions to fill in the blanks.

To suss out a recruiter’s aptitude for your particular project, get very specific with your questions. If you’re considering someone who offers special expertise in science/biotech, be sure to ask how they tailor their services to the industry. This goes especially for niche, highly skilled positions: before you sign any contracts, they’ll need to prove they have a tried-and-true method of sourcing the best.

Top-five questions to ask candidate recruiters

  1. What is your search process, including for difficult-to-fill positions?
  2. Have you placed candidates in X or Y roles before?
  3. How do you handle clients with changing hiring needs?
  4. How do you manage referrals from internal employees?
  5. What is your approach to difficult-to-fill positions?

A model for all seasons

Selecting the right recruitment model is an art unto itself. If you’re hiring consistently and have the budget for it, an in-house recruiter may make the most sense. At the other end of the spectrum, a contingency recruiter can “pinch hit” for you if a hard-to-fill position calls for recruitment expertise beyond your usual requirements. As a further alternative, you can build a long-term partnership with the same external recruiter. With each new hire, they will gain a better and better sense of how your company works and how to best meet your talent needs.

When you need help finding a short-term candidate, consider the “temporary” and “temp-to-hire” recruitment models, which fulfill distinct strategic objectives. Temporary recruitment focuses on meeting short-term business demands. The temp-to-hire (a.k.a. temp-to-permanent) approach also seeks to meet a current need, but with the expectation that the temporary position will segue into a permanent one. Compared to the standard approach of giving new hires a probationary period, temp-to-hire saves costs and incurs less liability.

Whichever recruiting model you choose, a recruiter with an intelligent sourcing process puts you a step ahead. An essential precursor to recruiting, sourcing ensures that candidates meet a minimum qualification standard before being considered for a position. Find a recruiter you trust with sourcing, and you can rest easy knowing that every candidate you interview has met a suitable bar of skills and ambition.

Recruiter vs. headhunter: What’s the difference?

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.


The right recruiter will help you attract and retain the best, while saving time and resources.

Diving into the talent pool

In a competitive hiring market, a recruiter can help you hire quickly and efficiently. With demand for candidates outstripping supply, your usual hiring strategies may fall short. That’s where recruiters come in: between their existing network, referrals, and specialized outreach services, they can connect with candidates you would never know about on your own.

This includes people who need to wear more than one hat. The smartest talent experts understand that scientific skills come in many shades, and each role will call for a slightly different mix. Sure, one of your candidates might be an expert at clinical trial regulations – but that doesn’t mean they’re going to excel at long-term product strategy planning. With the help of a talent-optimization expert, you can ensure you’re not wasting all your efforts on square pegs.

The dreaded slowdown

If you experience a lag in company growth, financial concerns may cause you to hesitate to use recruiting services. While an understandable concern, working a recruiter into your budget could help revive your business. And when job candidates are scarce, you and the recruiter can work together to identify promising late-stage interviewees from previous hiring processes as well as passive candidates who may be interested in switching teams.

Hiring slowdowns often happen in the summer — incidentally, the time when thousands of college students become job-hungry graduates. Though these candidates may require a little extra TLC to train, they can easily make up for their lack of experience in energy and attitude. Working with a recruiter can help you identify the most reliable and ambitious of the bunch.

Hiring vision

Who do you want to hire and how do you plan to keep them? These are the fundamental questions behind “talent acquisition” and “talent management.”

Talent acquisition refers to the process of finding and attracting top-quality candidates, which involves relationship building, branding, and business smarts. Talent management, meanwhile, has to do with retaining and satisfying employees once they’re already on board. Think transparent company structure, workplace flexibility, and a compelling benefits package.

Of course, the two processes aren’t entirely separate. Well-managed talent will boost your organizational reputation, leading to smoother talent acquisition. By the same token, a well-thought-out hiring process will help your company attract candidates that suit their roles and will thus deliver more satisfied and productive employees.

An intelligent talent screening system – the bread and butter of recruiting – paves the way for a smooth acquisition process. This system could involve phone interviews, aptitude tests, or even background checks on social media. Just one caveat: when conducting skills tests, make sure the skills you test are actually required for the job.

Along with traditional screening methods, many recruiters will have state-of-the-art AI tools up their sleeve to help you streamline your search. Advanced software can help predict candidate outcomes, while chatbots can schedule interviews and engage candidates on your website.

It’s a two-way street

Don’t expect magical answers if you haven’t articulated the questions. As an employer working with a recruiter, you’ll have to spell out your requirements. As soon as you can, arrange a meeting with your recruiter, and leave no stone unturned as you lay out what you’re looking for. A basic checklist of qualities doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible – your recruitment plan should include backup strategies to deal with unexpected hiring needs.

Once you’ve outlined your basic requirements, put your micromanaging hat in a drawer and leave the nitty-gritty to the recruiter. That’s what you’re hiring them for, after all. If you’ve done the prep work of articulating your needs and agreeing on a plan, you can trust that the recruiter will leverage their own networks, pre-screening systems, and software solutions to bring you a pool of high-quality candidates.

If you’re looking to expand a particular department or role, do your homework on current top performers. Consider: do they share a similar background, skill set, or personality type? Even better, ask the high flyers themselves what part of their education or experience has served them best on the job. Share their answers with your recruiter, who can use the insights to hone in on your next workplace superstar.

The post-pandemic world also calls for a leaner approach to hiring. Do you need a pipeline of candidates ready to jump in as needed, or can your organization tolerate a waiting period? Talk to your recruiter about your level of risk tolerance and need for hiring efficiency.

Just in time or just in case?

The “just in case” model puts a priority on candidates who are already trained in every skill they may need. While difficult to find, such candidates help you build resiliency. The “just in time” model seeks employees who are trained in a specific skillset and nothing more – and in some cases, called in only when needed. Both models have their perks; it’s budget and company culture that will determine which one to use and when.


Done right, recruiting is not only productive and cost-effective, but enjoyable for everyone involved.

Our recruiters take pride in delivering results and building relationships. They come from a variety of backgrounds, and possess their own wide talent networks to draw from. From general to specific, entry-level to expert, our recruiters can help you fill any po honesty over hype, and will work hard to find a match that makes everyone happy – a win-win-win.

If you’re a recruiter looking to join a team of like minded professionals, searching for efficient and expert assistance filling a role, or you’re interested in more information about how we operate here at, feel free to reach out to us here. We can help you learn how best to leverage our platform and technology to increase your success as a recruiter. We also invite you to browse through our blog posts to get a deeper sense of what recruiting can offer


“It’s Not You; It’s Me” – How To Avoid Candidate Ghosting

“It’s Not You; It’s Me” – How To Avoid Candidate Ghosting

Author:  Claire Jarvis

How can you avoid candidate ghosting?  First we need to define ghosting.  The term “ghosting” – when one person drops all contact without warning and no longer replies to your messages – is something you may have heard about in the context of romantic relationships or friendships, but it is becoming a professional phenomenon too.

A recent survey of jobseekers found that 84% of candidates admit to ghosting an employer or potential employer during the past 18 months. As a recruiter, it is frustrating when a candidate stops responding to your calls and does not tell you why. Aside from accepting it’s not a personal reflection on you, here are some ways to reduce the likelihood of candidate ghosting.

Why Candidates Ghost

Unfortunately, the reality of the current workforce and hiring trends means that ghosting is easier – and more tempting than ever.

With the biotech sector still growing fast and struggling to fill their positions – and the rising cost of living prompting many STEM workers to seek better opportunities – recruiters need job candidates slightly more than candidates need them. As a result, jobseekers often move faster than recruiters when applying for jobs and accepting or rejecting offers. They are also frequently working with multiple recruiters or applying to jobs directly. This leads to a situation where candidates are more likely to ghost one recruiter because they’ve accepted another job offer, or they are balancing too many job applications and decide to let some opportunities go.

In the survey mentioned above, 29% of job candidates said the reason they ghosted an employer was because the salary offered was too low. The second most common reason given was the candidate received a better job offer (28%).

How Recruiters Can Avoid Candidate Ghosting

The best way to avoid jobseeker ghosting is to remain approachable and proactive. Keep candidates apprised of delays with their applications (e.g. if the hiring manager is away on vacation until next week), and check in with the candidates regularly. These check-ins should continue even after a job offer is made: if the candidate isn’t receiving updates from their new employer, it may make them nervous and more likely to continue their job search. It is uncommon for a candidate to ghost the company after making a job offer…but it’s not unheard of.

When filling biotech roles, make sure you know what the candidate’s preferred salary range is early in the process, and whether the position you’re trying to fill meets their expectations.

Assume that the candidate is pursuing multiple opportunities simultaneously, and act accordingly. Try to accommodate the candidate’s other applications – if they expect to attend a final stage interview next week, make sure they do not have to wait long to find out the status of the interviews you’ve facilitated.

Lastly, emphasize that you’re supportive of the candidate pursuing other opportunities and accepting competing offers. Some candidates ghost recruiters because they fear an awkward conversation when they admit they’ve accepted another offer. If you want your candidates to tell you when they’ve stopped their job search, it’s best to be understanding.

Looking to fill biotech positions?’s flexible recruiting and sourcing solutions are designed to meet your company’s needs. Get in touch with us today!

The Biotech Culture Problem

The Biotech Culture Problem

Author: Eric Celidonio

Tips for Interviewers in Biotechnology Companies

do as I say not as I do

Let’s talk Biotech Culture.  Biopharma* start-ups often tout the noble aspiration of curing all that ails the world. And in many instances, they have been successful. Advances in drugs and vaccines are a huge contributing factor to our ability to live longer and lead more active and productive lives.  

Many biopharma companies, however, have systematic cultural & values issues that are far from apparent when reading their well-groomed press releases and perusing their flashy websites. Many of these illustrious, high-flying organizations are in fact perpetuating ‘mistruths’; their claims of a virtuous, meritorious, transparent and science based approach are often misleading or outright untrue. Careful observation reveals some serious rifts, cultural divides, and outright lies beneath the surface.

Interviewers beware! Here are some clues there might be a more complicated truth beneath a company’s attractive exterior:

Interviewers beware- here are some clues :

  • No one is willing to talk about why previous employees have left the company.
  • The interview feels like an interrogation, and no one thanks you for coming in.
  • No one at the company seems to be smiling or making eye contact.
  • You were left waiting with no apology, or there were hasty last minute cancellations.
  • The leaders have elaborate offices while everyone else is in micro cubicles.
  • You weren’t offered parking or expense reimbursement.
  • The interviewer focused on your weaknesses and lack of experience.

Read between the lines and observe the body language of your interviewers. Much of the time, interviewers won’t be forthcoming about problems within the company, so it’s important to pay special attention to visual cues and behaviors. Many rely on employer rating sites like Glassdoor for honest reviews of a company directly from employees, but these are hard to trust and tend to attract fringe reviews, both the good and the bad.

The problem often starts with executives that don’t truly live the values they espouse, because they feel that they are above them. This can create a downward cultural spiral as cynical employees observe the disconnect, or, worse yet, they may emulate and spread this negative behavior until it feeds into the general population.

Biotech Interviewing tips for getting the right applicant

          beware biotech interviewers

It’s important to first differentiate culture from values. Culture can be defined as the personality of a company, which establishes the climate of the environment. Corporate values can be defined as philosophies or principles which guide an organization’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with its customers, partners, and shareholders. The two are different, yet closely intertwined.

For sure, biopharma can’t be completely singled out for its empty corporate values and cultural insincerity. Most every biotech or pharmaceutical industry has its share of guilty companies, but biopharma is a special case.

To be fair, there are many well managed, promising biotechs run by executives who truly care, and who adhere to respectable values while building healthy, robust company cultures. The typical biopharma values list has good intentions of trying to conjure a harmonious environment, where people work as a team and have each other’s back in finding a cure for a particular disease area. However, many would be more appreciative of honest statements about a current culture, rather than a phony, contrived or even aspired one. Just admit that you are incomplete, that there are gaps but opportunities. Be real. Be sincere. Confess that you intend to monetize your technology/drug/vaccine. Don’t partake in the charade of a selfless, philanthropic institution just to attract talent. Employees will resent it if they discover the truth is not what was advertised. It’s ok to be for profit, and in this business with less than 10% of drug programs succeeding to commercialization, there has to be a prospect of high profitability or few would partake.

integrity word cloud

an illusion at many places

The fact is, for many pre-commercial biotechs, the corporate values may come across well, but are often disingenuous. The issue is, once this hi-po person has landed s/he quickly realizes the truth and has buyer’s remorse. This partially explains the high turnover rate of biotechs.  Of course, the volatility of proof of concept and the fact that you need a mountain of cash to succeed are major factors as well.

culture problems of biotech and pharmaceutical companies can be avoided

quitting a start-up biotech

There are other high-beta industries that churn and burn people as well. High-tech is similar in this respect. Biotech is probably a more egregious offender, though, because of its stark stages and higher regulatory hurdles. These companies often grow in ways that management hadn’t anticipated or expected. Example: most ‘platform technology’ biotech companies re-brand themselves as ‘drug companies or Pharmas’ as they show progress clinically. Drug Development companies in turn may quickly change therapeutic focus after a clinical failure or competition. They are often bought by bigger companies, after which their brand and values will change yet again. Ultimately, these companies can change into very different entities at these inflective junctions, and it can all happen in a very compressed period of time: often only a couple of years.

The talent base, of course, changes too. A pre-clinical discovery company will rotate out early research-based talent in its clinical stage, focusing primarily on development, medical and regulatory staff. Then it will refocus dramatically as it approaches commercialization, bringing on sales and marketing teams. The skills needed change rapidly, as well as the personality types, and many of the individuals who seeded the company, the ones who set the tone of the company’s values, will be long gone by the time you get to the commercial stage.

So how did the set of core values by which a company operates become so important, and in turn become so often misleading?

It seems to have gained popularity after the Jim Collins and Jerry Porras business classic Built to Last, was published in 1994.   This book offers evidence that the “best” companies follow a set of principles or core values,  and that created a sort of cultish blueprint that every company feels compelled to now follow. This book offers evidence that the “best” companies follow a set of principles or core values, and that created a sort of cultish blueprint that every company feels compelled to now follow. To quote Patrick Lencioni in the July 2002 Harvard Business Review: “The values fad swept through corporate America like chicken pox through a kindergarten class. Today, 80% of the Fortune 100 tout their values publicly—values that too often stand for nothing but a desire to be au courant or, worse still, politically correct.  Organizations follow the lead and behavior of their CEO, and this establishes a company’s culture. This culture is perpetuated, for better or worse, by corporate values that either ring hollow and or are eschewed, or truly mean something and therefore are adhered to. Because of the industry’s expansion, it’s been harder to find experienced, talented leaders who possess the necessary qualities of leadership, integrity, and sincerity along with the experience and competence necessary to lead biotech start-ups.

In the end, culture can be a moot point for biotechs because of the very business of drug development. You can have a culture and values system that enriches the corporate environment, but if your drug flunks a Phase IIb that fantastic culture won’t guarantee a buyer. Just the same, even if a company has clinical success but keeps bleeding talent because employees are unhappy within the company culture, things can unravel quickly that way. Company culture and values do matter, and can either drive organizational success or hasten systemic failure.

Ultimately, it’s best for companies to say what they mean and mean what they say. It’s okay if your culture needs work, but transparency about this goes a long way; just admit that the culture is evolving and you’re building towards a set of core values. Don’t use hollow words just because you think they will resonate; they won’t if your leadership doesn’t embody and adhere to them. For CEOs: don’t commit yourself to a carved-in-stone system of values that is likely to change. The nature of the life-cycle in this business is not simple, and cannot easily be mapped-out ahead of time. It isn’t realistic to pretend that you’ve summed up all the outcomes, values, and necessary competencies before you begin the journey. Start by acting with integrity and sincerity, and realistically describing the current state of your team, and where you strive to improve. Honesty is crucial; your employees will thank you for it.

values of biotech and pharmaceutical companies

say it like you mean it


  1. *Differentiating: biotech(nology) and biopharma (pharmaceutical) companies. Both produce medicine. Biotechnology companies produce medicines which have a biological basis, and pharmaceutical companies’ produce those with a chemical basis. Biotechnology companies use live organisms or parts of living organisms, such as bacteria or enzymes, to manufacture their drugs. In this use of the word, we refer to any pre-commercial biotech or pharma company.
  2. Recruiting has its own set of corporate values, but we are not developing drugs.
Improve Your Memory to Improve Your Relationships

Improve Your Memory to Improve Your Relationships

Author:  Jason Burns

Yes, you can improve your memory! We’ve all been there. Someone approaches you whose name you don’t remember.  You’ve met each other a few times, but your mind goes blank… You manage to get through the interaction with a “hey, you!” and feel too embarrassed to ask for their name again, especially since they know yours. Whether they notice you didn’t remember their name or not, it is difficult to forge a strong relationship with the person if you don’t know their name!

Why does your memory fail you in moments like this? There could be a number of reasons. Research shows that the average American consumes at least 100,000 words and 34 GB of data per day! Given all of the information you consume on a daily basis, your brain cannot possibly store everything in your long term memory. Indeed, common reasons why you can’t remember something could be because it was never encoded into your memory in the first place, or you don’t have any “retrieval cues” to call the memory back into your mind.

Despite these challenges, remembering aspects about a person is essential not just for creating new relationships with people, but also for strengthening existing relationships. Forgetting someone’s name or an important detail can be a sign that you are not interested in the other person, which is the opposite of making a good first impression! Conversely, being able to remember details about your boss’ kids or a client’s favorite hobby goes a long way because it shows you genuinely care about them. What’s more, recalling details and asking additional questions about them will cause them to associate positive memories with you, since psychologically, people love to talk about themselves.

Ways to Improve Your Memory

Try these techniques the next time you want to commit important facts to memory:

Repeat it to yourself.  According to research, your short term memory only lasts for 20- 30 seconds, unless you try to repeat the information out loud or in your head. You can ask a clarifying question using the person’s name or restate what you just heard to make sure you understood correctly. After the interaction, try to repeat it again mentally to commit it to memory so you can retrieve it later. In fact, experts recommend “overlearning” the things you want to remember through repetition so that your new memory does not interfere with your existing memories.

Write it down. Studies show that your short term memory only holds about seven pieces of information. Since you’re not exactly in control of which seven pieces your brain will remember, a good idea is to write down important details in case you forget later. After a conversation with someone, make a note on your phone, on their business card, or on your laptop’s notepad with their name and any critical data. This is particularly important if you’ve offered to provide them with further information or connect them with someone.

Remove distractions. Don’t multitask when absorbing the new facts. Unless you’re using your phone to take notes about what you want to remember, put it away. If you’re juggling more than one task or multiple inputs, your brain has no choice but to prioritize one thing over the other. Another common distraction occurs when you’re not actively listening to the new information, and you’re thinking about something else or planning your next response. Instead, try to focus your complete attention on listening to the other person, and you’ll be more likely to remember what they say.

Make associations. To help yourself retrieve the memory later, make an association between the person and something easy to remember. This can help trigger the memory of the person and their name or important details. For example, if Sarah mentioned she’s going on a sailing trip, remembering “Sarah sails” will be easier to recall the next time you try to retrieve information about Sarah. Another example is comparing the person to someone famous or someone you’ve met before. If your new acquaintance Matthew has brown hair like your cousin Matthew, making this association may help you recall his name the next time you interact with him.

Get enough sleep. Research shows that sleep is essential for the formation of long-term memories. Furthermore, if you’re sleep deprived and tired, your ability to focus and learn new information will be impaired. After your next networking event or big meeting, make sure to get a good night’s sleep to increase your chances of being able to retain the significant facts you were exposed to during the day.

Final Thoughts on Memory and Relationships

Remembering details about a person is a meaningful part of establishing a new relationship or strengthening an existing one. By failing to remember someone’s name or a significant aspect of someone’s life, it could be interpreted as you not being interested in them. Solidify important facts in your mind by trying these tips to improve your memory.  You will reap the rewards in your relationships!