A Practical Guide to Hiring Contractors in Biopharma

A Practical Guide to Hiring Contractors in Biopharma

There are plenty of good reasons for Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical companies hiring contractors (Independent Contractors) versus hiring employees to meet company objectives. Here are just a few: lack of funding, clinical failure, and scarce talent in niche areas. These factors create a fertile and lucrative landscape for qualified independent contractors. Clinical Development, Regulatory, and CMC business segments face some of the stiffest competition for talent. So it’s no surprise that they turn to ICs to fill expertise and workforce gaps. In 2022, there were over 70 million ICs in the US and a mind-boggling 1.4 billion worldwide. But many companies have learned the hard way that there are hidden risks in engaging “1099 workers.” Misclassification and other payroll pitfalls can lead to stiff penalties, fines, and even legal action. In the first part of this article, we’ll consider the basic choices employers face when engaging talents, and the pros and cons of each alternative.

Part One: Pros and Cons of Engaging 1099 Contractors vs. Hiring W2 Employees

In the view of the US government, labor, and tax authorities, ICs are more like external vendors than internal employees. They are expected to work independently, providing their own tools and resources. They are responsible for their own paperwork and taxes. The IRS tax form that companies use for engaging ICs is what gives “1099 workers” their name. But the government makes clear that ICs must meet strict criteria, highlighted in the table below, guiding employers to take care not to misclassify a worker e as an independent contractor when they should be an employee. employee vs independent contractor There may be other criteria depending on the jurisdiction and/or the agency or law at issue. In some states, the standard is particularly difficult to satisfy. Employers are responsible for classifying correctly the work relationship. Relationships may morph over time, so even a classification which was correct at first may not be so later on. Subsequent audits or lawsuits can punish heavily any errors, evasions, or misrepresentations.

At First Glance, Engaging 1099 Contractors is Easier and Costs Less

It may be tempting for employers to engage independent contractors as a quick, low hassle means of filling skill or labor gaps. Many online apps, marketplaces, and platforms have arisen to expedite the process. Clearly there are compelling reasons for a company to engage ICs:

  • Lower Insurance obligations and liabilities
  • Ineligibility of ICs for costly company benefits
  • Easier termination and offboarding process
  • Simpler tax reporting
  • Less HR hassle: reduced onboarding, training, and evaluation burdens

The attractiveness and ease of taking the 1099 route has led to widespread use and, sometimes, abuse. It has also attracted more scrutiny and audits, with the IRS focusing on misclassification or, more harshly, “payroll fraud.” The growing volume of IC engagement, and the rising price of getting it wrong, has made efficient and cost-effective management of many such contractors more difficult, and at the same time absolutely essential.

Hidden Risks and Costs When Engaging 1099 Workers

Despite the cost savings and conveniences of engaging ICs, there are strict limitations on when and how employers can exercise this option legally. There are disadvantages and risks in taking this route, which may be unforeseen. Improper usage, whether inadvertently or intentionally, can lead to stiff fines, penalties and/or legal action.

Limited control over independent contractors

Companies have less control over independent contractors.1099 workers are not obliged to work according to company practices and policies. They act as they see fit, at least within their contractual terms. In practice, this can result in breaches and behavior inconsistent with employer norms potentially leading to reputational damage and even lawsuits. In general, the company has less leverage to elicit behavior or work product beyond the strict confines of the contract.

Complicated ownership of work and intellectual property

Companies also have less control over the contract worker’s output and inventions. When an employee creates, writes, or invents something while employed by the business, the company generally owns all rights to that product or idea. But if the 1099 worker makes a product or discovers a better method, they own the rights, unless the hiring company explicitly clarifies ownership and intellectual property issues contractually. This can add complications, costs, and hassle. This is a nuanced area that may require consultation from experts in this specialty.

Competition and potential exposure of company or trade secrets

Employees may be legally bound in their employment contracts and/or applicable law to protect company secrets. The company can require employees not to moonlight or work for a competitor. With 1099 workers, however, there is less loyalty, less control over secrets, and less ability to restrict concurrent or subsequent work for a competitor. While non-disclosure and non-compete agreements (if they do not undermine the IC classification) can reduce the risk, control over independent contractors is far less than over employees. Even unintentional classification mistakes can result in liabilities, penalties, and unforeseen costs. Worse: the intellectual property, competitive and reputational risks of 1099 workers can dwarf savings of time and money, especially for firms in tech, life sciences, biomedical and pharma. In Part Two, we’ll look at steps companies can take to reduce risks and costs, increasing recruitment efficiency and improving management of their independent contractors. Consider Sci.bio as a reliable and cost-effective resource for finding and managing Independent Contractors for your organization. We can efficiently find and deliver high caliber expert consultants for virtually any biopharma segment so you can focus on your business and avoid compliance and payroll headaches associated with hiring ICs. Want to learn more? Contact us today.

Part 2: Optimizing the Engagement and Management of 1099 Workers

For most organizations, small and large, recruitment and ongoing management of human resources is not an either/or choice between employees hired with a W-2 form and engagement of independent contractors (ICs) with a 1099. Similar choices face business in other jurisdictions. In Part One, we looked at the pros and cons of engaging ICs in place of full-time employees. However, in practice, there is a spectrum of nuanced alternatives which strike a balance between hiring employees as opposed to engaging 1099 workers. Here, in Part Two, we’ll consider options for achieving “the best of both worlds.”

Is Hiring Direct Fixed-term Employees Truly a “Middle Ground”?

One “middle ground” alternative used by some companies to mitigate risks and costs of long-term commitments to W-2 employees is to hire such workers on a fixed-term rather than open-ended basis. This is often done when filling temporary personnel gaps due to pregnancy, parental leave, employee sickness/injury, or for staffing up a project with a predictable duration. But more and more companies are taking this route without these circumstances. Fixed-term W-2 employment can be a tempting and less risky alternative to engaging ICs, allowing an employer to exercise more control over workers without incurring long-term obligations. As is well known, the costs to a company of open-ended, long-term employment involves a variety of risks and costs. Defining the period of employment to shorter, clearly-defined periods can ameliorate at least some of these drawbacks and cumulative expenses. However, fixed-termers are eligible for the same benefits as non-fixed-term employees. Employers must recruit these employees and then provide onboarding, internal resources, equipment, and treatment equivalent to all other W2 employees. This may amount to 35% or more of a compensation package. Fixed-term employees are often eligible to collect unemployment benefits which also costs the employer. With this in mind, fixed term employment is not a clear solution to temporary or unpredictable staffing needs.

Outsourcing 1099 Worker Management to External Agencies: The Basics

Due to the complexities of recruiting and managing ICs themselves, many firms have sought to mitigate risks, potential complications, and legal entanglements by outsourcing recruitment, contracting, and HR-related management of 1099 workers to external agencies. Such firms can provide a one-stop shop for identifying, recruiting, negotiating and closing employment contracts with specialized workers in their target industries. They offer a streamlined hiring process, including all the documentation needed to get a new IC onboarded. They have the knowledge and expertise to find “best of both worlds” balance in the workforce and relieve their clients of the many hassles and reduce the risks of engaging 1099 workers. Such agencies multiply the benefits of working with independent contractors, providing a management layer of recruitment and HR expertise to reduce risks, cut costs, relieve hassles, and deliver top-flight talent. Of course, there is an added cost for these value-added benefits, usually in the form of a salary markup by the agency. This can be as low as 25-35% for “payrolled individuals” found by the client company and formally hired via the agency. On the high end, markups can be 200% of salary for agencies that have highly technical, ready-to-work experts on call, or who can recruit these specialists fit-for-purpose.

Benefits of Partnering with an Agency to Manage 1099 Workers

The general benefits of working with a 3rd party agency for engaging and managing ICs include:   employee vs independent contractor pros chart

Choose a 3rd party firm familiar with your industry segment

After making the decision to partner with an external agency to source and manage 1099 contractors, the next steps is to find the one that’s well-suited for you and your industry. This last point is key: working with industry-specialized HR agencies can relieve paperwork burdens and deliver cost-saving benefits, but so can generalist staffing firms. However, the latter are unlikely to have the ready access to the top talent and industry know-how that you require. If they don’t know your niche, they will be hard-pressed to deliver the highest caliber contractors. Far better to seek out a firm which focuses on your industry, with broad and in-depth knowledge of your business and skills ecosystem. This is especially true in biopharma, with its complex niches and business slants. Additionally, biotech and pharmaceutical segments often have unique worker compensation insurance codes that less specialized firms may not know about. Some advantages of partnering with specialized firms:

Cutting Time to Hire

Pharma, medical, and life sciences industries are notorious for their difficulties in sourcing, recruiting, and onboarding suitably qualified employees. Agencies which specialize in these industries know the territory, have the databases and contacts, and know where to look for which skills. They can make it much easier to fill positions and get qualified talent up to speed. So there’s less likelihood of a new contract hire stumbling out of the gate.

Gaining the Perspective and Insight of a Specialized Staffing Agency

By partnering with a staffing agency experienced in your industry, with deep insights about where and how to find talent, you will gain an active ally with specialized know-how about filling a role with a higher quality candidate than you’re likely to find with a generalist firm. Your agency ally should prove to be a go-to partner providing ongoing recruiting and market insights.

Attracting the Highest Quality Consulting Talent: Recruiting Experience Matters

Top-caliber candidates are picky and they can be fickle. Some may not even respond to recruiting from generalist agencies with limited knowledge of “what they do.” Candidates are far more likely to respond to recruiters who possess in-depth domain knowledge and a high reputation for recruitment within their field. Experienced consultants prefer to be represented by a recruitment firm that knows their niche inside and out, who can “walk the talk” with credibility.

Protect Your Brand Reputation with a Staffing Agency That Makes You Look Good

Clients should consider third-party staffing and recruitment firms as an extension of their brands. Partnering with an agency that fails to appreciate or fill their role as your brand steward can have negative consequences in the short-term and the long run. When interviewing candidate agencies, consider the professionalism, integrity and quality of their interactions with you. If their professional self-presentation is anything less than superb. seek out a firm that can represent you in a manner commensurate with your brand values. That will pay big dividends over time.

Conclusion: Seek out a Specialized Agency to Recruit Top Talent

The bottom line is clear. When you’re operating in fiercely competitive industries like biopharma and life sciences, the quality of the people working with you and for you is the key differentiator. While 1099 contractors can provide many advantages over W-2 employees, it is advantageous to seek specialized guidance in recruiting them, hiring them, and managing their contracts. Working with a recruitment and staffing agency specializing in your industry gives you a clear edge in bringing in top talent, increasing contractor quality while reducing your risks and costs. Consider Sci.bio as a reliable and cost-effective resource for finding and managing contractors for your organization. We can efficiently find and deliver high caliber consultants on a contractual basis for virtually any biopharma segment, letting you focus on your business and avoid the compliance and payroll headaches associated with hiring 1099s directly. We are domain life-science domain experts and we’re here to help. Want to learn more? Contact us today.

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Can ChatGPT Help with Recruiting?

Can ChatGPT Help with Recruiting?

Author:  Tess Joosse

In the last couple of months, you’ve probably heard about ChatGPT. Launched in November 2022 by an artificial intelligence company called OpenAI, ChatGPT is a chatbot that answers questions, responds to prompts, and gives suggestions. Its backbone is a natural language processing model that was trained using text from across the internet, and upon its release it quickly drew attention for its conversational skill, creative abilities, and the depth and detail of its responses.

AI isn’t a novelty to recruiters – many have been using AI recruiting software to source or screen candidates for years. But ChatGPT is a different beast, and you might be wondering if it could be used in recruiting. The answer, as with most AI-based tools, is yes – with caveats. As a chatbot, it can’t do everything on a recruiter’s to-do list (and as such, it isn’t equipped to replace recruiters outright). But if you know how to harness it, ChatGPT can help a recruiter brainstorm and generate ideas, fill in gaps in their knowledge, and generally speed up certain processes in recruiting. Read on for some ideas on how to use this chatbot to your advantage, and for some limitations you should keep in mind.

Use ChatGPT to create job descriptions

When creating eye-catching, informative job descriptions, ChatGPT can provide a starting point to build from. For example, I asked ChatGPT to “write a job description for a bioinformatics scientist at a proteomics company.” It gave me a description that was, overall, pretty nondescript and basic. But the description included some important and relevant qualifications like “Strong experience in proteomic data analysis, including the use of mass spectrometry data” and “Experience with bioinformatics software and databases, such as R, Python, and ProteomeXchange,” and it hit all the necessary points of a job description.

These results can provide a great framework for you to edit and add to depending on the specifics of the position at hand. But you don’t have to stop there. When I asked ChatGPT to “rewrite that job description requiring 5 years of postdoctoral experience and experience with Matlab,” it added those qualifications seamlessly into the description. When I asked ChatGPT to “rewrite that job description to be more exciting and compelling,” the chatbot threw in some adjectives like “dynamic” and “innovative” and verbs like “revolutionize” and “harness.”

Use ChatGPT to develop interview questions

Just as the chatbot can provide the framework of a job description to work from, it can do the same for interview questions. For the example position above, I asked ChatGPT to “create a list of interview questions for a bioinformatician at a proteomics company. Be sure to ask about leadership, problem solving, and past industry experience.” The response gave me ten questions. Some were way too vague and awkward, like “How do you approach problem solving and troubleshooting in bioinformatics?” But others seemed like they could provide fruitful insight into a candidate, like “Can you give an example of a time when you had to present complex bioinformatics data to non-experts and how you effectively communicated the findings?” and “Can you describe a project you have worked on in industry and how it differed from your academic experience?”

Use ChatGPT to create emails, social media posts, and other text communications

Other tasks that require writing text, like creating emails and social media posts, could benefit from ChatGPT. For the hypothetical “bioinformatics scientist at a proteomics company,” I asked ChatGPT to “write a compelling summary of that job description to post on LinkedIn.” It gave me a paragraph that started with “Are you a Proteomics Bioinformatics Expert looking to take your career to the next level? Join our cutting-edge team at XYZ Proteomics and be a key player in revolutionizing the field of mass spectrometry-based proteomics,” then gave some details about the requirements and responsibilities. The response was a little wooden – it definitely read like a fill-in-the-blank imitation of what a post like this “should” look like – but it hit all the important points and could be good to go with a little tweaking.

Use ChatGPT to learn about roles

As a recruiter working in the biotech industry, you might find yourself dealing with roles that are highly specific or require certain obscure skills. Recruiters in this situation might typically turn to Google to ask “what are bioconjugated nanoparticles?” or “what skills does a surface chemistry scientist need?” But since ChatGPT combs the internet to create its response, it can sometimes provide a more direct and specific answer than Google.

Drawbacks and takeaways

Models like ChatGPT are only as good as the information they run on and the patterns they are trained to recognize. For this reason, it’s important to closely pay attention to what content you’re using from ChatGPT to make sure no discriminatory language or inaccuracies sneak into your responses. I’ve seen some recruiters say that you should treat ChatGPT like a “spunky intern” whose work you check over closely. I think of it more as a springboard tool that can save you time, help you brainstorm ideas, and fill in some gaps in your knowledge. Though ChatGPT and other chatbots have their limitations (and can’t approximate everything the human mind can do), most experts agree that this technology is here to stay — and is only going to improve with time.


  1. https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt/
  2. Revolutionizing Recruiting: How Recruiting with ChatGPT Transforms Talent Acquisition
  3. How to Use ChatGPT in Recruitment: Why It Won’t Replace Recruiters
  4. What is ChatGPT? How Recruiters & HR Professionals Can Leverage It for Hiring
Stuck in a Sourcing Rut? Creative Ways to Find Job Candidates

Stuck in a Sourcing Rut? Creative Ways to Find Job Candidates

Where can you access top talent other than LinkedIn, a site where candidates are inundated with recruiter messages and your own email risks getting lost in their inbox? There are a few underexplored avenues to find biotech jobseekers, and with a bit of creativity you can expand your candidate pool.

Leverage Existing Connections

The most efficient way to find fresh job candidates is to ask your existing clients for referrals. Your clients will know who in their network is looking for new opportunities, or who is dissatisfied with their current job and could be persuaded to change companies.

Another source of talent is through auditing former candidates you worked with in the past: check in on those previously considered for roles to see if they’re looking for new opportunities. After all, just because they weren’t a suitable match for your previous vacancies, it doesn’t mean they won’t be a good fit for your current openings.

Broadening your recruitment sphere

After you’ve tapped your current network, you can broaden your reach through local opportunities. Get involved with regional biotech organizations: attend their networking or professional development events to meet other attendees who may be considering a career change. Reach out to conference presenters or hosts at these types of events – the people who participate in panels, conferences and high-profile volunteer roles are often looking to strengthen their resumes with an eye to new roles. Even if that’s not the case, conference presenters are usually well-connected and may be willing to refer candidates to you.

Make sure you’re not limiting your search to graduates of the local biggest universities, and recruit from historically black universities and colleges (HBCUs), small liberal arts colleges (SLACs) and local community colleges. At these smaller colleges you may find candidates with less conventional resumes, but who have acquired a valuable set of skills through different routes into the job market.

College faculty like having recruiters come to speak to their students about career paths, which allows you to connect with STEM graduates in-person before they start applying to entry level positions.

Other places to find hidden jobseekers

In addition to using LinkedIn, check expat forums and Facebook groups for professionals. Members of those groups may be receptive to new opportunities that are tailored to them, rather than being cold-called on LinkedIn about jobs that don’t match their skillsets.

The final way to expand your talent pool on LinkedIn is to note who is interacting with your job posts through likes, comments or shares. This kind of online engagement is often a sign of someone considering a career move or preparing to apply to new roles, even if they aren’t advertising the fact on their profiles. Reach out to those posters and offer to chat with them about their career goals.

As a recruiter you often go to the candidates, but it’s also possible to encourage candidates to come to you. Hold a recruitment agency Open House – make the event worthwhile for local job seekers to visit your recruitment agency, meet the recruiters, and learn about the companies you partner with.

Looking to hire diverse biotech talent? Get in touch with Sci.bio today to learn more about our sourcing and recruitment services.

Collaborative Recruiting: Everything You Need to Know

Collaborative Recruiting: Everything You Need to Know

Author:  Tara Smylie

Rallying a whole team to recruit just one employee? Craziness! At least, that’s how it once seemed. Nowadays, though, it’s very common – and increasingly seen as best practice. It’s been shown to improve hiring results, and can customize the recruitment process to a company’s department-specific needs.

Collaborative recruiting is a hot topic, and there’s no better time than now to learn what it’s all about.

What is collaborative recruiting?

Also called “team recruitment”, collaborative recruiting is the practice of representing multiple departments and roles on a company’s hiring team. Because it involves the input of many different voices, this recruiting model makes it easy for companies to choose a hire that aligns with their unique internal needs.

The process can be even more effective when a recruiter is involved. Working collaboratively, a recruiter can combine their own industry expertise with current employees’ insights about what their teams need the most from a new hire.

How it can help

If a single hiring manager is responsible for finding the perfect hire, they likely won’t be able to consider the subtle needs and dynamics of every department. Enter collaborative recruiting! Including current employees in the quest to find a new one naturally results in a much more holistic and tailor-made hiring process.

A good collaborative hiring process involves surveying employees about not only the skills but the personality traits and values that they’d like to see in a new hire. This will ensure that the hiring team can find someone who is a good match for a company’s existing culture. This aspect of recruiting should not be overlooked – cultural fit is increasingly well-recognized as being an important aspect of employee morale and productivity.

As a side note: leading companies like Netflix, Apple and Google have recently adopted the collaborative recruiting model. We can’t know for sure, but it seems to be working out pretty well for them so far!

How to collaboratively recruit

If you’re a recruiter or hiring manager in charge of filling an opening, ask an employee in a similar or identical position what qualities they feel are important for the role. Chances are, their answer will reflect their company’s unique goals, priorities and culture. Whatever their response, it will certainly be more useful as a recruiting tool than a generalized job skills database!

Generally, a recruiting team should consider which employees are going to be working most closely with the new hire, and set priorities accordingly. On the other hand, collaborative recruiting will ideally also involve employees who are both higher and lower within the hierarchy of a company than the position to be filled. This way, the recruiting team can focus on finding a hire who improves workflow and efficiency for the company as a whole.

The role of external recruiters

Both recruiters and in-house hiring teams stand to gain a lot from working collaboratively to fill a role. A recruiter might be very focused on the technical side of things, but can’t immediately know the full picture of how a business operates. Using the collaborative hiring model, a recruiter can combine their industry expertise and connections with an in-house hiring team’s specific knowledge of their own company.

As a recruiter, collaborative hiring doesn’t have to radically change how you operate. It just means that in addition to your usual methods, the process will involve a lot of discussion, communication, and prioritization of different employees’ needs. Chances are, it will help you learn everything you need to know to find the best fit possible for your client company.

The takeaway

Onboarding the right person to a company is no small task. As with most big projects, collaboration makes the process much easier – and sets the whole team up for success.

The collaborative model of recruiting can help a company find the best fit possible for a role, and luckily, it’s here to stay. If you’d like to learn more about how we recruit here at Sci.bio, leave us a message on our contact form here.


  1. 9 immediate benefits of collaborative hiring
  2. Guide for Collaborative Recruiting and Hiring
  3. Having Trouble Selecting a Recruiter? Start with these Questions
  4. Collaborative recruiting: what it is, how and why to do it
  5. How to Conduct a Cultural Fit Assessment
  6. Why Collaborative Recruiting and Hiring is the Future
  7. 9 Benefits of Collaborative Recruiting
Communication Strategies for Biotech Recruiters

Communication Strategies for Biotech Recruiters

Author:  Claire Jarvis

Few people enjoy job hunting, and most job candidates have a story or two about bad application or interview experiences. For this reason it’s important for recruiters to make a good impression on candidates, and ensure they have a positive experience being guided through the application process. These days, there are plenty of communication tools tailored to help you stay in touch with candidates without increasing your own workload.

Communication Strategies:  Automate What You Can

Calendly is a simple tool that allows candidates to schedule screening calls with you. It gives the candidate a feeling of control and easy ability to reschedule, while reducing the time you spend arranging (and rearranging) screening calls via email or over the phone.

Providing a chatbot (such as Mya or FlashRecruit) that addresses basic jobseeker questions is another way to reduce clutter in your inbox, by allowing the candidate to receive pertinent information about your opportunities and the application process at their own convenience.

Small and steady check-ins

It’s likely your job candidate is working with multiple recruiters and balancing a lot of job applications – all at different stages. For this reason, regular touchpoints with your candidate are vital. Don’t leave them waiting on promised updates, or wondering where their application is in the pipeline: if it’s with the hiring manager, if the hiring team is scheduling interviews yet. A candidate will prioritize applications where the timeline/anticipated next steps are clear, because it helps them plan the remainder of their job search and anticipate when offers might be made.

To help reduce your email inbox clutter, use personalized email templates sparingly. Job candidates don’t want to be on the receiving end of constant cookie-cutter responses, but email templates can be helpful when you have a range to draw from. Tools like Gorgias and Followup.cc allow you to manage customized email templates and keep on top of follow-up messages.

Keep innovating

New software is constantly being launched or upgraded, and communication trends change quickly. Be sure to check your workflow and organizational tools are still meeting your needs. How many hours a day are you actually fielding questions from candidates, for instance? Don’t be afraid to try new processes and experiment with the levels of workflow automation.

At Sci.Bio, we specialize in finding top biotech talent and adapting to meet your recruiting needs. Schedule an appointment with us today to learn more.