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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.

References
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.

 

Telephone Interviews: A Guide to Success

Telephone Interviews: A Guide to Success

Author: Cliff Mintz

Telephone interviews are an inexpensive and quick way for employers to screen prospective job candidates, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Generally speaking, employers use phone interviews to verify that a candidate’s personal information, qualifications and skill sets in his/her curriculum vitae is correct, accurate and consistent with what employers may have learned about an applicant online. Another use of phone interviews is to determine whether or not a job candidate has the requisite oral communications skills required to perform the job that he/she applied for.

To increase the possibility of a face-to-face, job candidates can do a variety of things to prepare for and optimize his/her performance during phone interviews.

These include:
  1. Use a landline. You don’t want to risk having problems with cell phone service. It is irritating for employers to conduct interviews if the call breaks up frequently or is dropped. If you don’t have a landline or access to one, make sure that the telephone interview is conducted in a location with as much cell phone service as possible.
  2. Keep your resume and job qualifications readily available. In fact, lay out all of your materials in front of you before the call. This includes your resume, notes about your career objective and skill sets/qualifications for the job and anything else you think may be helpful during the interview.
  3. Steer clear of distractions. Find a quiet place to interview and stay there! There shouldn’t be any noise in the background to distract you or the hiring manager. However, it is understandable that this can be tricky if you have young children at home who need your attention. When you set up your interview appointment, try to schedule it for as precise a time or window as possible. That way, you are able to avoid possible distractions.
  4. Speak slowly and clearly. When you speak to people in face-to-face situations, you are better able to understand what they are saying or asking because you can see their mouth move and observe their body language. Of course, neither you nor the interviewer will be able to do this over the phone. Therefore, it is important to speak clearly and more slowly than you would if you were talking face-to-face to him/her. If you cannot hear the interviewer, politely ask him/her to repeat a question. If this doesn’t work, blame the poor sound quality on your phone and say “I’m really sorry, it’s hard to hear you, and the volume on my phone just won’t go up!”
  5. Beware of jokes or sarcastic remarks. Jokes or sarcastic remarks that may be deemed harmless in face-to-face conversations can be misinterpreted during a phone interview because an interviewer cannot see your body language or facial expressions when a comment is made. Also, an employee who is sarcastic or prone to joke telling may not be considered professional to some hiring manager. Therefore it is a good idea during a phone interview to maintain your professionalism; stay on target with the interview topics and focus on the key information about you that will get you hired.
  6. No eating, drinking or chewing gum! While eating, drinking and chewing gum are typical things that people do, none of these activities should be performed during a phone interview. They can interfere with your ability to communicate and are considered to be unprofessional behaviors (unless of course you are working through a lunchtime meeting after you are hired).
  7. Turn off all electronic devices. The goal of a telephone interview is to tell a prospective employer that you are serious, focused and keenly interested in the job that you are interviewing for. There is nothing more annoying, disruptive or rude than hearing an email alert or vibrating phone during a conversation. If you want to get invited to a face-to-face interview, then turn off all electronic devices (tablets, laptops, televisions etc) before the telephone interview begins.
  8. Prepare questions ahead of time. At the end of many telephone interviews, hiring managers typically ask whether or not there are any questions. Therefore, it is a good idea to have some. Asking questions signals to the interviewer that you did your “homework” about the company/organization and are seriously interested in the job opportunity. Some examples of questions are: “What is the start date for the job?” “What software/equipment will I be using?”

Remember; do not ask about salary or benefits. These questions are best left for face-to-face interviews. However, if the interviewer asks about salary requirements then you should be prepared to provide an answer. Typically, it is a good idea to provide a salary range and if you are reluctant to offer that information it is acceptable to say “a salary commensurate with persons with my qualifications and years of experience.

Using these recommendations to prepare for an upcoming telephone interview will signal to prospective employers you are professional, serious and extremely interested in the job opportunity. And, hopefully, your performance will be sufficient to garner an invitation to participate in a face-to-face, onsite job interview.

 

Life Sciences Today

Life Sciences Today

An update on trends and career paths within the industry

Author:  Gabrielle Bauer

If you had to pick a single word to describe the life sciences industry, “change” would be a safe bet. A continuous stream of medical advances keeps the industry on its toes at all times. If you’ve cast your lot with the life sciences, you can expect an exciting, occasionally bumpy, and never boring ride.

Overview

Life sciences is an umbrella term used to describe all branches of science devoted to R&D in human, animal, and plant life. This broad designation makes room for companies specializing in pharmaceuticals, biomedicine, biophysics, neuroscience, cell biology, biotechnology, nutraceuticals, and cosmeceuticals, among others.

Individuals working in the industry may settle into careers as research scientists, lab technicians, clinical research associates, research assistants, medical science liaisons, industrial pharmacists, and bioinformaticians, to name just some possibilities. Stepping further from the core of the industry but still under its generous umbrella, some people may find their niche as medical writers, medical illustrators, health policy analysts.

Pandemic-proof industry

The Covid-19 pandemic may have stopped the world, but it didn’t stop the life sciences industry. On the contrary, the industry had a rare opportunity to surpass itself. To cope with the crisis, organizations that normally competed against each other partnered to accelerate research and distribution of vaccines. While the development of a new drug takes 8.2 years, on average, the novel COVID-19 vaccines made it to prime time in less than a year.

These efforts allowed the industry to stay strong and vibrant. In the early weeks of the pandemic, while many other markets were dropping like stones, biopharma companies quickly regained their transitory loss of valuation.1 In March 2020, multinational biotech giant Regeneron Pharmaceuticals saw its shares increase by 10% while the company worked on Covid-19 treatments. Just over a year later, the overall biotech market (measured by revenue) is ringing in at $135 billion, representing a 4% year-to-year increase.

The pandemic also upturned health providers’ working environments and styles, creating additional needs for digitally transferable imaging technologies and software platforms that facilitate remote care delivery. A lot of players got in on the action: in 2020, corporate funding for digital health reached a record $21.6 billion globally, up by 103% from the previous year.2 Pharma and biotech companies have a unique opportunity to capitalize on this momentum.

What comes next

If expert predictions are any indication, the industry won’t be slowing any time soon. The rising life expectancy and aging population in the US have increased the incidence of age-related illnesses and the demand for medical care.3 In addition to better and more cost-effective treatments, the industry has an opportunity to develop curative and preventive interventions.

Some of the growth will come from analytics, a newer branch of life sciences that uses sophisticated techniques to analyze data and devise strategies to meet population needs. Valued at $7.7 billion in 2020, the global life sciences analytics market size is expected to grow at a compound rate of 7.8% between 2021 and 2028.

Even after the pandemic subsides, health systems will continue investing in care models that allow for virtual visits and home testing technologies.2 And the proliferation of companies specializing in third-party services, such as contract research organizations and patient support program (PSP) providers, will make it easier than ever for smaller pharma and biotech companies to outsource key processes involved in a drug launch.

Top trends to watch for

● Personalized medicine: customization of treatment based on genetic/genomic information
● Immune focus: treatments that target specific immune pathways or give new life to a failing immune system will multiply
● Data integration: Smart technology will help integrate data from different sources (e.g. MRI scans, laboratory tests), helping doctors choose the right treatments
● Digitalized assessment: online assessment, diagnosis and treatment will become increasingly common and will help equalize access for patients
● Collaborative innovation: Biotech companies will increasingly join forces with other scientific organizations to push the R&D envelope
● Value-based pricing: Pricing will become increasingly tied to the real-world effectiveness of a drug or other health product

Life sciences underpin the human experience. As long as humans need healthcare, the life sciences industry will remain strong and withstand threats that collapse other sectors. You’ve come to the right place. Sci.bio will be pleased to help you go further.

References

 

Networking Tips and Tricks for Scientists

Networking Tips and Tricks for Scientists

As the number of COVID-19 cases drop and social distancing measurements relax, in-person networking events will start returning. For many scientists and science students, their understanding of ‘networking’ is at best a foreign concept with no applicability to their career path, and at worst they think there’s something almost underhanded about schmoozing your way into a job.

Unfortunately for those scientists, networking is critical to securing jobs inside and outside academia. For STEM students and postdocs who are uncertain about their future career path, networking can provide opportunities and insight that academic mentors are unavailable to provide. But the good news is networking doesn’t have to be awkward or embarrassing. In fact, it can be informative and fun.

Here are some tips and tricks that any scientist – or introverted person – can use to help network more effectively.

What is networking?

A common misconception about networking is that it’s all about trying to get a job. Networking is a conversation. It’s about forming a mutually-beneficial professional connection. When defined like that, you can see networking takes place all the time on a large and small scale. A 5 minute conversation with a visiting lecturer is networking, but a 5 minute conversation at a family BBQ can be networking, too! Presenting a poster at an international conference is definitely a networking situation. Research collaborators and colleagues within your department are network contacts, but any people you meet and interact with have the potential to be network contacts as well–you never know who other people know.

Networking rarely yields immediate results: it can take months (or years) for the benefits of networking efforts to show. Recruiters at the mixer you attend may not know of suitable job openings right then, but several weeks later when a job opportunity arises they may – if you networked successfully – remember your name.

Because of this, it’s helpful to begin networking 6-12 months before you finish your PhD or postdoc, the earlier the better. It takes time to build connections and become comfortable networking with others.

Getting the most out of networking events

While a lot of networking can happen organically, dedicated networking events are a great opportunity to meet new people you wouldn’t otherwise encounter within an academic research setting. These events might take place in conjunction with symposia and conferences, or be organized by professional societies.

Before arriving at a networking event, think about your career goals and how other attendees could help you. Are you actively looking for a job? Or still trying to figure out what you want to do? Distill your objectives into a couple of sentences and get comfortable explaining them.

“During my first networking event at a career fair, I was nervous and not quite sure what to expect or talk about. After a few interactions I realized that all I had to do was introduce myself, have a candid conversation, exchange contacts, and then I had a networking connection.” Carter Lewis, Sci.bio Recruiting Associate

Despite the fact you need a game plan, it helps to go into networking events with an open mind. Everyone in the room has the potential to help you meet your career goals, or introduce you to new opportunities you hadn’t considered. Show the same level of interest and courtesy to everyone you meet, and find out what you can about their job. What do they enjoy about their work? How did they get into the field? What advice would they give to someone looking to break into the field? While you may not be interested in biotech consultancy, perhaps a labmate is considering such roles and would benefit from any insights you can relay.

As scientists, we tend to be very detail-orientated and thorough when talking about our work. In networking situations, people may not be familiar with your field and could be pressed for time, meaning you must be concise. Develop a ‘high-level’ elevator pitch that describes your work quickly in broad strokes. If the other person wants to learn more, they’ll ask follow-up questions.

When talking to someone new, avoid monopolizing the conversation. Pause and ask questions. It doesn’t sound like much, but simply seeming interested in other people is one of the best ways to leave a good impression. Don’t forget to think about what YOU may be able to offer THEM; networking and building connections goes both ways.

The great thing about networking events is that everybody who attends wants to have a conversation with you! Even if you’re naturally more reserved, there are many people in the room, such as recruiters, who enjoy meeting new people and are experienced at navigating these kinds of social interactions.

Business card and follow-up

“Thanks, it’s been great talking to you – here’s my contact information.” You don’t have to devote a lot of time to any one person at the networking event. If it seems like you don’t have much to say to each other, it’s fine to politely bow out of the conversation and look for someone else to talk to. Be sure to collect the other person’s contact information and share yours. Business cards are the traditional hallmark of networking, but some people generate QR codes that link to their LinkedIn profile or online CV. At virtual events all you need to do is drop your contact info in the chat. Most people who attend networking events are open to connecting electronically afterwards. You can also send a short email the next day thanking them again for their time and re-emphasizing how much you enjoyed talking to them.

“Even if [recruiters or my new connections] didn’t have an immediate job opportunity for me, I still had someone that I could reach out to in the future.” Carter Lewis, Sci.bio Recruiting Associate

As mentioned above, networking doesn’t immediately bear fruit. You want to cultivate your network over several months; interacting with new connections on LinkedIn (e.g. commenting on their posts) and keeping your name fresh in their minds without becoming a nuisance or spamming them. Maybe this new contact knows one of their contacts has a job vacancy, or perhaps they can help you with something unrelated to your job search? Either way, you won’t know until you’ve made the connection!

Networking can appear daunting, but recruiters at Sci.bio are happy to help you expand your circle of contacts and take your career to the next level. Get in touch with us today.