Author: Claire Jarvis
Are you a recent graduate entering the STEM job market for the first time? Or are you a mid-career professional considering a transition into biotech? The ‘life sciences industry’ is an area of rewarding career opportunities, offering many different avenues for career progression.
What is the Life Sciences Industry?
When most people think of the life sciences industry the first thing that comes to mind are the large pharmaceutical companies. These companies specialize in discovering and developing small molecule drugs.
The second most recognizable type of company within life sciences are the biotech companies. These companies focus on developing large molecule drugs partially derived from living organisms. While life science professionals often talk about pharma and biotech companies as distinct entities, there is often overlap between the two: many large pharmaceutical companies own a mixture of biotech and small molecule therapies.
In addition, there are research companies that focus on the development of medical devices – devices for consumers and healthcare professionals to address unmet medical needs (e.g. insulin pumps, baby incubators).
The last major chunk of life science companies are contract research organizations (CROs) and contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs). These companies act as vendors to large companies looking to outsource parts of their drug development and manufacturing to save on in-house resources, or respond to surges in demand. Since pharma and biotech companies are frequently looking to save and remain flexible, there is always a demand for CRO/CMO support.
Top Pharma Companies in 2022
In terms of annual revenue, size and profit, some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in 2022 include:
- Johnson & Johnson
Thanks to successful new drug launches, these companies grew over the past few years, and are predicted to continue their expansion in the foreseeable future.
For many large pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in particular, the COVID-19 pandemic led to further profit because these companies were able to invest in resources to develop new COVID-19 vaccines and scale to meet demand. A strength of large pharmaceutical companies is that they already have the financial backing in place to pivot their research program towards immediate healthcare demands, while small biotechs rely on success in a single therapeutic area. Although several medium-sized specialist biotech companies were also buoyed by the success of their COVID-19 vaccines, including Moderna with its RNA vaccine.
Many biotech startups are concentrated around the Boston and San Francisco areas, though startups can be found across the country.
Currently, a profitable area for startups are rare diseases. Larger pharma companies are less likely to shoulder the risk of developing a rare disease treatment, but the biotechs often end up in partnership with or sold to a larger pharma company once their treatment reaches important clinical milestones.
A lot of medical device companies are innovating with smart technology and artificial intelligence/machine learning.
Deciding on Your Next Career Step
While the choices available in the life sciences industry might seem overwhelming, considering several key aspects will help you narrow down your job search options. For instance, large pharmaceutical companies might offer more security, but more rigid job roles. While new hires at a start-up will need to be flexible and willing to assume more risk. However when they succeed there are greater equity opportunities available for employees at small companies.
The salary at a CRO might be less competitive than at a large pharmaceutical company, but the CRO is likely to offer more variety and a faster pace of work, as well as a less conservative company culture than at Big Pharma. Whatever your career priorities and goals, there will be a perfect position in the life sciences industry for you!
Looking for your next biotech job? Sci.bio is the biotech recruitment agency, whatever your career goals. Get in touch to learn how we can help.
Author: Claire Jarvis
Why we’re in a summer slowdown
Every year recruitment slows during the summer months, as employees go on annual leave, and travel to conferences. However, 2022 promises greater difficulties filling roles within the biotech sector.
For one, the American economy faces job growth slowing, rising inflation and the return to “normal” as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down. Many of these factors are a continuation of pre-pandemic trends. Increased inflation is leading to a demand for higher wages to compensate for rising consumer prices, and many startups are unable to compete.
After a period of sustained job growth in the biotech and pharma sector, the rate of layoffs at these companies is increasing, with some companies making drastic cuts to their workforce. Many of these cuts are due to disappointing clinical trial results or FDA decisions, though the pandemic also created additional hurdles for clinical trials.
How to reverse hiring slowdown
Despite the uncertain outlook, even smaller biotechs can work against the greater economic forces by implementing small changes to increase their rate of hiring.
With fewer candidates available per position, recruiters and hiring managers should lean into referrals during the slow summer months from current employers and recruiter’s connections. Former job candidates who performed well in late-stage interviews are another group to consider reaching out to again with new opportunities. These personal connections and words of recommendation are likely to carry greater weight and increase the likelihood of a successful hire.
The summer is also when new STEM graduates enter the workforce for the first time, giving hiring managers the opportunity to focus on filling entry level positions.
Companies can also use the summer lull to experiment with new hiring strategies and revamp their professional social media accounts and recruitment webpages. This is also the time to improve the candidate’s recruitment process experience, since the process itself plays an important role in the jobseeker’s decision to work for a particular company.
Need to fill technical roles at your startup? For many years Sci.bio has matched the best biotech candidates to the job. Contact us to learn how we can help you.
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.
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.”
The COVID conundrum
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t exactly made things easier. Throughout the world, the pandemic has pressed pause on young scientists and science students’ formative activities. An article by CBI, a business association representing 190,000 firms in the UK, reports that, while the volume and calibre of junior applicants was higher than ever in fall 2021, applicants may have “COVID-19 skills gaps” that may escape recruiters’ notice. Issues that may impact the “pandemic generation may include:
- No formal exams: With widespread cancellation of exams over the course of the pandemic, candidates have not had to perform under the usual pressures.
- Gap in transferable skills: After sheltering at home for so long and missing extra-curricular activities such as team sports or theatre, many young adults have not had the usual opportunities to build up such transferable skills as cooperation and leadership—and the confidence that goes with these skills.
- Lack of interview preparation: With career fairs and mock interviews much harder to organize during the pandemic, new graduates may lack awareness of how to behave during interviews.
As an employer, you may have trouble differentiating these pandemic-related gaps, which a candidate can presumably surmount over time, from more fundamental weaknesses. Can you trust that the A+ in organic chemistry signals true competence? Does a candidate’s awkward interview style reflect a pandemic-related skills gap or an inherently poor communication style? While there are no easy answers, questioning a candidate about how the pandemic has affected them may offer useful insights.
Bringing junior talent on board
In this scarcity environment, attracting and retaining the best young scientific minds—or reliable back-benchers—calls for some strategy. Employers must understand that the perks that mean the most to older generations, such as salary and stability, mean a lot less to millennials, who fully expect to switch jobs several times during their careers—and even welcome it.
In a series of three surveys, which garnered a total of 236 responses, researchers sought to gain insight into the values espoused by young scientists and engineers. Dominant themes in the responses included the ability to work on innovative research and freedom to set research direction.
- Start ups too focused on technology and not enough on cultural underpinnings
- Huge delta in pay, i.e. overpaid senior leaders and underpaid new associates
- Harder to find building blocks but easier to place them in the base of the pyramid. At the top is where it is easier to find but harder to place candidates in position.
Base of the pyramid
While your senior hires may accomplish great things, they depend on a team of juniors—the base of the pyramid—to get the job done. Today’s environment has made it especially difficult to source out the right building blocks for that base. There’s no lack of bricks: it’s finding the solid ones that poses a challenge.
At Sci.bio, we understand that life sciences superstars cannot accomplish great things without solid shoulders to stand on. We put the same effort—and science—into recruiting at the entry and senior levels. Talk to us to find out how we do it.
1. Why the US has a STEM shortage and how we fix it. Recruiting Daily. Nov. 6, 2018.
2. John G. The unique challenges of recruiting for entry level positions in 2021 and beyond. The CBI. May 17, 2021.
3. Northern TR et al. Attracting and retaining top scientists and engineers at U.S. national laboratories and universities: Listening to the next generation. Electrochemical Society Interface 2019;28.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!”
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.