To deliver the results you expect, your recruiter needs your support
Working with a recruiter differs significantly from doing business with, say, a laboratory equipment supplier. You’re not just trading a product for some cash, but joining forces to produce a result. Think of a recruiter as a partner—and all good partnerships operate along two-way streets. Consider these tips to help you get the most from the alliance.
Spell out your requirements: It’s not enough to tell the recruiter you’re looking for a good communicator with experience in precision oncology and industry contacts. Specify the must-have and nice-to-have criteria1 – and spell out your reasoning. For example: “Diversity is always a consideration, but never at the expense of finding the best person for a job.” Or conversely: “We’ve been called out for our lack of diversity, so we’ve made diversity our top hiring priority for the next year.” Discuss deal-breakers (such as unwillingness to work extra hours) as well.
Pass along the intel: Keep your recruiter abreast of R&D news in your organization. Has your flagship drug entered phase 2 trials? Is one of your assays being tested in a medical laboratory chain? Such updates can alert your recruiter to consider a candidate they may have otherwise overlooked—perhaps the assay developer with two patents to her name. Same goes for new business developments:2 if the company is gearing up to reorganize, having the information can help the recruiter adapt their search to the new company structure.
Share insights from top performers: Help your recruiter understand what a top performer looks like in your organization. Start by getting the info from the horse’s mouth: the superstars themselves. Ask them questions to uncover common themes:3 What skills have enabled you to be successful? What training was most useful to you? What motivates you in new roles? How do you keep things fresh after a long time on the job? Catalogue these insights and share them with the recruiter, who can look for similar qualities in the search for your new superstar.
Transmit the passion: Tell your recruiter what gets you excited about the company. Passion is contagious, and communicating what gets you jazzed up—whether it’s the travel opportunities, mentorship programs, or partnerships with patient advocacy groups—will help the recruiter find candidates who bring a similar energy and vision to the table.
Keep talking: A two-way street doesn’t serve much purpose if nobody uses it. If you pass on a candidate, tell your recruiter exactly why. For example, “They ticked all the boxes but seemed to lack energy and passion” tells your recruiter that you’re looking for more than a collection of skills. And don’t leave such exchanges to chance: a scheduled feedback process will keep you and the recruiter on the same page.
Supporting your recruiter helps them conduct a targeted and productive search. It goes both ways, of course: your recruiter also has a responsibility to ask clarifying questions and to provide feedback. At Sci.bio, we understand that successful recruitment depends on such two-way communication. It’s the magic that makes successful recruiting happen. We also live and breathe science, and it’s not by accident that most of our recruiters have degrees in the life sciences. We invite you to find out more.
1. McLaren S. How to keep your best recruiters from leaving. LinkedIn Business. January 15, 2020.
2. Beuns-Morgan M. Five ways recruiters and HRPBs can be better partners to each other. LinkedIn Pulse. November 19, 2010.
3. Hiring managers: how to build a strategic partnership with your recruiter. Social Hire.
If you need specialized service, it makes sense to use specialized expertise
Garbage in, garbage out. We’ve all heard this motto and we’ve all lived it. Perhaps we slapped together a grant application at the last minute and ended up with a form rejection. Or maybe we bought a vehicle without doing due diligence and got stuck with a lemon. Life is a game of effort, and low effort yields predictably low results.
It’s no different with hiring. If you don’t put in the work, you’ll end up with middling talent. And that’s not good enough, especially in a highly specialized and competitive field such as pharma and biotech. The stakes are high: whether you’re looking a scientist who can test a game-changing drug or a liaison who can forge relationships with rock-star clinicians, your company’s entire future may depend on hiring the right person. And that takes time, techniques, and tools.
That’s where a specialized recruiter comes in.
But does your company really need one? Here are some questions to consider.
How specialized is the skillset you need? If you need an entry-level lab technician to bridge a parental leave, you may be able to manage the search on your own. But if you seek expertise in aseptic processing or international regulatory requirements, a recruiter can ensure your treasure hunt doesn’t turn into a wild goose chase.
Recruiters can likewise help you zero in on “cross-functional” candidates—people who combine disparate skill sets such as assaying experience and a flair for the podium. If, like so many other life sciences companies, you operate with a thinned-out workforce, you’ll probably need many of your science hires to wear more than one hat.1
How much real-world experience do you require? If you’re looking for a data scientist to complete a team, a recent graduate may meet your requirements. A recruiter matters most when previous experience tops your must-have list—for example, if you need to hire someone who has worked with top physicians.
How competitive is the playing field? The best candidates tend to work with recruiters. According to recruitment consultant Beverly Savage, “Top candidates are reluctant to apply directly to a company’s job posting [and] prefer to use recruiters to represent them in order to protect confidentiality.”2 If you’re vying for a limited number of candidates in a competitive arena, it makes sense to tap into a recruiter’s database and network.
Are you pressed for time? A biotech recruiter can help you shorten the recruiting process without sacrificing quality.3 The less time you waste on reviewing CVs and interviewing almost-but-not-quite candidates, the more your workforce can use its core skills to support the company’s mission.
Questions to ask a life sciences recruiter
● What is your experience across the life cycle of a medical product?
● What is your placement rate and the attrition rate of the people you place?
● Do you have access to international candidates?
● How do you customize your approach?
● What happens if you recommend a candidate who doesn’t work out?
Not to be discounted: peace of mind
When you work with a specialized biotech recruiter, you can relax in the knowledge that you’re in expert hands. They speak your language. If you ask them to find you a “medical science liaison in precision oncology,” they’ll know to look for that elusive mix of tumor-profiling experience and people skills. Finally, reputable recruiters offer a guarantee period to protect you against the unlikely event that a candidate leaves prematurely.2
At Sci.bio, we pride ourselves on our experience, expertise and integrity. We know we can deliver what we promise—including peace of mind. Feel free to ask us all the questions you want, including the hard ones.
1. Leask H. Recruitment problems for pharma? There’s no pill for that. Xtalks. Dec. 2, 2019.
2. Savage BH. The benefits of using a recruiter. LinkedIn. June 9, 2020.
3. Wilson K. Why your biotech company needs a specialized recruiter. Insight Recruitment. Jan. 29, 2020.
AI can assist in the search for science talent, but doesn’t substitute for human judgment
Hiring in biotech is not for the faint of heart. You’re looking for a set of highly specialized skills—but so are your competitors. You may get a mountain of applications, but only a fraction of them will match your needs. With so much at stake, pharma and biotech companies are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to help streamline the interview process and find the diamonds in the pile. In the destabilized job market resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, companies offering this technology are reporting a surge in demand.1
A branch of computer science, AI involves programming computers to perform tasks that mimic the human mind, such as problem solving and decision making.2 AI has the ability to process much larger volumes of data than a human could handle, uncover meaningful patterns, and translate them into actionable information.
A tool in the shed
The use of AI in recruitment ranges from algorithms that scan resumes for key words to sophisticated video software that serves as a high-tech bouncer, screening candidates at the front door. During video interviews, AI technology can analyze a candidate’s facial expressions, vocal intonation, and choice of words to help assess job fit.3 The candidate may have no idea that, in effect, a robot is assessing her suitability for a position.
One Australian AI company offers a chatbot that poses open-ended questions to candidates and analyzes their responses to assess personality traits like drive, initiative, and resilience.4 The company is even developing a machine-learning model to predict the likelihood of changing jobs frequently—a propensity that employers naturally seek to avoid in their candidates.4
In theory, AI can also reduce hiring biases that a human interviewer would almost always bring to the table, even if subconsciously. For example, you can configure AI to ignore age, race, gender, and other variables when assessing candidate profiles. AI can also increase candidate engagement through automated chats, assessment questionnaires, and next steps.5
Not a panacea
As it turns out, AI’s alleged objectivity doesn’t always play out in the real world. AI relies on patterns—and these patterns can cause AI to fall prey to bias, just like humans. As explained by Prasanna Tambe, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, “AI systems learn to make predictions based on data, and so predictions are generally more accurate for groups which have more data available.”3 If data on certain groups are scarce, the system won’t have the evidence to put forward candidates from these groups, creating a catch-22 of “no data, no deal.”
Equity concerns aside, some employment experts fear that AI could drive down wages. For example, some AI-based personality tests weed out candidates inclined to press for higher wages or support unionization.4 It also bears noting that candidates prepared to job hop—a red flag for many AI programs—may have more to offer: they know their own worth and have confidence that a competitor will recognize it. An AI algorithm that filters out such candidates may cause employers to lose out on the most creative and dynamic employees, in a case of “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”
As shown in the graph below, all but 11% of respondents to a 2019 HR Research Institute survey had reservations about using AI for talent acquisition.6 Of note, 30% lacked confidence in the ROI of the technology, maintaining that it delivers too little value for the cost.6
What are the potential drawbacks of using AI for talent acquisition?
Bottom line: while AI can supplement human intuition and judgment, it cannot fully replace these qualities. When you work with an experienced biotech recruiter, you benefit from a wealth of human intuition, experience and expertise—and you can still use AI if it serves your purposes. Reach out to Sci.bio to learn how we can steer you toward the right talent at the right time.
1. Wall S, Schellmann H. MIT Technology Review, July 7, 2021.
2. IBM Cloud Education. June 3, 2020.
3. Bishop K. The Observer, March 1, 2021.
4. Hao K. MIT Technology Review, July 24, 2020.
5. Dawson J. Ideal, July 3, 2020.
6. The 2019 state of AI in talent acquisition. HR.com, 2019.
Developing and promoting your personal brand isn’t only an activity for job seekers. It’s an important tool to distinguish yourself after finding employment: even if you’re happy in your current role, a strong personal brand will help make your job more fulfilling.
As a biotech recruiter, clients and job seekers want to work with someone who understands the biotech job market landscape. Biotech job candidates trust recruiters who are familiar with and appreciate their existing technical skills; biotech clients don’t want to explain what they see as the fundamentals of any technical role to a new recruiter, or have the recruiter bring them ill-suited job candidates. Therefore, a recruiter with a strong personal brand will find it easy to attract the right clients and job seekers, and convince both parties of their ability to close the deal between job candidate and company.
When you start out as a recruiter, you won’t necessarily have a strong or compelling personal brand. It takes several months to figure your personal brand out, and longer to strengthen and promote it to the point where it pays dividends.
Here are some questions for recruiters to think about as they develop their personal brand:
What kind of positions do you most enjoy recruiting for?
What kind of candidates are you most successful in finding and connecting with?
What kind of roles have you accumulated the most experience on?
What kind of projects and subject matters fit best with your education and previous work experience to date?
Ideally, all your answers will overlap – and that’s your recruiter’s personal brand! Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers yet, or if your experience, successes and enjoyment don’t seem to have a common theme. Come back to these questions later, or ask your mentor for guidance.
Once you have the initial outline of your personal brand, hone it into 1–2 sentences that will become your elevator pitch at networking events. For example: “I’m an executive recruiter who specializes in placing mid-level leadership candidates into agile biotech companies.”
Now you have a personal brand, your LinkedIn and other social media posts should tie into your brand. For instance, if you specialize in recruiting Medical Science Liaisons to large pharma, you should state in your posts and bio that you help connect MSLs with jobs, and share the latest news from big pharma companies. This helps establish credibility in your niche, and attracts potential clients.
If you’re worried that a focused personal brand will scare away too many potential clients and job candidates, remember that you’re going to enjoy a higher success rate with the opportunities that do seek you out because they appreciate the specific value that you offer. The people that connect with you already know how you can help them, and if they approach you, it’s because they already see themselves as a good fit for your services.
Are you a scientist looking to get away from the bench? Have you considered becoming a biotech recruiter? We are always looking for great talent! Sci.bio would love to meet you.
Authors: Jennifer Payne & Eric Celidonio
If you’ve worked in human resources for any amount of time, it’s likely you’ve heard the term “gig economy.” With the growing popularity of companies such as Uber and Lyft whose business model centers on using independent contractors rather than full-time employees, this concept of using “gig workers” has not only piqued the interest of business and HR executives across industries but has even gained traction as a viable staffing strategy in many.
Here in the biotech industry, we’re certainly no strangers to the independent contractor or 1099 employee; not only have we been using them, we often do so at a larger percentage of the company workforce compared to other industries. According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May of 2017 6.9% of the total working population, or 10.9 million people were considered independent contractors. In comparison, according to a 2018 Life Sciences Trend Report, the use of contractors in biotech and life sciences ranges from 8% to 27% of a company’s workforce, depending on company size, with the smallest and largest ones tending to use them more.
There are advantages to using independent contractors, and certain benefits for those who choose to become them as well. For companies, they can help to meet the needs of very specific scenarios, in particular when a specialized type of expertise is needed, as is often the case in biotech and life sciences. By tapping into a pool of on-demand talent, they can gain access to knowledge and skills that may be required for a defined period of time that they may not otherwise be able to utilize, or may not be able to commit to beyond the scope of the immediate need. And access to that on-demand talent could be pivotal to success, especially for companies in startup or growth phases. Eric Celidonio, Founder and Managing Partner of Sci.Bio notes, “For many biotech companies in the start-up phase, consultants offer access to a specialized area of expertise without requiring a long-term commitment that newer companies may be unable to make. As companies grow quickly, their needs and priorities change, and 1099 relationships can provide much-needed experience and guidance at pivotal moments in a company’s growth.” So essentially, they get the talent they need, when they need it, without an expectation of permanence.
For those who choose to become independent contractors, they are often afforded more flexibility around what kind of work they do, how to best utilize their knowledge and strengths, and how and when to complete their work. They may also have the opportunity to gain varied experience from multiple projects and employers quickly, building a portfolio of experiences faster than working for one employer longer term. The perception of more control by working for yourself, the variety of the work, and even the possibility of higher pay can make a career as an independent contractor seem very attractive.
So with benefits on both sides of the equation, it seems like a natural choice, right? Why not staff large percentages of your workforce with contractors so you can easily flex as projects, priorities, and even economic conditions change? That’s where things become a little more complicated. Along with the advantages come scrutiny and risks, and a careful evaluation of your company’s particular circumstances is necessary to make an informed decision.
The Right Choice?
In situations when budget, easier access to otherwise unavailable or difficult to find talent, and flexibility are all key considerations, the independent contractor may be the way to go.
Because they are not generally eligible for overtime pay, health or retirement benefits, or other perks offered to traditional employees (i.e. bonuses, PTO, commuter benefits), independent contractors can be a cost-effective way to meet staffing needs. Particularly in highly competitive markets like the ones in which many biotech companies compete, or for start-ups who may not yet have the resources to compete with larger and well-established companies, eliminating the cost of those elements may allow a company to offer a higher base pay than they might otherwise be able to afford and therefore attract talent that might otherwise overlook the opportunity.
Flexibility and Agile Access to Talent
Assuming a percentage of the workforce is open to, and maybe even prefer being in an independent/self-employed arrangement, the available talent pool widens beyond what may be available with strictly traditional workers. When it comes to project-based work or pivotal growth phases where a very specialized skill-set may be needed for a finite period of time, independent contractors can be quicker and easier to both onboard and offboard as priorities change, shift and evolve. And should a company find themselves in a period of economic hardship (as many did over the past year), the absence of long-term commitment that comes with the independent contractor allows companies the ability to more easily flex their workforce to address changing economic conditions.
But What About the Risks?
However, the benefits of using independent contractors don’t come without some risks which can be grouped into a couple of different categories.
Legal Risks – Does the Work Even Qualify?
Although it may be a tempting option, legally independent contractors can’t automatically be used for any and all situations; there are requirements that must be met to classify a worker as one. Some states like California already have tests in place to determine whether or not workers qualify for W2 employment, and the US Department of Labor has also laid out specific parameters to test whether or not an arrangement legally fits the definition of independent contractor. In fact, the DOL recently updated “economic reality” guidance on the definition of independent contractors, and although the future of this guidance is uncertain with the new administration, that it’s even been recently evaluated further demonstrates how the top of mind the subject is for many.
Broadly speaking, these requirements essentially come down to is who controls the work and how much autonomy exits, and what consistency and permanence of the work exists. If the employee can mostly dictate what they do, where they do it, and how they accomplish it, they likely qualify. If conditions of work are largely dictated by the employer – what needs to be done, where it can be done and when – it may be a slippery slope that puts the employee closer to a traditional contingent or temporary employee rather than an independent contractor. There are other parameters as well related to the skills required for the work and how dependent the employee is on the employer for work, but control over the work is a large part of the determination. With that, it’s also important to keep in mind that the autonomy required often strips away a company’s ability to shift work between team members if needed, perhaps offsetting some of the flexibility contractors offer in other aspects of the work.
Morale Risks – A Recipe for Disengagement?
Legal risks are often the first to come to mind regarding independent contractors, but just as important are the impacts of morale. Consider the potential effects of having employees working side by side; one group enjoying the benefits of permanent employment while the others don’t. And further, imagine the impact if those independent workers don’t really want to be independent.
Although the freedom of being independent could be attractive, and anecdotally it’s said that more and more workers – Millennials in particular – embrace the idea, research seems to show otherwise. In a recent PwC study it’s noted that although 53% of those surveyed said that expected to be a gig worker at some point, 39% of those don’t necessarily desire it. Furthermore, anywhere from 49% to 65% of workers surveyed (depending on age) noted that job security is “very important” to them. Since often there’s no guarantee of ongoing employment in a 1099 arrangement, that very important aspect is one of the first benefits given up.
Also coming into play is the difference between an “independent contractor” and “contingent worker.” For the truly independent, self-employed contractor, the control, flexibility, and ability to work for multiple companies and gain experience quickly may outweigh the benefits of permanent employment. However, if the independent contractor is functioning more like a contingent or temporary worker, working much like W2 employees (same schedules, same work requirements, aren’t allowed to take on work with other companies at the same time), then besides potentially being legally at risk, there are now two groups of people who do similar work being treated in many different ways. Both have similar work expectations while one group is afforded benefits and perks and the other is denied. What impact might that have on company culture? How might it erode commitment and engagement in the workforce? Could it put you at risk of losing valuable skills and knowledge if a better offer comes along? Because just as 1099 arrangements allow for quick pivots from a company staffing perspective, they also allow for quick pivots from an employee perspective too. If an employee feels “temporary,” will they not hesitate to leave and take their knowledge and skills with them?
To 1099 or To Not 1099, That Is the Question
When it comes to determining whether or not a 1099 arrangement is the right decision, it’s important to evaluate it from all sides. It could be a quick, easy, and cost-effective way to get the in-demand skills needed, but consider the longer-term needs. Are the legal requirements for classification as an independent contractor being met? Is there truly a need for a highly specialized skill set on a short term basis, or might the work and need for the skills continue on beyond the scope of the current project? Is the short-term payoff of lower costs worth the potential flight risk? And could compensation challenges potentially be offset by providing more stability, ensuring the talent and skills needed continue to be available? These are all important questions to consider when making this critical, strategic staffing decision.