What does post-pandemic talent recruiting look like? The recent years of the coronavirus pandemic have highlighted how fragile our supply chain infrastructure can be, with delayed shipments, worker shortages and resource scarcity. These logistical problems also apply to the recruitment, with many biotechs noting a shortage of talent and difficulty bringing in qualified candidates in time to meet demand.
To adjust to this new normal, biotech companies and recruiters must adapt their own post-pandemic talent pipelines and consider new recruitment models.
Building resilience into your biotech talent pipeline There are several factors that, once addressed, reduce the likelihood of your recruitment drive falling short.
Diversified sourcing of recruiters and talent pool. This is a lesson any supply chain expert will repeat, because it ensures companies are never reliant on one acquisition source for their hires.
Scalable recruitment support. To maximize efficiency, biotech companies should seek agile recruiting agencies that can adjust to changes in client workforce demands.
Lean recruitment models. There are several more cost-effective yet responsive ways to bring in talent, discussed below.
Post-COVID-19 lean recruitment models
There are different lean recruitment models companies can take advantage of, depending on their tolerance for risk and desire for efficiency.
The ‘just in case’ model has more buffers than other lean recruitment models, and involves taking the steps to build resiliency described above. While this approach is less efficient, it guarantees the supply of workers.
The ‘just in time’ model is equivalent to hiring a freelancer or independent contractor to meet demand. The talent is only trained for responsibilities they need to perform, as opposed to more comprehensive traditional onboarding, which leads to quicker onboarding and more efficient use of training time. Part time work, full-time availability. Lower risk to client
Just in time differs from ‘ASAP’ recruitment, which addresses urgent gaps in the workforce, and is more reactive than proactive.
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.
To the untrained eye, ‘sourcing’ and ‘recruiting’ candidates sound like synonyms. To biotech companies, however, knowing the difference between the two – and using both as part of an overarching strategy – will make the difference between a successful and failed job search.
What is sourcing?
The definitions of sourcing and recruitment can vary, but in general terms sourcing is the precursor to recruitment. A sourcer draws up a longlist of candidates that match the advertised position. The sourcer finds these candidates through LinkedIn or other online listings – these aren’t candidates that submitted a job application or already contacted the sourcer about the role. The sourcer then reaches out to longlisted candidates to gauge interest.
What is recruiting?
After a selection of potential candidates has been sourced, the recruiter takes care of everything up to the final hire. They schedule interviews, conduct preliminary screening calls and interface with the client’s hiring manager. The recruiter also handles ‘active’ job candidates, i.e. those who submit resumes in response to posted job advertisements.
Why is sourcing so important?
In the world of biotech hiring, sourcing does not always exist as a separate role from recruiting, and recruiters often play the role of sourcer as part of their everyday responsibilities. However, many bio companies are making the prudent decision to invest in dedicated sourcing solutions to complement their existing recruitment programs. There are several benefits of this strategy:
Improved efficiency. It makes sense to split the roles and give recruiters more time to liaise with candidates and hiring managers, while sourcers can focus on searching for potential candidates without distractions. “It allows recruiters to focus more on the candidate experience and the client relationships,” explains Stacy Saltzer, Senior Recruiting Partner and Director of Sourcing at Sci.bio.
This leads to a higher caliber of sourced candidates. The sourcer is able to perform a deep dive and uncover talented passive candidates who may not be properly selling themselves on social media or actively in search of new opportunities. By looking carefully, the sourcer can also build a more diverse and equitable pool of candidates for the client.
Shifts from active to passive candidate pool. There are several drawbacks of recruiting candidates via job listings or social media posts. While the candidates who apply are – without a doubt – looking for work and willing to change jobs, they are also applying to multiple jobs per day. They may not be a good fit for the role: the candidate, not the client or recruiter, is overseeing the initial selection process. With sourcing, you locate ideal candidates who meet all the key job criteria. While there’s a risk identified candidates aren’t interested in new opportunities, those that are amenable to changing jobs won’t be courting multiple companies.
What is the future of sourcing?
At Sci.bio, sourcing is an important tool that helps support our recruiters and augments clients’ recruitment strategies. “We’ve incorporated tools for automation and database integration along with some AI elements,” says Eric Celidonio, Founder of Sci.bio. Through sourcing, the company is bringing additional value and scalability to the candidate search process.
Whether you are an established multinational biotech company, or just starting up, sourcing has a role to play in your talent acquisition pipeline. Reach out to Sci.bio to learn about our tailored sourcing and recruiting solutions today.