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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s the million-dollar question among job applicants everywhere…. “I have good qualifications and work history. I think I meet the minimum requirements… Why haven’t I gotten a response to my application?” Or worse, “Why haven’t I heard back after my interview?”
The silent treatment after an application or interview isn’t all that uncommon. Some sources cite that up to 75% of applicants never hear back from employers after applying; even if it’s actually less than that, it seems there’s still a lot of applicants getting no response. So why exactly does this happen? And is there a way to prevent it?
The Application Black Hole
As it turns out, there may not be an easy answer to this. There may not be one specific reason you haven’t heard back; it could be a mix of factors, some within your control and some not. And there’s a good chance it’s nothing personal.
According to research conducted by both Glassdoor and FlexJobs, there are a variety of reasons for non-response to an application. Some of the more common include:
Most online job postings generate a considerable response with a substantial number of applicants submitting their qualifications. The larger and more well-known the company, and the larger the radius from which they are recruiting (think remote vs. geography-specific), that response could multiply exponentially. But even smaller companies with a more limited recruiting radius could be overwhelmed by applicants depending on the appeal of the role and the resources available to screen applications. It just may not be possible to respond to each applicant who expresses interest. “Ideally,” explains Sci.bio’s Director of HR Allison Ellsworth, “the ATS (applicant tracking system) used by a company will at least send a confirmation email that your application has been received so you know it successfully went through. Beyond that, the volume of candidates does not usually allow for personal follow up unless you have moved along in the interview process.” The volume of applications is not something that you as a candidate can control.
Recruiters/Hiring Managers Are Recruiting for More than One Role
It’s one thing to be focused on filling one role, but most recruiters are juggling multiple requisitions simultaneously. If the number of applicants for one opening can be overwhelming, imagine multiplying that by numerous openings that need to be filled as soon as possible. Add to that a full interview schedule and other recruiting-related tasks, and it quickly becomes very difficult to respond, even when recruiters/hiring managers have the best of intentions to do so.
Position Isn’t Actually Available
In some cases, it’s possible the position to which you applied isn’t available anymore, or something has shifted internally and the hiring team is reevaluating their needs. Maybe the role has already been filled, but the new hire hasn’t started yet and they don’t want to take the posting down prematurely in case it doesn’t work out, or maybe something budgetary changed and the position isn’t going to be filled, or maybe there is a new project taking priority and recruiting is on hold for now.
While all of these are out of a candidate’s control, they are still worth noting as they very well could be the reason for no response. But what about the things that candidates can control? Some of the most common in this category include:
Applying for Too Many Openings
Job searching is a numbers game to some extent; the more applications you put out into the world, the greater the chance you’ll hear back. But if you’re indiscriminate about what and where you apply, if you apply to jobs where your qualifications don’t really match, chances are you’re not going to hear back.
Resume Could Be To Blame
If you consistently don’t hear back but are fairly certain your background is a fit, it could be how your resume is crafted. Maybe it doesn’t effectively highlight your relevant experience and accomplishments, or isn’t using the right keywords and industry specific language.
How Do I Ensure I Get Noticed?
So, what can you do to increase your chances of being noticed and making it through the initial screening process? It comes down to three categories – your application/resume, your social media presence, and your networking efforts.
There are a number of things you can do to make sure your applications are more targeted and put you in the best possible light. As previously mentioned, although you want to get some volume of applications out, spend a little extra time at this phase and be selective and thoughtful about the applications you submit.
- Try to limit your applications to jobs that are truly a good fit for your background; it’s not necessary to meet all minimum qualifications, but make sure you meet some or most.
- Research the companies you’re considering applying to and make sure their goals and values align with your own. Then try to convey that through examples on your resume or in a cover letter.
- Craft your resume so that it’s not just a timeline of job titles and responsibilities, but also highlights specific projects and accomplishments, especially those that are relevant to the position. A good practice is to tweak your resume for each job you apply to.
- Include links to your online presence (more on that next).
Social Media Hacks
In today’s world, your job application incorporates more than just the resume you submit. Most people have some kind of online presence, and many employers will check into it. Make sure you’re using your online presence to your advantage.
- Although a professional headshot isn’t necessary, ensure any photos you use present you in a professional light.
- Similarly, do a scan of any photo tags that are publicly viewable and remove any that could be controversial or present you in a less than ideal light.
- Just like your resume, ensure that the language and keywords you’re using reflect the jobs and industries you are seeking and highlight any relevant projects or content; for instance, LinkedIn has a specific profile section where you can include information about projects, publications, or other work that may not be reflected on a resume.
- Ensure your social media bios are succinct, relevant, and targeted to the jobs you’re seeking.
This may be the most understated yet most important piece of advice: don’t necessarily rely only on applying for a digital posting without human contact. We live in a world driven by relationships; who you know can often make a difference, or at least give you an edge. Often available jobs aren’t even posted publicly; the only way to hear about them is by knowing someone involved. Some estimates cite that 70% of available jobs are never posted and up to 80% are filled through networking.
When recruiters or hiring managers are overwhelmed with applicants, those they have a connection with will often rise to the top. When looking at equally qualified candidates, being a “known entity” could be the deciding factor in who moves on; minimally it may help guarantee your resume moves to the top of the pile and gets a second look.
So where do you start networking? How can you best leverage your network? Here are a few ideas:
- Research the company and see who you might already know that works there. Ask those contacts for an introduction or at least a mention to those involved in the hiring process. Remind them to check the company’s employee referral policy–they may even get rewarded if you turn out to be a good fit!
- If you don’t directly know someone who works there, look for the mutual connection. Use your social media profiles to dig a little deeper; LinkedIn company pages will show you who works there and whether or not you have mutual connections. Then reach out to those mutual contacts that you already have a rapport with and ask for an intro, a mention, or ask to have your resume directly passed along.
- If you don’t have direct connections at a company or mutual connections that can facilitate an introduction, do your best to engage with recruiters. Seek them out on social networks such as LinkedIn or Twitter, and engage with or comment on their posts. By making yourself noticed, you’re more likely to be remembered when it comes to reviewing resumes. And if you engage enough and build an online relationship with them, you may even be able to ask them directly about available roles.
The key with networking is to be proactive. Build your networks before you need them and then they’ll be there to tap into when the opportunities arise.
But What If I Interviewed and Got “Ghosted?”
Let’s say you made it through the initial screening and interviewed for a role, but now you haven’t heard back from the employer. Or you were informed that you aren’t moving forward without any details about why. What’s a candidate to do in this situation?
Again, there could be a variety of reasons, many of which may be nothing personal. In the case of providing specific feedback, there could be legal implications in being too specific with candidates. Or maybe one person on the hiring team wanted you to move on, but someone else with more pull wanted someone else. Maybe the employer doesn’t have the time or resources to potentially open up a prolonged back-and-forth dialogue that providing feedback may initiate.
As for hearing nothing at all? That’s simply an unfortunate outcome of some hiring processes, and there’s not much you can do to control this. The best you can do is keep focused on the fact that it’s not you, it’s them. Many companies are now more focused on the candidate experience than in the past, and doing their best to ensure that even if it’s not specific feedback, candidates who interview at least receive a status update. However, the hard truth is that some companies just don’t or won’t do it for a variety of their own reasons. If a few weeks have gone by and you haven’t heard back, it is probably a safe assumption that you should move on to new possibilities.
The moral of the story here? There’s much that you can’t control, so focus your efforts on the parts you can. Revise and target your resume to the jobs you are seeking. Optimize your online presence to your advantage. Shore up your networking skills. And most of all… don’t give up!
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.