The Hardest Part of Recruiting For Life Sciences

Life Scienes healthcare researcher in lab uniform holding petri dish

The rapidly changing face of the life sciences industry has created a vital and fertile ground for top scientific and clinical talent to make great progress in medicine, healthcare, and biotechnology. But with these rapid changes comes the realization that we can’t really predict where it’s all headed.

As a recruiter, having a deep understanding of your niche is widely understood to be the key to success. However, no matter what industry area you work with, recruiting is about people. If you have a talent for connecting with people, for understanding their hopes and fears, their challenges, their triumphs, and their shortcomings, this is what will drive your success. These people skills are a prerequisite, while much of the rest, including the highly technical jargon-packed world of life sciences, can be learned.

The Global Talent Shortage

The real problem in recruiting for life sciences, arguably, is that there is a global talent shortage. In such a fast-growing area, this is becoming a big problem for even the most experienced recruiters. Demand far outweighs supply and many recruiters resort to persuasive techniques to lure top talent away from one company to place them in another.

But it’s like a game of whack-a-mole. For every candidate placed, there are 10 more positions to fill and that number is growing on a daily basis. If our educational system doesn’t do a better job of turning out more scientists, engineers, and so on, this trend will continue to threaten progress and will possibly limit our ability to access new treatments and clinical methodologies.

Complementary Skills Deliver Innovation

As new innovations in gene therapy, medication, and biotech offer the promise of a better future, these needs will continue to rise, but the industry needs are not all scientific.

While the scientific breakthroughs may get all the press, the people behind the scenes, the ones that facilitate the research and lay the groundwork for the work to be done, represent a large majority of the need.

For a recruiter in life sciences, it might seem that the job is a never-ending and thankless endeavor. Fortunately, there is a great deal of talent out there that, while they may lack direct experience with the technical positions we are trying to fill, they have complementary skills and experience that can be advantageous as they bring a diverse perspective to the problems that need to be solved. According to Steve Arkinstall, CEO of Elstar Therapeutics, for example, any area of biology can be applied to drug development.

But some of the skills needed in life sciences are not necessarily scientific. People who have experience with in-licensing or who have a talent for managing collaboration are always in high demand. Many of the newest and most rapidly advancing companies need to establish themselves in different countries and any missteps could potentially derail the entire process.

Having someone on board who understands the culture and can navigate the regulatory framework of the market is crucial to their progress.

Focusing an Educational Strategy

Combinations of skills can be part of an educational strategy as well. Combining specialties is not an unusual path, but taking a practical approach is important. Aileen Alsop of AstraZeneca suggests that science students should focus on getting practical experience before they delve into the business or finance end of things. She also advocates choosing a more focused first degree over a combination of majors. According to Alsop, a degree in pure chemistry will give a candidate more options than a diluted major that includes finance. “If you want to add finance later, you can do that.”

That’s not to say that having a business perspective on top of a scientific degree doesn’t have merit. There is still a great deal of demand for people on the science side of things that also have a background in marketing, sales, or project management. Those with science skills that are outside the field, such as computer science, physics, engineering, and mathematics can also find exciting careers in pharma or biotech and the needs for specialists such as these will only continue to grow.

In conclusion, the complexities and challenges of recruiting for life sciences can be solved, like many other problems, with a little creative thinking. If you have life sciences recruiting needs you need to fill, we can help. Reach out today to set up a conversation. The hardest part is already behind you.