Common Pitfalls in International Biotech Recruiting

Two lab technicians in bio tech lab

Common Pitfalls in International Biotech Recruiting

If you are searching for top leadership talent for your international biotech company, it always pays to work with a specialist. Whether you are a small company, a startup, or a global organization, it’s never easy. Pact & Partners, a leading Life Sciences recruiting firm, is here to support you with sound advice on common pitfalls in international biotech recruiting and tips on how to avoid making them.

Good leadership is hard to find. Landing the ideal candidate is often a lengthy and complex process that requires patience, preparation, and the ability to visualize what that talent looks like and what, ideally, they will bring to the table.

If you are expanding into new markets this process is especially difficult as there may be vastly different compliance and regulatory issues to consider. The culture is different, and the expectations of the clientele are different, but one thing that never changes is the talent itself. Being able to identify the right talent is where the challenge lies, but there are ways to mitigate the risk and give yourself a better chance of success.

Let’s look at a few actionable tips that can help you avoid common pitfalls in international biotech recruiting:

International biotech recruiting tip #1: Keep your eye on the prize

Your company’s mission and vision should figure prominently in any major recruiting decision you make. Placing the right person in the right position is key to your long-term success. Even if you feel that you are behind the eight-ball and need to make a decision sooner than later, try to focus on the future.

Your gut reaction might be to hire somebody who will provide a “quick fix” in the short-term, but if you have doubts about their long-term potential, perhaps it’s more prudent to keep your options open. If your goal is to find somebody who will be able to take your organization into the future, be absolutely sure about your decision. Having to revisit this process again in the near future is neither cost-effective or good for your culture. If you absolutely need somebody right away, consider placing somebody on a temporary basis until you find the right fit.

International biotech recruiting tip #2: Consider the local culture

Culture is important to any high-performing organization, but it’s also important to note that just because a culture works for you in one country doesn’t mean it will be exactly the same in another. Business practices, regulations, and customs are likely to be completely different, so it’s important that you don’t put yourself in a situation where you are forcing a square peg into a round hole. If you do, you are putting your new recruit at risk and possibly your company if you lose them entirely. Keep an open mind, think outside the box, and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Consider the qualities that are most valued in the target country rather than clinging to what you know.

International biotech recruiting tip #3: Familiarize yourself with local markets and specialties

Knowing what the standards are in each country you are going into is key to a successful recruitment process. Find out what typical salary ranges are in the target country as well as what the long-term expectations are of candidates in your niche. Some of these variables can range drastically from city to city as well, not to mention the talent pool may be larger in some places than others. In a more competitive market, you may have to be more persuasive to secure the talent you need.

International biotech recruiting tip #4: Know about local privacy and hiring legalities

As some countries have restrictions on what you can and cannot ask a potential candidate, it is important to familiarize yourself with these policies before you begin the process. Asking the wrong question might land you in much deeper water than if it were simply a faux-pas — it may actually get you in trouble with the law! Some are issues of privacy and some are meant to discourage discrimination. Become well-versed in employee rights and the expectations that are upon you, as an employer.

International biotech recruiting tip #5: Be realistic

Recruiting for biotech takes time — especially if you are in search of effective leadership. You might be able to shortlist a few candidates within the first few months, but there are other tasks that need to be completed before you can begin negotiations. These include vetting their claims, checking their references, assessing their skills, and determining whether they are a good cultural fit — and none of these will happen overnight.

Some of the issues that might affect your timeline include the unemployment rate in your target country; if there are more people than there are jobs, the process may go a little more quickly. If the reverse is true, prepare for a lengthy and nuanced process, as even if you do locate an ideal candidate, it may take careful negotiation in order to lure them away from their current position or another offer.

International biotech recruiting tip #6: Include all decision makers in the hiring process

This is a common trap that many companies fall into — not inviting the opinions of all of the stakeholders in the group. You want to make sure that everybody is on board with your decision to avoid push-back down the line. If there are concerns, hear them out. If you feel you need to be quick to move on a particular candidate, call a meeting so that everybody’s voice can be heard.

International biotech recruiting tip #7: Consider soft skills

Soft skills are essential for any leadership position and nowhere is this more evident than in the high-stakes biotech industry. However, certain character traits can be viewed differently from country to country, so it’s important to understand how your candidate’s soft skills fit into the bigger picture.

For example, North Americans and British people tend to have a sarcastic sense of humor. Europeans, on the other hand, don’t understand sarcasm and would likely think that the person either didn’t like them or was being intentionally insulting. While this is not likely the case, it’s important to protect your staff from little earthquakes like this that could potentially disrupt the status quo.

Humility, familiarity, arrogance, brevity, and candor can also be misinterpreted if the cultural norm is skewed otherwise. Understanding the local culture is the key to assessing soft skills on an international level, and the right balance of soft skills is the key to keeping morale high among the rest of your team.

International biotech recruiting tip #8: Understand what equivalent titles are in each country

A title or a set of letters after a name may mean something completely different from one country to the next. While being a “Director” in one country may place your candidate at a high level, if they are coming from another country, it may mean little more than a glorified assistant. Be sure you understand what each candidate’s responsibilities were for each of their previous positions in order to properly assess their relevance for your situation; however, knowing what specific titles mean specifically will help shorten this process considerably.

International biotech recruiting tip #9: Learn to be an effective remote manager

Managing your team from afar requires a different approach than if you were hands-on and present every day. Your team needs to know that they are a part of something bigger and that the company cares enough to include them in their long-range planning. Even the best recruits can lose their way if they are poorly managed. Distance should not be a catalyst for dissention.

Consider implementing an integration program for your new recruits to familiarize them with your brand and its values. Holding weekly video conferences is a great way to connect names to faces. Getting to know other stakeholders in the company, even if they are in different countries, will go a long way to helping your people feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. If an employee feels valued, they are more likely to stay in their position. Be sure they have everything they need to move forward with confidence.

International biotech recruiting tip #10: Provide mentorship

Life Sciences is a field like no other. Most of the people involved in the industry are highly trained and specialized in their field, so it’s not unusual for them to be thrown into the fire, so to speak, without so much as a training period. The need for talent combined with an urgency to fill open positions sometimes forces your hand. Keep in mind, however, that your new recruits may need a little more from you in order to become the high-functioning team member you need them to be. Dedicate some time and effort to mentoring your new hires and you will not only be assured of a smooth transition but will stand a much better chance of keeping them for the long haul. Your recruiting partner should be by your side through the entire process to ensure a seamless on-boarding.

While these are just a few of the pitfalls you might encounter in your international biotech recruiting process, they are the most significant.

Ultimately, choosing the right candidate boils down to one thing: are they the right person for the job and do they have the talents your company needs to take it into its future?

Be sure you are allocating enough time and resources to the process and don’t get discouraged if you don’t get results right away. Remember — good things don’t always come easily.

If you are a biotech or life sciences company looking to expand into international markets, you need a recruiting partner with insight and experience in your target countries. Pact & Partners has been a leader in international biotech recruiting since 1987 and can help you build a high-performing team from the ground up. Call to speak to one of our consultants today and discover what’s possible.