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November 19, 2018
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Attracting Top Talent: Little Things Matter

In business for over 15 years, we have worked with a range of life science companies, the size of 1 employee to 50,000 plus. With all of our knowledge and expertise, we cannot emphasize enough how important candidate experience is during the interview process. Companies don’t need the best equipment money can buy or to offer free lunch and lattes at the café. They need to make a great impression by doing all the simple things right – that’s what really matters to the candidate market.

Here are our top 15 pieces of advice for employers on how to make a great impression on their candidate population and stand out as a company of choice.

  1. Collaborate with colleagues to determine what the role you’re seeking to fill really looks like and what skills are required for success.
    • Invite all the key stakeholders to a short strategy session allowing you time to iron out the details of what you’re
      looking for.
    • Assign each interviewer with a competency and charge them with understanding the candidate’s qualifications in that area.  This will prevent the candidates from answering all the same questions, and therefore, only giving all the same answers.
  2. Articulate the role by writing a fresh job description that fully reflects what you are looking for.
    • Remember to incorporate feedback from your strategy session.
  3. Reach out to your network to promote the opening via all social channels.
    • This network should include current and former colleagues, as well as the professors at the graduate programs related to your opening.  If your company is located outside a biopharma hot spot, make sure you become very friendly with your closest academic community.  Every diamond that graduates should be yours!
  4. Don’t recruit nationally without a flexible relocation package.
    • If you don’t offer relo, or you can only offer a lump sum relocation package you are better off exhausting your recruiting resources locally than attempting to attract candidates from outside your area. The industry standard relocation package typically includes: Moving of household goods, 30-90 temp housing, and closing costs on the sale of old home and purchase of new home.
  5. Conduct as many phone screens as you can to determine the best fit. Sometimes what you see on paper is only half the story.
    • The phone interview should not be only technical in nature. Be sure to include questions aimed at getting to know your candidate.  Finding a good cultural fit is often half the battle.
  6. Never miss a scheduled phone interview twice.
    • It indicates to the candidate that your company and/or you are disorganized and likely overworked.
  7. Prepare an organized interview day that allows the candidate to view what it’s like to work at your company.
    • More than 1 interviewee dropping off the schedule sends a message that your company is disorganized.  Even the fastest growing, dynamic companies are able to stick to a schedule when they value the importance of hiring.
  8. Don’t require that a candidate interview over two days when you can squeeze them into one.
    • Candidates are very rarely interviewing with one company, so be mindful of the amount of time you expect your candidate to take off from work.  Remember also that by requiring a second visit you are running the risk of dragging the process out and therefore reducing your chances that the candidate will still be around when you come back around the second time.
  9. Employ Behavioral Interviewing Techniques
    • Past behavior is a predictor of future behavior.  If your new hire needs to manage in a politicized environment, ask them to describe a time when they were faced with a challenging professional situation, and describe specifically how they dealt with overcoming it.
  10. Be flexible to tweak the scope of a job around a great candidate… don’t miss the diamonds in the rough!
    • The best companies understand that candidates very rarely match a job description’s every bullet.  Don’t fall in love with words on the paper; fall in love with talent and passion.
  11. Be prepared to sell your company to the candidate by articulating what makes your group special and why people have joined the company in the past.
    • Candidates are not only assessing their own fit for the role but also your management style and your group’s interaction with each other.  If they don’t perceive that you’re a good manager and that people like working for you, no matter what you offer them, they won’t come.
  12. Discuss the future so the candidate knows what might be ahead for them if/when they succeed in the group.
    • Roughly 75% of the candidates we surveyed are in an active job search because they perceive there are no additional growth opportunities at their current company.  Speak to that concern by describing the kind of path a person could look forward to at your company.
  13. The cultural fit of your group is equally important to the overall success of your candidate so build in questions to assess the emotional quotient.
    • Our firm works with two of the top 5 bio-pharma companies in the world and both have one thing in common; they know that cultural fit is as important as technical fit. Cultural fit qualities include: Passion, flexibility, communication, ability to work in a team/matrixed environment, work ethic.
  14. Get back to your candidates within two weeks of a phone interview and within 2 weeks of a face to face interview.
    • The candidate’s interest will wane quickly when the process drags on.  Very rarely will you win candidates that have been in process with you for over a month.  By then they have lost interest in your company, received a promotion at work, taken another job elsewhere, or simply decided to stay put. You must ride the wave of enthusiasm and the clock starts ticking the moment the phone interview has ended…
  15. Build an individualized offer package by considering the candidate’s family and current location.
    • Offers do not have to be one-size-fits-all.  In fact, they cannot be because every one of us has a different family life behind the professional curtain.  Spousal employment, housing market, cost of living differential, current compensation, children’s ages all play into the decision and offers need to accommodate a candidate’s need based on an individual’s situation.