Attracting Talent in Life Sciences

Attracting Talent in Life Sciences

Are you recruiting in the Life Sciences sector?

Ketan Gajjar: Hi there. Namaste. How are you? This is Ketan Gajjar from the very Apnoe Ahmedabad. Welcome to the recruitment curry podcast,

James. Hi, welcome to the recruitment curry. Namaste from India.

James Inwood: Good afternoon. Thank you very much for having me on your podcast. I’m really appreciative of this. 

Ketan Gajjar: You’re welcome. So James obviously just quickly a bit of introduction for our listeners. 

James Inwood: Yeah, just to introduce myself. So I’ve been working in the life sciences recruitment market just shy of 12 years now.

It’ll be 12 years in a month from now. Always worked for the same company, Hobson Pryor. Been for a number of different positions. Started as a trainee recruiter. did management and now I work in a business development capacity for the business. 

Ketan Gajjar: Fantastic. So life sciences sector is where you gained all your experience in the recruiting industry then.

James Inwood: Yeah. A hundred percent life sciences. Never done anything else. Don’t know anything else. Just know a lot about life sciences after these 12 years. 

Ketan Gajjar: So you’re almost close to being a scientist then, is it? 

James Inwood: Oh I’d love to say yes, but I think if I had to do any of the jobs that I was recruiting for yeah, it wouldn’t be working well.

I don’t think I’d be getting hired. 

Ketan Gajjar: Totally. Obviously from your life sciences experience perspective, over the years one question, that comes to my mind, James is how has the market changed in the last 12 to 18 months? 

James Inwood: We’ve seen some massive changes over the last 12 to 18 months.

And I think it’s almost gone in, there’s almost been two cycles in that time 18 months ago, we were still right in the middle of COVID. There was still lockdowns happening in the UK and across Europe. I think during that time period, actually recruitment for life sciences market was really busy, the busiest I’ve seen.

And I think coming into the start of this year as well, it’s been, fantastically busy, which is great for us from a business development point of view. But from a candidate attraction point of view that’s been the big challenge, before the pandemic, it was the opposite problem.

You didn’t have enough. Companies recruiting and there was more candidates and roles and it reversed on its head and now there’s more roles than candidates. But we have seen a little bit of a slowdown on that. I’d say over the last three to six months in, in particular I think maybe linking it a little bit with the financial crisis that, which is occurring.

There’s certainly been a bit of a slowdown with companies recruiting. 

Ketan Gajjar: Sure. So from candidate attraction perspective how does the live census sector work? How do you attract candidates and especially with the, demand going over the roof? How have you recruited, in the past and how has that recruiting strategy, changed over the course of time [00:03:00] 

James Inwood: in the past our recruiting strategy and attracting candidates was very much focused, I’d say on old school techniques, advertising a lot of actual cold head hunting.

I remember the days of picking up the phone for a couple of hours per day and and. Speaking to receptionists and actually headhunting candidates. Once I got past the gatekeeper it’s really changed, technology has massively changed that as well with more and more people on. On social media, obviously everyone knows about linkedin, but linkedin recruiter has been a real game changer in that respect as well.

Ketan Gajjar: Sorry to interrupt on that one point how do life sciences candidates and, pardon my ignorance because, you’re the life sciences recruitment expert here. And then, so in terms of responding on LinkedIn, our candidates within the life sciences sector, very active on LinkedIn, on social media.

Or, is there a network that is specifically for life sciences, which is where they obviously lurk and then, share their thoughts. [00:04:00] 

James Inwood: There’s definitely some specialist groups in life sciences for LinkedIn in particular, I’m a member of a few of these groups, and I think it tends to work quite well, I think life sciences candidates.

Are like any candidate in any market. They want to be treatable, respect and honesty and transparency. And I think that’s really important when speaking to these candidates through mediums like LinkedIn. And then obviously the followup’s really important as well, so it’s that they can be, I don’t think they’re especially responsive or unresponsive in, in comparison to other sectors when it comes to that tool as, as long as you’re sending out the right message.

Advertising is maybe a different. A different ballpark altogether. Cause we’re not getting, we don’t get a lot of adverts and we never really have, which is why the sort of the head hunting and LinkedIn has been really useful, but probably the biggest change has been the impact of marketing on recruitment as well.

And I think having a good presence in the market and having a good marketing sort of piece [00:05:00] out for your business, when a company, when a candidate that sees Your name on LinkedIn and sees your company name, being able to go on your website, being able to have a look at your social media page, having the sort of tools out there for them to be able to look at your business and look at who you are.

It is really key. I don’t think we’d get as much response if we didn’t have a great marketing team here at Hobson Pryor. 

Ketan Gajjar: That’s awesome. So basically, brand awareness is imperative to be successful in this sector. Yeah, 

James Inwood: brand awareness is key. We actually redid our branding not long ago.

We had our 20 year anniversary of Hobson Prior. And now I think we’ve gone through four rebrands during that 20 years. And I’ve seen three of them. And we’ve just, changed and transitioned. And it is to really align much more with our candidates and our clients as well, because, our, the brand and the way we’re representing ourselves in the market is.

How how people want to be worked with. And that’s really key to us. 

Ketan Gajjar: So are there specific specific things that [00:06:00] you do, from branding perspective, is it a lot of agencies or a lot of companies, but, when you talk about branding, it is, putting those jobs out.

But what are the things that have really worked for you? You know from brand awareness perspective, that you’d recommend 

James Inwood: I think really linking in the innovation within the industry. It’s not you know Our brand is more than just talking about jobs, but it’s about talking about our successes and our partnerships with companies there’s been pharmaceutical companies.

We’ve partnered with along the way who’ve had You know, amazing product launches during the time we’ve been working with them. So actually highlighting those successes and the shared successes we’ve had within the industry. A client can look at us and go they’ve helped this pharmaceutical company.

Have this success. And, a candidate will look at that as well. And they’ve, they can see that this small biotech that Hobson prior works with has grown and they’ve managed to help all these people join it and thrive within that business. So I think really linking in the work we’ve done with our [00:07:00] clients is key to that branding and that marketing and also attracting candidates.

They know what we’re about and what we can do for them. 

Ketan Gajjar: Of course. Sharing case studies is something that you’d absolutely recommend. 

James Inwood: A hundred percent. I think case studies in your marketing work and within your business development work is crucial. But also sharing those case studies with candidates.

They can, they can see the success you’ve had and how you can help them. 

Ketan Gajjar: So when it comes to, working with clients you mentioned pharmaceutical companies. Yeah. Yeah. How have their recruitment strategies changed, over the course of last 12 months, post pandemic.

I think 

James Inwood: post pandemic we came into new year and having a really busy period. I think I’ve never seen it as, as busy. There’s been. I suppose a few more outsourced projects at the start of this year, because, a lot of pharmaceutical companies do have their internal HR and talent acquisition teams who will handle maybe 75 percent of the recruitment themselves, and they’ll [00:08:00] use us to, to fill the remaining 25 percent of the jobs, maybe the positions which are trickier or are more time consuming, and so they can focus on filling the core positions.

But we’ve actually seen some outsourced work in that area as well, where we’ve been given entire projects to recruit for at the start of the year, for example, a company reached out to us cause they were looking for 20, 20 project managers and rather than get their recruiters and their talent acquisition to search for them, they just.

Gave us the entire project, which we ran for the company. We called it like a, an RPO lights model. We’re not fully integrated into their systems and having a recruiter on site for them. But we’re doing all, all of the interview arranging directly with the line managers.

We’re doing all of the update meetings on the progress of the project and we’re finding the candidates. A halfway house in between a fully outsourced. recruitment project with an RPO and working with a, with an agency. So I think that’s, that was one of the big changes at the start of the year, [00:09:00] but like I said, there’s been a little bit of a slowdown and I think probably the thing that is happening now is that companies are being a lot more selective on their hires.

Budgets are very tight, so they want to make sure they’re recruiting the right person and perhaps having additional rounds of interview or bringing in additional stakeholders at the final stage, just to make sure that they’re not spending their money on the wrong person. 

Ketan Gajjar: Of course, what steps, from candidate attraction perspective, or, from sourcing strategy perspective, would you recommend?

To, to recruiters who are actually working within the life sciences sector, or, somebody who is considering a career, developing as a recruiter in this sector. 

James Inwood: I think the biggest piece of advice I would give to anyone working across recruitment is be communicative with your candidates and treat them well.

Cause the candidates are key. I’ve had candidates who’ve turned into my best clients, but you’re not going to get that if you ignore emails, you duck phone calls, you [00:10:00] don’t respond when you needed to respond and you’re not honest with them either. If it’s taking that two minute phone call to, to say, look, we haven’t had feedback from the client or dropping them a response to the email saying you’ve been unsuccessful as application, it takes no time out of your day.

But it means a lot to the person who’s really waiting and wondering and they’ll come back to you and and time again, and I think a lot of recruiters lose relationships with candidates Which could be really valuable for the future, 

Ketan Gajjar: Of course and then from sourcing strategy perspective of course, the life sciences sector is a niche, market.

And then there aren’t many candidates for a specific job. How do you source candidates? Is it job boards, is it market mapping you start with, or what’s the sourcing strategy like? 

James Inwood: It really depends role by role. I think market mapping is really key for some of the more for the, some of the niche positions within the niche, identifying the companies which will have that specific skillset.

Perhaps it’s a qualified person to sign off pharmaceutical batches, [00:11:00] identifying all of the businesses, which businesses, which will have a QP working for them and then targeting those businesses, either that cold headhunting approach as we still sometimes do, but more than likely working with other individuals in that business to gain referrals or using LinkedIn.

Ketan Gajjar: Sure. And of course, there’s no you can’t discount the phone call. And then, just sit behind the desk on LinkedIn, waiting somebody to respond. Isn’t it 

James Inwood: phone call is key. Every call is an opportunity is something I’ve always ingrained to anyone I’ve worked with as well. 

Ketan Gajjar: Of course.

How do you see the market changing over the next 12 months now? We, we’ve seen the peak, I think the course of last 12 to 18 months, across the sectors do you see any changes in the next 12 months, number of positions coming down or hiring, process being a little slow, like you mentioned, there’s been some impact, there’s a slowdown, but do you see any changes in the process perspective?

James Inwood: Yeah, I think I can see an impact on the process perspective. I, the [00:12:00] introduction of video technology into processes has been fantastic, but it can actually increase the length of a process because the in the, in. In the old days the pre COVID days, it was two stage interviews, telephone interview, the manager face to face with everybody else.

And now it’s now it’s normally one team’s meeting with the manager and then six other teams meetings over a couple of weeks with everybody else, just because not everyone’s in the same place at the same time to meet with somebody. So I think we’re going to see that continue.

And recruitment processes get longer and slower, combined with that fact that people are perhaps willing less willing to spend less money or willing to part of their money, um, be more careful about parting with their money when it comes to hiring somebody, which is, completely understandable.

We’ve got a, we’ve got to watch everything at the moment. Like I suppose from an overall industry perspective, it’s going to be really interesting how, the financial I don’t want to call it a crisis yet, but, the definitely the cost of living crisis is is having an impact on the [00:13:00] finances and how that’s going to impact the pharmaceutical industry.

I think there’s definitely there’ll be a few impacts on. investment within the biotech world, which might have a knock on effect on companies expansions. Of 

Ketan Gajjar: course. And then, with COVID specifically the life sciences sector, have you seen evolution of new roles coming up due to, the specific pandemic?

James Inwood: Yeah. The growth in epidemiologists that, that word that nobody a couple of years ago had heard of. And then, Within within the pandemic, starting everyone, everyone had heard of an epidemiologist. So I think we, we placed a huge amount of them. Especially in, in, in the I’d say the first sort of six, seven months of COVID vaccine trials in particular, so that’s been a real growth more digital solutions as well across the industry, we know we’re working with a lot of, I don’t think it’s necessarily linked to COVID.

But definitely there’s a lot of. Growth in sort of machine learning technology and there’s a lot more. IT roles in general across the [00:14:00] pharmaceutical industry to think of with that. 

Ketan Gajjar: What was it epidemiologist? 

James Inwood: Yep, you just about got there. Not an easy one. 

Ketan Gajjar: It definitely is not. You know It’s the first time I came across this role, you know as much as I read And then which is why the question and then you know, i’m sure like you mentioned you place lots of these 

James Inwood: Epidemiologists. 

Ketan Gajjar: Was that okay? 

James Inwood: Yeah, that was perfect. Yeah. Many years ago I had to get my head around pharmacovigilance to begin with, and then pharmacodynamics and and a bunch of other terms when I was recruiting for those. So this one was easier maybe. 

Ketan Gajjar: And then that’s an interesting point.

So what sources, do you refer to, from pharmacology? The pharma lingo perspective and obviously you’ve been in the sector for a long time. You got it, but for somebody who is, again, starting afresh, where should they go? 

James Inwood: There’s plenty of great resources online, pharmyweb something I always read for the news and there’s.[00:15:00] 

Plenty of lingo on there always as well with that as part of the I think a fierce farmer as well is a great resource for anyone joining industry. And who wants to just know more about the lingo and some of the companies are out there. I’d say speaking to people in the industry, they’re a very friendly bunch across the pharmaceutical industry.


Ketan Gajjar: me just interrupt you there. And that was my next question. How are the candidates in the pharma sector in the life sciences sector? How do they react, when you reach out for a job or, how do they conduct, on a phone call or a meeting? 

James Inwood: On a serious note, it really depends on how they’ve been treated by recruiters, which is understandable.

If they’ve, spoken to 10 other recruiters who’ve called them once, tried to harvest them for information and never given them any roles or anything, then, the 11th recruiter who calls them, not going to be well received, but, most of the candidates Hobson Pryor deal with have had a good experience with the company.

And if a new recruiter from Hobson Pryor calls, you’ve had. It’s [00:16:00] five good calls with other recruiters. So it’s normally a pretty friendly introduction. But if you’re calling someone who’s not worked with Hobson Prior before, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad because, there’s plenty of other good companies, other good recruiters out there who do a good job, for every good one there’s two bad ones I find.

Ketan Gajjar: Sure. In terms of Approaching them, how are they, do they give you enough time? You know when you call them for a conversation, let’s park the other recruiting agencies or the recruiters You know how they conduct and thing but from the candidates perspective how are they as candidates because every sector has a certain Certain nature of candidates and how they deal with that.

Okay, fine, you know a certain sector would have okay they’re very fast moving. They’ll give you like 10 minutes to quickly have a chat You And then move on to the next call or whatever they wanna do. How do they, when you reach out to them for a job what’s their response?

James Inwood: I’d say it’s so varied across the levels within the companies. The people who are perhaps working in the lab. It’s gonna be quite tricky for them to get away. The same with some of the engineers in companies. So having to have a two minute phone call with [00:17:00] them then and book in something for the evening is, or over the lunch is generally the time as you move up, up the ladder.

People don’t tend to have more time. The people who spend the most time on the phone to generally the C suite who have their own private office and they’re obviously very busy, but if they’ve got half an hour free that they’re not accountable to anyone else to to give that time away too.

So yeah it really varies across the level as I’d say. 

Ketan Gajjar: Sure. And then what is one piece of parting advice you’d give to our listeners, who. Want to, either do business development in the life sciences sector or who want to work as a recruiter in the sector.

James Inwood: I think listen to the people you’re dealing with and treat them well, not just be ready to tell them what you want to say. Listen to what they want and then provide them the service or the advice off the back of what they’re looking for. Motivation, finding out the motivations of the individual and matching your jobs to what they’re really motivated by.

So [00:18:00] yeah, listening skills are really key. And that’s the biggest piece of advice I’d give. 

Ketan Gajjar: Spot on James. So James, thank you very much for your valuable insights and, contribution to the Recruit and Curry. Really glad, you came on board with the podcast recording and hopefully we can, catch up on, on some of the points within the sector sometime in the future but thanks for being on the Recruitment Curry, James.

James Inwood: Thank you so much for having me on. Yeah. I’d love to come back and do it all again. Cheers, James. Thank you. Bye. Bye.

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