How to Attract (and Retain) Top Candidates in Biotech

Time to Read: 3.9 minutes

Updated: October 5, 2022

For biotech companies, hiring and retaining top candidates is a big challenge. Companies are looking to hire qualified experts with a very specific skill set, and most top talent is already working with another company. While struggling with a talent shortage, the other challenge is to keep the right people.

In this article, we will discuss the challenges faced by biotech companies in hiring and retaining top talent and how they can retain top biotech candidates.

Hiring Challenges for Biotech Companies: A Highly Competitive Talent Recruitment Market

Steve Jobs in his last days said that:

“The biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning.”

As biotech companies are using big data and AI, they’re acquiring tech-savvy candidates. This puts them in head-on competition with leading tech giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.

Skill Shortage

In the biotech industry, there is a rise in data science and machine learning approaches, and there are fewer life scientists with mathematical and computing skill sets. The main reason behind this skill gap is the lack of practical training at the university level. Educational institutions are unable to keep up with the pace of evolution in the industry. Fred Kohler, the Vice President of People at GRAIL says that:

“The talent shortage is acute.”

Long and Tedious Hiring Process

The chief economist at Glassdoor, Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, reports that biotech and pharmaceutical industries have the longest interview process averaging at about 28.1 days. Such a long and tedious interview process is not daunting for the candidates, but damaging for the company’s recruitment and operations. They also miss out on top talent as it may be snatched from the market by a competitor with an efficient recruitment process.

Lack of Diversity

The biotech sector has long struggled with a diversity problem, especially at the managerial and executive levels. The lack of diversity on the managerial and executive levels is so profound that 92% of CEOs among 182 biotech and pharma companies are men. For the most part, companies are not working towards dissecting unconscious bias and encouraging minorities.

Brady Huggett in his article on diversity in biotech reports that:

“Indeed, when contacted by Nature Biotechnology, many public biotech companies refused to discuss this issue on the record. For most of the biotech sector, race remains not just off-limits—it is radio-active.”

How to Retain Top Biotech Candidates

1. Revamp Your Brand

When it comes to hiring and retaining top talent, company culture may be more important than you realize. A Deloitte survey reports that 94 percent of executives and 88 percent of employees consider a distinct company culture vital for business success. Benefits, higher salaries, and stock options only go so far. At the end of the day, any employee would prefer to join a company with a distinct culture over another.

2. Diversify the Workplace

Biotech companies can utilize optimized job descriptions, blind interviews, and similar techniques to diversify the workforce. To combat the specific issue of underrepresented women in the workplace, companies can start career returner programs to rehire key talent back after career breaks.

Survey results show that among the drug industry’s CEOs, the lack of diversity costs women an estimated $532 million yearly. Discrimination against qualified women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ communities shows inequality at the very top of the hierarchy, and that’s where the change needs to start.

3. Consider Relocation and Remote Work

Biotech companies are often relocating people from biotech cluster areas such as Boston, New York, and San Diego. However, when it comes to relocation, people are reluctant towards moving across the country. Highlighting factors such as low living costs and taxes compared to the other biotech cluster areas can make the decision easier for many. If a healthy relocation package is not within the company budget, then consider other hiring models, specifically remote and flexible workers.

4. Provide Growth Opportunities to Your Candidates

The biotech industry is evolving and scientists want to learn more about their field and grow over time. Biotech companies offering learning opportunities to their employees can highly increase their employee retention rates. With the right learning and growth opportunities, employees feel like they’re making the right decision for their careers.

5. Hiring and Retaining Top Biotech Talent: Takeaway

The biotech industry is facing a new era with the adoption of AI and data analytics, and dealing with the increasing demand for the right talent. Being in direct competition with the IT industry for data scientists and engineers makes things even more challenging. To deal with this issue and stay ahead of the game, biotech firms must adopt new practices such as remote work, offer their employees growth opportunities, and work towards a more diverse workplace.

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Noor-ul-Anam Ruqayya

Noor-ul-Anam Ruqayya is a software engineer that also has a passion for writing well-researched, SEO-optimized, and engaging content for a wide range of industries. She has been writing long-form content for the talent acquisition industry since 2020 and has created multiple top-ranking articles.

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