Candidates Adjust Expectations as Employers Regain Upper Hand

Pictured: Candidate interviewing with two professionals/iStock, fizkes

Pictured: Candidate interviewing with two professionals/iStock, fizkes

During the second quarter of 2023, the steady stream of layoff announcements in the life sciences began to slow, and according to a survey conducted for BioSpace’s Recruitment Market Q2 Update, 75% of employers say they are actively recruiting.

The industry isn’t out of the woods just yet. Recruiting is still down from the 88% of employers who said they were actively looking for new staff at the end of 2022.

In addition, findings from the same report suggest the scale, which was securely on the candidate’s side last year, is slowly beginning to shift back to equilibrium.

About 53% of respondents stated they think the life science job market is in favor of the employer—up dramatically from the 2% who said the same last year.

Greg Clouse, recruitment manager at BioSpace, said that change is not surprising.

“There are times when the candidates have more power, and there are times when the employers do,” Clouse said. “I think now the playing field is more level than it has been.”

He said that when the COVID-19 pandemic entered the U.S. in 2020, the economy and job market was uncertain, and workers were more hesitant to take on a new role. This caused the candidates who were on the market to have the upper hand in negotiations–many companies were willing to pay whatever it took to fill an open role.

After word of this shift in the dynamic began to spread, more candidates began to enter the market and fewer jobs became available, leading to leveling out that has continued into Q3.

In light of this shift in the power dynamic between candidates and employers, Clouse said that now, his biggest challenge in recruitment is balancing the candidate’s wants with what the employer is willing to give.

“Companies aren’t willing to give everyone whatever they want anymore,” he said. “A lot of candidates are getting offers that are lower than they expected, and they're having to walk away from them or accept less than they asked for.”

Essentially, Clouse said, because employers are no longer desperate for talent, they can afford to turn a good candidate down and wait to hire someone for less.

This slowdown of wage growth across the industry began in 2022. According to BioSpace’s  2023 U.S. Life Sciences Salary Report, average salaries for full-time employees grew at a rate of 3% from 2022 to 2023, a vast decrease from the 8% wage growth seen from 2021 to 2022.

Two-thirds of respondents in BioSpace’s Q2 Recruitment Market Report indicated they will have the same number or more open roles open next quarter, which is a positive sign for those looking to start a new role.

And though Clouse said the best time to apply will almost always be in Q1, when many companies’ budgets start fresh for the new year, there is hope for those who want to go ahead and take the leap–as long as they’re willing to adjust their expectations.

“The job market is active enough right now that if you look for a job, you will likely find one,” he said. “It'll take longer than it did a year ago, and you may not get quite the offer you wanted, but if you want to make a change, the opportunities are out there.”

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