Why Hiring Managers Must Act Differently to Stay Competitive in Today’s Job-Seeker’s Market
In the wake of a global pandemic and economic downturn, the hiring market has turned on its head, forcing employers to completely re-evaluate their hiring processes, from the way they interview and communicate with candidates to the job offer itself.
Though the life sciences industry has largely remained profitable throughout the last few years, it is not immune to the ebbs and flows of the job market. Adam Kaner, senior vice president of project management at PharmaLogics Recruiting, told BioSpace he’s seen those changes first-hand.
He referred to the ups and downs that come with hiring and layoffs as part of the “natural life cycle” of the life sciences industry.
“If all these companies that received funding over the last couple of years have not met their milestones and raised additional capital, at some point, that initial funding runs out,” Kaner said. “We have seen more [layoffs] in the last six to eight months than we had in 2021.”
Even with a slight increase in layoffs, the hiring market currently skews in favor of those looking for work, forcing hiring managers across the pharma and biotech industries to compete for top talent.
Jade Kearney, project manager at PharmaLogics, told BioSpace there is more pressure on employers in the hiring stage now than ever.
“A few years ago, the candidate had to sell the company on why they thought that they'd be a great fit for their organization,” Kearney said. “Now, I think it’s a two-way street…Because it is such a candidate-driven market, it’s the company’s job to sell the candidate on what they can offer them.”
Higher pay and better benefits are often the first things that come to mind when an employer wants to attract the best talent. According to BioSpace’s 2022 US Life Sciences Salary Report, this remains true, as 69% of professionals cite higher pay as a key motivator to apply for new jobs. Additionally, 100% of respondents who changed employers reported a salary increase.
Even so, hiring managers must offer more than just a higher salary to be competitive. Kearney said that along with technical and leadership opportunities, candidates are prioritizing something less tangible: company culture.
“If we've seen anything in 2022, it’s that culture is more important than ever,” Kearney said, adding that candidates consider “more than just what can be included in an offer letter.”
Readjusting Priorities to Align with the Individual
While “culture” seems like a vague concept, hiring managers can take steps to improve it in two ways: listening to current employees’ needs and wants, and prioritizing hiring candidates who are looking for a work environment similar to the one you can offer, instead of hiring solely based on qualifications.
One key way to improve a company’s culture is to increase flexibility - that is, be open to each employee’s individual needs. Job offers aren’t always one-size-fits-all, and in today’s market, Kearney said they shouldn’t be.
For example, some employees may have young children and prioritize coming in late or leaving early.
Making it clear that the company is willing to work with the candidate to customize a job offer specific to them can make a substantial difference. And though the life sciences industry may seem vast, it’s smaller than many people think. Word travels quickly - if other job-seekers hear about a company’s willingness to work with a candidate’s needs, it can only help their brand or image within the industry.
“People want to be heard,” Kearney said. “My biggest advice to hiring managers is to hear what employees have to say about their specific situation and ask what you can do to accommodate them.”
If You’re Not First, You’re Last
Another challenge for hiring managers is the hiring process itself. With the pandemic came a rise in the popularity of remote interviews, even for in-person roles. This can speed up the hiring process exponentially, as candidates no longer have to take time off work for travel.
Remote interviews also allow candidates to schedule more interviews with more companies than they would otherwise, meaning another company could extend an offer to them at any time.
Kaner emphasized the importance of efficiency in the interview stage.
“The candidates have to prepare for an interview, but the hiring team has to be prepared for the interview now as well,” he said.
Kaner and his team advise clients to cut down on the number of people present at each interview, recommending a small panel to speak to the candidate instead of an entire team. He added that companies should get back to candidates with an answer as soon as possible - ideally, within 48 hours and no later than five business days following the interview.
Keeping candidates updated on where they stand in the interview process is just as important. Kearney said hiring managers should not only be communicating with candidates but over-communicating. This is beneficial to hiring managers as well as candidates, as it will keep the job top of mind and let the candidate know you’re seriously considering them for the role.
“No candidate likes to be kept hanging and not hear anything from a company,” Kearney said. “It not only tarnishes the experience for them but also tarnishes the way they think of the organization.”
Nicole Ethier, president of PharmaLogics, agreed, saying if a life sciences company wants to get the best talent, it all comes back to one thing - engagement.
“People are the most important thing to an organization,” Ethier said. “If you know your hiring managers are engaged in looking for that talent, the hiring team is aligned on the key technical and competency requirements they are searching for, and they're creating a welcoming and expeditious process for the candidate, they're going to find that talent.”