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7 Ways to Maximise Your Biotech Startup Recruitment Strategy

There is an inherent imbalance between a startup and a well-established business in every industry. Recruiting power, funding and brand visibility are just three of the obvious inequalities. And in many ways they are interlinked.

If a startup or scaleup is short on funds and hasn’t yet developed a reputation, then attracting the best talent is an enormous challenge. Without the best talent, it’s hard to create a demonstrable track record, which means venture capital will be difficult to secure. Breaking out of this cyclical conundrum is crucial. In the life sciences sector, these disadvantages are magnified. The sheer length of time it takes to research and develop a pharmaceutical or biotech product, test it, receive authorisation and take it to market is greater than in any other industry.

Investors need to keep faith for longer, employees need to share the absolute conviction of their employers and the promise of eventual success must substitute in the early days for the door-opening benefits of reputation. Belief and perseverance are essential. Early stage European biotech companies have all experienced similar difficulties in recruiting. Without the resources and pulling power of a major life sciences business, they have had to compensate with strength of vision and a powerful spirit of innovation to attract disruptors and pioneers. This strategy can turn out to be a positive one and turn limitations into advantages.

Instead of following the traditional and expensive paths of recruitment, they can be agile and imaginative in leveraging social media platforms, personal networks and referrals. Spreading the word in the right places can open up access to people who are not merely talented but also have the philosophy and mindset to match your business vision.

Here are 7 proven tactics:

1. Identify Your Goals

It may seem an obvious point, but some startups are tempted to rush into hiring before they have a clear idea as to exactly which skills they need and what the recruitment process will cost them. The average cost per hire in the UK is £3,000, a figure which includes various external and internal costs, so every decision must be justifiable. If your business is founded on a specific area of life sciences research, you need to narrow your focus to the kind of people who will serve that purpose and leave other workforce expansion plans for the future.

2. Develop an Employer Brand

A multi-national may have the advantage of an existing high profile but this might encourage complacency, while you’re starting with a blank page on which you can write the story you want candidates and the wider industry to hear. The first step is to draft a mission statement to explain your purpose, objectives and company values. Next, build your employer branding team and spread your message as widely as you can via social media and other online platforms. The idea is to create the kind of buzz you would around a new product, except that this time you’re selling yourself as an employer.

3. Promote Your Company Culture

This has always been instrumental in attracting candidates but in today’s competitive jobs market it can be decisive. The kind of specialist skills a life sciences or biotech business needs are in short supply, so it’s essential to offer a working environment and a set of policies that will make you stand out as an employer of choice. You’re offering a rewarding job with good pay and prospects but you’re also contributing to the quality of your employees’ working lives.

4. Create an Employee Persona

Preparation in recruitment is invaluable. Understanding your needs, identifying gaps, allocating budget and devising the selection and interview process are all important. You can make the task easier by constructing an employee persona, which is a detailed visualisation of the type of candidate you’re looking for, in terms of skills, potential and cultural fit. At the same time, you should work on your employee value proposition which is the summation of everything you have to offer candidates, not just in salary and bonuses but in all the extra benefits that make working with you distinctly attractive.

5. Use Recruitment Marketing

High-profile businesses have a head start in the jobs market so startups have a lot of ground to make up. You can address this with a robust recruitment marketing strategy. We’ve already talked about social media platforms and professional networks but the one destination candidates will always head to is your careers page. Treat this as your recruitment marketing hub where every single positive about working for you can be amplified and made easily accessible. Make sure that every element of your social media marketing leads back to this central resource.

6. Build a Talent Pipeline

Recruitment needn’t be a series of one-off exercises. Multi-nationals might be happy to work this way but for a startup or scaleup, it is an unnecessary and inefficient use of resources. You should design your hiring operation as a process which nurtures talent even before making an appointment. If candidates know that you operate an ongoing programme rather than just seeking immediate hires, they will be prepared to engage with your business in the reasonable expectation of future employment. You can be flexible too by hiring short-term or part-time employees instead of always opting for permanent status. Building this kind of pipeline gives you a reserve of talent to draw upon as the need arises.

7. Think Laterally

Remember the value of flexibility. There are many ways to fill vacancies, including internal promotion. Think carefully about the potential of the people who already work for you and even if you can’t identify the right candidate from amongst their number, make use of their own contacts with an employee referral scheme. Host recruitment events to raise your profile and get people talking about your employer brand. The life sciences community is large and growing, but like every industry, it has its own grapevine. Use it.

Not sure where to start on attracting excellent candidates for your Startup? We have more than 15 years’ expertise in recruitment / people strategy in the life sciences. Book a consultation with us today for expert advice on getting the talent you need.

ScaleX Consulting offer trusted business consulting and recruitment services to life sciences and biotech companies, ready to take the next step in their journey, particularly with life science recruitment, sales and marketing.