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Serious About Top Talent? Why Retained Recruitment Works Best

The arguments are well rehearsed. The relative merits of retained and contingency recruitment have been the subject of fairly heated debate for years, with some employers committed to the more traditional contingency model but increasing numbers recognising the advantages of retained recruitment. As the popularity of this newer way of sourcing talent grows, many of the myths that have surrounded it are being exploded.

Recruitment is a major issue for businesses of all sizes in every sector, especially in these times of record high employment and skill shortages. The life sciences and biotech sectors are certainly not immune. The industry has its own unique difficulties when it comes to hiring the best people, largely but by no means entirely, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout. Covid-19 was a very loud alarm call, bringing to the attention of governments and the people the serious, continuing threat of new viruses that could spread as fast and with similarly devastating effects as the one which appeared in China in 2019 and swept across the world. Vaccine research has gone into overdrive and we’re unlikely to see it slowing down in the foreseeable future.

However, innovation in the field of vaccination is not the only reason for the recruitment challenges facing every life sciences business, be it a startup, scaleup or globally established enterprise. Advances in technology, including AI, robotics and machine learning are fuelling the possibilities for breakthroughs in medical science in terms of diagnostics, prevention and treatment. Securing venture capital funding has always been a headache but even if sufficient investment can be found, it’s of limited value without the skilled, experienced personnel to spend it. Indeed, some early stage European biotech companies are suffering from precisely this mismatch of funds and human resources.

Contingency recruitment has long been seen as the most cost-effective way to hire new talent, on the basis that you don’t pay until your chosen recruiter has filled a vacancy. It’s hard to argue with this on a short-term financial basis but it ignores the immeasurable long-term value of the retained recruiter.

If you opt for contingency recruitment, you’re likely to appoint several agencies simultaneously. Inevitably they will be in competition to fill your vacancy, which means you risk sacrificing quality for speed. If you use just one, there can be even less of an incentive.

By contrast, a retained recruiter is focusing on both the immediate task and their long-term relationship with your company. Because they are interested in working with you on a continuing basis, they take far greater care to find the right candidates to fit with both your existing team and your company culture. This means they take the time to understand your business, your values, your ambitions and your needs. Yes, you’ll probably pay a premium for the service, but it’s more of an investment than an expense.

Retained recruiters are particularly good at building cohesive teams and recruiting highly specialist talent into rarefied roles. When it comes to the life sciences and biotech industries, the average contingency recruitment agency, however effective in the wider employment market, simply won’t have the expertise required. One of the dangers of this is that you could end up wasting valuable time assessing and interviewing candidates who are good but not great. Recruitment is an expensive, time-consuming business at the best of times, so why make it more costly and disruptive than it needs to be?

If you choose retained recruitment, you’ll be working with a partner that knows the unique intricacies of your business and its place in the market. They are better able to screen candidates on your behalf, ensuring that you need consider only those who are the right fit.

There are other benefits to the relationship. Apart from finding the best scientists, technicians and innovators, a retained recruitment agency can offer valuable consultancy services, helping you improve your recruitment processes and strategy. Your recruitment partner has an investment of time, money and loyalty in your company and will be able to help minimise incidences of candidate dissatisfaction and having great talent snatched away by your competitors. The agency’s abilities even extend to employee retention, which is a perennially hard nut to crack.

Technology has become an essential part of the recruitment process and once you have an effective relationship with your recruiter, you’ll experience the long-term benefits of this. Analytics is now a vital part of the data science that businesses use in all aspects of their operations. In recruitment, analytics acts as a powerful additional tool to the expertise of the consultants themselves. In a survey of recruitment professionals conducted in 2020 for LinkedIn, 73% cited analytics as one of the most important resources available [1]. It delivers insights into the demographics of your target talent market, further enhancing the compatibility of shortlisted candidates with your life science or biotech company’s expansion plans.

So the choice is clear. You can stick with the tried and tested contingency model, which presents itself as a cost-saving method of finding new talent. No hire, no fee. But equally, very little in the way of guarantees. Or you can join the growing numbers of progressively minded life science businesses who have learned that in a finite jobs market, taking the long view is the smarter move. It removes the uncertainty of ad hoc recruiting and gives you the peace of mind of knowing you have a partner constantly pursuing your company’s best interest. The money you save on contingency recruitment is dwarfed by the commercial success a retained recruiter can help you achieve in the accelerating race for new drugs, vaccines, procedures and equipment.

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

If you found this insight interesting, we recommend reading 7 Ways to Maximise Your Startup Recruitment Strategy

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.