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A war for talent in life sciences: perception or not?

It is mainly a question of applying the correct selection criteria, communicating in a clear way and investing sufficiently in learning and development.

Candidates do not have to pass 100%

Mouna: “It is often not necessary to find someone who meets the predetermined requirements in every way. The life sciences and biotech sector simply are evolving very quickly. For example, COVID -19 implied that many companies had to increase their capacity, erect additional buildings, and possibly enter into partnerships with other companies. Some projects had to be stopped in order to boost others. The “rare bird” must therefore above all be versatile and have good basic knowledge."

“For this reason, it is often better to look for people who partially fit the profile you are looking for and then invest permanently in their training and development, so that they always meet current needs. This alreadyhappens more frequently, for example in smaller biotech companies. They mainly look at the level of education and a certain basic knowledge. After all, people with a master's or doctorate have already proven that they can learn”, says Mouna. “But soft skills are also becoming more important. Companies specifically need flexible and agile profiles who want to learn and can keep up with the rapid evolutions.”

Towards proactive candidate management

“In line with the above, more and more companies are starting to invest in a learning & development department and proactive candidate management. Due to the rapid evolutions, companies need visionary people who can see how the sector will change in the next five or ten years and how this can already be accommodated in terms of talent development. A continuous response to these evolutions is an absolute prerequisite."

Mouna: “This can be done, for example, by offering the people already present in the company timely retraining or further training, or by already attracting additional external people. Those new people may have an IT background, for example, and may not immediately fit in well with the company today, but they can be a great asset in the future, if offered a certain training. Thanks to this proactive approach, the war for talent will diminish and as a company you will no longer have to search for nearly untraceable profiles at the last minute.”

Job descriptions must become clearer

Life Science and biotech companies generally use a difficult language, and there is also an Anglicisation taking place. You can see thatfiltering through into their vacancies. Many times, different names are used for the same function. All this means that candidates often no longer know what to apply for and what exactly companies are looking for”, Mouna explains.

“Another consequence is that candidates simply skip the job description and immediately look at what they have to be able to do. When their competencies seem to match what the company is asking for, it is often very difficult to explain why they are the right candidate, because they just don't fully understand the job description. As a result, their resume often remains superficial, which in turn makes it more difficult for recruiters to make the right selection.”

Tips for applicants

Mouna: “For applicants, the main thing is to keep the CV simple, but at the same time intellectual enough to pass the second screening. In addition, the CV must be adapted to each job, because no job and no company are the same. We always advise candidates to clearly state what their drivers are, what they like to do, which direction they want to go, and which company DNA matches theirs.”

“Experienced candidates who have been working in the same company for years have an additional challenge. Indeed, over the years, the application procedure has changed and has been digitized enormously. Many candidates are now approached via LinkedIn, so it is crucial to have an up-to-date profile there. Today, on LinkedIn, it is rather a case of waiting to be contacted yourself. Therefore, you must of course make sure that you can be found, for example by joining certain groups on LinkedIn. In addition, the network within your sector used to be particularly important, whereas applications and recruitment are now being done beyond the sector.”

Specialized partner in the life sciences labor market

“Kelly Services follows all developments in the life sciences labor market, both from the perspective of the candidates and that of the companies. By this means, we want to help making a better match between a company and candidate and ensure that they find each other faster. We can also guide both parties in the field of learning and development. The fact is that finding and training the right candidates is a specialty in itself. That is why we see that more and more companies are outsourcing this to partners such as Kelly Services. The great added value is that all our consultants have a background in the life sciences and therefore understand this sector through and through”, concludes Mouna.

Interesting figure to highlight:

With a CV optimization, a candidate could increase his chances of success at a first interview by 70%.

Expert Consultant Life Sciences Mouna Guerfal PhD

Article​ Planet Future, April 2021