Tips for hiring the best people in rapidly growing Biotech and Life Science companies

Guest blog by Alison Proffitt – 30th January 2018

Photo from:

Editor’s comment:

Many of the Biotech and Life Sciences organisations we work with are growing in size and investing a large amount of time and resource in their recruitment process, yet there is often a feeling that they are not doing it as effectively as they would like.

Alison Proffitt, experienced Human Resources professional and training provider for RiverRhee’s Recruitment and Employment Relations for Managers course, shares some of her own insights, and highlights from a recent Harvard Business Review article on this topic.

Hiring is the most important people process we have – and yet there is no definitive formula for how to do so

As Laszlo Bock, former Senior Vice President of People Operations, Google said: “Hiring is the most important people process we have and very few of us are any good at it”.

Patty McCord’s recent Harvard Business Review article “How to Hire” (January-February 2018, pp.90-97) provides good food for thought on how to hire successfully and is a great reminder for us to take a fresh look at our recruitment practices.

Patty served as chief talent officer for Netflix from 1998 to 2012 and her opening point is that one company’s ‘A Player’ may be a ‘B Player’ for another company, there is no absolute formula for what makes people successful.

Tips for finding the best people in a competitive environment

Here are a few of the things Patty McCord says that resonate with me and my recent experience of supporting recruitment in rapidly growing tech and science-based companies, in a very competitive hiring environment:

Consider how important cultural fit actually is

Although a level of ‘culture fit’ is important, it’s not essential. People with all sorts of personalities can be great at the job you need done, and organisations can adapt to many people’s styles.

Know how to find the ‘right’ person for the job

Making great hires is about recognising great matches, even if they are not what you expect. Understand what the ‘right’ person means for your company.

It’s important to probe beneath the surface of people and their CVs and be creative where you search for talent. In roles requiring a high level of innovation for instance, a candidate’s approach to problem solving may be more important than specific previous experience.

Engage managers in the hiring process

Engage managers in every aspect of hiring, making sure they understand the company’s approach to hiring and how to execute on it.

Make sure they have a clear plan and hold them to it. Managers often view recruitment as an unwelcome, time-consuming addition to the ‘day-job’.

Aim to make it so important that it trumps any other meetings. Make sure you are recognising and assessing managers on their recruiting ability.

Prioritise decision making

The ultimate decision maker should be the hiring manager, taking input from others involved in the process.

Act quickly in making your decisions, not only at the offer stage but also in deciding who to bring in for interview. In a competitive environment it is imperative to act fast or you will lose the best candidates to your competitors.

Treat your recruiters as business partners

Treat your in-house or external recruiters as real business partners, help them understand the needs of the business, the blend of skills and behaviours you are seeking in the role, and spend time building the relationships. Be clear what you need and expect from them, they will work harder for you as a result.

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching on recruitment and other topics for managers and teams

Have a recruitment mind-set all of the time!

Always be recruiting – candidates come from everywhere, from conferences, networking, even from conversations on planes.

Make sure your fundamentals are enforced. The interview and hiring process gives a powerful first impression about how your company operates, so make sure everyone in your company looks out for candidates, speaks to them, makes them welcome.

Candidates are evaluating you, just as you’re evaluating them. Your goal should be that every person who comes for an interview walks away wanting the job.

Take a value-added approach to your compensation packages

Come up with compensation that suits the performance you need and the future you aspire to.

You can’t always be at the top end of the market, but in determining what to offer, consider the difference it might make to the future of your business.

What impact would there be if you bring in a candidate on a higher salary than you were initially planning, rather than settle for your second choice who may be a distant second?

How much added value might that first great choice produce?

It’s better to focus on what you can afford to pay for the performance you want and the future you are heading towards.

Closing thoughts on selecting the ‘right’ person for the job

I would add my own reflection to Patty McCord’s point about understanding what the ‘right’ person means for your company.

It is worth spending time upfront clearly defining the role you are recruiting for, focussing on the outcomes you need and what constitutes exceptional performance and success in the role.

Ensure you reflect this is your job posting in terms of the key skills and behaviours that will be necessary to achieve these outcomes.

Be clear on your ‘non-negotiables’ and screen candidates accordingly. Try not to settle for ‘good enough’.


About the author – Alison is an Associate with RiverRhee Consulting. She is an experienced Human Resources practitioner with over 30 years’ experience, working for most of her career as a strategic HR Business Partner within the pharmaceutical industry. For the past 7 years she has run her own HR consulting company, working mainly with start-up and growing Biotech companies in the Cambridge area. She provides a full range of generalist HR support, as well as focussing on performance and talent management, leadership, team and organisation development activities. She is a science graduate with a postgraduate qualification in HR, is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and a certified practitioner in MBTI.

About the editor – Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals). Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

2 thoughts on “Tips for hiring the best people in rapidly growing Biotech and Life Science companies”

  1. Pingback: Changing management practices? RiverRhee Newsletter March-April 2018 | Newsletter

  2. Pingback: Revisiting the positive qualities of more traditional recruitment methods | Elisabeth Goodman's Blog

Leave a Comment