October 19, 2017

Executive Search in the Life Sciences Industry: 5 Mandatory Characteristics (Also a Doctor’s prescription)

Without question, one critical success factor for any Life Sciences company remains unchanged: the ability to identify and retain the best human capital possible.  A cutting-edge product or a new drug is absolutely important but, with the industry pace nowadays (new molecules creation, new generation of medical equipment, new technologies emerging every day, new customers’ needs industry redefinition trends), if you don’t have an outstanding group of individuals working seamlessly towards the same goal, you might not triumph.

Big multinational Life Sciences companies normally build complex and efficient executive talent pipelines through recruiting & talent development programs. Even companies with the best intentions and HR strategies can, however, get lost amongst the HR jargon and forget the basics needed to acquire great talent and finally fail.

On the other hand, mid-sized and start-up Life Sciences companies don’t have all these resources and often need a lot of help to bring in the right talent in order to make their magic happen.

I’ve seen several different strategies succeed and fail in different types of Life Sciences companies:  big and small, orphan drugs and OTC, biotech and big pharma, medical devices and health care services. Since I was an MD, practicing and doing drug research I have been observing the recruiting strategies and, for more than a decade, I have been serving those clients in order to attract and retain the best talent. All this observation and practice led me to advise Life Sciences companies to stick to some mandatory characteristics, no matter how evolved their talent strategy may be. I am sharing below what I found to be the 5 most important characteristics to look for in a candidate when recruiting in the Life Sciences industry:

  1. Solving Problem Mindset: Diversity

The tendency in the Life Sciences Industry is to always bring people with similar business expertise. This is ok, but what about the problem-solving mindset? Would it be adequate to bring in only people who think exactly in the same way? If everybody does the same things in the same way, you can’t expect different results (My thanks to Dr. Albert Einstein for this concept!). Is your recruitment team able to analyze the candidates’ problem solving competence?

2. Cultural Fit

Every company is a live organism and has its own corporate behavior that we call culture. A new executive should also be analyzed in terms of his ability to assimilate and adapt to a new culture. During the recruitment process: do you know how to describe, communicate and finally analyze the potential positive assimilation from the candidate? Review your tools in order to better analyze it.

3. Life Sciences Experience

All right, we can’t hire somebody from the mining industry for a regulatory affairs position in the Life Sciences industry. Our industry always has really difficult and particular regulations for any type of product and service offered to the market in any country. Most companies then hire strictly based on work experience and education – and clearly this is critically important in many positions. However, the ability to execute, personal values and life experiences should also be examined.

4. Execution

Individuals with extensive experience sometimes have knowledge but they are often not top performers. To have a deep knowledge is one thing but to have the ability to accomplish the goals and get things done is a different story. The best way to assess the execution ability is to ask in a structured way how the individual was able to accomplish the things described on the resume and have insights about the methods used.

5. Values

Every organization has its own core values. Every individual also has his/her own values. Well, we need to check this match very carefully. What is the motivation to be in this industry?  What about the motivation to join this company for this opportunity? The Life Sciences industries exists to help patients, to cure and /or relief suffering and belief in the same values is critical for a successful recruitment process.

Conclusion:  Hiring the right talent is an important principle for all companies. However, it is absolutely critical for Life Sciences nowadays due to the technology advances and speed of market evolution. You have new drugs, new technologies, and new treatments launched in the market with impressive agility. No matter how developed your human capital strategy is, hiring individuals who don’t meet these criteria might seriously affect your company performance.

Bernardo Entschev M.D.

Head of Life Sciences Practice

AIMS International

Locate the most suitable consultant for you