In 2020, Talent Acquisition Gets Personal


As we begin a new decade, I’m excited about the growing number of opportunities in the life sciences industry. Over the last several months, I have enjoyed the chance to attend numerous life sciences events around the country, and to speak with life sciences leaders and decision makers about the issues that are most important to them. Some of these events included the East/West CEO Conference, Bio association chapter events in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Utah, and the LSPA Annual CEO Dinner, which The Hennessy Group is a proud sponsor of every year.

As I've gone from one life sciences event to the next, two main themes emerged: The belief that significant medical discoveries, advances and therapies will be developed and brought to market in this decade, and the concern that the talent required to make this happen is not being found or put in place fast enough. As one CEO told me, "If I'm telling the Board and my investors that we have a five-year plan to  commercialization, I can't afford to wait a year to fill roles crucial to making that happen. The longer it takes to hire, the greater the risk we fail to deliver."

With unemployment at a 50-year low, the concern is justified. It's always been challenging to hire in the life sciences industry. It's even harder now. Mid to large size companies have invested in AI hiring software which helps lower their cost to hire. How AI affects candidate care and/or the quality of the hiring process remains a question, at least if you actually talk to candidates. It'll likely continue this way until AI hiring software can address candidate care and cultural fit. Bottom line is if it's my therapeutics company and I'm in a tough to recruit area or high labor demand city, I'm using retained search to find my head of operations, chief medical officer, top regulatory person, or any position that is critical to meeting Board, investor and patient expectations.

Create Connections to Find Top People

After spending the last several months on the road meeting both familar and new people, there was consensus among life sciences leaders that finding the right candidates was more about networking and relationship building.  At every event I attended, the importance of relationships was discussed, acknowledged, and promoted. This concept is familiar to me - it's how The Hennessy Group was built and it's how we do business.

At the East/West CEO Conference, I was sitting with two start-up CEOs. One CEO beat cancer twice, and she's now seeking funds to help others suffering from cancer. The other CEO is developing a therapy that kills cancer cells across various types of cancer. I ended that weekend meeting with a private equity firm looking for new life sciences opportunities. That firm is now connected with those two CEOs.

This is an example of how we approach search. The research side of our business is robust and starts with understanding the market and developing the initial candidate pool. Beyond that, search is about marketing the opportunities our clients offer, building talent networks and creating connections. Within that process, we build in candidate care - the process of understanding the needs and goals of our candidates. Every search we do inevitably leads us beyond the parameters of a particular contract to expansion of a talent network that can be tapped for future opportunities.

Finding highly qualified, functional team members and board members is where tenured specialists in executive search really can help and add value. If you are trying to hire mid to senior talent in life sciences and need help, I encourage you to consider a boutique firm like The Hennessy Group. Our firm has a 96% success rate in corporate searches and an impressive 100% success rate on filling Board of Director searches, with references that support our process.

I hope to connect with you at events around the country this year. As the life sciences industry enters a new era, I wish you good luck in 2020!

Category: Articles

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