How to Hire Top Talent in Life Sciences in 2024

Updated on March 1, 2024

For the last few years, companies in the life sciences have been justly focused on fighting COVID-19. This means hiring the right people to develop vaccines and boosters, in addition to those needed to navigate the regulations and intricacies that come with this type of work. For the first time in years, life sciences companies are beginning to stabilize and focus on new projects, developments and advancements, such as the rise of cell and gene therapy and companies investing more money and resources into large molecule therapeutics. 

In 2024, we’ll begin to see more and more companies seeking experienced research and development (R&D) talent, fueling an increase in clinical trials aimed at achieving better treatment outcomes. This renewed emphasis on R&D will create opportunities for skilled talent in new areas, and companies seeking these crucial roles should take note of key insights to stand out and hire the best the industry has to offer. 

Experience vS. upskilling

Even as recent as late 2023, we saw companies were more open to considering transferable skills and planning to “upskill” new hires, which allowed them to invest in candidates that were the right cultural fit but needed a bit of training. Hiring for a cultural fit certainly has its benefits, as it contributes significantly to job satisfaction and aligns an employee’s personal values with the company’s ethos. This alignment of how employees communicate, how they are recognized and managed, as well as their interests and personal values, all translate into higher motivation levels, increased morale and a sense of belonging that nurtures engagement.

However, as the life sciences industry becomes more competitive, leaders will be prioritizing hard industry experience for most positions. This is particularly true for sectors like cell and gene therapy, where as many as 200 candidates apply for a single position. Employers must be able to pick out candidates with relevant experience and make bench hires – to hire from an already vetted talent pool – that are exceptional in their position right from the start.

In 2024, hiring managers must first consider the experience required for the position as the priority before determining whether the candidate is a cultural fit. Once they find a candidate who checks both boxes, they must also feel confident in what prospective employees want from the interview process, and the role itself, in order to land them. 

What top candidates expect

To secure talent in the current hiring landscape, companies must meet these new expectations. This includes delivering a personal experience throughout the process and getting to know potential employees on an individual level to gain insights into their motivations, goals and preferences. This allows companies to make a candidate feel valued from the first interaction, which plays a critical part in making a successful hire.

Of course, a compelling offer is oftentimes just as important. Candidates are not only looking for competitive compensation and benefits, but also other features specific to company culture and flexible work arrangements. This is especially true for Gen Z prospects, since the younger generation is more likely to prefer hybrid work arrangements as well as a company that prioritizes CSR initiatives. Furthermore, prioritizing factors such as positive company culture, professional development opportunities, employee recognition and appreciation all contribute to a candidate’s decision in accepting an offer, as well as long-term employee retention. 

A competitive edge

As a focus on COVID-19 moves to the backseat and R&D in a variety of sectors ramps up, the life sciences industry is on the precipice of exciting developments, and the career market will be a highly competitive one. 

On the hiring side, leaders will prioritize experience over upskilling, while also competing with other businesses to land the right talent. For talent, they’ll expect to be courted and offered benefits such as flexible work and higher compensation than we’ve seen in previous years. Throughout 2024, it’s important to understand both sides of the coin in order to ensure that both the company is prepared for success, and the employee is excited to be a part of the change.

Jae Yoo
Jae Yoo
Executive Director at EPM Scientific

Jae Yoo is Executive Director for EPM Scientific, a Phaidon International brand.