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Follow these 5 steps to attract talent from big pharma to SME

By Matthew Cotton, Business Director at Hays Ireland

Improving healthcare outcomes through science and innovation is the common goal for Ireland’s life sciences start-ups, small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and big pharma corporates alike. If this is what connects them, then there is plenty to set them apart, not least when it comes to workplace culture and the attraction and retention of talent.

 Attracting talent from big pharma is beneficial

There’s no doubt about it, professionals who have built up years of experience working in big pharma can bring with them a degree of corporate pedigree, especially in procedure, discipline and professionalism. However, in order to successfully attract them away from big corporate life, it’s important for you, to both understand these benefits, as well as understand why your organisation is an employer of choice. Here’s how:

1. Your small business is at the cutting edge

To attract the best talent from big pharma, your employer branding strategy should clearly communicate the fact that you can offer a legitimate place at the table of cutting-edge scientific innovation. Today’s most ground-breaking advances are being incubated and hatched at the level of SMEs so, if this is true of your company, you should be shouting it from the rooftops to attract talented individuals whose gifts may be languishing in big pharma. The best life sciences talent are often motivated by the desire to genuinely make a real difference, and your enterprise may be just the vehicle to allow them to do this.

2. Excitement versus predictability

When working for a big corporate, day to day tasks can often become monotonous, with the same hamster-wheel of activities being checked off the to-do list each day. Rarely do employees come to work thinking ‘next month, this could all be completely different’. This is your opportunity to lure a quality candidate from big pharma. Change occurs quickly in SMEs and there’s typically less bureaucracy between team members and the board. It’s a different culture, where everybody pitches in and no two days are the same. It takes real talent to thrive in this atmosphere and real talent is what you will land if you can excite a candidate with this vision.

3. “Become a big fish”

There’s nothing wrong with appealing to vanity when it comes to recruiting your star-studded team . Working for your SME will mean a far broader range of roles and responsibilities are available to prospective employees than are currently available to them in big pharma, where niche roles and focused job descriptions prevail. Their voices will be heard more audibly, their successes more visible and they can exert a greater impact on the direction the business takes. The possibility of moving from small to big fish can be a powerful motivator for talent that needs to make its mark on the world of human health.

4. Greater self-determination

You may struggle to offer remuneration packages that equal those of big pharma – they typically offer higher salaries and a broader range of career development opportunities. Multinationals also often hold the promise of potential for travel and global experience. But, many candidates will forego these advantages for greater opportunities to exercise initiative, to develop skills on the job and avail of more flexible working hours.

5. Communicate your desirability

With all these selling points on your side, it’s important to communicate them effectively to your target audience. Start by ensuring your website reflects the attractions of working for you and makes it clear that you encourage approaches from prospective employees. Make sure your websites are optimised for keywords that tech-savvy candidates will use to find you; apply this across your social media. Develop and expand a personal network on LinkedIn; ask for referrals and search for potential candidates by past or current positions. Build alumni and stay in touch with former colleagues for potential future employment relationships. Ask current employees to activate their networks to reach out to potential passive candidates for jobs. Be visible at industry events, a rich opportunity for networking.

Be careful, though. Not everyone who works in big pharma is cut out for the huge cultural paradigm shift needed to make the transition to an SME. Look out for an entrepreneurial spirit, self-starting nature and an outgoing personality are hopeful signs.

To find out more, or to discuss your recruitment needs, please contact your local consultant

About this author

Matthew joined Hays in 2003 where he specialised in Office Support & PA Secretarial recruitment. With over 14 years’ experience, Matthew is currently a Business Director for Hays Ireland now specialising in the Life Sciences industry.

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