“You need more industry experience” – How to secure a life sciences job with an academic background

You’ve worked hard to secure your degree, or maybe even an MSc or PhD. You managed to secure a job at an established and well-regarded academic research institution. You’re working tirelessly on complex projects, often alongside professionals from the commercial sector. It’s time for the next step in your career, an opportunity to work directly for a sponsor. You’ve gained a lot of skills through your education and previous work, so you enter the job market, feeling excited about your career prospects and proud of your achievements.Only to find that it’s not enough.You get rejection after rejection, informed (or more often not so) that you need more commercial experience to secure a job in the commercial sector. But how can you get that experience if no one will give you a chance?Sound familiar?Don’t lose heart. In my line of work as a life sciences recruiter, I’ve seen many candidates with similar stories and there is a way forward.Here are my tips:Play to your strengthsMany of the companies within the clinical space originated within academic institutions, so academic  experience is well regarded, especially by biotech’s; it’s just about finding the best suited company to you, where you can add value. It’s important to consider your strengths: What therapeutic areas and phase of research have you been most heavily involved with?Where could you apply your knowledge base?What was your degree in, your MSc, your PhD?Really take time to consider this. Manager’s love to know that you’re passionate about a particular area of research (ideally this is in line with the company you are applying to) and where you might be able to add value.Pay attention to the finer detailsJob roles in an academic setting are often broad and varied, comparable to a biotech setting. You’ll likely have collected experience across a range of areas, so fill out your CV with as much as you can – even the little things that you think are self-explanatory. It all counts, and it could be the difference between an interview or a rejection. Some top tips:Be specific about your project experience (phase of research, therapeutic area, whether you were in a support or lead role). A clear summary of this can be useful, as well as details in each role entry. A sentence or two summarising your key achievements in each position can be really helpful – where did you go above and beyond? Detail any sponsor exposure you’ve had through your projects – have you worked on a commercial study? What interactions have you had with sponsors?Keep realistic expectationsDon’t jump too soon – make sure you’ve gained as much as you can from your current role and place of work before launching your career into industry. The industry is competitive, there will be other candidates applying to the position, so the more related experience you’ve had, the better.Think about whether now really is the right time to be making a move, what else could you do to expand your skill-set? Could you push for that promotion? How could you build your knowledge base?Persevere and stay curiousBe persistent – don’t lose heart. Applying for jobs can become a full-time job in itself, but don’t be discouraged (as best as you can) by rejections.Chase up your applications, ask questions – ask your colleagues, your ex-colleagues, your brother’s girlfriend’s Dad, who you heard works for GlaxoSmithKline. There’s always something to learn. Ultimately, those who are more persistent and eager to pursue opportunities will be more likely to find what they’re looking for.So, to recap:1.      Play to your strengths2.      Pay attention to the finer details3.      Keep realistic expectations4.      Persevere and stay curiousRemember, everyone has to start somewhere in their industry career. There will be an opportunity when the time is right, for yourself and for your future employer. I have helped numerous candidates with this move, and it is worth the wait!If you have any other questions or would like to discuss this further (and the opportunities that I have on at the moment) then please contact me on

Second interview questions to ask candidates

The second interview can sometimes be the final stage in the interview process. They are often conducted by line managers and decision makers, so it is important that the right questions are asked.  The first interview should have clarified enough soft skills and experience to warrant shortlisting the candidate to progress to this stage. Second interviews usually involve more targeted and specific questions, relating to hard skills and how the candidate would fit not only in the vacancy, but also the dynamics of the team and company they are joining. Questions will vary based on the role, the candidate and whoever is conducting the interview, but there is a general pattern that follows second interviews. Questions will usually fall into one of the following categories: Anything from the earlier stages that needs clarifying At this stage, the candidate has impressed enough with a CV, a cover letter, an initial telephone call and/or a face-to-face interview. There may still be some aspects from these stages that need confirmation, particularly if the second interviewer wasn’t present at the first one. Some questions you may wish to consider include: “In your last interview/on your CV, you mentioned XXXX, could you tell me a bit more about that?” If you are addressing something from the past, providing context will help the candidate understand what it is you need clarification on and not repeat what you already know.  “Do you want to revisit anything from the first interview?” Framing the question like this gives the candidate the opportunity to clarify themselves or highlight something they didn’t get to in the first interview. This is a useful icebreaker and can relieve some tension for the candidate to revisit something they’ve been worried about from an earlier stage of the process.   “Do you have any questions about the business or the role since your first interview?” In a multi-stage interview process, the candidate may be involved in other interview processes or have received new information since the last conversation. This is a good way to break the ice and ensure they are still confident your company is a good match for them. Questions specific to the role With the general soft skills being the focal point of the first interview, a second interview focuses more on the specific benefits a candidate will bring and how they will add value to the business through the roles. This is particularly important in the niche skills and understanding required within different aspects of the life sciences industry. “What are the first three things you’d look to change/implement if you started tomorrow?” This is a useful way to see the value the candidate will bring to the business and their understanding of the role. how much the candidate understands about your business. They may not know too much about the inner workings of your business, but you’ll be able to see their thought process, priorities and might even get some useful feedback on your existing processes.”   “What should our company be doing?” (alternatively, what are our competitors doing that we aren’t?) This highlights what the candidate knows about your market, the competitors and what industry trends are transforming the market to keep businesses competitive. Are they aware of trends like AI, recently released research or new regulations that would impact the role they are interviewing for? Also, you might get some good insight to evolve your business too. N.B. – Often, candidates can feel tripped up by questions about change. While it may be a sign of leadership for them to confidently highlight issues, some may need encouraging if they are afraid of bad mouthing the processes of their potential new employer.   “What type of impact did you make at your last role?” This is a useful way to see if they are results, people or process driven. Keep an eye out for if they respond with stats and numbers for their results, talk about new efficient processes or if they focus on managing teams and working with their colleagues. This will give you insight into what they value and how they measure their success.   “We are currently implementing XYZ, do you have experience with this/how would you tackle this?” Using active scenarios gives a useful insight in how the candidate would take on the challenges your business is currently facing. Listening to their thought process will enable you to evaluate the candidates based on actual situations they’ll be up against and may also give you some good insight into the issues impacting your teams too.   “What do you know about our product and services? Have you worked on something similar before?” Similar to the above question; how much research has the candidate done into your business? More importantly, how much experience do they have in the area of the industry that your company will be focusing on? These live examples are good ways to simulate conversations you will be having with them as a future employee.   “Tell me about a time a project’s deadline changed and you had to adapt” Real world examples are useful ways to see how a potential future employee deals with certain scenarios. Pick a stress point that may occur in their role to evaluate their response to unexpected or stressful situations. Personality and culture compatibility The second interview is usually conducted by someone who will be working in close relation to the new employee so this is a great opportunity to get a feel for how they would be to work with. Successful hires rely on the candidate being compatible with the team and company culture they will be joining.   “What is your preferred management style?” As well as highlighting their personal management style and experience, this question will help you understand how compatible the candidate may be with your current leadership structures and review culture.   “How would you describe yourself in one sentence? How would your friends describe you?” It’s a staple interview question. Asking how others would describe them may lead to some interesting insights about their personality.   “What do you get up to outside of work?” A staple interview question – a great icebreaker and allows you to hear more about the person behind the professional. If you have similar interests, this can relieve a lot of tension in the interview process.   “In your previous role, did you work more as a team or on an individual basis?” Asking if they prefer to work as a team or individually will likely result in the answer “I work well in both”. Asking about their previous experiences will give a better indication of their preferred way of working and how they talk about their previous teams.  Expectations and logistics Depending on how many stages are left in the interview process, the second interview will give you a good gauge on your final hiring decision. These questions are key to ensure that the ideal candidate is not only able to accept a potential offer, but also what expectations they may have from working with you as an employer. “How long is your notice period?” A very simple question that confirms the earliest start date and if the candidate has any obligations or leave that may impact this.   “Just want to confirm; do you know what salary this role was advertised with?” Asking about salaries in interview is a divisive topic. Some interviewers will ask upfront, others may prefer to briefly cover the topic and discuss in detail at offer stage. It is important to understand the candidate’s expectations as this may impact your offer.   “Have you looked into the logistics of relocating/commuting to * LOCATION*?” Roles that require relocation will likely have been discussed in the very early stages. This question highlights both how seriously the candidate has researched the required move and encourages conversation around any concerns.   “I know you’ve mentioned you’re ok with the amount of travel involved in this role, did you have any questions about this?” Questions about travel will likely have already taken place if it is core to the role. This question confirms the candidate’s ability to travel and invites any concerns or negotiations they may have that may influence your decision.  Questions that encourage their input It is very easy forget that it is not just the interviewer assessing the candidate, the candidate is also determining if they want to join your company too. Ensuring they have a chance to ask questions and showing awareness of their decision will give them a good opportunity to ensure they are excited to potentially join your team and give you the chance to alleviate any concerns they may have.   “What question should I have asked you, but haven’t?” May seem like a trick question, but this is a great way to encourage the candidate to highlight a key point they want you to know that didn’t come up already. Give the candidate a chance to sell themselves.                                                                                   “Is there anything from your current/previous companies that you think we could benefit introducing here?” Industry insight is key to keeping ahead of the game. Not only will this highlight more evidence of how the candidate operated in their previous employment, it may also give you some ideas that can improve your business operations.   “Is there anything about the role or company that concerns/worries you?” A simple question, but key to ensuring both you and the candidate leave the interview with the information you need to make an informed decision. This gives you the opportunity to clarify any determining factors or highlight any points that may need to be negotiated before a potential offer.   “Do you know much about the culture here?” This is a leading question to set you up into your sales pitch for the company and the role. It is important that you sell the opportunity, benefits and culture. N.B. Remember, great candidates will be in high demand with other job offers, so it is important to highlight the benefits of your company, particularly in the competitive recruitment field of life sciences. Looking to hire life sciences professionals?For more information on our recruitment solutions for interim and permanent vacancies, you can contact our dedicated client services team here, or upload your job description directly.

Hobson Prior continues global expansion within life sciences recruitment support

Hobson Prior continues global expansion within life sciences recruitment support Life science recruitment company Hobson Prior has further expanded its global presence this month by opening a new office in Cape Town. This is the second international office the UK-based firm has opened in 2020, after establishing itself in Basel, Switzerland earlier this year. As life sciences recruitment partners for pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical devices companies around the world, scalability and global coverage have always been key to Hobson Prior’s success. With clients from around the world and a headhunting and candidate network spanning several continents, Hobson Prior continues to grow its international presence throughout 2020. International presence Hobson Prior prides itself on delivering expert recruitment solutions to candidates and clients around the world, covering the core life sciences hubs and beyond. It is through these international connections that they have access to the highest calibre of candidates and can headhunt rare and nicely specialised talent. Notably, Hobson Prior has placed life sciences workers in over 30 countries in interim and permanent positions. Also, Hobson Prior’s interim recruitment team hit a landmark 200 live onsite contractors across Europe amidst the global pandemic. “The currently global situation has proven the possibility of embracing more remote working, particularly on an international scale,” comments Patrick Forster, Managing Director of Hobson Prior. “As our network and internal coverage expands, we can continue to connect life sciences professionals with the companies that need their services and offer innovative and efficient recruitment solutions for our clients”. Global expansion This year, Hobson Prior relocated their Switzerland office from Lausanne to Basel. They also secured a SECO interim recruitment license, enabling them to payroll Swiss contractors and provide compliant interim recruitment services to Swiss clients directly from their Basel office. This has enabled them to improve their solutions for clients, as well as support international businesses source talent to launch new sites within Switzerland. Most recently, they’ve helped US based clients overcome the challenges of hiring in Switzerland from the states, using the recruiters based in Basel to impart their knowledge and experience of the Swiss candidate market. Introducing Hobson Prior Cape Town Following the Swiss move, Hobson Prior is also opening a new office in Cape Town, South Africa, expanding their team to establish themselves within a new continent and ensure they can continue to provide expert international support to their life sciences clients, wherever they may be.South Africa is home to sites for many biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmitheKline, Pfizer and Sanofi and is a growing hub for development within the life science. This new office aims to support Hobson Priore's global efforts and ensure they can support their clients with recruitment solutions, regardless of time differences.   “These steps are key to Hobson Prior’s plans for sustainable global growth and will empower us to continue our mission to provide exceptional recruitment solutions to candidates and clients across the life sciences sector, on a truly worldwide scale”Patrick Forster- Managing Director, Hobson PriorFor more information on Hobson Prior’s international recruitment solutions, please visit the employers section of the website or contact the client services team directly:Email: Telephone: (+44) 01892 612612

How to interview someone that you know

The life sciences industry relies upon the talents of often niche specialisms, where the number of qualified and experienced candidates can be limited. With a high demand for rare and specialised professionals, it is easy to get to know a lot of the names and faces within some sectors. As an interviewer, you need to ensure you’re conducting fair and unbiased interviews not only hire the best candidates for the job, but also to avoid breaching employment laws. However, this can be become more complex when you have an existing knowledge or awareness of the candidates.  Firstly, how do you know the candidate? We meet people in lots of ways within the industry. It is this level of relationship that will ultimately determine how best to address the interview:  Networking/Professionally People you meet at industry events, through a company collaboration or perhaps they’re a respected name in the field, won’t necessarily create a conflict of interests. That said, depending on the closeness of your professional relationship, any prior relationship could invite some biases, so it’s important to remain consciously impartial.  Previous employer/employee Having experience working with the candidate before will give you valuable insight into their performance, but may also complicate the interview process, as it will be more difficult to remain impartial.   Family or friend This relationship is likely the most problematic for an interviewer. Whilst it is certainly possible to be impartial, this may be considered a conflict of interests and could lead to accusations of nepotism or bias. It’s important to follow procedures to protect yourself in this scenario.   Internal promotion Perhaps someone from your team is going for a management role or someone from elsewhere in the business is looking to join your team. Depending on your close working relationship, you may find complications in remaining impartial, impacting the fairness of the process for you and your colleague. Balancing the needs of the company, your responsibility as the interviewer and your connection to the person being interviewed can be a tenuous task. Here are some core considerations for how to interview someone that you know within life sciences: 1. Inform your HR team It is best practice to tell your HR team if you are planning to interview a candidate that you have previous connections with. Even what you may consider to be an inconsequential connection can have ramifications, so it is best to protect yourself and ensure you have followed internal procedures. Your HR teams will have a greater knowledge surrounding legal and ethical issues you may not be aware of and will protect you from potential conflicts of interest. Be honest about how you know the candidate and the extent of your relationship with them.   2. Assess whether your involvement is needed How important is it that you conduct the interview? Is there someone else who could take the interview on your behalf? Even if you know you’d be fully professional, it may be easier to defer to colleague and avoid the potential pressures and awkwardness by not being involved. If you do choose to conduct the interview, ensure you are with a colleague and a HR representative if possible. This will protect you and your friends from breaching company policy, as well as guarantee there is an impartial second opinion. It is also worth considering the interviewees thoughts; interviews are stressful enough without the potential pitfalls of knowing your interviewer. Asking if they would be comfortable to be interviewed by you or offering an alternative interviewer could reduce some of this stress. 3. Establish boundaries early Addressing the issue head on will be the quickest and most effective way to clarify the process and dispel any concerns about your involvement, as well as make clear that you will remain professionally impartial.  Give a clear explanation on:How you will conduct the interviewHow they will be assessedWho will be involved in the decision-makingHow your existing relationship will (or rather will not) impact the proceedingsThe post-interview process and that you will not be able to influence the outcome Be honest and upfront about your relationship with them and address the elephant in the room. Perhaps give them an alternative interviewer option if it is a friend or an existing colleague. This should relieve tension and set the tone for an impartial and hopefully positive experience for you both. 4. Examine your biases and ethical dilemmaPrepare your response to scenarios before going into the interview. How will you react if they keep bringing up your relationship to them or if they reference personal issues you have a connection to?  Highlight areas where your relationship with the candidate could put you in an ethical quandary. For example, if you know the candidate is underselling their skills or not using an example that would help their cause, would you raise this? Would it be unfair to say something on their behalf or to lead the questioning to give them an advantage? Conversely, what if you know them to always be late to social events outside of work, could that create an unfair bias against their professional performance? What if they say something you believe to be untrue? Would you call them out? Could it be your unconscious bias?  A useful question to ask yourself to avoid bias is “would you ask this to another candidate?”. A second opinion is always useful to protect your and your friend’s interests. You can defer to them to help you avoid these ethical issues. 5. Evidence over experienceA sure-fire way to protect yourself from any accusation or bias based on assumption from your existing relationship, is to ensure that you have evidence for anything you inherently believe about the candidate. You may know the interviewee has exceptional leadership qualities from working together previously or from how they’ve lead teams outside of a working environment. However, without tangible evidence of this in the interview, you open yourself to criticism on your judgement.  Whilst it would be unethical to ask leading questions, the responses they give will be more valuable to the interview assessment.  6. Prepare for the conclusionOne of the pitfalls of interviewing someone you know, is the inevitable questioning of the result. Having established boundaries early on, you should be in a good position, but it is useful to have responses ready. If the candidate is unsuccessful, there may be impacts to your relationship outside of work, or even a complaint about your involvement. Be sure to communicate the decision process with your friend and be transparent about your involvement in any decision-making processes.  If the person you know is successful, you may have colleagues or other interviewees question the legitimacy or fairness of your interview. Even if you’ve followed all the procedures or even had a HR representative take over the process. Address concerns of your teams ahead of time and create a positive narrative about the new employee. Keep an open door to discuss any concerns that come up and keep an eye out for how the team dynamics are affected. Ultimately, the life sciences industry is fuelled by networking and collaboration. Having trusted and proven professionals on your team is a bonus and, although there may be some ethical issues to be aware of, having a previous relationship with people joining your team can be a huge advantage to productivity and success. Provided you keep an impartial position and follow procedures, interviewing someone you know can be no different than conducting an interview with a complete stranger. Looking to hire life sciences professionals?For more information on our recruitment solutions for interim and permanent vacancies, you can contact our dedicated client services team here, or upload your job description directly.

Using our local knowledge to help a US business launch in Switzerland

OverviewCompany: US based biotechnology company, looking to expand within European markets Role required: Medical Directors, Executive level Recruitment situation: Our US based client was looking to launch a new site, based in Geneva. They needed a medical director with experience across all stages of clinical development. The role had been open for 12 months, but all their previous candidates were more focused on late phase rather than the who process. The situation We were approached by a US-based biotechnology company that needed a senior director to join their executive team in their new Swiss site. The role was a strategy focused role, where the chosen candidate would be responsible for overseeing the programmes through all stages of clinical development as well as taking a key role in the leadership team. They had been working with recruitment companies, but they were unable to find medical directors with enough experience across the phases of development. As such, the role had been open for 12 months and was limiting the development of their Swiss entity. Based on our global experience aiding companies across the world source candidates on an international level, we were approached to help source potential candidates on this role. As a senior and critical role that had already experienced disappointment for the client, we referred them to our executive search team and began the process of identifying the optimal. Hobson Prior executive solutionThe initial focus was to identify which candidates had already been interviewed and why they were not offered the final role. By understanding the client’s minimum requirements and identifying where unsuccessful candidates had been sourced allowed us to minimise future unsuccessful submissions. As part of this process, we worked closely with the client to identify pre-existing role models within their business and the industry. Utilising our advanced recruitment software, we were then able to isolate candidates in Switzerland with similar education and employment history as they would have the skillset required for the role. Our European team began proactively headhunting our extensive mainland network. By utilising our contacts, we were able to collect referrals of skilled professionals that matched our client’s criteria. We were then able to build a pool of potential candidates and pre-interview each candidate before submission to ensure we only put forward those that would benefit our client. We worked closely with their US team to facilitate the phone interviews and follow-up face-to-face interviews, ensuring that despite the time difference, all parties were aware of the process and maintaining effective communication. The resultFollowing a successful interview period, a candidate from the UK was offered a role within 5 months of the role being with us, a 60% decrease from the previous attempts. Based on the success of this process, we found another candidate who was offered a similar roe in their European team two months after the first placement. By working with our executive team, they were able to expand across Germany and the UK, with the qualified medical directors they needed. We dramatically reduced their time to hire and they have gone on to create and addition third and fourth role to allow more of the candidates we sourced to join their team. To learn more about our recruitment solutions, you can view our employers section or upload a job description to our client services team. Hobson Prior Interim Recruitment  Our interim solutions are customised to ensure we provide you with fast delivery and high-quality candidates. You’ll also benefit from additional services to ensure efficient turnaround.Local candidate pools Same day search International contractor support Pre-assessed submissions Full compliance and support Click here for more information

Why are there so many pharmaceutical companies in Switzerland?

Switzerland is one of the most popular places for a pharmaceutical company to establish a new site. Global industry leading companies including Roche, Novartis, Merck and Celgene have a large presence within Switzerland and there is continued interest from international biotech and pharma companies, particularly from the US, to open new sites within the country. Over 40 new biotechs and pharma companies established themselves in there in 2019, so why are so many pharmaceutical companies in Switzerland? Why are European pharma companies concentrated in Switzerland? Switzerland’s relationship within Europe Over a third of Swiss exports come from the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry and the territory has established itself as a leading hub for life sciences development within Europe. With over 250 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies based across Basel, Zurich, Geneva and other core cities in Switzerland, there is already a proven and well-resourced access to talent, resources, funding and clinical development within the country. Similarly, being geographically close to other leading life sciences hubs within Germany, France and Italy provides Switzerland a very beneficial position to expand a life sciences business. Switzerland and the EU and EMA Switzerland is not a member of the EU or the EEA (European Economic Area), but maintains a confidentiality agreement with the European Commission and European Medicines Agency (EMA) through the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products (Swissmedic). Similarly, the sovereign state maintains a strong connection to the European Union with a mutual recognition agreement (MRA) for good manufacturing practice (GMP) compliance, as well as strong ties to the FDA. This unique political and commercial position can be advantageous for pharmaceutical companies to have a presence in this booming market that has more financial and political freedom, whilst ensuring strong connections to the EMA and FDA global markets.   Top life sciences talent from Switzerland A core consideration for any site selection is ease of accessibility to top talent within the industry; ultimately, it is a strong workforce that drives success in pharma. Attraction and retention of talented professionals relies on the appeal of the country and its cities, the quality of life and understanding of local customs and employment laws. Whilst it is difficult to quantify analysis for employee potential and happiness in their environment, Switzerland ranks highly across numerous studies in workforce satisfaction and quality of life. Switzerland and access to talent Switzerland has consistently ranked highly in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI), which measures and ranks countries based on their ability to grow, attract and retain talent. Switzerland was ranked first place in the GTCI 2020, with notably high rankings in employee retention, enabling employees’ development and encouraging personal growth. With a particular focus on how AI and adoption of technology have impacted the index in 2020, Switzerland’s high ranking demonstrates a promising consideration of innovation alongside talent attraction and business development Similarly, the country ranks highly for many aspects of workforce skills in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness report 2019, with 1st place rankings in extent of staff training, quality of vocational training and skillsets of graduates. Switzerland is also home to 4 out of 100 of the Times Higher Education top 100 universities worldwide, with 7 in the top 200 universities, promoting Switzerland’s reputation for education and research. Strong performance in these areas highlights the promising growth Switzerland has in attracting top talent internationally, as well as producing skilled workers within its education system and employee development.   Switzerland and quality of life for employees Switzerland scores highly in employee retention on the GTCI 2020, suggesting a satisfactory lifestyle provided for potential employees. This is further supported by Zurich’s position as 2nd, Geneva as 9th and Basel as 10th globally on the Mercer Quality of Living Index 2020, which reviews quality of living standards in line with typical compensation packages.    The combination of all these factors, alongside the proximity to other leading life sciences hubs in Germany and France, suggest Switzerland can be a highly beneficial place for skilled professionals to establish their career across biotechnology and pharma, enabling Swiss based pharmaceutical companies access to talented individuals, at a local level, across a range of specialist fields.   “Practically all the specialist life sciences candidates we work with are aware of Switzerland’s appeal within the industry. There is no shortage of talented professionals already based or looking to locate to the vicinity so there is often a surplus of viable candidates.” Matthew Vickers, Principal Consultant for Swiss Clinical recruitment at Hobson Prior. “In fact, it is often more difficult for the companies we work with to compete for the attention of this talent, particularly if they don’t know the swiss recruitment system.”   Switzerland’s investment in R&D With biotechnology and pharma making up 40% of Swiss exports, Switzerland has the largest export surplus of pharmaceutical products worldwide, producing 88.4 CHF billion in pharmaceutical industry exports in 2019. It is no surprise that Switzerland invests heavily in its research and development schemes to ensure continued growth and innovation. Around 7,000,000,000 CHF was invested into R&D from Swiss pharma companies in 2018, with continued investment and innovation across the pharma and biotech spaces within Switzerland. This led to the development of multiple new start-ups as Switzerland continues to continue to build its life sciences industry. As a core industry, the country is very supportive of its innovators.   Switzerland and innovation Switzerland ranked number 1 against EU countries on the in European Innovation Scoreboard 2020, which assesses the relative strengths and weaknesses of national innovation systems within the EU and neighbouring countries. With Switzerland globally renowned for life sciences innovation, the pharma industry is likely to have contributed significantly to this.   For life sciences, Switzerland’s commitment to funding innovative ideas provides a great advantage for pharma development. The registration process for obtaining a license for a new pharmaceutical product from the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products is one of the fastest in the world and with one of the most sophisticated healthcare systems, it lends itself to efficient pharmaceutical development and clinical testing. With leading biotechs specialising in new technological advancements such as cell and gene therapy, CRISPR and AI integration across the life sciences, the country’s influence in life sciences is visible on a global scale. With a landscape centred on innovation and scientific development, many pharma companies enjoy the benefits of being based there.   Switzerland and future stability Through investment in innovation, Switzerland ranks highly across core areas of future development and readiness for changes and advancements within the life sciences industry and across the global business outlook: 1st for change readiness - 20191st for growth promise indicators - 2019 1st for economic freedom in Europe - 20202nd for global resilience - 20203rd for world competitiveness - 2020 Whilst the future is never fully certain, with strong investment and dedication to promoting its life sciences, Switzerland appears to be at the height of pharmaceutical development and with no plans to slow down.     Switzerland as an international investment Overall, there are various reasons impacting a pharmaceutical company’s decision for a site location and Switzerland has established itself as a proven global leader in many of these aspects, including talent attraction, investment into innovation and pharmaceutical success. With a large focus on the life sciences and pharma as a core export, it is unsurprising to see so many talented professionals - educated within Switzerland or living locally - and numerous start-up labs and biotech research teams establishing themselves across the country. It is also unsurprising that many growing companies in the pharmaceutical industry who are looking to expand internationally, choose Switzerland as the location for their sites including Hobson Prior, who have a team based in Basel. It is worth noting that, as with any international expansion, the customs, expectations and processes for recruitment within Switzerland can vary significantly.“We see particularly with US pharma companies looking to build teams in Switzerland, they can come across difficulties with time differences and slight differences in processes that makes it difficult to secure top talent in a competitive market.“With so much competition for strong candidates, we help them promote their career opportunities and navigate the local nuances of the typical Swiss recruitment process”.James Inwood – Client Services Manager at Hobson Prior For more information on hiring life sciences professionals in Switzerland as part of an international expansion, you can contact our Swiss recruitment team, or read our case study following how a US company launches its Swiss office despite the time differences and different hiring culture.

Moving from contract to permanent employment in life sciences

Contracting is a popular choice for many professionals within the life sciences industry and many use the variety interim working offers to move from company to company as they move from contract to contract. However, there are occasions where you maybe offered permanent employment at the end of their fixed term, either in the same role or in a different capacity, leaving them with a big decision to make. With aspects such as the introduction of IR35 to the private sector in the UK impacting the contracting opportunities within life sciences, what should a life sciences professional consider when moving from contract to permanent employment in life sciences? Naturally, the choice to move to a permanent position after contracting is a personal one that will be impacted by many factors. As recruiters for both the permanent and interim markets of life sciences, these are some of the core elements we discuss with candidates:Salary vs wages Benefits and flexibilityCompany culture vs. contractor independenceCareer development and job stabilityWhat is the company offering?How will moving from contract to permanent employment impact your income? Contracting jobs generally equate to more income per hour than permanent positions. There are numerous reasons for this: To secure an expert consultant’s time in the competitive contract marketTo cover costs contractors will have that would be covered by an employer in a permanent roleTo match the high expectations of a contract employee to meet deadlines and work to chargeable hours Although a base salary may be less income, permanent companies may offer additional benefits such as sick pay, pension scheme contributions or a bonus incentive. It is important that a proposed salary is in line with your expectations and you’re able to maintain financial commitments and living expenses. It is likely when considering a move from contracting to permanent that you will need to consider if you are willing to lower your salary for the benefits of a stable income and other company-funded financial perks such as sick pay and pension contribution.How do the company benefits weigh up to your contracting freedoms?There is a lot of rigidity within a contracting as hours are chargeable. Yet, contracting provides a great deal of freedom as well. Contractors have more control over the roles they take, the type of work they accept and can often negotiate their contracts around family and life commitments outside of the work place. This flexibility and ability to define their schedules is a common reason that keeps contractors from moving back to a permanent career. However, this independence also means contractors have very limited support, and with IR35 changes soon to hit the UK, clients are even more cautious of the benefits they can extend to contractors. When weighing up the option of taking a permanent opportunity, there are a few benefits to consider: Training and resources – Contractors fund and schedule their own training. Some roles within life sciences, such as biometrics or other digital-based areas, require consistent upkeep with in-demand technologies to keep their skillsets relevant. Would your permanent employer be able to support your personal development through courses and training as part of your employment? Financial schemes and healthcare support – Sick pay, healthcare, maternity or paternity leave, long-term illness cover, and pension schemes are benefits that permanent employees may be entitled to as standard from their employer. It is key to understand the benefits your potential permanent employer offers and how they impact your current or future plans. Holiday and flexibility – While we are seeing demand for flexible working hours and working from home, most life sciences companies, are still adapting to introducing these benefits across permanent employment. What are your current flexible benefits with contracting? Will you be able to transfer these to the permanent opportunity?Could you see yourself in the role permanently? The benefit of a contract to permanent move is that you essentially get to trial your future job before you commit. At some point within your contract period, you have likely questioned whether you could see yourself working in the role or at that company long-term, but it is important to take the time to reposition your thinking and review those thoughts in closer detail. Knowing the temporary nature of contracting, it is easier to appease frustrating aspects or monotonous daily tasks while working through your contract period, subconsciously knowing it is only temporary. Similarly, it’s easier for colleagues and the company to maintain some form of distance knowing the temporary nature of your employment. Inviting contractors to company events can have an impact of their IR35 determination so there can be less opportunities to identify how you’d fit into the team.   Once you start considering a permanent opportunity, take the time to reframe your thinking over the aspects of the job that you may have taken for granted: The team – How close are you with your current colleagues? Would you find yourself fitting into the culture? Would you be comfortable working as part of that team permanently? The management – Will you keep your current reporting structure? What support and development is offered? Where will you fit into the management structure? The company – What are the growth plans for the business? Do you like their ethos, their message and their employee considerations? Would you enjoy being part of their company mission? The role – What is the future of that role? Is it something you could do everyday? How much diversity in the role is there and is there opportunity to create more diversity? What do you dislike and is there room to carve out your ideal role? What is being offered and how does this fit in with your career goals? Before any of these considerations take place, it’s important to know what the company is actually offering you and why they want you to move from a contracted specialist to a permanent employee. Are they offering a permanent role or the opportunity to apply for the permanent position? Policy may dictate that they need to formally interview you for the role. This could be an opportunity to reframe your thinking about the position and get some answers to these questions, or it may be a red flag that you have been offered out of convenience. Perhaps an interview is required because the role on offer is not exactly what you’ve been doing under your contract. Are they offering the same role on the same project or a permanent opportunity on a different team/project? If your responsibilities are going to change, it is key to assess if your reasons behind undertaking the contract job initially still balance with the new opportunity. Similarly, do you want to continue with the project? Is there room to negotiate what type of role you want? Are they creating a new position to keep you? Undoubtedly a flattering offer; these types of moves imply that your skillset and expertise is so invaluable that the company wants to work with you to find you a place on their team. This is a great opportunity to discuss your career aspirations and how this company could help you achieve them, potentially building your ideal job through negotiation. As an independent contractor, you are responsible for your career progression, so it is important that you communicate your future plans and aspirations with your contracted employer and they know what you are expecting, where you want your career to go and the reasons behind you not moving to a permanent position sooner. There are many variables that will impact your decision, whether circumstantial or personal and ultimately, deciding whether to move into permanent employment or continue contracting is filled with many ‘what if’ scenarios. With IR35 impacting the UK and many uncertainties in the global life sciences industry, the option to move into permanent employment may be more prevalent. However, developments across the life science industry continue to create more contracting opportunities amongst employers – demand within the industry is still high, particularly for niche expertise. If you would like to talk to one of our recruiters about the hiring trends and stability of your sector within life sciences or discuss your interest and options between contract and permanent positions, please contact our team here.            Find a recruiter       

Case study: Helping a cell & gene therapy start-up 10x their headcount

The situationDuring a candidate check-in, one of our previous candidates informed us he’d joined an upcoming clinical stage cell and gene therapy company that had developed new labs. They were a small team of 5 people and needed to bulk hire GMP technician and production scientist for a bulk project. As a small team in a highly competitive industry, they struggled with the resources and reach to attract top candidates with the required skillsets. Based on our previous relationship with the senior vice president, we arranged a site visit to discuss how Hobson Prior could help them increase their headcount.Hobson Prior solution At the initial meeting, we identified the – Basically, found out as much as we could about the company and the project they were working on, so we could best represent them to the talent in the industry. As well as agree a budget and timescale – from this we tailored a recruitment package to suit them. We utilised our international candidate pools of pre-screened candidates with the required skillsets. Our technical operations recruitment team spoke to these candidates to ensure they were appropriately skilled, available and to ensure they were engaged and excited by the opportunity to join the project. We were quickly able to source a list of 20 candidates that would be suitable for the role. As resources and time were key areas of concern for the company, we suggested using our digital interview system, HireVue, to give them more control over the initial stages of interview review. Each of the 20 submitted candidates completed a video interview that could be quickly and simply reviewed by the company to ensure we maximised their time. From these 20, 10 were taken into a final face-to -face interview.The resultWithin 6 weeks, we had sourced, screened and placed 8 candidates. 9 out of the 10 final interviews were offered jobs and we have been working with this cell and gene therapy company since. Their team has grown from 5 members to over 50, with Hobson Prior responsible for the pre-screen checks, gathering references and on-boarding for half of these new hires. In fact, the last 4 placements made by Hobson Prior were for a team reporting into one of the original 8 we helped place. We are proud to be a trusted part in this innovative company’s rapid growth as the continue to research ground-breaking developments in the life sciences industry. 

Writing a manager CV for pharmaceutical companies

Updating a CV is consistently considered one of the more tedious parts of securing a job, but as the first step and the first impression to potential employers, it is important that it reflects your aptitude and successes appropriately. This is especially key if you are writing a manager CV for more senior roles within the pharmaceutical industry. When writing a CV for managerial role, there is often a temptation to mimic and loosely adapt an existing template. However, a CV for a senior role must reflect different attributes that are not often present in CVs for lower seniority roles. There are some core elements to consider when updating a CV for senior-level jobs that hiring managers and HR will look out for during the initial selection process. By adapting your CV to take these tips into account, your manager CV is more likely to stand-out and be considered for more senior-level positions as part of your career progression through the life sciences and pharma industry. Show results with quantitative data The life sciences industry grounds itself in evidence-based data and this mentality should continue through to a CV for a manager job in pharma. A key differentiator from an early career CV and a CV from someone applying for a senior role is whether they “show” or “tell” their employment achievements. Rather than simply listing your responsibilities in former jobs, hiring managers want to see your results. A CV will stand out if it includes quantifiable data that show examples of achievements. 20% increase in efficiency 12% reduction in costs Delivered over 30,000 units on-brief and within the deadline Phrases like these are much more impactful than a list of daily tasks and demonstrate how your work supports the wider business goals. Remember who will be reading It is key to keep the reader at the forefront of your mind when writing it, especially for more senior positions. Listing tasks you were assigned is useful, but does that tell the hiring managers that they need to hear for a management role? With senior roles likely having a tough application competition, a strong CV will help a strong candidate stand out. If you are writing a CV for a manager job in pharma, then you will likely be looking to lead a team or project. It may sound obvious, but it is important that your CV shows demonstrable leadership experience and thinking beyond your daily tasks to be invited to the next stage of the recruitment process. Keep the content relevant and honest Ambition and enthusiasm are great traits for a potential employee, but it is never advisable to falsify information on your CV. This is particularly important when writing a CV for senior roles as senior managers will be expected to represent and be accountable for the pharmaceutical company that hires them. It’s cliché advice, but in nearly every recruitment process, there are instances where great candidates miss out on opportunities due to inconsistencies in their CV. Exaggerations are much less likely to be tolerated by hiring managers for senior roles and whilst it might make a CV may stand out, it will likely have a negative impact on the remainder of the hiring process. Prioritise your CV space allocation When writing a CV, it is important to keep the reader – HR’s talent acquisition of hiring manger - at the forefront of your mind. Therefore, it is important to consider factors such as the formatting and weighting of a CV. This is particularly key for the large-scale pharma companies, they will receive a lot of applications and may employ a strict initial vetting process to highlight core candidates to consider. CVs for manager jobs in pharmaceutical companies will likely come from professionals with a developed employment history; especially in the pharmaceutical industry, where academic success and external contributions to the field may hold core relevance. CVs are generally about 2 pages long and with potentially hundreds of other applicants, it is more beneficial to focus the relevant experience towards the beginning of the CV. Listing your core achievements and technical skillsets in an executive summary, alongside quantitative achievements and perhaps some testimonials if you have them, will immediately emphasise to a hiring manager the key elements that show your suitability for the role. Early career positions and academic history arguably show growth and career development; however, they should not be prioritised over the recent roles and contributions that will help make you stand out as a desirable candidate. These can be included as bullet points towards the end if you have space or listed within an accompanying appendix.  Tailor a CV to the position By applying for a senior position, you’re looking for more responsibility within a business. If you can tailor your CV to ensure it is representing key points of the initial job description, your CV will not only immediately tick boxes for your relevance to the role, but it shows an attention to detail that many employers will value. When applying for a senior role, showing the difference between a default CV curated for multiple early level positions and a manager CV where you have dedicated time and effort to tailor your CV to the specific role/company highlights your understanding of the recruitment process, experience within the industry and commitment to secure this job as part of your career development. Promote your personal brand in the industry When it comes to senior positions within a pharmaceutical company, it is likely the hiring managers have a strong idea of the experiences, skillsets and personality traits they are looking for to fill the position. Senior roles will still like to see potential in candidates, but experience and specialism are more important to stand out in the application process. Your experience and your successes are all part of forming your place within the industry. Whilst you don’t have to be a key speaker at several events or an award-winning pioneer, promoting your unique qualities and specialist expertise is very important, particularly within pharmaceuticals. Niche skill sets and specialisations such as specific experience within oncology or a unique background in the medical field help make candidates stand out. Clients have a specific brief in mind of what they need so if you can promote your specialisation, you’re in with a much better shot of progressing to the next stage. List technical skills separately Depending on the type of management position you are applying for, your technical and practical skills are not the only qualities hiring managers are looking to find in your CV. If you will be leading a team or project, your leadership, people management and operational experienced will also hold high weighting in the application process. It is unlikely that you will be competing with candidates that do not hold the technical knowledge to succeed within the role, so listing your technical skills separately is a useful way to ensure you have space to highlight your leadership experience within your employment history. In large pharmaceutical companies, there are often multiple stages in recruiting senior-level positions. The initial screening is usually to determine whether your CV contains key buzzwords that make you a relevant candidate. This checklist is not always conducted by a line manager or someone with the same scientific knowledge for the specific, niche role so a list of technical skills is a useful way to highlight your experience and training for anyone who reads your CV to understand and acknowledge.  For life sciences professionals looking to advance their careers and move into management, ensuring their CV is targeted for these level positions is key to getting noticed and moving through the interview stages for more senior roles. The CV writing process for management positions varies from non-management positions mainly in the balance between promoting skillsets, as well as promoting leadership and management qualities. By prioritising quantifiable achievements and demonstrating specialist experience within the life sciences sector, candidates can stand out in the recruitment process and will be more likely to be considered for senior management positions within the pharmaceutical market. Our recruiters work with several candidates looking to climb the career ladder and move into more senior roles. For more information on opportunities within the industry to advance your career, you can contact our specialist life sciences recruiters here.            Send us your CV       

Case Study: Sourcing a validation team to meet a tight deadline

The situationOur client, a growing biopharmaceutical company with sites across the UK and Europe were looking to develop one of their site’s manufacturing capabilities due a large increase on sales from the previous year. They were given the task to construct a new facility, install new equipment and develop current MP processes within a 12-month period, giving them extremely limited time to complete projects. The challenges they faced were recruiting Validation individuals who had Marchensi and SEA vision equipment experience, along with general CQV and Serialisation knowledge. As SEA vision is considered niche within this market, they had struggled to find candidates for the roles. Given the tight deadline, getting the validation work started was a priority. Hobson Prior solution Having struggled to source the correct type of candidates themselves, it was key that we understood precisely what they were looking for in validation professionals. We met with the key stakeholders on site to ensure we understood their requirements and company culture, as well as develop an immediate strategy to focus on priority sourcing candidates. Based on this meeting, we completed a 48-hour search and successfully provided 5 validation contractors with direct experience and expertise in Marchensi SEA vision. This allowed the key stakeholders to focus on the new facility while the contractors ensured the priority validation work was covered. We continued to source by identifying companies using this specific equipment, enabling us to utilise our network of validation professionals to headhunt experienced candidates in similar roles. The resultWe successfully recruited 100% of the required positions needed in the 12 months. All the workers completed their contracts and one was even taken on in a permanent capacity. Due to the speed at which the contractors were sourced, the site’s validation teams successfully implemented the validation life cycle and the product sales continued to rise following successful GMP. We continue to work with this biopharmaceutical company in their UK and EU teams as their exclusive recruitment partner.  Hobson Prior Interim Recruitment  Our interim solutions are customised to ensure we provide you with fast delivery and high-quality candidates. You’ll also benefit from additional services to ensure efficient turnaround.Local candidate pools Same day search International contractor support Pre-assessed submissions Full compliance and support Click here for more information

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