Biotech recruiters seek to build deep and diverse C-suite candidate pools to fill executive positions at cutting-edge companies


Biotech recruiters seek to build deep and diverse C-suite candidate pools to fill executive positions at cutting-edge companies

As biotech firms across the country are pivoting operations to focus on the development of testing protocols, treatments, and vaccines for the coronavirus, biotech recruiters are seeking out the future leaders who will drive these companies forward in the months and years ahead. Working closely with their client partners, biotech recruiters like Slone Partners are focusing harder than ever on creating deep and diverse candidate pools for C-suite positions, aligning closely with each company’s unique business model, culture, and mission.

Successful executives in the biotech industry must not only be fully immersed in and conversant about the science behind their service and product lines, but also be strong and inspiring leaders with a vision that brings out the very best in their teams. Biotech recruiters know that exceptional leadership is more important than ever in today’s uncertain economy, with so many companies struggling to maintain momentum as the COVID-19 crisis continues to take its toll.

Biotech recruiters are also mindful of the need to screen candidates for their tactical acumen, to ensure that they will succeed in empowering innovation within the potentially stifling constraints of corporate bureaucracy, a theme highlighted in a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review.

“This is because innovation thrives in small groups of creative scientists and technologists who are kept largely free of structure, rules, and too much management,” argue article authors Ken Banta and Jeff Karp. As evidence to support that point, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization reports that biotech firms are responsible for the development of 38 of the 59 new therapies approved in 2018, compared to 21 developed by large pharmaceutical companies during the same time. Biotech recruiters working with both small and large companies understand the critical need to identify leaders with the ability to separate the important research work from the administrative overhead functions, empowering ingenuity and innovation throughout an organization.

In the current economic environment, biotech recruiters are also seeking C-suite candidates with the innate capacity to recognize and react to changing conditions. As Lynn Johnson Langer wrote in her book, “Biotechnology Entrepreneurship,” “The ability to continuously learn and adapt is the single most important requirement to successfully lead biotechnology companies. The leader should be able to consistently articulate his or her vision throughout the organization, be a strategic decision-maker, and be flexible enough to allow the strategic vision to adjust to the culture and the environment.”

Building gender-diverse, racially-diverse, and inclusive candidate pools is also critically important for biotech recruiters working with client partners who realize that from diversity comes strength. Slone Partners CEO Leslie Loveless has written on the intense competition for top-level diverse candidates in this market.

“In most cases, highly qualified diversity candidates are pursued by multiple companies at the same time, so companies that don’t act quickly often lose out,” Loveless argued in a commentary published last year by the Boston Business Journal. “Yet, I have also seen how many companies are increasingly recognizing the high value brought by recruiting talented and ambitious diverse executives to their leadership teams.” Today more than ever, it is incumbent upon biotech recruiters to assemble a truly diverse pool of candidates for C-suite positions.

It is also true that a significant proportion of diversity candidates (as well as others) are considered “passive candidates,” meaning they are not actively looking to leave their current company, but would be open to the right opportunity should one arise. It is up to biotech recruiters to identify and engage those candidates who are otherwise under the radar screen, but who have the right experience, leadership qualities, and cultural fit to succeed at a different company, and to then convince them to consider a possible move.

By drawing from all of these strategies, biotech recruiters can add tremendous value for their client partners by creating deep, diverse, and robust candidate pools from which companies can select their future leaders. The biotech industry enjoyed a banner year in 2019, and is poised for continued growth in the years ahead, through COVID-19 and beyond. The best companies will have the best leaders in place to push them forward in a fast moving and extremely competitive marketplace.