Hiring decision are difficult at the best of times, yet alone when deciding between two exceptional life science candidates. While it’s undoubtedly a good problem to have – either way, you’re likely to gain an excellent addition to your team or function – that doesn’t make the decision any easier.
When choosing between two life science candidates you really want to hire, consider the following factors when arriving at your decision.
Time is your enemy
Hiring managers must always be conscious of time when deciding between two leadership-level candidates. If they’ve been actively job hunting, it is highly probable that one or both candidates could be interviewing with other organisations, perhaps even a competitor who will make them a competitive offer. It’s just one of the reasons why life science organisations are increasingly going to great lengths to ensure their hiring process attracts and engages passive talent; candidates who are full-time employed and less likely to have commitments elsewhere!
Bear in mind that you’ve already asked much of your candidates; they’ve committed a great deal of time and energy navigating the interview process. You owe it to them to make a timely decision. But if you’re generally struggling and need to buy time, ensure you keep your candidates in the loop.
Technical fit, also known as job fit, is the extent to which a candidates strengths, needs and experience match the job specification. Technical fit is assessed throughout the hiring process, from initial CV screening through to background and reference checks prior to extending a job offer.
By this stage in the interview process, you should have two exceptional candidates who possess the majority of skills, qualifications and experiences outlined in the job specification. To make a hiring decision based on technical fit, delve deeper by weighing up the importance of those skills in relation to one another. To help you make your decision, ask yourself the following three questions about the role and the candidates:
- What is the number one thing you need/want in this hire?
- Where do the candidate’s skills and experience overlap?
- Where do the candidate’s skills and experience differ?
If you’re struggling to separate the mission-critical from the nice-to-haves skills, have a colleague with experience in the field look over the job spec and tell you what skills they would prioritise.
Cultural fit, also known as organisational fit, refers to the extent to which a candidate’s values, beliefs, outlook and conduct align with that of the hiring organisation. An employee with good cultural fit tends to ‘gel’ with their coworkers and benefits from increased job performance, job satisfaction and retention. An employee with poor cultural fit tends to leave for pastures new.
It goes without saying that you should only hire candidates who are a good cultural fit with your organisation. Thankfully, you’ve been assessing for cultural fit throughout the hiring process from CV screening through to background and reference checks. However, it’s the questions you pose and the answers you receive during interviews that serve as the best indicator of cultural fit.
To see which candidate are the best cultural fit for your organisation, asking the following questions:
- Which candidate demonstrated the most enthusiasm about the position and the organisation?
- Who appeared the most engaged or asked the most questions during interview?
- Which candidate would you rather take out for lunch or have a drink with after work?
If in doubt, consider interviewing the candidates once more with help from the experts – AKA your team.
The lunch test
Chances are your new hires won’t be working in isolation. How they interact with the team will be critical to their success.
When choosing between candidates, one of the most successful methods of assessing cultural fit is by inviting the candidates out for a beer, coffee or lunch to mingle with potential coworkers. This allows you to observe how the candidate would fit in with the team dynamic as well as offering insight into their manners, interactions and overall emotional intelligence (EQ). This informal interview technique has the added benefit of demonstrating a welcoming and lively workplace culture, which is appealing to candidates and can boost your employer brand credentials.
The lunch test isn’t the only form of team assessment. You could invite the candidates to meet and shadow key members of the team in their working environment. This has the added benefit that the candidate will gain an understanding of the inner workings of the department or function; a far richer experience than reading a job specification or hearing anecdotal quotes about what it’s like to work at an organisation. Getting your teams thoughts and opinions can be extremely beneficial in helping you choose between candidates at the penultimate stage in the hiring process.
In addition to technical and cultural fit, you should also consider potential when choosing candidates; how their current skills, experience and competencies translate into their ability to develop and flourish in the role. Evidence of a continuous learning mindset and an employment history littered with achievements and promotions are surefire signs of an a-player.
When considering the performance fit of a candidate, ask yourself these questions:
- Will your organisation be expanding to new markets or territories?
- Will your team be expanding in the coming months?
- Will your team be restructuring in the coming months?
- What personalities grow in the organisation?
- Who will your board be most impressed by?
Finding and securing top talent can give you a competitive edge. The right hire can transform a business; growing the bottom line and developing strategies to ensure its sustainable, perpetual growth. However, a bad hire, especially at the executive level, can jeopardise the future of your organisation. You need your new hire to be indispensable whatever situations may arise.
Reference checks are vital to verifying the skills, knowledge and experience your leadership-level candidates bring to the table. CV’s, cover letters and interviews are polished sales pitches practised and honed by the candidate to leave you in no doubt that they are the perfect fit for the role. But are they? Don’t take their word for it. Check with their references to verify their credentials.
By asking the right questions, you can ensure a candidate has been genuine in their answers while learning more about their work history, performance, achievements and conduct. It’s also the perfect opportunity to explore specific points raised by a candidate during interview, for example, their involvement in a particular project, and more importantly, any areas they omitted.
Obtain verbal references where feasible and continue contacting referees until a consistent story emerges. The referees submitted by the candidate are an excellent place to start but be prepared to follow up with any leads you obtain from other referees during the course of your reference checks. Under no account should you be tempted to outsource the reference checks to a third party.
You should be prepared to eliminate a candidate from the hiring process if their references don’t check out. While you would have undoubtedly invested considerable time and resources in screening, shortlisting and interviewing candidates, this pales into significance compared to the mammoth tasks that confront organisations trying to recover from a poor senior hire.
For more information on referencing senior-level hires, read this excellent article on extreme referencing by Josh Hannah.
The job offer
Don’t underestimate the importance of the job offer. While the factors above will help you hone in on and choose the right candidate, if they reject your job offer, all your effort could be in vain.
Think about what it takes to attract this candidate to your organisation, their level of experience and their likely compensation requirements. Are you able to match or exceed those requirements?
A-players have options, so make sure you make your initial offer as competitive as possible. Before entering negotiations, ensure you understand the salary trends for your industry. For senior level and executive hires, compensation options such as profit sharing, stock options, bonuses, healthcare and company cars are often used to supplement an extensive base salary.
When putting together a competitive job offer, consider the following factors:
- Are there any perks offered by their current employer that you cannot match?
- Will you risk losing a candidate if you don’t make an immediate job offer?
- Does one candidate have a longer notice period than the other?
It’s good practice to discuss key sticking points – salary, compensation and notice periods – with candidates during interview. This will help you tailor your job offer to meet their expectations. However, it might be that one candidate is a more realistic proposition than the other based on their propensity to accept the offer. One may seek a higher salary then you can realistically offer.
Your gut feel
If you’ve diligently assessed each candidate against the factors above and still aren’t sure which candidate to choose, there’s only one thing for it. Go with your gut! By following the steps above, you can rest assured that you’ve done your due diligence. And as the hiring manager or member of the hiring team, you know the requirements of the role and what you’re looking for better than anyone else. So go with the candidate who you feel would be the most worthy addition to your team, or better still, hire both!
For more job search advice tailored to senior managers and executives…
- 7 Warning Signs That You’re In A Career Rut.
- Visit our life science job board to start your job search.
* Fraser Dove International is a specialist executive search firm operating exclusively in the Life Science industry. Passionate about people, we take pride in helping exceptional life science organisations source the talent they need to design, manufacture and distribute life-changing drugs, treatments and devices which transform and save patient lives.