Life sciences companies don’t typically advertise open C-suite positions. So what strategies can you use to find exciting and available roles?
Below are 7 job search strategies for senior managers in the life sciences. They can help you put together and activate a job search strategy that advances your career.
1. Don’t rush! Plan and pace yourself
You don’t want to hurry and end up in a role that you’re overqualified for or work for a company that’s not aligned with your own corporate philosophy.
Treat your job search like a project you would oversee at work. This means creating a plan.
- Take stock of your situation. You are at a stage in your career where you know which opportunities will work for you and which ones don’t. For example, do you require flexible hours or stock options in the company? What are your salary expectations? Once you have a definite idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to review the current life science job market. What job titles are relevant? Which ones are most compatible with your goals and experience? The answers to those questions will give your job search both relevance and focus.
- Use your network strategically. Many senior managers looking for new opportunities immediately start reaching out to their network before they have a firm idea of what they’re looking for. To get the results you’re seeking, be specific. “I’m looking for a new opportunity as a Business Development Executive in a pharmaceuticals firm.” And don’t conduct all your network within the opening weeks of your job search. Pitch to your network, pay attention to how your pitch is received and tailor your approach as you go.
- Reach out to executive search firms and specialist recruiters. Executive search firms and specialist recruiters differ from contingency recruiters in that they develop close relationships with their clients and actively search for high-quality candidates to fill executive and senior management positions or those requiring a special skill set. They can also advise you on what roles would match your experience and skill set, help you hone your interview techniques to showcase your suitability for a role, advise on salary expectations and more.
2) List, research, and approach Top 10 organisations
Take the time to research organisations before applying for open executive positions. It’s a waste of your time to apply to an organisation that doesn’t match your qualifications, abilities, and career goals. Investigating potential employers up front ensures that you will apply for roles where you know you would like to work. Here are some areas you should focus on when compiling your list:
- Mission and values. Check the company website or annual report for a statement regarding its mission and values. Do they align with your own?
- Company performance. To assess how well a company is performing, use the organisation’s financial statements and reports to access their financial profile.
- Products and services. Review the company website for information about its products, services. Seek out press releases, brochure and white papers.
- Job listings. Review online listings to unearth any job ads posted by the organisation. Many companies have a ‘careers’ section on their website where they post open positions.
- Social media. Corporate social media profiles can provide a wealth of information on the goings-on within an organisation, including product releases, announcements and CSR initiatives.
- Hiring managers/stakeholders. Review the company website for the career summaries of its hiring manager(s) and stakeholders. Many larger life sciences organizations include this information in their ‘About Us’ or Investors section. If this is not available on the company website, an examination of their LinkedIn pages will show connections to employee profiles.
- Press release and news: Has the organisation been in the news of late, for better or for worse? Review press activity for the past six months, making notes of the types of coverage (acquisitions, mergers, product releases, CSR activities, negative press), it’s market reception (was it positive or negative) and where it was published.
3) Optimise your touchpoints
Once you’ve assembled a Top 10 list, it’s time to review and update your CV. Working with a professional CV writer can be money well spent. Alternatively, an executive search firm or specialist recruiter can give you hints and tips on what works for their clients. Regardless of whether you work with a professional or update your CV yourself, do the following:
- Collate evidence of your qualifications. In addition to listing your education and experience, provide details for industry or career achievements and notable projects and activities that you guided or participated in, together with tangible results of your efforts. Senior management candidates are expected to be leaders, and these types of accomplishments speak volumes.
- Hone your message. When political leaders are coached on how to communicate with the media, they are told to put across three key messages and stick to them. Think about three achievements that you want the hiring manager to notice. Ensure they emphasise skills that would best qualify you to work for your dream organisations.
Every copy of your CV should be accompanied by a cover or pain letter that lays out how you can help an organisation achieve its goals or solve a problem and why your career history qualifies you to do so. In your contact details, include the link to your LinkedIn profile (which must also be updated) and make sure that its privacy protections are set so that the page is visible to all.
4) Reach out to the market with a multi-channel approach
If you’re only applying for positions via one or two channels, you’re limiting your chances of being noticed by hiring managers. Applicants who encounter the most success take a multi-channel approach. They apply for fewer jobs (think about your Top 10 research earlier) but multiply their efforts to obtain an interview. Examples of a multi-channel strategy include:
- Applying directly to the company. This includes LinkedIn job boards and the careers page on the company website. Even if you don’t see an open position that suits your goals and qualifications, send in your resume together with your cover letter. Most senior management openings are confidential and not advertised, so your effort could still pay off.
- Executive search firms. Executive search firms can be a huge asset when you’re looking for a senior management opportunity. Their job is to know about those senior roles that are not advertised directly, and these consultants can improve your chances of success by:
- advising you on what job titles match your experience and skill set
- Giving you feedback on your CV
- Providing salary advice
- Pitching you to organisations on your behalf.
- Helping you brush up on your interview processes and role-playing.
- Offering insider information on the interviewees and the organisation.
Approach an executive search firm by sending your CV and cover letter. Once you begin to work with them, keep your consultant up-to-date with your job search.
- Use your network. Get your message out to your network. After organising your connections by industry, reach out to them and let them know what type of opportunity you are seeking. Have a discussion about which contacts they can introduce you to and ask them to keep you in mind as they hear about new roles or opportunities. Afterwards, connect with them via LinkedIn and stay in touch. But remember, don’t go out to your entire network in one go. Stagger your introductions and tailor your pitch as you go.
5) Prepare for interviews
When you land an interview, you will have limited time to convince the hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for the job. To prepare, practice a 30-second answer to these questions:
- “What do you do?”
- “What type of opportunity are you seeking?”
- “What is your greatest achievement to date?”
By keeping each answer in 30 seconds, you will have a concise and easy-to-understand response that will also allow time for the hiring manager to ask additional questions.
For more interview preparation tips, check out our blog: How to prepare for a senior-level job interview.
6) Follow up after interviews
Always follow up after each interview. Doing so confirms your interest in the position and willingness to accept feedback.
If an executive search firm arranged for the interview, seek constructive feedback after they have spoken to their client. If you obtained the interview yourself, send the hiring manager an email that reminds them who you are, reiterates why you’re a good candidate, and includes any relevant information that you forgot to state during the interview.
Bear in mind that, sometimes, organisations don’t provide constructive feedback. In this case, brainstorm what went well, what didn’t go as well as expected, and what you would do better next time.
7) Benchmark your efforts
If you are making it to final round interviews but not receiving offers, ask yourself the following questions to pinpoint possible reasons why not.
- “What approaches appear to be working well?”
- What isn’t working so well and needs to change?”
Don’t forget to present these questions to your executive search consultant too. They can point you toward resources that will help you improve performance in poor areas.
Once you’ve landed a new c-suite role, update your LinkedIn profile to let your professional contacts know where you’re working and how to reach you in the future. Be sure to thank those who helped you along the way. When you assume a role that you enjoy and which takes you to the next level in your career, they will appreciate knowing how they contributed to your success.
For more career advice tailored to senior managers and executives in the life science industry…
* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating exclusively across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.