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Hiring 101 – Who, The A Method for Hiring

The biotech job market continues to be strong – good news for companies and employees. Companies are hiring and for the first time in years, I am seeing candidates with multiple competitive offers. It is always important to find the best candidates for your teams, but in competitive markets finding “A” players and taking the time to find the right fit is imperative. There are a variety of hiring guides available but one that I highly recommend is, “Who, the A Method for Hiring” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. It is an easy airplane read and does an admirable job presenting a method for finding top talent for a particular job. The writing style is conversational but includes guides, interview questions and a lot of good vignettes as examples in each section. They describe a four-step process: SCORECARD > SOURCE > SELECT > SELL.

The first step is to develop a scorecard for the role. They describe a blueprint for the job which includes the mission, tangible outcomes and lists the required competencies. The goal is to develop this first and then use that blueprint throughout the entire hiring process. The authors recommend searching for specialists and not the generalist i.e. “All-around athlete”. The focus should be on finding the right person for the right job with the right skill set. In my experience this is a particularly relevant point in today’s market since the rapid development of technologies such as, synthetic biology, next generation sequencing, gene editing, stem cell tools and mass spectrometry have led to new mini industries. The scorecards in biotech, for example have been getting much more focused with respect to technical competencies for R&D leaders and customer/market knowledge for commercial leaders.

The second step is learning about sourcing, or how to generate a flow of “A” players. The authors make the point that “Talented people know talented people.” This section dives into how to network to gain referrals from your professional and personal networks. It also covers how to work with recruiters and how to utilize sourcing systems. We all get so busy day to day that this section offers great tips on how to keep your network fresh as well as how to get recruiting help when you need it.

The third step is Selection and breaks down the interview process into a sequence of four interviews. If you can’t read the whole book, in my opinion this section is worth prioritizing. The first interview, the screening interview, is a short phone conversation with the goal of culling the B and C players out of the process, fast and efficiently. This is probably the number one type of interview I do as a recruiter. The second phase is the “Who interview” which uncovers patterns in a candidates career history that you can compare directly with the scorecard to see if there is a fit. The third interview is the Focus interview which allows the team to get more involved and do a deep dive into a candidate’s technical background in order to double check that the candidate truly has the competencies needed for the role. Lastly, the reference interview should not be overlooked or short-changed. So often, I see clients deemphasizing this very important opportunity to gain additional insight into the potential hire. Lastly the authors discuss how to make the final decision – making sure the candidate has the will and motivation to bring their competencies and skills to bear on the job. This section also discusses Red flags in the hiring process such as candidates not mentioning past failures or putting too much emphasis on issues other than the job itself (e.g., being too interested in the compensation).

The last section is Sell or “care what they care about.” With the increase is job opportunities, this is where I believe some hiring managers need to step up their game. It covers everything from selling fit, family, freedom, fortune and fun. I hope you find this book as useful and insightful as I did. Even if you do not follow their blueprint exactly it provides some thoughtful issues to consider when hiring and building teams.

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