The Biotech and pharma space is becoming an increasingly competitive industry, with organizations often up against each other trying to secure the top talent. In this article I want to take a look at a topic that is often overlooked; the candidate experience when visiting and interviewing with a company.

Finding MD/PharmD/PhD qualified professionals, with specific therapeutic experience is a struggle for many of our clients. At SciPro, we pride ourselves on being able to partner with clients to help them find the exact match on skill set and personality /culture fit. We always guide our candidates through the process ensuring they are well prepared for each stage of the interview process.

What has become more apparent of late, is the importance of the experience each candidate receives when they get to the interview stage. Being a market leader or working on the most exciting compounds isn’t enough anymore. Hiring companies need to ensure candidates have a pleasant experience and leave feeling they are valued and could see themselves working there.

Following numerous conversations with senior candidates that I have had interviewing with some of my clients recently, I wanted to share the ‘Do’s and the Don’ts’ of the interview process:

Logistics:

* Always ensure the candidate has a full address and is aware of the parking or local transport options;

Having a standard document that you can send out every time a candidate is due to come in for an onsite interview is paramount. The candidate feels prepared knowing how to get there and where he/she is parking. They can plan their route and parking location and this extra diligence on the client’s part removes any excuses for candidates being late!

* Give the interviewee a contact number to reach someone if they can’t find the office location or meeting point

A panicked call from a candidate 10 minutes before the interview is a recruiter’s worst nightmare. We often end up having to call the client directly and asking for details before then filtering through the information – make it easy and provide contact details, you will know the area better and can also offer some reassurance!

* Have someone there to greet the candidate upon arrival.

This can be as simple as having a receptionist or PA greet the candidate and let them know that the hiring manager will be on their way soon. This helps to reassure the candidate that they are in the right place and with a pleasant smile and an offer of a glass of water, the candidate is sure to relax. This gives the candidate a positive impression of the company from the moment they arrive.

During the interview:

* Set the scene and try and build some rapport early on. 

Preconceptions can stand in the way of a really good interview, so put aside the resume and your thoughts, whether they are positive or negative and try to connect on a personal level. Remember, the candidate is also interviewing YOU so make sure you are someone they WANT to work with.

* Sell the company, role and opportunity.

Use the interview as the opportunity to really emphasize the positive impact that this candidate can have. Discuss the long-term career plans, the trajectory that this role could offer and the culture of the team this individual will sit in. Benefits, 401k plan, healthcare ETC… This is your shot to really highlight the upside to joining your team and organization – all of this information is exactly what candidates want to hear! It's also a great time to talk about individual targets, team targets and company targets – the more a potential employee knows about the new company he/she might be joining, the more likely they are to want to join!

* Don’t oversell. 

Whilst these face to face interviews are a great time to discuss the points above, it is also important that you don’t ‘oversell’ or promise something that might not happen. Candidates really appreciate an honest and transparent manager and its key you keep the sell precise and realistic. Maybe use this as a time to speak about previous success stories! Talk about what has worked well previously, what kind of individual has performed well and stood out – these kinds of examples allow the candidate to relate to real-life situations.

* Be receptive to questions. 

Candidates view these face to face interviews as an opportunity to demonstrate their skill-set and ability but also to assess the company and potential line manager. This means they are bound to have some very specific questions that they will want to be answered. Being receptive to these questions and elaborating on your answers can demonstrate a real interest in listening to what is important to the candidates and thus a sign of compassion. I have had a few candidates that have had a really negative experience when asking questions at an interview, take the time to listen and understand what is important to each candidate – it can, in fact, give you some ammunition if you do end up wanting to hire the candidate!

* Give out business cards. 

If the interview has gone well, whether you intend on hiring the candidate or not, I would always encourage giving out your business cards. It acts a reference point for the candidate and gives them a chance to reach out directly with any key questions.

Finishing up:

* Don’t discuss salary in person. 

The interview is not the time or place for monetary discussions. The interview is an opportunity to assess the skill-set and personality - discussing salary and package information can lead to awkward territory and is actually where we as a recruitment partner can add some real value.

* Let the candidate know if initial feedback & feelings are positive.

If the initial thoughts and feedback are positive, I would always recommend letting the candidate know this – it leaves them with positive thoughts and sends them off with pleasant and hopeful mindset.

Some of these may appear obvious but you’d be surprised how often our customers miss some of these key points. Every candidate that meets with a business with the intention to work there should walk away from an interview with a positive opinion of the company.

If a candidate isn’t right for the role you have right now, there’s no telling whether they will be perfect for an opportunity in the future. However, if they are dismissed and have a negative experience there’s no way they would consider you again. And remember, people, talk! You also want the candidate to be leaving telling their friends/family and network how great the company is, whether they were successful or not – word of mouth is a very powerful tool.