Pharma’s outdated hiring practices

One of the reasons it’s a job-seekers market because candidates today want more from their employers. They want a good work-life balance and want to be valued as a contributor to the success of their company. We live in an instant gratification world. Anything and everything we could ever want is at our fingertips, from the food we eat to the movies we watch. Even just waiting a week for delivery seems like an eternity when consumers are accustomed to things like Prime shipping. So why do companies treat the job process differently? Are job seekers inherently more patient than society as a whole? 

Last fall, I was contacted about a VPs job for digital marketing for a top pharma company. At first, I was excited to make a difference, but that was soon followed by disillusionment. I was informed that the “interview process” would consist of five interviews, three of which consisted of a panel of more than three people, including those who would report to me. When I bowed out of a job, I told the hiring manager that their hiring process was too bureaucratic and that, based on that, it wouldn’t be a good fit for me.

Stories about hiring processes within pharma are more like nightmares. One of the people I work with has more than 20 years of experience as an HR VP. Yet, when she was contacted about taking over a small companies HR department, she declined because the hiring process consisted of too many interviews over too long a period.

I often tell people that working in pharma is often frustrated as they are incredibly process-driven and that matrix organizational structures lead to very slow decision-making. People in pharma don’t get a cup of coffee without getting buy-in from their team.

In many ways, it’s good for your team to be picky with your new hire. A well-defined job description helps get the best people for the positions they’re hired to do. However, sometimes the way selective criteria are applied can take things too far and contribute to a slow hiring process. In this age of digital recruiting, the nuts-and-bolts of hiring now include many more steps.

Everybody wants to find a perfect candidate, but that’s not a reason to take an employment screening slowly. It’s the opposite. You should speed up things if you want to find the best candidate. That doesn’t mean that you should hire in a day, but you should be insightful and act quickly if you think you have found the right person.

While you are still only midway through your hiring process, your competitors will use the opportunity to hire a candidate who may fit perfectly to your company, and you will have to deal with average candidates. The speed of hire is the most important when competing against other tech companies for currently employed “in-high-demand” top talent.

Your company may be process-driven who wants to do things slowly and minutely, but the fact is that your hiring decision won’t be better just because you had more time to gather information. Slow hiring has the opposite effect – the longer you wait, the lower the quality will be. As mentioned, top candidates will drop out, and you will have to choose between average and weak candidates. Also, candidates will have ample time to rethink whether they want to work at your company, so they may drop out of the hiring process before your company begins interviews. If you know what kind of profile you’re searching for, go for it and contact the best candidates immediately.

The average time it takes to fill an open position is 44 days, representing a 50-percent increase since 2010. Each day a job goes unfilled, the organization loses productivity as the position’s tasks remain undone. Additional productivity losses occur as other staff members take time from their work to cover the essential functions of the open job. Since existing staff are stretched thinner, their engagement suffers, and their risk of burnout increases, further jeopardizing long-term productivity.

Some employers try to keep candidates engaged through the hiring process with multiple interviews and skills testing; those taking too long to hire may lose out on their top pick. Sixty-two percent of professionals say they lose interest in a job if they don’t hear back from the employer within two weeks of the initial interview. If the candidate hasn’t heard anything in three weeks, that number jumps to 77 percent.

Pharma can ill afford to lose talent and needs people who can be the difference we need in the industry. It’s time to change the hiring process.