KNect365 is part of the Knowledge and Networking Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.


Recruiting, developing and retaining your most important resource - Employees

It’s essential to find top tier talent for your new organization as it is the life-blood for the long term success of your organization. Here are 10 tips to help with recruiting, developing and most importantly, retaining, good employees that can help grow your company.

Tip 1: Clearly articulate what you are looking for in a job description

Often job descriptions list vague details in order to cast a wide net or to keep specific information “confidential” about a company’s approach or research area. While this seems like a good strategy, often candidates are left unsure if they should apply for a given role. Including more specific details can increase interest and clarity leading to more relevant applicants. For example, a job description might ask for a PhD in immunology with cell culture experience. While these details provide some context, providing more specific details, such as experience studying the innate and adaptive immune system along with experience working with Macrophages, B cells or T cells from humans and mice should help identify more relevant talent.

Tip 2: Engage all employees in the hiring process

Referrals are a very important source of candidates for all companies, especially entrepreneurial ones. Typically, referrals are a better cultural and skill set fit since the person referring them can often “vouch” for their experiences and interests. While senior members of teams are often asked to engage their network, junior members should also be involved in this process. They may also have valuable connections due to their network, their mentor’s network, their work experiences, alumni groups, etc.

Tip 3: Plan an outreach strategy

Entrepreneurial companies should develop a strategic outreach strategy with a plan for how and when outreach will happen. In addition to referrals, posting roles on sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor as well as other job boards/resources such as state biotech associations (i.e., MassBio), industry associations, professional groups and domain-specific groups can be valuable to increase awareness. Meetups can be targeted especially when hiring talent for roles with very low unemployment (i.e. software developers). Direct outreach to talent via LinkedIn should also be performed to identify passive job seekers. Ideally, outreach would all happen in a similar timeframe so that the candidate pool can be identified /narrowed down in a timely fashion. If the outreach is sporadic, it can create confusion among talent. For example, they may wonder why a role has been open so long. The messaging also needs to be aligned for the outreach so that a consistent message is communicated across all platforms.

Tip 4: Build a pipeline

For companies hiring talent in “hot areas” (i.e. bioinformatics/computational biology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, clinical research, etc.) it is important to build relationships with thought leaders in the space in order to increase awareness of your organization. Identify the relevant academic labs and industry leaders so that you know the players in a given space. Identify meetup groups and conferences to participate in or attend in order to connect with talent relevant for your organization and to raise your visibility. Encourage your talent to participate in activities with these groups as well as with their alumni associations and relevant professional organizations to increase referrals from these sources

Tip 5: Identify a person to “own” the recruitment process

Ideally every company would have an internal human resources person to focus on recruiting, retaining, and developing talent. Often though, entrepreneurial companies spread this task among different people in the organization until they reach a critical mass (i.e., 25–50 people). In a few cases, companies early on (under 10 people) hire an internal HR person to focus on this effort. The key is to ensure that someone “owns” the process so that there is accountability for the hiring process. The person owning this should be responsible for reviewing resumes, reaching out to relevant candidates in a timely fashion to express interest, screen candidates and schedule interviews, perform reference checks, develop offers, and provide information about benefits in a seamless fashion. Entrepreneurial companies can really stand out when their process is professional, organized, and prompt.

Tip 6: Money is often not the most important consideration to talent

A competitive salary is important, but it is often not the deciding factor when accepting an offer. Talent wants to be engaged and to know that their work matters. Entrepreneurial companies, in particular, need to help talent realize how their work will impact the organization and society in general. We are lucky in the life sciences sector to do really meaningful work—this is especially important to highlight when hiring talent, such as software developers, IT people and others, who could work in any sector, but choose to use their expertise to “improve the human condition.”

Tip 7: Develop your employees to retain talent

Once you have identified and hired talent, develop and retain them. Engage your talent and ask them what they are looking to learn and how they are looking to grow. Then provide opportunities to them such as leadership opportunities for people or projects, the ability to learn a new skill, the opportunity to gain thought leadership in the community, etc. Allowing people the opportunity to grow and develop within your organization should pay dividends and lead to a happier, more engaged workforce.

Tip 8: Identify and own your culture

Company culture is an important part of the identity of the organization. It should be embraced and articulated during the recruiting process so that interviewers and interviewees can identify alignment. The clearer a company can be about their culture, including values, mission and vision, the clearer they can identify the right fit.

Tip 9: Increase awareness of your organization in your community

Provide opportunities for your talent to engage with the local ecosystem and with their field of interest/expertise. Involve your talent in meetups and on panels at universities, local meetings and national and international conferences. Support involvement in professional organizations (i.e., healthcare business women’s association) or other local chapters of professional associations. This will help your talent develop their professional network and connect with people who could end up being an employee, partner, or customer of your company.

Tip 10: Reward success and celebrate wins

Set milestones and celebrate successes—big and small. This will help keep employees engaged and motivated and will provide opportunities to reflect on their achievements.




Lauren Celano is the co-founder and CEO of Propel Careers, a life science search and career development firm focused on connecting talented individuals with entrepreneurial life sciences companies. Propel works with current leaders and actively cultivates future leaders through full time placement, internships, mentoring and more.


For more entrepreneurial tips download our exclusive startup manual with distilled insights, wisdom, and inspiration from a carefully selected group of industry pioneers. Crucial topics discussed include where to begin, assembling a team, raising money and many more! 


Get the latest news as it happens.