In an advanced economy like the UK’s, whose future growth is predicated on innovation and technical advancement, it’s natural that recruitment should be focused so heavily on qualifications, expertise and experience.
To qualify for many senior technical roles in life sciences, you must have a minimum of a PhD in a relevant discipline and have already worked at a high level on near identical or, at worst, very similar, project.
There seems to be little room for people landing top jobs because they wow interview panels with the strength of their personality or the originality of their ideas.
In fact, the process has become so automated that many people will have to apply for several positions before they ever get to the stage of a human eye landing on their application.
But should that always be the case? Can there never be the option for a CEO to appoint a left-field candidate based on an inspired hunch?
Experience, expertise, ethics and knowledge all matter in life sciences and, with such a diversity of disciplines including pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and medical technology, employers could afford to be a little less focused on past experience and place more value on transferable skills.
The most important skills for life sciences professionals include research ethics, scientific peer communication, bioethics, time management, research project management and scientific knowledge. Most will know about methods outside of their present research area and be aware of industry trends.
Surely those who can demonstrate a high level of proficiency in those areas should be at least as valuable a prospect as one with a track record of experience in a particular silo or research discipline.
History is littered with novices who were given the nod for important positions because a perceptive boss noticed a hidden promise in them and went on to be world beaters.
From Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, who succeeded his father Philip II to the throne in 336 BC at the age of 20[IC1] , to Pitt the Younger, who remains Britain’s youngest Prime Minister at 21, there have been examples of unqualified leaders reaching advanced positions of leadership.
Tony Blair’s first job in Government was as Labour Prime Minister while Emanuel Macron acquired the presidency of France without ever having worked in politics.
Similarly, Donald Trump’s first job in Government was as US President and Piers Morgan was promoted by Rupert Murdoch from being a tabloid gossip columnist to being the editor of the News of the World at the age of 29 – so there are always some catastrophic exceptions to the rule.
Often the biggest and best changes are made by people in senior positions who are not saddled by precedent but rather are given their head to follow their instincts.
Computers are not built to think outside the box which is why inspired hunches are likely to be less common in the modern workplace.
Machine learning and predictive analysis have become popular ways for recruiters to identify talent while also allegedly removing bias. Surely though there should still be a place for human interaction in the process otherwise we might as well just draw names out of a hat.
While many employers (or at least their HR Departments) favour use of ‘cognitive gaming’ or online tests in selecting the best candidates, more than half of those questioned in a recent survey said they would still like to see personal decision making.
The survey of 1,000 people was co-conducted by the 5% Club – a charity whose members commit to having at least five per cent of their workforce in ‘earn and learn’ training through apprenticeships and graduate programmes.
The survey also suggests a human touch is needed to attract young people in the digital war for talent with young people still preferring an element of human interaction.
Part of this means understanding how people want to be treated during the recruitment process, the tools used to assess potential and the candidate ‘journey’ – often the recruit’s first experience of the company.
Getting the balance right between human ‘touch’ v ‘technology’ is vital if businesses are going to attract the best early talent, like apprentices, and ultimately fill roles, imperative in the current skills crisis.
[IC1]Although to be fair he included Aristotle amongst his teachers.