INRALS ageneo Life Sciences expert talk

Start-ups and recruitment issues – Expert Talk with Dilsâd Babayigit

June 4, 2021 - INRALS Member: ageneo Life Sciences Experts

Dilsâd Babayigit of our German member ageneo in conversation with Georg Kääb of Platform Life Science.*

In the first interview, we had already talked about various topics in the recruiting process in the Life Sciences, from the shortage of skilled workers to “data scientists” and the differences between SMEs and large companies to some tips for successfully filling vacancies. This time, the focus is on: start-ups and recruitment issues.

Platform Life Science (PLS): How can a start-up company win the “war for talents” against the big players? Or does the start-up even have the better chances, anyways?
Dilsâd Babayigit: An exciting question that we are often asked by small companies. Basically, of course, it is correct: everyone is fighting for the same group of candidates. Fortunately, a “but” follows: not everyone feels comfortable in a large corporation, not everyone is made for it. And that is exactly what smaller companies can and must take advantage of. What are the reasons for these people not to want to work in a corporation? The reasons might be as such: a lack of visibility of the individual, rigid hierarchies, lengthy decision-making processes, narrow range of tasks, few opportunities to try out ideas independently, etc. These are topics that are often mentioned by candidates. This is where the small companies have to start. It is especially important for these companies that they choose the right “theatre of war” (to stick with the “war for talents terminology”). Here is an example: development perspectives, the company brand and security aspects related to the job tend to be the theatres of the large companies; these are arguments that speak less often in favor of a start-up. The start-up should focus more on for example, an innovative story, the opportunity to make a real difference as an individual employee, a high degree of flexibility or the degree of involvement directly with the company management. These are very convincing arguments where the small players can really score.

PLS: Are there “common mistakes” that small companies make when recruiting, for example in the job advertisement?Dilsâd Babayigit: A frequent shortcoming in the job advertisements of small companies is the lack of information regarding the company’s “special story”. Job advertisements are still very generic; especially companies that are not yet a “brand”, that everyone knows, should at least mention in a short introduction what makes them special and what they can offer. I am thinking, for example, of a highly innovative, completely new technological approach on the technical side or flat hierarchies, direct cooperation with the management and an open atmosphere on the functional side, or the opportunity to independently make a difference as one of ten employees on the very personal side, which pays-in on the current “purpose” trends.

PLS: Keyword “talent pool”, a small company usually does not have the resources to keep interesting candidates “on the back burner”. What are the possibilities of not losing sight of interesting people who cannot be offered a position at the moment?
Dilsâd Babayigit: Oh, the power of the talent pool is incredibly overestimated! By the way, this applies to recruitment consultancies as well as to life science companies. Even the big players who use the appropriate software to store and manage candidate data and who employ numerous internal recruiters hardly manage to keep the talent pool really up to date. Having a resume does not really tell me about the person’s objectives, ideas, and personal circumstances; these can and most likely will change over time. The data from a talent pool is similar to that of journalism: nothing is as old as yesterday’s newspaper [despite the intensive efforts of the editors, we unfortunately could not prevent this comparison! ;-)]. It is the same with candidate data – if you really want a reliable pool of candidates, you should contact “all” applicants on a relatively regular basis, update data and check whether anything has changed in life or career ideas. I don’t know of any company that can do this in terms of time and resources. I would therefore advise small companies in particular to maintain relationships via networking platforms. Network and connect with interesting applicants on LinkedIn for example, keep in touch, also informally; that creates more commitment. People usually also update their data on social media when something changes – always a good time to get in touch again.

PLS: Asked from the applicant point of view: how much “consideration” should you take for the situation of a start-up?
Dilsâd Babayigit: Especially with regard to financial situations, you “have” to be considerate if you want to work in a start-up; for the degree of freedom, possibilities and opportunities that a start-up offers, restrictions and limitations are also inherent. Even the executives can change little here; money is usually tight, especially in our industries you are financed by debt capital for quite a while. If you are not willing to compromise on this – which would also be legitimate – then the start-up is simply not the best choice.

PLS: And how do you recognize that you have a very special qualification that you have not yet “marketed” sufficiently?
Dilsâd Babayigit: If you have a qualification that you don’t market enough, it is usually due to insufficient (self-)reflection; you first have to recognize it as such. So the answer is very simple: you have to reflect on yourself and know what you can offer. Self-reflection always leaves blind spots; interlocutors who can be asked openly for an assessment can help here. Ideally not just your spouse or good friends – because they are naturally biased, but colleagues, (former) superiors or even employees can be enriching if you only dare to ask. How exactly you can then communicate and “market” these qualifications is a separate topic in itself.
PLS: A perfect “cliff hanger”. Thank you for that! To be continued…

Dilsâd Babayigit
founded the ageneo Life Science recruitment agency, which specializes in biotechnology, the pharmaceutical industry and medical technology, over ten years ago. She has been active in the recruiting industry for 18 years and, with her team, offers a wide range of services for personnel and corporate development in addition to recruiting in the areas of permanent employment and project consulting (freelancer placement).

*This article was originally published in German on the Life Sciences platform of www.goingpublic.de on May 11, 2021 and was translated and published by INRALS with permission of the author, Dr. Georg Kääb.

About the author
Dr. Georg Kääb has been editor-in-chief of the Life Sciences platform on www.goingpublic.de since February 1st. Before that, he was Manager Communications at the biotech network agency BioM for over 10 years. As a biologist, the first professional positions were as a freelance journalist at, among others, Süddeutscher Zeitung and DIE ZEIT and then for a good decade as editor-in-chief of the member magazine of the Association of German Biologists, vdbiol.