What can biotech recruiters learn from NCAA Athletic Directors?

What does the hiring of a basketball coach teach us about hiring in Biotech? If you have 10 minutes, I’ll break down the similarities for you. Washington’s ability to lure Mike Hopkins away from Syracuse caught the college basketball world by surprise. How was a below average Pac 12 team able to land an assistant coach who was already designated as the next coach of one of the top programs in the NCAA?The Post Standard just published an article detailing the hiring of Mike Hopkins as the head coach of the men’s basketball team at the University of Washington. Mike was the the heir apparent to take over the Syracuse program once Jim Boeheim retired. I recommend reading the Post Standard article in whole but I will break it down to show how this situation relates to Biotech.

1) Position becomes available

Seattle — On Wednesday, March 15, the University of Washington fired its men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar.

2) Hiring Manager is presented with a list of potential candidates from her recruiters

Wednesday , March 15 Cohen starts with a list of candidates. The list includes Hopkins’ name

3) Hopkins agent (his responsibilities resembles those of an Executive Recruiter) reaches out to him with exploratory question

“What do you think about the University of Washington?”

4) Hiring Manager has doubts about ability to land the perfect candidate and questions why said candidate would want to come to their organization. Has a phone conversation with candidate anyways

“I couldn’t understand why he’d want to leave until I talked to him,” Cohen said on March 16

5) Candidate establishes great rapport with hiring manager and does a great job of selling hiring manager on why he is the right person at the right time for the position

Cohen talks to Hopkins by phone. She’s sold on Hopkins’ eagerness to put his own stamp on the Washington program.

“He wants to build,” she said. “He wants to build a program.”

6) Hiring Manager reports back to her team and then meets with candidate in person and presents offer immediately after second interview (March 17) . Candidate is flying high at this point.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Hopkins said. “I’m visualizing what it would be like. To build a program. To win the Pac-12 championship. I got up in the morning and I just had goosebumps, visualizing this opportunity. The possibilities were endless.”

7) Candidate meets with current boss and submits resignation. Old boss is excited for his employee to take the next step.

“I knew I’d thrown him a curveball,” Hopkins said. “He looked at me like ‘What are you telling me?”

After getting over the shock, Boeheim says he’s happy for Hopkins.

“He was really happy for me,” Hopkins said. “It was awesome. He was happy because I was happy.”

To summarize, the hiring manager and her team have an open position and go after the best candidates available. Pre-conceived notion of top candidate’s desire to make a move is put to rest after initial conversation with the candidate. Hiring manager and her team put together an offer pretty quickly and finalize the deal to prevent candidate from shopping it around or having second guesses about the opportunity.

What we have found is that the hiring window is quite short with top candidates. You have to understand what motivates them and what they would be open to. Even if a perfect opportunity is presented to a candidate, there are still obstacles related to the timing of the opportunity.  Striking while the iron is hot is one of the best ways to land that dream candidate. For most people, there is a lot of emotion involved during the hiring process and the window to convince them to pursue your opportunity is quite short. Don’t lose your top candidate because your hiring process is to slow.

In this case, a great process allowed the University of Washington to land someone who they thought was out of their league. The lesson here is to not to sabotage your hiring efforts by doubting someone’s motivations when you haven’t spoken to them. Use the tools at your disposal and move quickly with intent to land that perfect candidate. Biotech Recruiters can learn from this scenario.

Paragon Search Group is an American biotech recruiting firm specializing in permanent positions in Process Development, CMC/Reg Affairs, Manufacturing, Project Management, and Quality for companies ranging in size from startup to Fortune 50.

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