Cracking The Code on Time-To-Fill in The Ever-Evolving Life Sciences Sector

13-14 Minutes

In the whirlwind of 2023, the Life Sciences job market has been quite the rollercoaster, sha...

By Emily Davies

Senior Content Writer

In the whirlwind of 2023, the Life Sciences job market has been quite the rollercoaster, shaking things up more than it has for quite some time.  

Sure, we’re all aware of how inflation has put pressure on investments and hiring, but the demand for highly skilled Life Sciences professionals is as strong as ever. The catch? Talent needs to have adapted their skills to keep pace with the increasingly digital landscape in which many companies now operate.  

So, yes, the competition is fierce, especially since even more industries are now vying for the same technical skills. Still, it's down to employers to take a chance on individuals who demonstrate knowledge, adaptability, drive and a thirst for learning. This could mean deepening their knowledge in a ‘secondary’ field or having experience across multiple roles within Life Sciences.  

The struggle on the business front right now lies in uncovering these rare gems – the so-called magical unicorns (or what we recruiters fondly call ‘purple squirrels’). Consequently, the average time it takes to fill a role from the time it’s posted has stretched to 60 days, and that gap is only continuing to widen, troubling metric-focused HR and Talent Acquisition teams.  

But here’s one silver lining: despite the tighter market, doubts around hiring strategies, and cost-conscious approaches, our teams have stepped up to meet the needs of our Life Sciences partners. Across our Contract, Permanent and Partnerships divisions here at Meet, the average time-to-fill stands at 49 days – 11 solid days shorter than the industry’s current norm (at least as of the time of writing).  

Now, the big question is: why is time-to-fill increasing? Life Sciences has more graduates than ever before, and the industry has been on a growth spree, with an impressive 79% growth rate compared to just 8% in all other sectors. Yet, like many of us holding back on spending due to economic uncertainties, employers are holding out on filling their open job roles.  

In fact, if we look back at this time last year, according to Biospace’s Q2 Job Market Report 2023, there’s a substantial 31% decrease in jobs posted. Applications for roles in Pharma have dipped by 13%, and Biotech applications have taken a 15% nosedive. But maybe it’s not entirely surprising when you consider that 13% of businesses have hit the brakes on hiring altogether, and 38% are scaling back their recruitment plans.  

Thankfully, at Meet, we’ve seen an upswing in placements with our Life Sciences partners during Q2 in comparison to Q1, and we only see this trend continuing as the industry gets more comfortable navigating the current market landscape.  

But that’s not what we’re here for. We want to get to the bottom of why employers are dragging their feet. Aside from top Life Sciences talent being already employed, with a minuscule 0.6% unemployment rate for the entire sector (a remarkable achievement and the 2nd lowest unemployment rate for all US sectors), the factors contributing to employers’ cautious approach far expand this single statistic.  

If truth be told, because of tighter budgets, the change in the market, and a bunch of other reasons, the Life Sciences industry as a whole is exercising caution when it comes to taking on fresh hires. However, as recruiting experts, we’re here to tell you that this kind of ‘play-it-safe’ strategy might not be the best long-term move for your business.  

With that in mind, let’s dive into the industry’s current most common (and often unrecognised) hiccups when looking to expand and succeed in the current climate. We’ll also explore how you can finetune your recruitment strategy, cut costs, outshine your competition, and shrink that dreaded time-to-fill rate.  

1.    Stretched Approval Timelines

Because of the shortage of cash flow, constraining budgets, funding ambiguities, and internal bureaucracy, there is understandably more hesitancy surrounding the approval process of new hires – from getting the green light to even begin hiring all the way through to onboarding new workers.

This is completely understandable, particularly as a business's priorities can shift in times of uncertainty, but in the long run, companies may be hindering themselves.  

Let’s look into the issues of stretched approval timelines in a bit more detail…    

-       Missing Out on Top-Tier Talent  

Excellent Life Sciences professionals are often in high demand, so if you’re dragging your feet in securing them, you might miss out on high-quality candidates altogether!  

That’s because lengthening your approval process can lose candidates' interest or sway them to accept a job offer from a competitor who is moving much quicker in their recruitment cycle.    

-       Burdening Current Employees and Diminishing Morale  

And let’s not forget about your current workforce!  

If decision-making is slow, it’s likely they’ll be covering the extra workload in the interim. Once this goes on for an extended period of time, employees become increasingly frustrated, and you’ll find team morale is dwindling across the board.  

What’s more, overextending your team for a prolonged time period is prone to reduced productivity and efficiency, and even leads to burnout, and let’s face it, that’s no good for them and no good for you!    

-       Delaying Project Timelines  

Next comes the impact on project timelines.  

For the most part, new Life Sciences roles often transpire to support ongoing projects and initiatives, for example, hiring a technical research specialist to analyse research results.  

If the process for hiring for that new role is long-drawn-out, projects become delayed, which only impacts the business's overall productivity and competitiveness.  

In the same breath, delaying the hiring of specialized talent can encumber innovation and slow down the pace of scientific advancements across your entire organisation.    

-       Increasing The Recruitment Risk  

Did you know that the longer a position remains vacant, the higher the risk of a poor hire?  

While some argue they’re waiting for the ‘perfect’ candidate to come along, you could, in fact, shoot yourself in the foot, and due to desperation to fill the role, employ mismatched talent that isn’t quite the perfect fit for the role or the company.  

Aside from wasting time and resources, this will eventually leave you with higher recruitment costs altogether. That’s because a poor hire is less likely to stay in the business long-term, increasing the likelihood of you having to start the hiring process all over again.    

-       Ending Up at A Competitive Disadvantage  

In a competitive market, those who are more agile in filling roles critical to their development are more likely to gain a competitive advantage. When your approval timelines face delay, it only makes it more difficult to quickly adapt to changing market demands and seize the opportunities that are right at your fingertips.  

But it’s not only competitors you need to worry about! If your approval processes are too slow, you can be perceived by current and prospective employees as inefficient or disorganized. This can have a long-term impact that negatively affects your company’s reputation in the Life Sciences job market.    

-       Missing Out on Business Opportunities  

Life Sciences is known for being a dynamic industry, so grabbing opportunities as they arise is essential for your growth. If you choose to delay your hiring process, you may miss out on opportunities to explore new markets, form strategic partnerships or undertake innovative projects.      

2.    More Voices Involved in The Approval Process

When there’s a sense of uncertainty floating around, for an air of security, more stakeholders will get involved in the decision-making process.  

Whether that’s signing off on new positions, having face time with potential new hires, or having the final say on new team members, it has more implications than simply stretching the approval timeline.  

Let’s see why ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ is a very fitting phrase for the recruitment process in Life Sciences…    

-       Increasing Decision Time  

First and foremost, when multiple stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process, reaching a consensus can take much longer than usual. That’s because every single stakeholder has different priorities, opposing opinions and varying viewpoints.  

The result? Further delays in approving new roles and the hiring of critical new employees to advance your scientific discoveries.  

What’s more, in some cases, communication can become over-complex. You see, coordinating discussions and feedback among multiple different decision-makers can become cumbersome, particularly if they sit in different departments or locations. This unnecessary complexity slows down the entire process and can oftentimes lead to miscommunication.    

-       Compromised Objectivity  

When times are tough and the pressure is on, personal biases and preferences are even more likely to creep into the overall decision-making process.  

This can have an enormous impact on a decision-maker’s judgement and, ultimately, hinder the selection of the most qualified and specialized Life Sciences talent that has the ability to take your business to the next level.    

-       Risking Decision Gridlock  

Following on from the setbacks mentioned above, conflicting points of view among multiple decision-makers can result in gridlock, with no decision made at all.  

This can be particularly problematic when timely hiring for a role is crucial to the company’s development and overall success.


-       Losing The Strongest Candidates  

As mentioned in the section above, high-quality candidates are no strangers to receiving multiple job offers at one time. With too many people getting involved in the approval process, top talent may avert their attention to competitors who are moving much more swiftly in their decision-making.  

So, on top of losing your competitive edge, prolonging your recruiting process can also create a negative impression on candidates, affecting their perception of your business’s efficiency and professionalism.    

-       Unnecessary Spending  

Overall, lengthy approval timelines can create inefficiencies in the hiring process and increase recruitment overheads – especially if you have to repeat the process!  

In a time where money is tighter than usual, a higher time-to-fill can have a negative impact on the business’s productivity, efficiency and general success, as well as increase your cost-per-hire metric.      

3.    Waiting For The ‘Perfect’ Candidate

Despite other factors contributing to delays in hiring new employees, many companies are taking extra caution in making a wrong hire, instead waiting for the ‘perfect’ candidate to walk through their doors.  

This kind of thinking can actually have adverse effects on the business.  

With recruitment partners like Meet, who have an extensive Life Sciences network, we’re able to vet candidates for you, meaning we’ll work as an extension of your talent team, only putting forward top applicants who would be a great addition to your business, not only now but in usual market conditions too.  

So, let’s take a closer look at why waiting for the ‘perfect’ candidate in the current market can be damaging to your business…  


-       Limiting Your Pool of Candidates and Missing Out on Hiring Opportunities

Again, while you sit tight and wait for your dream candidate to step through the doors, other talented individuals will be quickly snapped up by your competitors who truly recognise the capabilities and value of their expertise.  

What we’re trying to tell you here is that having too strict a criterion for particular roles can actually result in losing out on the most highly qualified candidates and those with the greatest potential to grow!  

Overlooking strong candidates with the right skill set, valuable experience, and highly regarded soft skills could mean you're also missing out on significant contributions to your organization.  

The reality is that if you restrict your talent pool unnecessarily, you’ll lose out to competitors and suffer from negative implications on business growth and success.    

-       Impacting Current Team Dynamics  

As we’ve mentioned, time-to-fill directly correlates to productivity and project timelines.  

The longer your hiring process takes, the higher the time-to-fill will be for a vacant position, which not only leads to productivity losses and project delays but increased workload on existing staff.  

The result of this can disrupt team dynamics and collaboration, meaning the overall team performance is impacted. That’s because while your current staff cover the responsibilities of the new role, they may feel a loss of job satisfaction and suffer from decreased morale which can be seen in project outcomes.    

-       Setting Unrealistic Expectations  

Waiting for the ‘perfect’ candidate is like waiting for rain to fall in the middle of the desert.  

What we mean by that is, setting unrealistic expectations could sway your thinking into the realm of no candidate ever meeting every desired criterion. This kind of mindset could delay your hiring process indefinitely.  

What’s more, the focus on finding a candidate who appears flawless on paper could mean you overlook potential hidden gems with unique skills and qualities that blow you away beyond their written resume.


-       Cost Implications  

Recruitment costs vary, and even more so when a hiring process is taking too long.  

Just think about it… advertising and interviewing take up time and money, as do longer onboarding periods.  

This means that your Hiring Managers and HR teams won’t be able to fully focus on impactful, strategic business objectives, and instead, be spending their time looking for your unicorn. (Spoiler: they don’t exist!)    

-       Negative Impact on Your Employer Branding  

As we mentioned above, a prolonged hiring process can leave a negative impression on potential candidates – and that doesn’t just mean right now, either!  

The negative implications this may have on your company’s employer branding can follow you for quite some time, marking you as a less attractive employer to potential candidates in the future too.  

Remember, in the age of social media and review websites, the Life Sciences world is more intricately connected than ever before! So if one candidate has a bad experience, they won’t be shy in openly talking about it with their peers, and unfortunately, it’s the bad ones that tend to be remembered!  


-       Market Changes  

The Life Sciences job market is vibrant due to its everchanging nature and constantly adapting ways.  

That means that the top-tier talent you’re looking for isn’t going to be around forever!   Not only can they easily get snapped up by competitors, but economic conditions, industry trends, and market demand can change quickly, also affecting the availability of the candidates you’re after.      

4.    Partnering With a Recruitment Agency

In times of doubt, reduced hiring cycles, and in the fashion of cutting costs, for many companies, it makes sense to cut ties (even temporarily) with their recruitment partner.

Well, we’re here to tell you that that might just be the biggest mistake you make (of course, we would!).

As recruitment specialists, we work as an extension of your internal team, understanding your pain points and challenges, and working with relevant departments to overcome these issues and help you reach your goals.

So can our invaluable expertise truly benefit you? Let’s get into it…  

-       Access To Specialized Expertise

Recruitment companies are experts in talent acquisition, from both an employer's perspective and an employee's point of view. In fact, some might just call us the ultimate matchmakers!

Take Meet, for example. We’re incredibly well-versed in sourcing candidates within each different corner of Life Sciences and pride ourselves on making connections that are right for both the company and the individual.

And that’s because we’re equipped to understand the nuances of the job market, skill requirements, and industry trends, which enables us to identify and attract top talent most effectively.

What’s more, we’re expansively connected with Life Sciences professionals, including passive job seekers who may not be actively looking for new opportunities at the time that you’re hiring.

Leveraging these relationships with Life Sciences organizations, such as yours, means your chance of finding superior talent with the right skills and experiences increases, even during times when the market is extra competitive!  

-       Saving You Time and Money

This one might surprise you, but give it second thought… Navigating the hiring process is time-consuming and costly for many Life Sciences companies, especially during unusual market conditions.

Recruitment specialists are able to streamline this process for you by handling tasks such as candidate sourcing, screening and initial interviews.

By offloading these kinds of responsibilities to your recruitment partner, internal HR and Hiring Managers are then able to focus on core business operations and strategic priorities, while safe in the knowledge that their talent acquisition is in the hands of experts!  

-       Alleviates The Risk

During uncertain economic climates, hiring decisions carry significantly more risks, which may be why you’re prolonging your time-to-fill, involving more stakeholders in the decision-making, or biding your time waiting for the ‘perfect’ candidate to show up.

Recruitment partners are able to mitigate that risk by conducting thorough candidate assessments and background checks and, ultimately, reducing the chance of you hiring individuals who might not be a good long-term fit for your organization.

On top of that, as we know, a changing market means more fluctuation within your hiring needs. A recruitment partner allows you to quickly adjust the size of your workforce based on demand, without committing to long-term contracts or permanent hires.  

-       Industry Insights

Recruitment businesses have their fingers on the pulse, and for us at Meet, we have a dedicated insights and data team who have direct access to market reports and industry insights.

This feeds through the business, meaning our entire team can provide you with valuable advice on hiring strategies and market trends each time you connect.

This type of knowledge is not only insightful for you as an individual but can help your organization make more informed decisions to remain competitive in an ever-changing market.  

-       Confidentiality

In certain situations, Life Sciences organizations might need to conduct confidential searches for key positions in their company. For this to be done internally can take a lot of time and require upskilling for certain members of staff.

Recruitment partners already have the capabilities to handle these searches confidentially, delivering relevant and quality candidates while protecting your company’s privacy and reputation.  

-       Enhancing Your Employer Branding

A recruitment company that really knows what they're doing works like a free marketing tool just for you!

What we mean by that is that a reputable recruitment agency will represent your company professionally and positively within the Life Sciences space, whether that’s co-branded marketing campaigns, employer branding videos or tailored feedback strategies – the list is endless!

By doing so, they can enhance your employer brand and, therefore, attract the very best Life Sciences minds to your organization.  

-       Better Navigate Uncertain Market Conditions

A testing market is not a new-fangled problem that recruitment specialists have encountered. In fact, for those who’ve been in the industry for some time, these cycles often come and go, and they’re equipped to adapt their strategies and approaches to suit the changing market conditions – something, internally, your team might lack!

A reliable recruitment partner will be on your side to help you respond to these uncertainties and market fluctuations effectively and efficiently. And really, what more could you ask for?!  


To fine-tune your approval processes and optimize your hiring strategy, it’s all about finding that sweet spot between making timely hiring decisions with the right stakeholders involved and ensuring your decision-making process runs like a well-oiled machine.

The key? Work with your recruitment partner to define a crystal-clear decision-making criterion. Focus on the things that matter, such as prioritizing the most critical skills, qualifications and traits that perfectly align with your company’s needs. Set feasible timelines and assign a single point of accountability. By cracking this code, you’ll see that your strategy for attracting and holding onto top-tier talent will transform in record time!

With that said, it’s key that you choose an experienced recruitment partner that echoes your company’s values and needs. This kind of synergy serves as a solid advantage, especially when the future feels a little uncertain, and their proficiency will no doubt contribute to your long-term success within the Life Sciences ecosystem.

Think Meet might be that missing puzzle piece in your recruitment strategy? Let’s chat to see how our collaboration can revolutionize your hiring strategy and get you and your business to exactly where you want to be!

Book in a call with one of the team about your hiring needs.

Meet Recruitment 2022. Meet Recruitment Ltd., Meet Recruitment Inc. and Meet Personalberatung GmbH are all subsidiaries of Meet Group (No. 13556131) a company registered in England and Wales at Irongate House, 22-30 Dukes Place, London, EC3A 7LP.
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