While the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on many industries, Medical Science Liaison hiring was steady throughout 2020 and continues to remain strong in 2021. The one change in hiring that has become evident is the increase in recruitment practices that support diversity and inclusion. While we may all agree on the importance of adopting conscientious hiring practices, the question is: How? How are companies finding success in their implementation of diversity hiring? Diversity and inclusion recruitment efforts can only be successful when an organization aligns cross-functionally to hire without bias and create a culture of diversity, encourage inclusion, and foster retention of talent.
Here are some key ways to move towards the goal of hiring without bias and supporting inclusion across positions:
- Start with the data
The best place to start is with full company alignment and understanding of what diversity and inclusion mean for your organization. This may require a company audit and analysis of data. Statistically, which groups are under-represented within the organization? These categories can include race, ethnicity, age, sexual preference, gender expression/identity, political inclination, religious affiliation, religion, degree (educational background), geography, veterans/ex-military, economics, family status, and disability. At the onset, it may be best to pick the specific metrics you want to improve upon first, rather than target a complete overhaul.
- Have a corporate goal, vision, or mission statement
It is important for an organization to establish a corporate D&I mission statement that is clearly defined, communicated, and promoted within the company. Some organizations create a D&I Task Force to promote best practices amongst employees. One such way is to prominently display images and videos on the company website that outline and portray your diverse company culture. However, most importantly, the specific D&I hiring and recruitment goals MUST be communicated throughout the organization. Each department needs to be aligned, trained, and committed to implementing defined strategies and tactics set forth by leadership to meet corporate goals.
- D&I Employee Referral Program
Many companies have Employee Referral Programs that will offer compensation for sharing resumes of colleagues or friends for company job postings. Consider bolstering your Employee Referral program by incentivizing employees for providing resumes in line with your specific diversity metrics. Communication is key to the success of this sort of program, which may be the best lead and accomplished through Talent Acquisition or Human Resources departments. Promoting the D&I Employee Referral Program can also be a function of a D&I Task Force (if your organization has one in place).
- Strategic Diversity Sourcing and Outreach
One of the most effective ways to ensure a diverse slate of talent when hiring is to identify candidates from diversity-rich environments. Start with colleges and universities that foster these ideas and practices, such as Howard, Spelman, Xavier, and Tuskegee – as well as others that are historically all African American. Simple Google searches can provide information on schools with predominantly minority populations and underrepresented students. There are also many diverse professional associations organized around specific minority groups. Organizations to consider include Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, American Corporate Partners for Veterans, National Black MBA Association (NBMBA), and the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA). Creating strategic partnerships and perhaps sponsorships with such groups can be a great way to improve D&I recruitment initiatives.
- Make your interview panel diverse
One of the most effective strategies to ensure unbiased hiring is to assemble a diverse interview team (per department or group). Typically, this strategy should start with your Talent Acquisition or Human Resources department that can provide interview guidance and oversight of the hiring panel. To note, women are much more likely to join a company when they can engage with other women during an interview, in order to get a feel for the corporate culture and witness the level of diversity firsthand. Additionally, experts in the D&I field say that one of the determining factors of whether a diverse job-seeker is going to accept a position is if they see an example of diverse culture in the hiring process.
How to hire a diverse team of Medical Science Liaisons
While there are many ways to implement diversity and inclusion hiring practices in an organization, it is often challenging to incorporate them into hiring processes for MSLs. When hiring and recruiting Medical Science Liaisons, the requirements are often very precise. For example, Managers may want a PharmD, MD, or PhD plus 3+ years of MSL experience, plus 2+ years of specific therapeutic experience, and lastly, the person needs to reside in a certain geography. Clearly, it becomes a challenge just to find suitable candidates that meet the outlined (and sometimes inflexible) criteria. The answer should not be to lower the bar or change the requirements.
Instead, to summarize, here are some steps to follow to still accomplish D&I goals:
- Understand which groups are under-represented in your organization
- Communicate specific D&I hiring and recruitment goals within your department
- Explain and promote your employee referral program within your current team
- Source talent from diverse environments
- Maintain a diverse hiring and interview panel
BONUS QUESTION: How can MSL job-seekers determine whether a potential employer can offer a diverse culture?
MSL candidates should research an organization prior to an interview to see if the company has a D&I mission statement or initiative. Visit the company website to see if you can find examples of their culture through photos or videos. It is also good practice to research the interview panel through LinkedIn to see who you will be speaking with during the course of your interview. You can learn a lot about each individual’s background, education, and industry experience, as well as whether the full interview panel is diverse. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, ask the right questions. Here are some of the questions job seekers should consider asking to learn about an organization’s culture:
- Can you describe your organization’s culture and what you like most about the company?
- How do you foster a team culture/motivation as a manager?
- What (if any) types of employee resource groups exist within the company? Is the organization open to creating new ones?
Tom Caravela has 30 years of pharmaceutical industry experience and is the Founder and Managing Partner of The Carolan Group and Host of the MSL Talk podcast. Founded in 2002, The Carolan Group is a leading pharmaceutical and biotech search firm specializing in Medical Affairs and Medical Science Liaison recruitment. Tom is responsible for leading a team of expert recruiters and account managers in client expansions for various levels of field-based and in-house Medical Affairs professionals including Medical Science Liaisons, MSL Leaders, Managed Care/HEOR Liaisons, Medical Directors as well as various other medical and clinical affairs roles. With almost 3 decades of pharmaceutical industry experience, Tom is a frequent speaker and Medical Affairs Consultant for clients, advisory boards, and industry meetings. His strategic interests focus on hiring, retention, and career development for the field-based MSL role.