When your life sciences startup begins to expand, it’s essential to build a management team with the skills and expertise to drive your vision forward. Your first inclination might be to hire people you’ve worked with in the past. However, you may need to broaden your perspective to construct a dynamic team that’s right for this company. So before you focus solely on candidates in your inner circle, you should first determine what criteria senior management needs to meet to advance your business. Keep the following steps in mind.
1. Prioritize and Define the Roles
The first, all-important step in building a management team is to determine which roles to prioritize. For instance, you might want to start with a CEO and a CFO before you hire a CMO, depending on the existing competencies in your company.
Once you’ve decided which role is your top priority, take a step back and visualize the ideal candidate. What specific skills and experience will they need to help your life sciences startup advance to the next level?
While industry expertise and leadership skills are always important for an executive role, candidates will distinguish themselves based on their experience. For instance, a CEO who’s successfully led two life sciences startups through their Series A will likely have a rich network of potential investors and effective fundraising strategies. Similarly, someone with a strong background in regulatory affairs might be just the person you need if you’re preparing for a new product launch.
You should also consider which personality traits would be a good fit for your organizational culture. Remember: A candidate whose ethos and mission align with the company’s will inspire and elevate, while someone who’s not a good match could cause loss of morale and attrition.
2. Create a Scoring System
To make an informed decision as to the best candidate, you need to establish a scoring system. This involves assigning a numerical value to the qualifications you identified in the first step. This evaluation method ensures the hiring process is transparent and free of bias.
Here’s an example of how this could work:
- Role: CEO
- Qualification: strategic skills
- Score: 1=good | 2=average | 3=below average
It’s also important to consider soft skills when building a management team. Executives often function under high pressure, which makes qualities like resilience, communication, and collaboration all the more important.
Make sure to create a comprehensive scoring system that takes the multifaceted nature of executive roles into account. By doing so, you’re laying the foundation for a data-driven hiring decision that will bring maximum value to your company.
3. Structure of the Interview Process
To ensure an efficient, effective, and equitable interview process, start with an informal conversation to gauge the candidate’s cultural fit. Next, discuss the specifics of the role and what your expectations are when it comes to your business’s challenges and opportunities.
Finally, assign the candidate a real-world challenge or project. This offers insights into the candidate’s thought process, communication skills, versatility, and problem-solving skills.
For instance, to better understand a candidate’s strategic abilities, ask them how they would tackle a regulatory hurdle. A challenge like this will provide more depth and dimension than a series of interview questions.
Be careful to ensure an equitable interview process where every candidate is evaluated on the same criteria. This is critical to coming to an objective, data-driven decision.
4. Assemble an Interview Team
The impact of your new executive on your business cannot be understated. In a startup, they usually interact with everyone from senior managers to junior team members. Involve these stakeholders in the interview process to get a well-rounded view of the candidate’s cross-functional skills and general compatibility.
5. Complete the Interview Process
When you execute the interview process, you need to consistently keep your objective in mind—to find the best candidate for your startup’s specific needs. Be consistent about using your scoring system to evaluate the predetermined criteria. This can be challenging when the candidates bring diverse experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives to the table. Nonetheless, it’s the only way to ensure you’re judging each candidate on merit and their potential for driving your business forward.
When you work with a reputable executive search firm, it’s often easier to adhere to a structured, unbiased, and comprehensive evaluation process. The reason is that executive recruiters use tried and tested processes that are specifically designed to eliminate bias.
To gain the clearest impressions of the candidates, gather feedback from the interview team immediately after each interview. During this debriefing, discuss both the candidate’s technical and cultural fit.
6. Make an Offer
Once you’ve found the right candidate, you still need to reel them in. This is where the craft of drafting a compelling offer comes in.
The offer should be on par with the current market standards for compensation in life sciences. You need to consider factors such as base salary, stock options, benefits, and perks to strike the right balance between an attractive offer and your company’s resources. This is another step where an executive recruiter who specializes in life sciences can provide valuable support.
An executive recruitment firm can also help you with the intangible aspects of an offer. They can help explain your vision for the company and highlight the professional development opportunities it will bring for the candidate. When you show commitment to their long-term growth and provide transparency about their future with the company, it can resonate as deeply as a generous compensation package.
7. Provide a Solid Onboarding Experience
Especially in a life sciences startup, it’s crucial to establish a robust onboarding process that lets the new executive hit the ground running.
It’s advisable to create a 90-day plan that outlines key milestones, objectives, and desired outcomes for the new hire. You should introduce the new executive to key stakeholders, bring them up to speed on all ongoing projects, and clearly communicate what your company’s short- and long-term goals are.
It can be helpful to assign seasoned team members as resources for the new hire to inform them about the details of projects that might not be explicitly discussed in briefings. These team members can also help them understand the ins and outs of your organizational culture.
Schedule regular check-ins during the first few months to address any challenges, ask for feedback, and, if needed, reset expectations.
Investing in a solid onboarding process is well worth the ROI, as it helps the new executive integrate and begin contributing to the company’s development as soon as possible.
It Takes Time to Build a Management Team
Building an executive team is no small endeavor. You need to make sure every hiring decision is aligned with your vision for your company. But when you approach the hiring process in a structured, objective manner, you maximize your chances of finding the executive who possesses precisely those qualities your business needs for its next stages of growth.