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Thought Leaders

Poised for Growth

Nicole Ethier has worked in life science staffing long enough to know that hiring talent should be a company’s number one priority. When Ethier shifted from the role of COO to president of Epic’s life sciences portfolio companies in July 2022, she was already equipped with a deep understanding of high growth industries. Epic Staffing Group’s life sciences division is made up of PharmaLogics Recruiting and Orbis Clinical, each with a specialized focus in permanent placement and contract work, respectively. Prior to joining PharmaLogics and Orbis, Ethier served in multiple leadership roles within high growth companies, some of which doubled and tripled in size during her tenure.

Clinical trials and investments in research are on the rise, resulting in a war for talent among life sciences organizations from start-ups to established biopharmas to meet staffing demand and increase speed of development. “The need for speed and finding top quality talent are essential to our clients’ success,” said Ethier. “When positions open at an organization, it is typically reactive hiring related to attrition . Even when a company is hiring new positions proactively, this is often after a lengthy approval process, so there is urgency by the time the jobs officially open for search.”

While time is of the essence, a real understanding of what makes a candidate the right fit is where life sciences recruitment companies can differentiate themselves. This goes beyond just experience and skill sets, but seeking to harmonize individuals with company cultures. In a candidates’ market, this can be challenging for hiring organizations. 

“As a recruitment agency, we help our clients quickly find qualified talent to fill the open roles, but there are advisory elements we take on as well,” said Ethier. “Many organizations initially view each open position as a list of core competencies that must be checked off to fill the staffing gap. We help clients hire for potential, which presents growth opportunities to candidates and allows our clients to win the war on talent.”

In doing so, PharmaLogics and Orbis have not neglected the candidate experience in order to serve clients better, but put forth a relationship approach that is built on trust and knowledge of every candidate’s unique situation and career aspirations. 

Where Did the Talent Go?

It’s no surprise that the life sciences industry landscape noticed a significant shift during Covid-19. Clinical trial sponsors became household names as the world raced to develop a vaccine. But in the midst of this increased visibility of the industry at large, a quiet disappearing act was taking place among the candidate pipeline for biotech and pharmaceutical organizations. 

“Covid-19 set off many clinical trials and new therapeutic targets where speed of development was increased, and so the need for resources sped up during this period as well,” said Ethier. “The need for more resources equals higher demand, and if candidates are not in the market to support that demand, companies find themselves in a dilemma for hiring solutions.” 

In life sciences, the idea of candidates knocking on doors or sending out resumes is a thing of the past. Rather, individuals with desirable skill sets are being approached when they are not necessarily actively seeking new employment. PharmaLogics and Orbis specialize in reaching out to passive candidates with the right experience, and leveraging a vast network of skilled life sciences professionals to identify talent that can be matched with a hiring organization. To be in the staffing industry is to be networking with individuals and coming to understand what they are seeking to be happy in a position, whether it’s the type of job, location, compensation or other elements. There is nuance to this, however, and there is not a perfect formula to place candidates in roles that they want.

Life sciences companies have one particular advantage over other industries that can win over talent: impact. Candidates are driven to companies where science will make a difference in the world, and impact lives for the better.

Builders and Maintainers

According to Ethier, coming to understand and embrace certain intangibles about clients and candidates is what results in successful job matches. For instance, a small biotech start-up may have the same resume requirements for a research associate as a large organization hiring for the same role, but the biotech startup is seeking individuals with a “builder” mindset, an analogy likened to constructing a new house. This type of employee can lay foundation, put up walls, and put on a roof to make the house – truly building from the ground up. In the same analogy, there are employees who align with a “maintainer” label; they don’t build houses from scratch, but do some remodeling, paint the kitchen, add furniture, spruce up the decor, etc. Neither the “builder” or “maintainer” employee type is superior over the other, but they are completely different. And you may not be able to tell by simply looking at their resume.

“Taking a consultative approach and understanding what our clients are looking for at a deeper level, along with the type of setting candidates can bring the most value to, is what sets the Epic life sciences staffing companies apart in our industry,” said Ethier. 

Culture Matters

Knowledge and understanding are one thing when it comes to Epic’s unique approach, but PharmaLogics and Orbis are successful, according to Ethier, because of the companies’ people and the culture. “Our teams bring their best selves to work, and have a real passion for helping our clients find talent that will enable them to improve and save lives,” she says. “We wouldn’t be here without our people.”

When Ethier took on the role of president at PharmaLogics and Orbis, she came equipped with keen understanding of high growth industries, but also a few personal traits that have contributed to her abilities in dynamic leadership, and set the tone for the companies at large: The endurance of an avid biker (having just recently completed her third 190 mile bikeathon), the passion of a music fan who once unknowingly crashed a political convention to see her favorite band play, and the tenacity of an open heart surgery survivor. Suffice to say, these companies are going places. 


Epic Staffing Group