Little will work without the right people. You can design and optimize processes. People make these processes work. This blog describes how we find the right people at ABS. We want people who can share in our mission of doing meaningful work that speeds and enables high quality biomedical research.
It is essential that a candidate is a good fit with our culture. We look for integrity, intelligence, openness to learning, a desire to succeed, and energy. These are more important than technical skills that can be learned. One can invest in training, but it is far more difficult to foster these core attributes or a positive attitude. We try to gage these attributes during the interview process.
Sometimes these qualities are apparent. However, we understand that some candidates are better at presenting themselves than others. Interview skills may be an important indicator for a business development position, but not necessarily a lab position. Some candidates may be nervous (but not excessively) or quiet, and it takes more time for them to become comfortable and more talkative. That is one reason why we conduct several interviews during the hiring process. These include interviews with staff who may not directly work with the candidates if they are hired. Often these interviews are insightful.
There are specific education and/or experience requirements for each position. These are laid out in our job descriptions. For example, a candidate working in the laboratory must have basic training and knowledge in biological sciences along with necessary math and computer skills. We extensively train our staff, but a certain fundamental knowledge and skill level is essential for every position.
To determine if candidates has the necessary basic skill set, we use written tests that we have developed. These are a good first screen. Candidates for laboratory positions, who pass the written tests, are evaluated in the laboratory with hands on tests (e.g., sterile cell technique for cell culture positions). If test results are satisfactory, we proceed with a more extensive interview process.
What we observe takes precedence over any resume. Experience is valuable for many positions. However, some experiences may not fit well in our highly productive environment. In many cases, it is preferable to train intelligent, eager to learn candidates rather than re-training someone with possibly ineffective habits.
We look for simple indicators in the recruiting process. Were the candidates on time? How did their previous positions work out? If they are new graduates, did they ever hold any jobs? This may have implications as to how they perceive working anywhere. Were their resumes free of typos and grammatical errors? This reflects upon their attention to details and how they view the process? How prepared were they? Did they know much about ABS, etc.?
There are no trick questions. All the questions and discussions are aimed at providing us and the candidates with a good idea of whether or not they will be happy and successful at ABS. Interviews are a normal conversation aimed at determining as well as possible is there a good fit for the current position and future growth.
After the interview and testing processes, we ask for and contact work and/or education related references. Lastly, we meet and make our decision. Poor test results eliminate some candidates. Likewise, if anyone on our team objects to the hire, it is a good reason not to make the offer. A poor response from a reference raises significant questions. The hiring decision is a complex process and intuition and consensus are important.
In many organizations, hiring often occurs when there is an urgent need. Even though that may sometimes be the case, we try not to rush or override our processes. The costs in time, training, frustration, and morale are high for everyone. It is extremely important to get this right. It is very difficult for the employee and ABS when it doesn’t work. When possible, we recruit proactively rather than reactively.
Thus far, this discussion has been from the perspective of what we are seeking. It is also our goal to provide our staff with a workplace where voices are heard, work is meaningful, and contributions are recognized. As much as is practical, we try to provide a flexible and rewarding workplace. These are values most candidates share with us.
Our compensation plans and benefits are as good as or better than many large organizations. For example, we provide full medical insurance, long and short-term disability insurance, a 401K plan with matching contributions, and a year-end bonus plan.
Contrary to what some may think of a smaller company, job security is better than with many large organizations that go through cycles of re-organizations, divestitures, and mergers. Many of our staff have been with us for many years and have grown and learned as ABS continues to successfully grow and evolve.
The next blog will describe the ABS culture and how we work to create a rewarding and productive environment.