Competing for Life Sciences Talent: A Guide for Startups and SMEs

Canada ranks seventh in Scientific American’s latest scorecard of the world's best countries in science. To quote the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, “We have proven research strengths in areas such as genomics, bio-informatics, immuno-therapies and neuroscience. Canada’s position as a biotechnology leader […] is a reflection of our world-class credentials.”

Over the course of the past 15 years, I have assisted life-sciences companies across Canada with their recruiting needs. In that time Canada has acquired an international reputation as a veritable hotbed of innovation and scientific discovery. The demand for talent has never been greater.

It is an exciting time for life sciences in this country, and perhaps no one knows that better than the scientific entrepreneurs engaged in a startup or in growing their small- or medium-size enterprise (SME). I have worked with many of them in their quest to find the right people, and the discussions inevitably lead to “how do we attract top talent, and how do we know what to pay them?” As we all know, money is not everything. Often the opportunity for an equity position and the chance to contribute to the vision and direction of a smaller enterprise are compelling reasons to leave a larger enterprise.

Attracting Top Talent

  • Define all the ambitions and dreams you have for your company – write this out in note form for yourself
  • Develop a 30-second “elevator pitch” that says clearly “this is who we are today, this is what we do, this is where we are going”
  • Define your major projects and how the talent you are looking for is expected to help make it happen
  • Future career paths, company culture, and corporate social-responsibility affect many career choices today – be prepared for these questions
  • Ask BioTalent Canada for HR assistance – they have been helping startups, SMEs and large biotech-companies since 1997
  • Work with an experienced search firm such as Lock Search Group that specializes in life sciences – we can help you prepare position profiles, salary expectations, and search requirements
  • Develop an intern program – many are subsidized – great interns often make great future employees

Compensating Top Talent

  • Conduct research: review labour statistics, job postings, industry-specific compensation practices and advice from a recognized search firm. Find the median salary and be prepared to offer that, plus your imagination, dedication and leadership
  • Provide unusual incentives that apply to all employees – intern help, publication assistance, flexibility, sponsorship of a candidate’s outside interest, birthday holidays, etc.
  • Provide opportunities for customer engagement. People who choose life sciences as a career often derive great satisfaction from seeing the results of their work in action

Your compensation packages can be innovative without being costly – at Lock Search Group, we have some lively ideas based on our 40 years of serving many business sectors.


Article provided by Lock Search Group

About the author

Ben Lamarche has been with the Lock family for over 15 years, working initially out of Montreal and now working out of the Toronto office. With a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Relations and a Master of Science in Human Resource Management, he is well-equipped to make sure everyone is focused on being exceptional.



At Lock Search Group we carry over 30 years of working in the biotechnology and life sciences industry and targeting the market’s top talent.  With offices in major cities across Canada we leverage resources and knowledge across the country to ensure exceptional execution of service for all clients, wherever they’re located.

Newsletter Issue: 
HR Microscope October 2017