What to do if you're struggling to fill a vacancy

Monique Ellis our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 27/03/2019

Life science companies depend heavily on recruiting skilled professionals for the research and development of innovative drugs and devices that help them grow and remain competitive.  Therefore, the longer a vacancy exists in your company the  more recruitment costs continue to rise, as does loss of revenue for the company and reduced productivity within the team. External factors compound these difficulties as in-house talent acquisition and HR functions face increasing skill shortages within the life sciences industry. 

To win in the war for talent life science companies must have tactics in place to fill vacancies quickly and suitably. Here are some recruitment techniques to consider when struggling to fill a vacancy:


When competing for a small pool of talent, it is often not enough to advertise a vacancy on the company ‘Work for Us’ page. It’s unlikely the professionals you need will be looking regularly on your recruitment pages, even if you’re a market leader. Therefore, it’s a good idea to find cost-effective ways to advertise the vacancy on job boards and social media.

The most important consideration is to choose the right platform to maximise your outreach to the candidates you most want to attract. You could opt for advertising on broader job boards like Indeed but run the risk of having a larger but less specific reach. To target more specialist candidates, you could go with life science specific job boards like PharmiWeb, Emed or BioSpace. You can also seek out job boards tailored to specific fields such as engineering or scientific research. Although the reach may be smaller, you’ll get the job advert in front of more relevant and higher quality candidates.

You can also use social media platforms such as LinkedIn to enhance your advertising. There are 560 million active professionals on LinkedIn today. You can easily create a job advert that target candidates by criteria you can select, including job title, area of expertise, industry and years of experience. This is a more costly option but LinkedIn allows you to monitor the performance of your adverts, so you can hone them over time and make them as attractive and effective as possible.

When creating engaging adverts consider:

  • Adverts should be well written and contain the relevant information and keywords to pique their interest. This means you get more relevant applications, cutting down the time needed to sift through them,
  • Are you offering the right salary? A sure way to put candidates off is to advertise a below average salary, or one that doesn’t match the required skills and experience.


A simple yet effective way of filling a vacancy is to ask existing and past employees/candidates if they know anyone in their network that would be suitable for the job.  88% of employers say referrals are their first choice when it comes to above-average applications, according to Medium Corporation. Once hired, research also suggests candidates are more likely to stay at your company - with a 45% retention rate after two years, compared with only 20% if they’d gone through a job board. You could create an email template to send out asking for referrals and offering an attractive incentive - such as a voucher or lump sum.

Recruitment process

Improving your recruitment process is a sure way to increase your appeal as an employer, making it more likely that a high-quality candidate will accept your offer. Creating a positive experience for prospective candidates during the application and interview process is vital, as they’re likely to be comparing their experience with that of your competitors - who also want to hire them.  

To ensure your company’s recruitment process leads to a successful hire, consider the following:

  • There should be a straightforward process for applying for the vacancy. If it’s not obvious or too hard, candidates may be put off.
  • Keep the time between initial contact, interviews and offer to a minimum. Waiting too long in between stages increases the risk of the candidate disengaging and going to a competitor.
  • Invest in some recruiting software such as Spark Hire or an applicant tracking system (ATS) to help you select the most suitable candidates for interview
  • Pay attention to feedback. Candidates really value receiving timely feedback following phone and face-to-face interviews.
  • Studies have proved that openness and honesty in the recruitment process is a real competitive advantage in becoming an employer of choice

Even for the candidates you don’t hire, you may wish to call upon them again for a future vacancy. Therefore, positive candidate experiences help you develop and maintain ongoing relationships with a network of professionals. This builds a talent pipeline you can call upon in future, and you’ll have an instant advantage against competitors because candidates will value their existing relationship with you more.

Employer brand

Something that is not exactly an easy fix but pays off in the long run is improving your employer brand. Employer brand is a broad term that describes a company’s identity, including their reputation to customers, clients and prospective employees. Research shows that employer brand plays a significant part in a company’s ability to attract and retain talent.

In a world where the best talent can cherry-pick where they work, having a first-rate employer brand is a company’s best shot at securing them for these hard-fill vacancies. Do some research into how candidates view your company as an employer. If you’re not well known, it’s even more important to focus on promoting a positive image and message.

Improving your scores on review sites like Glassdoor and Trust Pilot will help to promote a good employer image, as jobseekers trust the opinions of fellow candidates. Another way to improve is to carry out engagement surveys with existing employees to pinpoint any weaknesses and implement a plan to fix them.


You may be struggling to fill a vacancy because you adhere too closely to a predefined ‘cultural fit’. While it’s important to employ someone you shares similar values with the company, you may be missing out on the benefits of variety. Certainly, you should always consider candidates of different ages, ethnicities and genders, but what about those with different perspectives and opinions or a new way of doing things? This approach increases your scope of potential candidates, helping you fill that vacancy faster.  

Specialist recruitment

Did you know that over 70% of in-house solutionsfail to fill either all or 90% of vacancies themselves? You’re certainly not alone in your struggles to fill vacancies, particularly when looking for professionals with specialist and niche skillsets. While the above suggestions will certainly increase the likelihood of filling your vacancy, not many have the time and resources to put them in place. Therefore, those in this position can pass the burden over to a specialist staffing company that will source, vet and shortlist quality and suitable candidates to fill the vacancy. Try not to be put off by the cost, because as long as a vacancy remains unfilled, costs build up rapidly. You will end up spending more through loss of productivity, advertising and interim cover than you would had you engaged their services from day one. And the time-to-hire will be far less. An added bonus is that these companies are recruitment experts and will help you manage many of the above suggestions - including free advertising on my platforms!

Specialist life science staffing companies can offer a variety of recruitment solutions that will suit each vacancy. For example, Proclinical can help you place one-off permanent candidates, known as direct hire, or a contractor to work on a project in the short term.

However, one of Proclinical’s most useful services when battling with the current skills shortage is Executive Search. This is when a staffing company utilises their broad network to help you hire specialist people with niche skillsets who are typically very hard to find. When an individual is in demand, they are less likely to be active on job boards and social media, so only staffing companies that have established relationships with them will be able to engage them. Find out more about how Executive Search could help you fill your specialist vacancy.

For more information on how Proclinical’s services can help you fill a long-standing vacancy, please register it here or contact us today!