Talking Informatics Talent with L7 Informatic's Ivy Ford
Hiring is changing. Candidates are looking beyond salary and stability to find work that is meaningful, flexible, challenging, and supportive. Scismic helps companies navigate the changing landscape by applying scientific thinking to finding talent. Since the scientific process begins with observation, over the next few months, we will be talking with hiring managers in the biotech space to understand the challenges they are facing, and what they have found to work well.
Ivy Ford is the Director of Talent and Culture at L7 Informatics which is on a mission to revolutionize the scientific process by streamlining processes and data management accelerating precision health across life sciences, healthcare, and food value-change. Although she has been involved with recruiting and human resources since 1998, this is Ivy’s first year working with a Life Science Informatics vendor. She is inspired by the positive impact that will be made in the healthcare space.
The Changing Landscape
Scismic: You have an incredibly long history of working in recruiting, not just in biotech, but a lot of other fields as well. Can you talk a little bit about how hiring has changed over the course of your career?
Ford: The first thing that comes to mind is the virtual aspect. When hiring people based on culture, so much can be misunderstood when doing virtual interviews. When you aren't able to be in the same room able to shake hands and really be in that live moment with them, that can be a real challenge when assessing for a culture match. Gut instinct goes a long way in talent selection.
Knowing When to Hire
Scismic: What advice would you give to people who are new to the hiring space?
Ford: Knowing when to add another headcount to the team can be tricky. In my experience, the best way to look at it is through an activity or bandwidth lens. Can your employees take on more? Or are they continuously over capacity and stressed instead of being stretched. And have you already considered all of the best improvements when it comes to processes and systems?
The question is, how do you know if they really have all of the right tools and resources they need? If you think they do, and you know that each team member is regularly working beyond capacity, then you know it's time to add another headcount.
Scismic: That’s great advice, what are some ways you recommend measuring capacity?.
Ford: In some roles like in sales for example, there's KPI s there's key performance, there's numbers. I know exactly how many jobs a recruiter with a certain amount of experience should be able to handle on their own. But some of these roles, if you ask the person, how is your performance measured? They don't always have an answer to that. That can be hard to define in some roles but it needs to be done in order to move on because what gets measured, gets done. So without being able to measure it, you're just hoping for the best.
Scismic: How do you write a job description that will attract strong talent?
Ford: Our job descriptions start with telling about the company and our mission and what we do. Our goal is to draw people who want to be part of an innovative company with a unique product that can make a difference in the world. People who think, "I want to be a part of that!" And then they will continue on to read more about the job they'll be doing."
Scismic: How do you balance technical requirements with interpersonal skill requirements?
Ford: Most companies hire for skill but they usually fire talent because they aren't a culture fit. We look for very technical scientific and technology skills. Those can mostly be taught but the softer, more "human skills" such as the ability to collaborate, multi-task, work in an ambiguous environment, those human skills can not be taught. Not to mention that everyone thinks they have them so we focus less on them in a job description because, if I'm being honest, everyone thinks they have these skills.
Compensation & Benefits
Scismic: There is a trend towards transparency with salary ranges in job descriptions, do you find that it has helped to attract candidates or has it kept some potentially great candidates from even applying?
Ford: I have actually never been a proponent of posting a salary range. It makes sense for certain large organizations that have job architecture in place. But for smaller private companies that can be more flexible, it’s nice not to have to be as rigid or stay within that compensation band because there's so many variables that go into that decision. Everything from the candidate's educational background, or if someone has a certain amount of years of experience, where they live, there are just so many different variables that go into play when making that decision. And, of course as a candidate, I would be the same if the range was up to a certain max, "I would ask, "Why wouldn't I get the top of that salary?" And not everybody is skilled in having that conversation with candidates. So, it's just not always well understood.
Scismic: What are some other options besides salary that you have seen are effective in attracting candidates?
Ford: In today’s world, we are seeing that time off, work/life balance, autonomy and flexibility are more important to candidates. It is good to be with a smaller company where you can be a little bit more flexible and have a few different incentives you can customize.
But, personally, I am a fan of hiring people that want the job for the right reasons; because it advances their career, iIt gives them a new challenge, they want to join, and they feel like they're a good fit within the culture. If someone is only about the money, then they're probably not the best fit for our company because we want people who join because they are passionate about the mission, our culture and doing something good in the world.
Scismic: I’m glad you mentioned fit. How do yo
u tell from just an interview and resumes if a person will be a good cultural fit?
Ford: That's a really good question. Every interviewer will do that differently. My personal preference is to see how relaxed they can get in a conversation. I like it If people can kind of break down the interview wall a little bit. I remember an interview a while back where I shared something personal with a candidate about my mom having surgery, and the next time I talked to that candidate they asked how my mom was doin
g. I remember thinking, this person must be a good human that really cares about people and pays attention. It isn't always all about the business. At the end of the day, humans can be messy and go through hard times in life, especially in today's world. We've got to think about and care about our coworkers. So that's also important to me from a culture perspective.
It also has so much to do with how they communicate the reason that they want the job in the first place. Have they really done their homework and do they know enough about us and the industry? I literally had a candidate telling me “I just want a job. That's why I'm interested because I need a job.”, which is understandable. But at the end of the day, especially on the hard days, it's that mission that pulls you through. So it all comes down to “the why” and their motivation for wanting to join L7 that
Scismic: How much of a candidate'
s success once they're hired, do you think is attributed to that initial screening process versus the training and onboarding process?
Ford: I'd say they're 50/50, to be honest. In the first three months, if a candidate is not succeeding, then it's usually a recruiting issue and we might have missed something during the hiring process. You've got to make sure you're hiring people that can work independently and be collaborative, especially in this virtual world. That's another piece that I'm seeing is so different today, starting with a new company, you're sitting here in your home office with just you and a computer wondering, “Where do I find this? Who do I talk to about that?”. When you're in an office, it’s so easy to ask the person sitting across from you and get quick answ
ers. But in today's world it’s easy to feel more distant and disconnected. If you hire the right people, then the onboarding shouldn't matter as much because they have the initiative and the confidence to go after what they need and not just sit back and wait for it, so the training will take care of itself.
Scismic: Do you use any outside resources for recruiting?
Ford: We're a very lean team so we rely on external resources and Scismic is one of the best. Helen and her team have been critical to helping us with our Field Application Scientist roles, Integration Program Manager, Application Engineers and Solutions Architects. These are candidates that we would struggle to find on our own. Scismic has the scientific connections and expertise to know what we're looking for and has been able to introduce us to a lot of the right candidates.
Scismic: Any last thoughts?
Ford: I think I'll always have to work for a mission driven company that's doing something good in the world. That’s one of the reasons why I was so excited to work for L7. And the role itself was also really enticing because it's all my favorite things about HR; bringing in the right people that will ensure that the culture remains intact, making sure that L7 continues to be a really cool place to work.
Hiring Hacks from Ivy Ford
- Stretch before you stress. Be sure your team has the right processes and resources in place to do their best. This will help you recognize when they are at capacity so you can recognize a need before it becomes critical.
- Measure Outcomes. Ask yourself how will success be measured for this role?
- Flexible Compensation. Salary is only one aspect of a compensation and benefits package. Learn what is important to the individual candidate and offer those things to remain competitive.
- Ask “Why?”. Learn why the candidate wants this job. Internal motivation will help keep them engaged, even when the going gets tough. External motivators, like money or title, tend to fade quickly.
- Use External Resources. Use tools like Scismic to make the sourcing process more efficient and to supplement connections you may not have in specific technical areas.
- Hire Good Humans. Pay attention to how people communicate and collaborate. Do they show evidence of thoughtfulness and compassion towards others?
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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