Hiring Manager Secrets to Transition a Scientist to Industry from Academics

Managers can find transitioning scientists from academia to their careers in the biotech industry a challenge. Obviously, the scientist has the education and technical fit for the position. The new team member is eager to be successful, but there are a lot of transitions that need to be made. As a hiring manager, it is important to know that scientific training is primarily focused on science and is more academic in nature. It rarely prepares someone for a business-focused career. If they are not managed carefully, it could result in disengagement, poor performance, or a career change. All of these are costly to a business organization and frustrating for everyone. This blog post will discuss a few tips a hiring manager can use to help transition a new team member and recognize areas that could be challenging in the transition from academics to industry.


Clarify the Role

A science-based career in the biotech industry is dramatically different from one in an academic environment. Specifically, when it comes to the actual job function. Remember, a young scientist’s primary goal has been to learn and grow as a scientist. Understanding their role in the organization may be confusing and could need extra communication. Having clarity of the expectations and requirements is essential because there are so many variations of Scientist in the industry, and a new team member may have a preconceived idea that does not align with reality. Here are some ways to provide clarity of the role and prevent the new team member from getting off track:

  1. Review the Job Description from the organization with the new team member
  2. Discuss the role and how it fits into the organization’s business with the new team member
  3. Discuss how the role is evaluated and who is responsible for the evaluation with the new team member
  4. Identify and establish a mentor that has been successful or is familiar with the role for the new team member. This will give them someone other than the hiring manager to go to with questions and helps build relationships on the team


Set Clear Goals

Biotech is a fantastic industry that is constantly innovating and moving forward. It is an industry that moves fast and with a business goal to achieve. A team member who has not been in the industry may not recognize the importance of having goals aligned with the business objectives with critical timelines or milestones. As the hiring manager, it is important to know that the new team member may have never had to set goals, or they have been focused on academic achievement and publication up to this point. Here are three ways to get started setting business-minded goals:

  1. Present and discuss the organization’s mission with the new team member. Set up a similar discussion with a senior level leader, such as a COO and the new team member
  2. Create achievable goals with the new team member
    1. Include milestones and timelines
    2. Include expected business outcomes
    3. Include expected budget
    4. Establish what successful completion of the goals looks like
    5. Establish what percent of time is allocated to the goal
    6. Establish how these goals will be prioritized when other tasks come up
  3. Establish a regular meeting with the new team member, specifically to review progress of goals and put it as a reoccurring meeting in advance


Foster Effective Communication

Communication, communication, communication. Even the most brilliant scientist will be overlooked if they cannot effectively communicate ideas, results, and discoveries. In the business world, communication is done verbally (in meetings, presentations, hallway, or lunch table discussions) and in written form (e-mail, reports, proposals). Every communication a scientist has in the organization will impact success. Scientists are typically very introverted and may appear to have less confidence than other team members. Unfortunately, the training scientists receive in communication may not be as effective in a business environment. Written communication will be their go-to because it is the safest. Growing a new team member in verbal communication skills is a win for everyone. Here are some basic considerations to encourage in a new team member:

  1. Be confident
  2. Always avoid negativity and gossip
  3. When communicating via e-mail
    1. Read it before it is sent
    2. Write it like the President of the company is going see it
  4. Rather than present just facts and results, remember to be persuasive by presenting “What is in it for the business?”
    1. Importance to achieving the business mission
    2. Importance to key business outcomes
    3. Financial impact to the business
  5. Seek out training in persuasive communication
    1. Jerry Weissman’s presentation materials and coaching were pivotal in my career growth:
      1. The Power Presenter
      2. Presenting to Win


Encourage Adaptability

The business world is constantly evolving, and new challenges and opportunities arise. Business objectives can change based on many things. For example, success or failure of projects, competition, funding sources, and corporate leadership. This is a big contrast to the academic environment and can devastate a new team member. Keep in mind early projects are their chance to shine. A lot of time, heart, and passion are being poured into projects because the new team member wants to be successful. When that project is cut, it is a blow to the team member’s confidence and business identity. The key to effective adaptation is not to have big surprises. Here are some keys to “No Surprises” with a new team member:

  1. Continually discuss company performance and objectives with the new team member
  2. Continually review and revise goals with the new team member to stay in alignment with corporate needs
  3. Share and discuss company information that is available with the new team member
    1. Company announcements
    2. Company news releases
    3. Company social network content
    4. Company web page content
    5. Customer reviews


Team Building

When joining a biotech industry organization, the role of a scientist is a small part of the team that moves the business forward. Scientists coming from an academic environment are often trained to be independent. The academic environment has made great improvements in collaboration over the years. However, the structure of collaboration is very different than it is in the biotech industry. Every member of the organization has an important part to play in the company’s success. Aside from having role clarity, it is essential to build trusting relationships with the people who are on the team. Here are some ways to facilitate building trusting relationships between team members:

  1. Remember they are people, have value, have an important role to play on the team
  2. Explain to the new team member their position and role on the team
  3. Explain to the new team member the position and role of everyone on the team
  4. Encourage cross departmental interactions outside of team meetings
    1. Set up lunches or social times with key team players as part of the on-boarding process
  5. Utilize a personality assessment to understand how the individuals like to work and discuss it with the new team member. Many companies have employees take these and allow everyone access as a corporate initiative
    1. My personal preferences are
      1. Gallup’s CliftonStrengths Assessment
      2. Enneagram



Transitioning a scientist to the biotech industry can be very rewarding. Young team members bring energy and fresh ideas. Setting them up for success early will help engagement and retention of the entire team. To successfully transition a scientist into this industry, five critical areas can be focused on immediately:

  • Clarify the scientist’s roles and responsibilities.
  • Set goals together that meet business outcomes.
  • Coach effective verbal and written communication.
  • Encourage adaptability.
  • Facilitate team building and trust.

You can set a new team member up for a long and successful career and be known as an excellent manager by following these tips.


At Insight Recruitment, we pride ourselves on our industry knowledge and candidate relationships. If you’re looking to recruit in the biotech market, don’t hesitate to contact us today to see how we can help you track down your next star hire.

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