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  • Robin Lissak

Competing for Talent in Upside Down Markets


OrderBoard focuses on “Upside-Down” or inverted job markets – those markets in which the demand for talent exceeds the supply. This requires hiring companies to stop thinking like buyers of talent and start thinking like sellers of positions competing with other firms all seeking to sell jobs to candidates who may not be actively looking for new opportunities.


OrderBoard has found that companies recruiting in upside down markets may not understand they are competing for talent or may not recognize whom they are competing with.


To understand this competition, OrderBoard’s looks beyond which companies are posting jobs, to examine who different firms actually hire. A recent analysis of Pharmaceutical company hiring of Data Scientists shows how this leads to insights.


Our client’s assumption based on supply and demand data was that since Big Tech firms hire the most Data Scientists, those firms were the competition and the place to recruit. There were two problems with this recruiting strategy. First, attrition is very low among Data Scientists. In the twelve months before the COVID pandemic hit, only 2.7% of Data Scientists in High Tech firms changed jobs, mostly to move to other technology firms. Second, Pharma companies want Data Scientists with Life Sciences experience, whom they seldom found in High Tech.


That suggests that Pharma companies should recruit within Life Sciences, but in the same twelve-month period, less than 1% of the Data Scientists in Pharmaceutical firms changed jobs. OrderBoard’s data show that Pharmaceutical companies recruit most of their Data Science talent from recent graduates (undergraduate or advanced degree) and academics or by redeploying statisticians within their organizations.


To provide further insights to help clients compete for talent OrderBoard has built a measure of what makes a company attractive to candidates using publicly available data. This provides a multi-dimensional “Attractiveness Index” that shows a company how it stacks up against firms it is competing with for talent. There are several levers that can improve attractiveness in recruiting. While increasing compensation packages might seem obvious, there are other things that firms can do that are harder for other firms to match. These include:


  • Defining clear roles that will give new recruits the opportunity to contribute to work that the recruits will find meaningful and worthwhile

  • Hiring leadership whom recruits believe they will learn from, so that working for those leaders will benefit employees’ careers

  • Running the recruiting process in a swift, efficient and recruit-oriented fashion. Doing so acknowledges that in upside down markets firms have to sell jobs to recruits rather than being able buy talent who are in the market looking to sell their talent


Upside down markets require a mindset shift about hiring. Knowing who the competition and how one appears when compared to them is an essential part of that shift.


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