Hacking the short list: Using new digital tools to find the perfect scientific research candidate

The coronavirus pandemic has been responsible for layoffs, cost-cutting measures, and project delays in businesses around the world — and the research community is no exception. In a recent survey of 2,000 ResearchGate members, nearly 50% of respondents reported spending more time looking for new job opportunities over the last year, with some noting that this was due to job loss or funding cuts. These results and other key insights into researcher behavior during the pandemic are outlined in our new report, Science hasn’t slowed, it’s just moved online.

Though the last year has been difficult for researchers and employers alike, the report shows that these challenges may translate into opportunities. In the absence of physical workplaces, researchers at all experience levels are making more use of digital networking tools. We saw this trend firsthand at ResearchGate, with a 15% increase in job posting views and a 30% increase in job applications submitted via our platform.

With so many researchers open to finding new work, recruiters from academic institutions and research facilities have a rich candidate pool to choose from. Whether you’re hiring a laboratory specialist or an experienced academic, qualified candidates can be found if you look in the right places.
How has the pandemic affected researchers? Find out more in our report.

How has the pandemic affected researchers?

Limited access to labs and facilities has left many researchers without a place to do their work. This has had a significant impact on experimental work and funding. Thirty-five percent of survey respondents reported that they’re spending less time on experiments, while 40% said they’re spending more time looking for funding, with many researchers speculating that funds have been diverted away from their research areas in favor of work related to COVID-19.

At the same time, 51% of researchers said they’re spending more time writing and reviewing papers, and 64% said they’re planning new experiments or analyzing previously acquired data. This indicates that researchers are still seeking out ways to be productive.

Think outside the box to find candidates who tick all the boxes

Scientific recruiters are often looking for candidates with very specific skill sets — even in the best of times, it can be difficult to find a prospect with the right level of lab or teaching experience in a niche subject area. Now, with many recruitment staples like conferences, networking events, and in-person interviews turned on their head by the pandemic, hiring teams must adapt to the new reality.

For many recruitment teams, adapting means expanding their search methods beyond the traditional job posting. Over the last year, ResearchGate Scientific Recruitment Solutions saw a 38% increase in hiring teams using two or more modes of talent acquisition. These include focusing on building employer brand recognition by sharing employee stories and using the ResearchGate network to identify and connect directly with top candidates.
How is COVID-19 affecting scientific recruitment? Watch our webinar to learn more.

Create a welcoming environment for teaching staff

For researchers unaccustomed to online teaching, moving courses online has been a largely unwelcome — and time-consuming — change. Forty percent of survey respondents said that they are spending more time on teaching than before the pandemic started. Some said that creating online presentations takes more time than planning for in-person lectures, while others said they encountered technological problems, poor work-life balance, and a lack of time to complete their own research.
It’s likely that online teaching will continue in some capacity for the foreseeable future — so how can university recruiters make positions with teaching components more appealing? Ensuring that staff have access to reliable technology and support for creating online courses may be important for candidates in the coming years. Highlighting faculty-friendly policies (e.g., measures to improve work-life balance and give teaching staff time for research and paper-writing) during the recruitment stage will help attract high-quality candidates.

The knock-on effects of the pandemic will have an impact on research and academic job markets for years to come. But employers can think strategically to use digital recruitment solutions and the increased availability of talented researchers to their advantage.
Looking for more information about scientific recruiting during the pandemic? Read the full report or watch our webinar to gain further insights.