University Recruiters Reveal Their Approach in Hiring Researchers

This article was originally published here
December 17, 2015
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com

GALVESTON, Texas – When it comes to securing top-notch researchers for the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB), recruiters take a targeted approach in landing the perfect employee.

Recruiters at UTMB already have an idea of who they want on their team long before the job is ever posted. Many of the researchers the college targets for its open positions come with their own funding already in place, Victor Moreno, associate director of faculty recruitment and process improvement, told BioSpace in an exclusive interview.

Johnston Farrow, a senior communications specialist with the university, said the university is building new facilities to expand research opportunities into developing treatments for various infectious diseases, including Ebola.

“We’re bringing in people to make a difference,” Farrow told BioSpace. “We’re getting the right people here to fit in with our vision and put a stamp on how the university is growing.”

Key research areas for the scientists at UTMB include microbiology, pathology and vaccine development, including a vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus. Most recently, researchers at UTMB discovered a diagnostic test for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne illness that causes incapacitating and often chronic joint pain. Chikungunya can be difficult to diagnose and most tests available now are expensive and challenging to develop. Additionally, researchers have worked on a number of studies related to preterm and stillbirths.

Farrow said the school takes a top-down recruiting strategy, by first filling positions at an executive, or chairman level. Once those positions are filled, it becomes easier to fill subordinate positions. Many of the lower level research positions are filled by the colleagues of the newly-hired department chairs, Moreno stated.

“We’re looking for candidates who are already established in their fields. We’ve had a fairly easy time getting our department chairs in place,” Moreno said.

Moreno said he was unsure how many candidates the university would recruit this year, but said the ones they do bring aboard will be working on research that will make a difference to the health of people around the world.

“We don’t really have a target number of how many people we bring in each year. We’re not looking for volume of new hires, but more about the quality of the individuals we bring aboard,” Moreno said.

Farrow said the university researchers are working on “some serious viruses and contagions,” which means they often have an easier time attracting researchers. He said there are a number of collaborative opportunities for the university scientists, which has the potential to open up new avenues of research.

“Collaboration is where innovation really happens…it allows our scientists to come up with something that can be a game changer,” he said.

Farrow and Moreno said it can sometimes be difficult to compete with the salaries offered by private-sector companies, but the university attempts to offer competitive perks, including the ability to work on research the individuals are passionate about, as well as giving the new-hires an opportunity to teach. Teaching is a way for the scientists to avoid burnout, Moreno said.

But it’s not just about showing off the university facilities to the prospective candidate. Farrow and Moreno said the university also makes sure to show off the amenities of Galveston and nearby Houston to the spouses and children.

“We’re not just selling the scientists, but the family as well.” Moreno said. “The environment of Galveston is very attractive for people… the average temperature is 83 and the area has a reasonable cost of living.”

After a researcher is hired, university recuiters don’t lose interest in the new hires once they join the team. Moreno and Farrow said they will continue to check in with the new hires over their first six months of employment to ensure they are adjusting to life in Galveston and the demands of the new position.

“This is a great place to work and we want to make sure they’re happy doing their research here,” Moreno said.

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