HardSkills is more efficient and successful than traditional ways of scientific recruitment

A Q&A with HardSkills founder Rasmus Palazzi

January 12, 2024

They say necessity is the mother of invention. That is exactly what prompted Rasmus Palazzi to conceive of HardSkills – the world’s smartest recruitment-centric patent database – in 2018. In this brief Q&A, Palazzi explains what scientific recruitment is all about, how the limitations of traditional scientific recruitment inspired him to create HardSkills, and how the solution helps connect patent holders, experts and innovators with exciting opportunities and possibilities while helping specialist executive search firms to do their jobs better.

1. How would you define scientific recruitment?

Scientific recruitment is the process of selecting and recruiting R&D experts and scientists based on scientific criteria, as opposed to politics or popularity. It is an objective and unbiased process where recruiters seek the most suitable candidate based on scientific merit and proven technical skills.

There are many examples of successful scientific recruitment within R&D departments in various industries and institutions. This type of recruitment can be extremely beneficial in ensuring that a company has the best possible chance of developing new products or services.

Examples of industries where scientific recruitment is common are:

  • Artificial intelligence/Machine learning
  • Computer science
  • Software engineering
  • Automation
  • Life sciences
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Energy efficiency
  • Chemical/Material Science

2. How is scientific recruitment traditionally conducted?

A research-intensive company or institution usually hands over its scientific recruitment requirements to an external executive search firm that specialises in scientific and R&D recruitment. The specialist executive search firm is provided with a technical checklist of what the candidate is expected to do when hired.

With over 60,000 technical fields, however, it is not possible for every executive search firm to validate the technical competence of a candidate themselves. They often choose to enter the search terms directly into the LinkedIn search engine or hire a sub-consultant who is an expert in the given field. A few technical specialists have developed their own processes – for instance using Python code to scrape information about scientific candidates from data sources such as Google Scholar.

The processes used, however, are not efficient in terms of time and cost. They are not reliable either, especially because passive candidates (who make up most of the world's R&D experts) do not have enough published information for either the LinkedIn search algorithms or the sub-consultant to find them.

With HardSkills, you find 50% of passive candidates that other services can't detect. We validate the candidates’ skills directly in the search process, significantly cutting down both time and cost as compared to alternative search methods. 

3. What inspired you to start HardSkills?

HardSkills was launched after the company's founders, in a project funded by the Swedish Innovation Agency (Vinnova), interviewed over 1,000 R&D-intensive companies about what was holding back their future growth and innovation.

Most of the respondents indicated that the main problem for continued growth was their inability to effectively find candidates with the right skills for both new and replacement recruitment. Poor transparency had made it difficult for them to find passive candidates globally, and a lack of technology expertise among executive search firms meant there was widespread and costly mishiring.

4. Why is HardSkills better than its competitors?

HardSkills has made use of a previously untapped database – the international patent database ­­– for recruitment. This allows recruiters to access even passive candidates whose social media profiles do not indicate their technical skills. HardSkills has also created a unique AI-based search and filtering methodology that turns all recruiters into technology experts, regardless of their previous experience.

By increasing the number of skills-qualified recruits found in the search process, and by removing the need for technical sub-consultants because of its AI-based search methodology, the number of successful recruitments increases and time and costs are drastically reduced.

HardSkills also has a unique feature in the outreach process that attaches relevant data about the recruit to increase the prospective candidate's motivation to respond to enquiries (as they feel the recruiter has put time and effort into learning more about them).

5. In the recruitment sphere, there are niche scientific recruitment agencies that have their own skilled staff and networks that they depend on to find skilled candidates. How does HardSkills help them?

No digital tool, including HardSkills, can beat a good scientific recruiter at finding, validating, and contacting people in their particular niche. Similarly, one of the more crucial factors in securing an interview with a prospective candidate is a good relationship between the specialist agency recruiter and potential recruit.

The human limitation, however, is that no one has the ability to master 61,500 technology areas. At the most, people will be experts in between one and 20 areas. But this is not enough for modern R&D companies that need hundreds of unique skills to continue to innovate. So, these companies have the following choice before them: Pay for a host of specialist recruiters or use a recruiter with a facilitating SaaS solution such as HardSkills.

The next hurdle is that it takes a long time to build good relationships, and the amount of relationships that a recruiter has time to build over the course of their career is simply not enough. Research suggests that a single individual can maintain around 1,000 relationships, including their personal ones, whereas HardSkills has over 29 million candidates in its database.

Having said that, HardSkills does not aim to replace scientific recruiters but rather to help them become better and more effective. HardSkills often refers to itself as a “second brain for scientific recruiters”.