What is scientific recruitment? A quick guide

Technology has transformed the way scientific recruitment is conducted. Here’s a look at the old and the new. But first, a few basics!

February 1, 2024

What is scientific recruitment?

The term ‘scientific recruitment’ describes the process of recruiting researchers or scientists with very specific technical knowledge for research-heavy companies or institutions. It is an objective and unbiased process where recruiters look for the best suited candidate, based on their proven hard skills.


How is scientific recruitment done?

Companies or institutions that require scientific recruitment usually go about it in the following ways:

  • Niche executive search firms: Specialists in scientific and R&D recruitment, these firms usually have experts working for them. These experts may or may not have a degree in a particular industry or discipline but possess years of recruitment experience as a result of which they are skilled at finding the right candidates and are also knowledgeable about how to validate their skills. They have also built networks in the subject area over the years, which helps them find the right candidates faster than, say, a general recruitment agency.
  • Internal recruitment: This refers to the recruitment of employees who are already on the payroll of the company or institution in question but work in another role or department.
  • Word-of-mouth recruitment: Recruitment via referrals from someone the company or institution considers trustworthy and reliable – such as an existing or outgoing employee.
  • Patent-based recruitment: Over the last decade, technology has made it possible for recruiters to tap the international patent database –  one of the largest repositories of technical and scientific skills in the world. HardSkills, for instance, has made this database accessible to ordinary, non-technical recruiters anywhere in the world, enabling them to conduct technical recruitment regardless of their past experience. Patent-based recruitment solutions offer differing levels of functionality, with the more advanced ones such as HardSkills using unique algorithms to present patent data so that all recruiters easily understand it.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of the four scientific/technical recruitment services mentioned above?

The prominent advantages and disadvantages of each service are given below.

  • Niche executive search firms: Their biggest strengths are specialists who have deep knowledge of certain technical fields as well as networks cultivated for years that help them search for scientific or technical candidates efficiently. Having said that, there are at least three significant disadvantages. One, there are more than 60,000 technical fields in the world and even the best specialist recruitment agency in the world is likely to have experts in 20 subject areas at most. Two, cultivating relationships with potential recruits and forming networks is a time-consuming process. Finally, even niche executive search agencies use third parties such as LinkedIn or sub-consultants to validate a candidate’s technical skills. While LinkedIn may work as a good guide to validate skills, patents are a more reliable method of proving that a candidate has the skills they claim to have on their personal and professional online profiles. This doesn’t only save recruiters a massive amount of time and effort, it reduces the risk (and cost) of mishiring.
  • Internal recruitment: The advantage of internal recruitment is that it is a less expensive and speedier way to fill a position. But it restricts the pool of applicants so recruiters won’t necessarily get the most suitable applicant they can find – just the most suitable one from within the organisation. Additionally, the organisation will still have a vacancy to fill.
  • Word-of-mouth recruitment: Its advantages are similar to internal recruitment in terms of speed and expense, but it comes with a significant disadvantage: it can make the organisation less diverse. Research has shown that existing employees are likely to recommend applicants of the same sex and ethnic background.
  • Patent-based recruitment: The international patent database is one of best places to find highly skilled talent in virtually any industry or discipline and across geographical locations. It is a repository of 79,000,000+ patents and 28,000,000+ inventors so no matter how specialised and rare the skill, recruiters are likely to find suitable candidates. Innovators such as HardSkills have made this database easily accessible with the help of algorithms that have automated the process of converting search briefs into keywords, enabling recruiters to find R&D experts with validated skills by just using its smart and intuitive search interface. Patent-based recruitment also enables recruiters to find passive candidates who may be the next big creators and innovators, which none of the other services can easily detect.