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Finding the right talent in the competitive environment within life sciences can be daunting. This is especially true when the skills required are niche and in high demand. In a recent experience with a research institution, the Eastridge Scientific Recruiting team faced the challenge of finding a “purple squirrel” candidate – a rare and exceptional individual with a unique skill set. The team overcame this challenge through creativity, partnership, and perseverance and successfully found the right candidate. 

Key Takeaways

    • Building trust and demonstrating expertise with clients is crucial in navigating the search for niche talent.
    • Creativity and thinking outside the box are essential when traditional methods fall short.
    • Effective communication and client collaboration can lead to a more targeted and successful search. Building Trust and Demonstrating Expertise

For the research institute, the challenge of finding a candidate with rare skills in a tight labor market was apparent, and they shared that challenge upfront with the Eastridge team.

“They told us we’d be looking for a purple squirrel; a unicorn candidate,” says Grace Irvine, Manager of the Scientific Recruitment Team at Eastridge Workforce Solutions.  “Knowing that information up front helped us shape our strategy moving forward.”

One of the keys to success in a challenging search is keeping open lines of communication.   

“We consistently shared our recruitment progress back to the client, even when we didn’t find a suitable candidate,” says Irvine.  “This not only kept them in the loop, but also gave them insight into salary expectations and what the talent pool looked like.”

This level of open communication, coupled with Eastridge’s expertise in life science recruiting, helped the client understand the recruiting progress, but also gave them a deeper understanding for their overall talent growth strategy.

Creativity and Thinking Outside the Box

Because many positions in life sciences are so challenging, traditional talent acquisition methods can fall short.

“We had to get creative,” says Irvine.  “So the trust and partnership that we built with the client was key to moving ahead.” 

This creativity involved exploring alternative avenues to find potential candidates.

One approach the Eastridge team took was to leverage its extensive network and cold-call potential candidates. This expanded the pool of potential candidates by reaching out directly to individuals who may possess the desired skill set. Additionally, the team utilized platforms such as Google Scholar to identify authors of relevant publications and explore their interest in the position. This unconventional method allowed Eastridge to tap into a network of experts who may have yet to seek new opportunities actively.

Furthermore, the team explored different Ph.D. programs and schools that could produce qualified candidates. By broadening the search beyond the usual channels, Eastridge increased its chances of finding the elusive “purple squirrel.” 

Effective Communication and Collaboration 

Effective communication and collaboration with clients played a crucial role in the success of our search for niche talent. By obtaining hiring manager access and engaging in open conversations, Eastridge gained valuable insights into the client’s expectations and the strengths and weaknesses of the initial set of candidates.

Through these conversations, the team could pivot its search and adjust our approach accordingly. 

“We had a great conversation with the hiring manager about initial candidates which further informed our search strategy,” says Irvine.  “This collaboration allowed us to align our efforts with the client’s expectations and refine our search criteria.”

Additionally, by sharing progress and potential candidates' compensation expectations, the Eastridge team provided the client with a better understanding of the market for such talent. This transparency fostered a stronger partnership and enabled clients to make informed decisions regarding their budgets and expectations.


For any recruiting challenge, there is no magic bullet or secret pool of candidates. This holds particularly true in the life sciences, where specialized expertise is often in demand. The research institution client that Eastridge worked with found its “purple squirrel” through partnership, communication, and relying on a team with life science industry expertise.  

For organizations seeking specialized talent in life sciences or in any industry needing highly specific skills and background, finding the right recruiting partner with the right strategy can help not only fill specific roles but inform an entire talent strategy.

Tag(s): Staffing

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