Blog/Career Advice, Working with a Recruiter
A Biotech Recruiter Answers a Job Seeker’s Questions
Recently I received an email via LinkedIn from a biotech job seeker who wanted to know if I recruited in CA and WA or just in NY where I am located. He is a Research Scientist with a PhD and so falls into my niche of potential candidates. I replied that I do indeed have clients in CA and WA but that I didn’t have anything for him at the particular moment. He also wanted to know if I could recommend any other biotech recruiters in CA if I could not help him. I responded to this request that most recruiters today work on a national basis and if he needed help finding a pharma or biotech recruiter he should check out my most popular post “ How to find recruiters for life science jobs”
My reply prompted the job seeker to reply with the following response, which had some interesting questions about working with recruiters and submitting a CV. Since others might have the same questions, I thought I would answer his questions here rather than in a personal email (permission was granted by the job seeker):
Thank you very much for referring me to your blog. The posted information was very eye opening to me. It shed light to the relationship between a job seeker and a recruiter. Before, I had little imagination about how recruiting agents work. I’ve worked with one recruiter in Seattle and I got very dissatisfied with his service. Unfortunately, he did not explain to me clearly how a job seeker and a recruiter work together to produce the best results, and I was forced to apply for different positions myself. After reading your blog, some questions have arisen:
1.Q: Is it ethical to work with several biotech recruiters specializing in the same field of science in the same geographical area at the same time? Do the chances to get a job become better if several recruiters are involved in a job search instead of one? Is it possible that one recruiter works better than another? What are the criteria to evaluate recruiter’s job in finding a job for a job seeker?
A: It is ethical to work with several recruiters at once, but it is very important that you tell each recruiter that you are working with others. I would limit the recruiters to 3 or 4 that you trust and feel comfortable working with. Too many and it becomes a rat race and you don’t have control of where your CV is going (not a good situation). However most recruiters would rather you only work with one recruiter. In some recruiting scenarios (mostly contingency searches), to be paid a fee, it is first come first served for whoever sends in a CV to a pharma or biotech company. With each increase in the number of recruiters involved the likelihood of any one particular recruiter actually getting paid for a search (i.e. the first one sending in a CV) goes down. Hence a recruiter won’t work as hard for a job seeker who is “out there” with every recruiter on the block. If you work with one recruiter on an exclusive basis the recruiter will work hard to present your CV to as many companies as he or she can.
As for evaluating which recruiter is better it is mostly a gut feeling as there are no tests or requirements to be a recruiter. Of course recommendations from others who have used the recruitment agency previously is always the best way to evaluate a firm. Another way is to ask the recruiter his background. If you are a scientist looking for a biotech job, the recruiter should understand science and be knowledgeable about the field. Ask the recruiter some questions or simply tell them about your work. If he understands what gene therapy is, for example, then it is likely he is indeed a biotech recruiter who knows his business. Another way to judge a quality recruiter is if the recruiter gets back on a timely basis, including good feedback.
2. Q: How long do the companies keep CVs in their database? Does this mean that once applied, a job seeker cannot rely on a recruiter because his/her CV already is in a company’s database? May be that is why my recruiter from an agency in Seattle was not very helpful because I have applied for many positions in the Seattle area before I contacted him. If so, should I rely more on the biotech recruiters who work outside Seattle, for example in CA, where I have never applied on my own?
A: How long a biotechnology or pharmaceutical company keeps a CV in their database is anyone’s guess. I have heard of some companies that purge their database once a year. But I suspect most keep the CVs indefinitely. And, yes, this means that once a job seeker submits a CV online the chances of a recruiter working with you are very reduced, as the company will simply say they have the CV already and not want to pay a recruiter. Whether they know about the CV in their system and contact the job seeker, is another problem (see my post about submitting a CV online or with a biotech recruiter)
3.Q: Unfortunately, my specialization is not very broad, and this limits my job search and, as a result, I am forced to apply for as many positions with background similar to mine as possible. Two more factors should be taken into account in my situation:
1.My age – 50. Most of the employers want to hire much younger people who recently got their PhDs and are in better position than I am with my solid scientific background.
2. I am legally disabled, which aggravates my situation in my job search. There were instances when the potential employers rejected me because of my disability. What strategy in my job search would you recommend taking into account all these factors stated above?
A: While there isn’t much the job seeker can do about his background and fit for positions, there is something to do about Part A & B because discrimination for age and disabilities is illegal. Although hard to prove, if a person is a very good fit for a position and feels he was discriminated against, he should seek legal help. The person should be sure to document everything along the way of the interview process. On your CV you are not required to state your age or disabilities. If you get through an interview and don’t get the job, companies must give concrete reasons for your rejection.
Better still it is wise to apply to companies that state on their web site that they do not discriminate for age, race, sex or disabilities. Some of these companies are required by governmental authorities to document that they are actively seeking people with these backgrounds. I personally have a client who asks me to try as hard as I can to find female scientists and scientists from different ethic backgrounds.
Also some smaller companies might need a specific experience or skill set so badly, they will hire the older candidate, even if he has only a few years until retirement. On the other hand if a company feels they have to train a person and the candidate wouldn’t “hit the ground running”, then they will want someone who can offer a more long term commitment for their investment in the person. This is when they seek the younger job seeker, unfortunately.
4. Q: Based on your blog, If I see an interesting position on a company’s website, I should try to contact the company recruiter or the recruiter from an agency who I work with or any person from the company who I know and who may channel my CV to hiring people. If I cannot find such people, I should submit my resume online on my own. Is my understanding of this recommended strategy correct?
A: Yes. Always try to go through a live person before submitting a CV online. The chances are higher that a CV will at least be read, if you go this route.