Making the Most of Working with Recruiters in the Life Sciences Industry

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If you’re engaged in a full-blown life sciences job search, you may wonder if you should work with a recruiter. Or perhaps you’ve found that recruiters are seeking you out, whether you are job hunting or not. To leave no stone unturned in your search, you should consider utilizing recruiters. The tips that follow will help you make the most of your relationship with recruiters, also known as headhunters and search firms.

Seek a recruiter who specializes in life sciences professionals. Because most recruiters specialize in specific industries and job functions, you will likely have the most productive relationships with recruiters specializing in the life sciences. They know industry trends and the job market. They typically know about vacancies in the industry before they appear on job boards and social media. Because they know the industry, they can help you describe your transferable skills and prepare you for interviewing.

Understand that recruiters don’t work for you. The clients of recruiters are employers, not job seekers. A recruiter will be delighted to work with you – if you meet the specifications of a current assignment to fill a position for an employer.

Don’t worry about the model (contingency or retained) through which the recruiter is paid because you probably won’t have much control about which kind of recruiter you work with. You’re probably aware that contingency recruiters are paid when they make a placement, while retained recruiters are paid, usually up front, regardless of the search results. Both contingency and retained recruiters are more interested in filling vacancies for their client employers than they are in helping you find a job, but retained recruiters generally work only with executive candidates who earn $200,000 a year or more.

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Be prepared to put a positive spin on your status if you’re unemployed. Recruiters may see an unemployed status as a red flag. They, like many employers, assume that something is wrong with you if you are out of work. Of course, this judgment is grossly unfair. To some extent, you can combat this bias against the unemployed by engaging in productive, resume-worthy activities while out of work – consulting, project work, volunteering, professional development. It won’t always work, but it’s better than not addressing your unemployed status.

Tailor your communications to each recruiter’s preferences. An exceptional resume and cover letter will always stand you in good stead with recruiters, but do check with the recruiting firms you contact for their resume and cover-letter preferences. You can often find this information on their Websites. Also determine how they want you to submit these materials. Usually, they will want them by email, but it pays to double-check. Research how each recruiter prefers to be contacted (phone? text? email?) and stay in touch periodically, but don’t be a pest. An initial follow-up call after you submit your materials and one two weeks later is a good rule of thumb. If you update your resume, resubmit it or contact the recruiter to relay the new information.

When a recruiter calls, ask key questions as you decide whether to work with him or her. Ask what recruiting firm the headhunter represents. Ask about his or her experience with the life sciences sector. Inquire about the recruiter’s process. Note whether the recruiter is a good listener. He or she is not working for you, but you do need the recruiter to understand your needs and desires.

Once you are in the process of working with the recruiter and interviewing with the client employer, don’t contact the employer directly.  Doing so is tantamount to going over the recruiter’s head. Trust your recruiter to see you through the process. In most cases, the recruiter has the experience and wisdom to give you the best advice as you proceed through your interactions with the client employer. It’s not a good idea to argue with or antagonize the recruiter

Let the recruiter negotiate your compensation package. Not only can you discuss your compensation package with your recruiter and get his or her advice, but the recruiter can present your requests to the employer.

Thank your recruiter at the end of the process. Failing to express gratitude is a significant mistake. A simple thank-you goes a long way toward cementing your relationship – yet few candidates exercise this simple common courtesy.

Be open to contact from the recruiter even after you’ve landed a job. You never know when you might need the recruiter again. Don’t postpone keeping in touch until you need a recruiter for an emergency job search.

Serve as a resource to recruiters after you have the job. One of the best ways to ensure a productive relationship with recruiters long into your career is to help them out by recommending top-performing friends and members of your network to them.

Recruiters can be strong allies in your career advancement. You have nothing to lose by learning to leverage your relationships with them.

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