I am frequently asked by life sciences job seekers about the value of using a recruiter to aid in a job search. Generally speaking, experienced life sciences job seekers (those with prior industrial experience) are the only individuals who may benefit from working with a recruiter on a job search. In reality, recruiters tend not to work with more junior job seekers (e.g., graduate students or postdocs) because they lack prior industrial experience and a majority of the searches conducted on behalf of their clients specify that prior experience is an absolute requirement!
Before you begin the exercise of identifying a recruiter you may want to work with, it is important to understand a bit about the recruiting business works. First, there are two kinds of recruiters–retained or contingency– and both are paid by the hiring company not the job candidate. Retained recruiters are paid an upfront fee (retainer) and a hiring fee whereas contingency recruiters are paid ONLY when their candidate is hired. While hiring fees can vary widely, they are usually 15% to 30% of a candidates total compensation package. However, in many cases, the hiring fee is a percentage of a candidates base salary rather than the total compensation package (which can include sign on bonuses and other cash incentives).
When searching for a recruiter, the best approach is to get a referral from a friend or colleague or to search Google or LinkedIn for recruitment firms or recruiters. If you have heard a recruiter’s name mentioned before or read about them in industry publications that is a good sign that he/she is good at what they do and probably can yield positive results. Once you have identified several prospective recruiter candidates, it is a good idea to read their LinkedIn profile (they will all have one) or Google their names to see what has been written or said about them before making a final decision.
In my experience (as a recruiter and job candidate), it is best to work with only one or two recruiters at a time. If you work with too many recruiters, your CV will be plastered all over the Internet and probably find its way (in duplicate, triplicate etc) onto the desks of every hiring manager in the life sciences industry. When different recruiters submit the CVs of the same candidate, it signals to prospective hiring managers that the job candidate is desperate for a job, over-exposed, under qualified and certainly not worth hiring.
After identifying a recruiter, send your CV along with an introductory note specifying the type of job that you are looking for, the reason(s) why you are looking for a job, whether or not you are willing to relocate and your compensation requirement. If the recruiter is willing to work with you, he/she will get back in touch with you via the phone to conduct an interview to get to know you. It is important to be as honest and as upfront with a recruiter as possible regarding your job requirements and professional and personal circumstances. This information is confidential and it will enable the recruiter to identify job opportunities that may be right for you. Withholding information will hinder a job search and also may interfere with job offers.
In many instances, recruiters will contact potential job candidates directly either through referrals from colleagues and friends or via your visibility in your field of study. Ways to improve visibility include: 1) Articles in trade publications; 2)blogs; 3) activity on social media platforms including LInkedIn and Twitter; 4) Attending industry conferences and 5) Giving seminars and participating on panel discussions.
Finally, it is important to establish some ground rules with the recruiter you decide to work with. First, insist on confidentiality. If a recruiter cannot guarantee this then it is not a good idea to work with them. Second, demand that the recruiter contact you with each opportunity that he/she finds for you before they officially submit your name and CV to prospective hiring managers. In other words, they must get you permission before they submit your name as a job candidate. Also, it is a good idea to tell the recruiter not to post your CV to job boards like Monster, Career Builder, SimplyHired etc. This allows you maintain control over your job search and to ensure that you are not over exposed.
Third, it is important to remember that most recruiters are contingency recruiters and because of this, there is a tendency to show your CV to as many hiring managers as possible so that the likelihood of successfully placing a candidate (and get paid for it) increases.
Fourth, good recruiters will initially ask for a copy of your CV to insure that it is properly formatted and constructed in the best way possible to showcase your talents and strengths. In many cases, recruiters will ask you to rewrite or modify the CV to maximize your candidacy for particular job opportunities. In my experience, recruiters who ask for you CV and provide little or no feedback are likely to be the type of recruiter that simply passes your CV to as many hiring managers as possible with the hope that it may “stick” somewhere. I highly recommend not working with this type of recruiter.
Fifth, it is important to remember that recruiters are not miracle workers. It is true that they may have contacts at certain companies or have long standing relationships with others but at the end of the day it is really about what strengths, talents and skills that job candidates bring to the table.
Finally, working with recruiters is a good way to learn how to build relationships and it can help to expand your professional network and make connections. It is not uncommon for recruiters to contact persons that they have worked with in the past (successfully or unsuccessfully) for recommendations for a particular position that they are working on. And, if that job is one that you may be interested in, you can always tell them that you want to be considered for the opportunity!
Until next time…
Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!