Having Trouble Selecting a Recruiter? Start with these Questions

Author:  Tara Smylie

Ask the right recruiter questions – it really matters.  The right recruitment agency can help you find the superstar or diamond-in-the-rough that will help you grow your life sciences company. The wrong one can be a costly waste of time. Knowing when to partner with a recruiter, and choosing the best one for your needs, is a science in itself. You’ll want to work with an agency that understands not only the ins and outs of your industry, but how to find and attract top candidates.

You should feel free to ask a recruitment agency whatever you want. But if you’re stuck, we’ve compiled six recruiter questions to use as a starting point.

1. How do you tailor your search process to the pharma/biotech industries?

You don’t want just anyone – you want a new recruit with highly specific knowledge, expertise and experience. If you decide to work with a recruiter, be sure to select one with deep ties to the industry. Life science recruiters often boast a specialized knowledge base and network1 that more general agencies may not have developed.

2. Have you placed candidates in similar roles before, and how did you do it?

Maybe your lab needs another technician to operate smoothly, or maybe you need to replace a retiring chemical engineer. Whatever your situation, asking the recruiter how they’ve found similar candidates in the past can give you insight into their strategy.2 Better yet, ask them to

provide testimonials from customers who had similar hiring needs. A reputable agency with a strong track record will welcome this opportunity.

3. How do you handle clients with continuous but variable hiring needs?

As your business grows and changes, you may reach a stage where you have to hire continuously. At that point, a Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) model may give you the best value. RPO recruiters do more than just check boxes and fill in gaps: they build relationships with you and your team, and really come to understand the evolving goals and needs of your organization.

A recruitment agency with experience in RPO for pharma/biotech will also have an established network of suitable candidates, so they’ll be ready to fill vacancies without wasting time getting up to speed.

4. How do you manage referrals from internal employees?

A full 88 percent 3 of businesses report that their best hires are referrals. This makes sense: current employees understand the complexities of your business and have a vested interest in helping your company succeed.

The recruitment agency you choose should understand the value of existing employees. They should also have a trusted method of sourcing employee referrals and presenting you the best ones.

5. How much energy do you spend finding and engaging passive candidates?

Passive candidates usually offer high value – after all, they currently work in the field and can quickly transition into related roles. They’re also the rule rather than the exception, accounting for 79 percent4 of global working professionals. The best recruiters maintain ties with all candidates, not just those who are actively searching.

Potential passive candidates are everywhere – but getting them to entertain new opportunities takes some finesse.5 Your recruiter should have a systematic approach to contacting these candidates. Don’t leave it to chance: ask them to describe their approach.

6. What is your approach to positions that are difficult to fill?

Some positions have such specific requirements that it could take months to fill them. While it’s true that every day your position stays open represents a loss for your company,6 you also don’t want to rush into hiring a bad match and end up spending even more.

If you suspect a position might be tricky to fill, consider a recruitment agency that offers a contingency model. This means you only have to pay when you’ve hired a successful candidate, typically a 20 – 30 percent commission on the new hire’s salary. For the right talent, it’s well worth it – and remember, you pay only for results.

Ask the right recruiter questions and ye shall receive

The more you chat with a potential recruitment agency, the more likely you are to find out make-or-break information about what they offer. And remember: there are no stupid recruiter questions. If a recruiter is serious about attracting new clients, they’ll be more than happy to discuss anything you’re curious about.

Here at Sci.bio we take pride in our versatile and customizable life science recruitment services. If you have any questions about how we match our clients with top industry talent, reach out to us today. We’ll say it again: there are no stupid questions, so ask away!


  1. Life science recruiting: the perks of working with a specialized firm
  2. 6 crucial questions to ask recruitment agencies when outsourcing hiring
  3. 23 recruitment statistics
  4. Passive candidates and why you should recruit them
  5. 6 benefits of using a good recruitment agency
  6. A vacant position is more costly than you think

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