Author: Gabrielle Bauer
If you want to attract the best, meet candidates on their phones
Today’s job hunters are on the move. With their phones as faithful companions, they want mobile versions of just about all life experiences, from making dinner reservations to buying track pants—and searching for jobs. And not just young people: baby boomers and Gen-Zers are equally liable to reach for their phones when searching for a job.1 If you don’t offer candidates a seamless and enticing mobile experience, one of your competitors surely will.
It’s no longer enough to post your job opening on LinkedIn: you need to mobile-optimize the posting so it looks good on the LinkedIn app. Ditto for the application process. Your star candidate may be sitting in a coffee shop when she sees the posting, without her computer, and you want to make it easy for her to seize the moment and apply. If you pique her interest strongly enough, she may even apply when not actively seeking employment. Such scenarios are by no means rare: a survey of US employees found that 25% weren’t looking for a job when they found their current one.1
By the numbers1,2,3 > 1 billion per month: job searches from mobile devices Almost 90%: job seekers who use a mobile device when looking for a new opportunity 35%: candidates who prefer to apply for jobs on their phones 84%: companies using social media for recruiting 73%: millennials who found their jobs via social media
Getting it right
A word of warning: simply tweaking your web-based application form may not provide the elegant mobile experience that high-quality candidates have come to expect. Indeed, only 22% of people who begin mobile applications complete them, attesting to the importance of getting it right.2 So what makes a job application mobile-friendly? This checklist will keep you on the right track:4
- Keep it short: When it comes to converting candidates, less is more: 73% of job seekers give up on applications that take longer than 15 minutes.
- In the job posting, promote the application process as mobile-friendly: Employers who take this simple step increase submissions by 11.6%.
- Employ AI assistants to chat with job seekers—and there’s no harm in giving them friendly-sounding names like Ellie or Vinay. These “chat bots” can answer applicants’ questions and provide supplemental information.
- Consider investing in mobile recruiting software, which can help you or your recruiting partner design mobile-first applications that have the single objective of attracting and converting candidates on their phones.
- Put it to the test: Not sure if your mobile application form makes the grade? Try it yourself or ask a colleague to try it. If the process trips you up, it will confuse candidates, too.
The social piece
Mobile friendliness will take you only so far if you ignore social media. Indeed, the two experiences often overlap: In the US, over 97% of social media users get their fix on their smart phones, at least some of the time.5 With social media use showing no signs of slowing down, today’s employers can’t afford to ignore this hiring channel, called social recruiting. In fact, 84% of companies use social media for recruiting purposes1 and often rely on it for attracting passive talent (candidates not actively looking for a job).6 The fact that 73% of millennials find jobs through social media attests to the power of this strategy.4
Just as with mobile recruiting, social recruiting requires skill and tech-savvy. Investing in social recruiting tools can help streamline and automate the process. While you’re at it, consider
including testimonials on your social media sites: 41% of candidates look for this extra vote of confidence when researching companies in their job search.6
Sci.bio recruiters understand all the bases: traditional, mobile, social, and everything in between. We also understand that no two biotech companies are the same, and adapt our support to each client’s needs. Let’s get mobile and let’s get social—together. Ω
- Key aspect of recruitment statistics. CVViz. https://cvviz.com/recruitment-statistics/
- The rise in mobile devices in job search. Glassdoor Economic Research. https://www.glassdoor.com/research/app/uploads/sites/2/2019/06/Mobile-Job-Search-1.pdf
- Mobile recruiting. Smart Recruiters. https://www.smartrecruiters.com/resources/glossary/mobile-recruiting/
- How to create a truly mobile job application experience for candidates. ICIMS. https://www.icims.com/blog/how-to-create-a-truly-mobile-job-application-experience-for-candidates/
- Active mobile social media penetration in the Americas as of January 2021. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/308282/active-social-network-usage-penetration-of-the-americas/
- 20 mind-blowing social recruiting statistics. https://www.careerarc.com/blog/20-mind-blowing-social-recruiting-statistics/
It’s the million-dollar question among job applicants everywhere…. “I have good qualifications and work history. I think I meet the minimum requirements… Why haven’t I gotten a response to my application?” Or worse, “Why haven’t I heard back after my interview?”
The silent treatment after an application or interview isn’t all that uncommon. Some sources cite that up to 75% of applicants never hear back from employers after applying; even if it’s actually less than that, it seems there’s still a lot of applicants getting no response. So why exactly does this happen? And is there a way to prevent it?
The Application Black Hole
As it turns out, there may not be an easy answer to this. There may not be one specific reason you haven’t heard back; it could be a mix of factors, some within your control and some not. And there’s a good chance it’s nothing personal.
According to research conducted by both Glassdoor and FlexJobs, there are a variety of reasons for non-response to an application. Some of the more common include:
Most online job postings generate a considerable response with a substantial number of applicants submitting their qualifications. The larger and more well-known the company, and the larger the radius from which they are recruiting (think remote vs. geography-specific), that response could multiply exponentially. But even smaller companies with a more limited recruiting radius could be overwhelmed by applicants depending on the appeal of the role and the resources available to screen applications. It just may not be possible to respond to each applicant who expresses interest. “Ideally,” explains Sci.bio’s Director of HR Allison Ellsworth, “the ATS (applicant tracking system) used by a company will at least send a confirmation email that your application has been received so you know it successfully went through. Beyond that, the volume of candidates does not usually allow for personal follow up unless you have moved along in the interview process.” The volume of applications is not something that you as a candidate can control.
Recruiters/Hiring Managers Are Recruiting for More than One Role
It’s one thing to be focused on filling one role, but most recruiters are juggling multiple requisitions simultaneously. If the number of applicants for one opening can be overwhelming, imagine multiplying that by numerous openings that need to be filled as soon as possible. Add to that a full interview schedule and other recruiting-related tasks, and it quickly becomes very difficult to respond, even when recruiters/hiring managers have the best of intentions to do so.
Position Isn’t Actually Available
In some cases, it’s possible the position to which you applied isn’t available anymore, or something has shifted internally and the hiring team is reevaluating their needs. Maybe the role has already been filled, but the new hire hasn’t started yet and they don’t want to take the posting down prematurely in case it doesn’t work out, or maybe something budgetary changed and the position isn’t going to be filled, or maybe there is a new project taking priority and recruiting is on hold for now.
While all of these are out of a candidate’s control, they are still worth noting as they very well could be the reason for no response. But what about the things that candidates can control? Some of the most common in this category include:
Applying for Too Many Openings
Job searching is a numbers game to some extent; the more applications you put out into the world, the greater the chance you’ll hear back. But if you’re indiscriminate about what and where you apply, if you apply to jobs where your qualifications don’t really match, chances are you’re not going to hear back.
Resume Could Be To Blame
If you consistently don’t hear back but are fairly certain your background is a fit, it could be how your resume is crafted. Maybe it doesn’t effectively highlight your relevant experience and accomplishments, or isn’t using the right keywords and industry specific language.
How Do I Ensure I Get Noticed?
So, what can you do to increase your chances of being noticed and making it through the initial screening process? It comes down to three categories – your application/resume, your social media presence, and your networking efforts.
There are a number of things you can do to make sure your applications are more targeted and put you in the best possible light. As previously mentioned, although you want to get some volume of applications out, spend a little extra time at this phase and be selective and thoughtful about the applications you submit.
- Try to limit your applications to jobs that are truly a good fit for your background; it’s not necessary to meet all minimum qualifications, but make sure you meet some or most.
- Research the companies you’re considering applying to and make sure their goals and values align with your own. Then try to convey that through examples on your resume or in a cover letter.
- Craft your resume so that it’s not just a timeline of job titles and responsibilities, but also highlights specific projects and accomplishments, especially those that are relevant to the position. A good practice is to tweak your resume for each job you apply to.
- Include links to your online presence (more on that next).
Social Media Hacks
In today’s world, your job application incorporates more than just the resume you submit. Most people have some kind of online presence, and many employers will check into it. Make sure you’re using your online presence to your advantage.
- Although a professional headshot isn’t necessary, ensure any photos you use present you in a professional light.
- Similarly, do a scan of any photo tags that are publicly viewable and remove any that could be controversial or present you in a less than ideal light.
- Just like your resume, ensure that the language and keywords you’re using reflect the jobs and industries you are seeking and highlight any relevant projects or content; for instance, LinkedIn has a specific profile section where you can include information about projects, publications, or other work that may not be reflected on a resume.
- Ensure your social media bios are succinct, relevant, and targeted to the jobs you’re seeking.
This may be the most understated yet most important piece of advice: don’t necessarily rely only on applying for a digital posting without human contact. We live in a world driven by relationships; who you know can often make a difference, or at least give you an edge. Often available jobs aren’t even posted publicly; the only way to hear about them is by knowing someone involved. Some estimates cite that 70% of available jobs are never posted and up to 80% are filled through networking.
When recruiters or hiring managers are overwhelmed with applicants, those they have a connection with will often rise to the top. When looking at equally qualified candidates, being a “known entity” could be the deciding factor in who moves on; minimally it may help guarantee your resume moves to the top of the pile and gets a second look.
So where do you start networking? How can you best leverage your network? Here are a few ideas:
- Research the company and see who you might already know that works there. Ask those contacts for an introduction or at least a mention to those involved in the hiring process. Remind them to check the company’s employee referral policy–they may even get rewarded if you turn out to be a good fit!
- If you don’t directly know someone who works there, look for the mutual connection. Use your social media profiles to dig a little deeper; LinkedIn company pages will show you who works there and whether or not you have mutual connections. Then reach out to those mutual contacts that you already have a rapport with and ask for an intro, a mention, or ask to have your resume directly passed along.
- If you don’t have direct connections at a company or mutual connections that can facilitate an introduction, do your best to engage with recruiters. Seek them out on social networks such as LinkedIn or Twitter, and engage with or comment on their posts. By making yourself noticed, you’re more likely to be remembered when it comes to reviewing resumes. And if you engage enough and build an online relationship with them, you may even be able to ask them directly about available roles.
The key with networking is to be proactive. Build your networks before you need them and then they’ll be there to tap into when the opportunities arise.
But What If I Interviewed and Got “Ghosted?”
Let’s say you made it through the initial screening and interviewed for a role, but now you haven’t heard back from the employer. Or you were informed that you aren’t moving forward without any details about why. What’s a candidate to do in this situation?
Again, there could be a variety of reasons, many of which may be nothing personal. In the case of providing specific feedback, there could be legal implications in being too specific with candidates. Or maybe one person on the hiring team wanted you to move on, but someone else with more pull wanted someone else. Maybe the employer doesn’t have the time or resources to potentially open up a prolonged back-and-forth dialogue that providing feedback may initiate.
As for hearing nothing at all? That’s simply an unfortunate outcome of some hiring processes, and there’s not much you can do to control this. The best you can do is keep focused on the fact that it’s not you, it’s them. Many companies are now more focused on the candidate experience than in the past, and doing their best to ensure that even if it’s not specific feedback, candidates who interview at least receive a status update. However, the hard truth is that some companies just don’t or won’t do it for a variety of their own reasons. If a few weeks have gone by and you haven’t heard back, it is probably a safe assumption that you should move on to new possibilities.
The moral of the story here? There’s much that you can’t control, so focus your efforts on the parts you can. Revise and target your resume to the jobs you are seeking. Optimize your online presence to your advantage. Shore up your networking skills. And most of all… don’t give up!
Regardless of where you are on the STEM career ladder, you’re never too old or too senior for a mentor! A good mentor can guide you into new professional fields, and increase your chances of landing your dream job or promotion. Mentors can act as a “sounding board” for job-related ideas, answer career-related questions, and provide emotional support when things get tough.
Who can be your mentor?
Broadly defined, a STEM mentor is someone more experienced than you who is willing to share their experiences and insights. You can be work colleagues, or be employed at different companies. Although you can be mentored by someone who supervises you (or is in your managerial chain of command), it is often better to choose a mentor who you don’t directly work with, especially if you need to have sensitive conversations about your workplace or job search.
It’s helpful to think about what you need from a mentor before looking for one: maybe you need help navigating your PhD program, or maybe you are considering a career in biotech and want to learn more about the options available to you. In the former scenario you might benefit from an academic mentor, in the latter scenario someone already working in industry might be more helpful.
How to find a mentor
If you aren’t sure where to find a mentor, here are some ideas:
● University or workplace colleagues
● Personal connections: friends, family or neighbors
● Networking events
● Professional organizations related to your STEM discipline
● Formal mentorship programs
When approaching potential mentors, it’s a good idea to explain what kind of advice or support you’re looking for upfront. You don’t need to enter a formal business relationship with a potential mentor – just ask them if they’d be willing to answer some questions you have and see where things go from there, as you would with other new networking contacts.
The act of mentorship can mean different things. You may email questions to your mentor when the need arises, or schedule monthly coffee meet-ups. A mentor in a formal mentorship program could send you away with “homework exercises” to complete before your next meeting. Mentors may be willing to review your job application materials or introduce you to their contacts.
Managing the mentor-mentee relationship
Most STEM professionals are happy to help younger scientists figure out their career paths – and many enjoy doing so. However, not everyone makes a good mentor. Some don’t have the time to discuss potential career pathways, or forget to reply to your emails. Some established STEM professionals may give outdated advice about the job market, or suggest career options that don’t align with your situation and needs. A person who looks like an ideal mentor on paper may be someone you struggle to carry a conversation with, and who you don’t feel comfortable baring your soul to. That’s OK! You’re never obliged to accept or act upon any mentor’s advice – and you can always politely scale back your interactions with a mentor who isn’t helping you.
It’s also important to know that one mentor can’t help you with everything STEM-related, and having multiple mentors doesn’t hurt. Maybe one of your mentors knows nothing about the current biotech market, but gives really good insight into handling interpersonal conflicts in your research lab. Another mentor may not have time to meet with you regularly, but is great at introducing you to useful people.
Above all – don’t feel shy asking for help! Your mentor may not know what assistance you need until you ask, and as long as you remain polite if they’re unable to help, you won’t damage the relationship. Navigating into new STEM careers can be difficult and confusing, and everyone deserves to receive help along the way.
Want job satisfaction? Look for a company that matches your size preferences
Do you belong in a sprawling corporate campus or in a small loft with a dog snoozing on the rug? Or maybe the open-plan wing of a tech hub?
Science grads searching for jobs in industry often focus on the salary and nature of the work, but ignoring the size (and thus style) of your prospective employer can thwart job satisfaction just as surely as an antiquated laboratory or paltry paycheck. Whether large, small, or somewhere in between, an organization that matches your “size profile” is a place where you’ll be happier, work more productively, and stay longer.
|● Big pharma: household names with a large, multinational workforce
● Small pharma: mid-size companies (fewer than 500 employees) with a leaner operational model
● Biotech/medtech startup: Companies with small teams and (typically) small portfolios
Many people feel a sense of pride at being attached to a large, well-respected organization. Statements like “I work at Vertex” or “I run a lab at Biogen” connote stability and competence, irrespective of your specific role. If you value status—and there’s nothing wrong with that—a large, well-respected organization will satisfy this craving.
It’s not just about dazzle, of course. A large pharma or biotech company gives you the greatest protection against changing market conditions—an important consideration if financial stability ranks high on your must-have list. Decades of experience means that processes have been worked out and standardized. Perhaps most important of all, a large employer offers multiple opportunities for vertical or lateral career changes. If you don’t click with one team, there’s every chance you’ll feel more at home in another department. Or country.
Some people thrive under pressure, while others do their best work in a stable environment. If you fall into the second camp, the stability of a larger organization can bring out your most productive and creative side.
And then there’s the water cooler. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the social side of work into stark relief: some people don’t miss it at all, while others ache for the human contact. If you’re a people person, a larger organization guarantees a baseline of social interactions and may provide more structured opportunities for connecting with co-workers.
While lacking the status of a big name, a small company nurtures your self-confidence in different ways. Chances are that nobody else in the group has your expertise, so your opinions and suggestions carry more weight. Moving quickly as part of a small team gives you more opportunities to take chances and get recognized for your efforts. In brief, you can be a big fish in a small pond.
Smaller companies also tend to have more fluid boundaries. You’ll likely have more responsibility than outlined in your formal job description—an appealing prospect if you thrive on change. If asked to take on a project that falls outside your area of expertise or comfort zone—perhaps researching new suppliers or designing a patient registry—“that’s not part of my job description” won’t get you off the hook. Additionally, you stand a better chance of convincing a superior to let you run with an original idea and you’ll have less bureaucracy standing in your way when you take action.
On the downside, it is possible to outgrow a small company; the next career rung you seek may simply not exist yet, or the organization may lack the funds or structure to deliver the training you need to get to the next level. Also, some people find a fast-paced environment with an ever-shifting landscape more stressful than inspiring.
Sizing up the benefits
Have a look at the table below.1 Don’t worry about what you “should” value—just pay attention to your instinctive reaction to each list. Which list speaks to you more? If you’re equally drawn to both, a mid-sized company may best meet your needs.
|● Opportunity to progress more quickly
● Greater autonomy and responsibility
● Exposure to a greater variety of tasks
● Often a less formal atmosphere
● Increased interaction with senior staff
● Greater agility in decision making
|● Less unpredictability in job requirements
● Better training resources
● Usually better job security and benefits
● Better networking opportunities
● More prospects for global mobility
● Greater investment budgets
Want to gain still more insight into your own size profile? Take this 9-question quiz to figure out if you would feel most comfortable in a large, small, or mid-sized organization. https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/what-size-employer-best-fit-quiz
A caveat: such tools are a great start, but cannot substitute for an in-depth consultation with an experienced recruiter. As a biotech recruiting agency dealing with employers of all sizes, Sci.bio will be happy to walk you through the finer points as you weigh your next career move.
1. Smyrnov A. Which size pharma company is the best fit for you? Pharmfield. Sept. 2, 2019. https://pharmafield.co.uk/careers/which-size-of-pharma-company-is-the-best-fit-for-you/
2. Dottie C. What size company is the right fit for you? LinkedIn. Aug. 16, 2015. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-size-company-right-fit-you-christopher-dottie/
Searching for your first biotech job? Much of the career advice for aspiring scientists focuses on creating and polishing tangible documents: CV, cover letters and a LinkedIn profile. Less discussed, but perhaps more important than anything else when it comes to job hunting success, is the creation of your personal brand.
What is a personal brand?
Your personal brand is composed of the qualities, values and strengths other people associate with you. It is both the image you actively promote, and the impressions of you people get from your online and in-person presence. The author Cynthia Johnson identifies “personal proof, social proof, recognition, and association” as the four pillars of a personal brand.
Why does my personal brand matter?
The biotech job market is competitive. A biotech company may receive hundreds of applications for every entry level scientist position advertised. Not only will a clear personal brand help your job application stand out, but it will give time-pressed hiring managers and recruiters an immediate sense of who you are as a candidate and what you can bring to the role.
How do I cultivate and market my personal brand?
1. Be authentic
Although it might take time to discover your personal brand, you should never pretend to be something you’re not, or misrepresent your accomplishments. A ‘strong’ personal brand is not a reflection of how impressive your accomplishments are, it’s about the consistency of your messaging, and whether the broad strokes of the brand you promote matches the evidence showcased in your CV, website, etc.
2. Identify your strengths and accomplishments
When starting their career, scientists are often taught to be modest about their achievements and present work experience in a ‘neutral’ fashion. In the world of personal branding, you are allowed to brag a little! Your wins and your talents should take center-stage on LinkedIn and your other professional websites and social media accounts. If you win a research award…post about it online. If you’re great at working in cross-functional teams…point that out in your job application.
Once you’ve written down your technical and personal strengths, it’s easy to translate the former into your area of expertise. Recruiters and hiring managers definitely want to see your achievements, but even more important is a demonstration of cohesive expertise in your research field. That expertise is what will get you an industry job.
3. Focus your brand
There are two meanings of the phrase ‘focused personal brand’ – and both are important. You want your personal brand to be concise: it should boil down to a couple of sentences and adjectives. An example might be “Creative microbiologist who specializes in E. Coli.” It shouldn’t take you five minutes to explain to a recruiter who you are and what you do.
In the other sense, your personal brand should be focused into a sub specialty, with a defined target audience. While it’s understandable that you don’t want to narrow your career opportunities down to nothing, your personal brand can’t be so broad that nothing about you stands out to recruiters and hiring managers. For instance, saying you’re “a medicinal chemist” may be true…but it’s less helpful than saying you’re “a medicinal chemist who specializes in oncology drug development and has experience using solid NMR.” Now you’ll attract the attention of recruiters seeking to fill oncology and solid NMR-based medicinal chemistry roles.
4. Build an online and in-person presence
Once you’ve decided upon your brand, it’s time to market yourself. Update your professional website, job application materials and LinkedIn profile to highlight your core skills, values and career objectives. When you aren’t posting about yourself on your professional social media profiles, you should be sharing and interacting with content that reflects your personal brand (e.g. breakthroughs in your area of expertise, news from the kinds of companies you wish to work for). You don’t have to produce a lot of content or be active on LinkedIn 24/7: but you should make a commitment to posting or sharing content on a regular basis, be it once a week or once a day.
Of course, you can also publicize your personal brand through in-person and virtual networking [insert link to networking blog]. When networking with recruiters and peers within your field, your elevator pitch should encapsulate the strengths and expertise already outlined in your personal brand. Once developed, consider engaging in professional activities that reinforce and publicize your personal brand, such as presenting at conferences or taking on leadership roles in professional societies.
When looking for your first industry role, the biotech job market can seem intimidating and overwhelming. Fortunately, the experienced specialist recruiters at Sci.Bio are here to help. Get in touch with us to discuss your career goals today.