Author: Claire Jarvis
For candidates plunging into the job market for the first time, the attention of recruiters on LinkedIn can often feel unwelcome: an undesirable consequence of the job search to be ignored or minimized while you submit job applications. Nearly every STEM jobseeker has stories of a recruiter contacting them about a job they weren’t qualified for or didn’t come close to matching the expertise they clearly articulated on their LinkedIn profile.
Fortunately, many successful job seekers now working in industry can also recall speaking to a recruiter who had read their social media profile with care, and connected them to interesting opportunities that suited their talents.
It may surprise the cynics, but a lot of biotech recruiters are trained scientists themselves: they obtained a STEM degree but moved into recruiting because they enjoyed people-focused jobs and waited to remain in a scientific environment.
The technical expertise necessary for biotech jobs at all levels means biotech companies will only engage with recruiters who demonstrate they understand these technical requirements and can match them to candidates with the necessary skill set. As a consequence, you’ll probably encounter more skilled biotech recruiters than unskilled ones.
Not sure if the recruiter you’re talking to has that scientific expertise? Here are some things to look for when interacting with unfamiliar biotech recruiters:
- Does their agency specialize in placing biotech candidates? Some agencies work across a lot of industries, from hospitality to tech. They are more likely to hire recruiters without a background in the field(s) they recruit. A niche recruiting agency who exclusively fills biotech roles is likely to hire recruiters with a science background.
- Does their LinkedIn profile list a STEM degree, or the kinds of candidates/companies they work with? The closer the recruiter’s education profile to the candidates they are placing, the higher likelihood they will understand your technical capabilities and how you might fit in to the client’s company.
- Does their initial email/phone call demonstrate an understanding of your qualifications and the kinds of job you are looking for? Listen and look for keywords or phrases in those early conversations that indicate the recruiter has read your social media profile and speaks to your strengths. A very generic LinkedIn message might indicate the recruiter is casting a wide net and approaching a lot of potential candidates.
- Fill out your LinkedIn profile. The recruiter bears some responsibility if they don’t properly read the Experience and Skills section of your LinkedIn profile. However, you can help good recruiters find you by listing your technical skills and expertise, and stating the kind of opportunities you are open to. Remember, if you need to conduct a discrete job search this section can be kept private so only recruiters can view it.
- Update recruiters you’re in contact with. If you have a positive relationship with a recruiter, it’s helpful to update them with major career news (e.g. a key promotion or new job in a different field) during your job search. It’s important to keep good recruiters supplied with the information they’ll need to connect you with the right opportunities, and it helps remind them of your skillset and job preferences in case new positions open up.
At Sci.bio, we believe scientists make the best biotech recruiters. Our team of STEM graduates understand the biotech industry and look forward to connecting you with your dream job. Reach out and schedule a conversation with us today.
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!
To find gold, you need to know where and how to look
Sometimes you get lucky: you interview a bunch of candidates, one of them stands head-and-shoulders above the pack, and there’s no decision to make. Ready, aim, hire. More often than not, though, you must choose between several candidates who seem fairly equally matched. Do you go for the person who exudes warmth and confidence and would clearly fit into your organization? Or do you opt for the shy young candidate with a patent in their resume? Or maybe the all-round achiever with connections in high places?
Criteria that count
Let’s backtrack a little. If more than one person will be weighing in on the hiring decision, you need to make sure you all agree on the important criteria before starting the search.1 Otherwise, you’ll likely find yourselves clashing about the choice.
This raises the question: which criteria have the greatest value in the life sciences? A 2019 BioSpace survey identified three priorities: 1
- Recent (and relevant) work experience: Fully 91% of survey respondents put a premium on this criterion. It stands to reason: recent experience in a similar role or organization puts a candidate in the mindset to perform well at the starting gate.
- Strong communication skills: Prized by 65% of respondents, such skills signal an ability to argue for ideas and stick-handle the conflicts that inevitably arise in group settings.
- Leadership skills or potential: If one defines a leader as “someone who inspires positive change and motivates others,” it’s not hard to understand why hiring teams value this quality—even in positions that don’t involve direct responsibility for other people.
For Robert Ward, who saw the Boston biotech company Radius Health grow from 6 to over 600 employees during his 4-year tenure as CEO, the list should also include a track record of success, which he defines as “delivering on projects and working to create a culture that supports diversity, collaboration and innovation.”2
What about criteria that matter less?
Notably, only 24% of respondents to the above survey placed a high value on holding an advanced degree, though the importance of those letters obviously depends on the nature of the position. A further surprise: A mere 8% viewed attendance at a highly recognized educational institution as key. That Stanford insignia may impress, but it won’t necessarily rescue a candidate who falls short in other respects. Talent acquisition experts also caution against “fear-based” hiring—a mindset that may include overreliance on people you know or an inflexible commitment to hire fast.3
The search for a researcher: asking the right questions
If you’re looking for a biotech researcher, guidance from LinkedIn Talent Solutions4 can help you zero in on the right interview questions—and the responses that signal competence. To get a feel for a candidate’s expertise in study design, for example, you could ask: “What are some factors you consider when designing research studies?” Response themes to look for include sensitivity to risk factors and budgetary constraints. And a question like “If you were given X sample and X chemical, what tests would you run?” will put anyone who lacks technical skills on the spot. See https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/resources/interviewing-talent/biotech-researcher for the complete interview guide.
When looking to fill a role, it is also important to consider the environment in which the new hire will be working in. Sometimes the most outgoing candidate is not always the right fit. If the role you are filling does not require excellent people skills or an ability to lead, don’t always lean towards the candidate who is highly confident in their ability to communicate and take charge. For example, when hiring a research associate who will work exclusively in the lab, you don’t want to rule out someone who may be more introverted. They may be a standout candidate as they bring an arsenal of lab experience to the table, but not necessarily wow you with charisma in the interview process. Assessing the environment you are hiring in and the true requirements of the job will give insight to what skills your candidates should excel in.
Whether you need someone next month or next year, working with a specialized biotech can help you save time without sacrificing thoroughness. Experienced biotech recruiters know the right people—and the people who know the right people. Their industry-specific expertise and tools cut through the laborious process of advertising, screening, and interviewing a string of candidates who may not match the required profile.
At Sci.bio, we make good on our promise of high performance, flexibility, and speed. We invite you to contact us to learn more.
1. Parker P. How to identify a quality life sciences candidate. BioSpace. Oct. 8, 2019.
2. Ward RE. CEO spills the secret to attracting, retaining biotech talent. PharmaExec.com. August 13, 2018.
3. Have you done your research? 4 hiring blunders that cause biotech companies to miss out on the best science and research specialists. Painless Hire.
4. Top hard skills interview questions for biotech researchers. LinkedIn Talent Solutions.
To deliver the results you expect, your recruiter needs your support
Working with a recruiter differs significantly from doing business with, say, a laboratory equipment supplier. You’re not just trading a product for some cash, but joining forces to produce a result. Think of a recruiter as a partner—and all good partnerships operate along two-way streets. Consider these tips to help you get the most from the alliance.
Spell out your requirements: It’s not enough to tell the recruiter you’re looking for a good communicator with experience in precision oncology and industry contacts. Specify the must-have and nice-to-have criteria1 – and spell out your reasoning. For example: “Diversity is always a consideration, but never at the expense of finding the best person for a job.” Or conversely: “We’ve been called out for our lack of diversity, so we’ve made diversity our top hiring priority for the next year.” Discuss deal-breakers (such as unwillingness to work extra hours) as well.
Pass along the intel: Keep your recruiter abreast of R&D news in your organization. Has your flagship drug entered phase 2 trials? Is one of your assays being tested in a medical laboratory chain? Such updates can alert your recruiter to consider a candidate they may have otherwise overlooked—perhaps the assay developer with two patents to her name. Same goes for new business developments:2 if the company is gearing up to reorganize, having the information can help the recruiter adapt their search to the new company structure.
Share insights from top performers: Help your recruiter understand what a top performer looks like in your organization. Start by getting the info from the horse’s mouth: the superstars themselves. Ask them questions to uncover common themes:3 What skills have enabled you to be successful? What training was most useful to you? What motivates you in new roles? How do you keep things fresh after a long time on the job? Catalogue these insights and share them with the recruiter, who can look for similar qualities in the search for your new superstar.
Transmit the passion: Tell your recruiter what gets you excited about the company. Passion is contagious, and communicating what gets you jazzed up—whether it’s the travel opportunities, mentorship programs, or partnerships with patient advocacy groups—will help the recruiter find candidates who bring a similar energy and vision to the table.
Keep talking: A two-way street doesn’t serve much purpose if nobody uses it. If you pass on a candidate, tell your recruiter exactly why. For example, “They ticked all the boxes but seemed to lack energy and passion” tells your recruiter that you’re looking for more than a collection of skills. And don’t leave such exchanges to chance: a scheduled feedback process will keep you and the recruiter on the same page.
Supporting your recruiter helps them conduct a targeted and productive search. It goes both ways, of course: your recruiter also has a responsibility to ask clarifying questions and to provide feedback. At Sci.bio, we understand that successful recruitment depends on such two-way communication. It’s the magic that makes successful recruiting happen. We also live and breathe science, and it’s not by accident that most of our recruiters have degrees in the life sciences. We invite you to find out more.
1. McLaren S. How to keep your best recruiters from leaving. LinkedIn Business. January 15, 2020.
2. Beuns-Morgan M. Five ways recruiters and HRPBs can be better partners to each other. LinkedIn Pulse. November 19, 2010.
3. Hiring managers: how to build a strategic partnership with your recruiter. Social Hire.
If you need specialized service, it makes sense to use specialized expertise
Garbage in, garbage out. We’ve all heard this motto and we’ve all lived it. Perhaps we slapped together a grant application at the last minute and ended up with a form rejection. Or maybe we bought a vehicle without doing due diligence and got stuck with a lemon. Life is a game of effort, and low effort yields predictably low results.
It’s no different with hiring. If you don’t put in the work, you’ll end up with middling talent. And that’s not good enough, especially in a highly specialized and competitive field such as pharma and biotech. The stakes are high: whether you’re looking a scientist who can test a game-changing drug or a liaison who can forge relationships with rock-star clinicians, your company’s entire future may depend on hiring the right person. And that takes time, techniques, and tools.
That’s where a specialized recruiter comes in.
But does your company really need one? Here are some questions to consider.
How specialized is the skillset you need? If you need an entry-level lab technician to bridge a parental leave, you may be able to manage the search on your own. But if you seek expertise in aseptic processing or international regulatory requirements, a recruiter can ensure your treasure hunt doesn’t turn into a wild goose chase.
Recruiters can likewise help you zero in on “cross-functional” candidates—people who combine disparate skill sets such as assaying experience and a flair for the podium. If, like so many other life sciences companies, you operate with a thinned-out workforce, you’ll probably need many of your science hires to wear more than one hat.1
How much real-world experience do you require? If you’re looking for a data scientist to complete a team, a recent graduate may meet your requirements. A recruiter matters most when previous experience tops your must-have list—for example, if you need to hire someone who has worked with top physicians.
How competitive is the playing field? The best candidates tend to work with recruiters. According to recruitment consultant Beverly Savage, “Top candidates are reluctant to apply directly to a company’s job posting [and] prefer to use recruiters to represent them in order to protect confidentiality.”2 If you’re vying for a limited number of candidates in a competitive arena, it makes sense to tap into a recruiter’s database and network.
Are you pressed for time? A biotech recruiter can help you shorten the recruiting process without sacrificing quality.3 The less time you waste on reviewing CVs and interviewing almost-but-not-quite candidates, the more your workforce can use its core skills to support the company’s mission.
Questions to ask a life sciences recruiter
● What is your experience across the life cycle of a medical product?
● What is your placement rate and the attrition rate of the people you place?
● Do you have access to international candidates?
● How do you customize your approach?
● What happens if you recommend a candidate who doesn’t work out?
Not to be discounted: peace of mind
When you work with a specialized biotech recruiter, you can relax in the knowledge that you’re in expert hands. They speak your language. If you ask them to find you a “medical science liaison in precision oncology,” they’ll know to look for that elusive mix of tumor-profiling experience and people skills. Finally, reputable recruiters offer a guarantee period to protect you against the unlikely event that a candidate leaves prematurely.2
At Sci.bio, we pride ourselves on our experience, expertise and integrity. We know we can deliver what we promise—including peace of mind. Feel free to ask us all the questions you want, including the hard ones.
1. Leask H. Recruitment problems for pharma? There’s no pill for that. Xtalks. Dec. 2, 2019.
2. Savage BH. The benefits of using a recruiter. LinkedIn. June 9, 2020.
3. Wilson K. Why your biotech company needs a specialized recruiter. Insight Recruitment. Jan. 29, 2020.