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Caught Between Clients and Candidates: Finding the Right Balance

Perhaps you’ve heard the joke or seen the meme, but the trope about recruiters being like a web browser with 1,000+ tabs open simultaneously is dead-on accurate. Recruiters in the pharma-recruitment industry have to manage dozens, sometimes hundreds of relationships at once. Not only that, but we have to make ourselves available for each and every one at any given time for any given reason.

Recruiters who don’t subscribe to this ideology tend not to be as successful; and really, if you don’t take the impact you have on people’s careers seriously, then you are probably in the wrong profession. But even if you are the picture of dedication, at some point you are inevitably going to run into a situation that feels like a conflict of interests.

Juggling Acts

It’s our job to successfully juggle the plethora of relationships that make up our career network. But, what are we to do when those relationships come into conflict? I’m referring specifically to the client-candidate conundrum. Balancing client and candidate needs is one of the trickiest parts of the job.

 As a recruiter, who do you really work for? A number of you probably just said, “The client, obviously.” But this answer is not as straightforward as it seems. Of course, pharma, biotech and CRO clients hire you to find suitable life-science professionals, so at the end of the day you have to deliver. But your reputation as a recruiter depends on more than client satisfaction. It depends just as much on the experience you provide to candidates and whether or not they feel as though you act with their best interests at heart.

 When candidates are “ghosted” or casually dismissed the moment it becomes clear the client is uninterested, you begin to establish yourself as a recruiter who treats their candidates like cattle. It’s critical to give each potential candidate sufficient attention and support so that they feel comfortable with you helping them guide their career forward. This is attention you need to give anyway if you truly want to understand a candidate’s profile – what they need vs. what they want, which risks they will take vs. those they won’t. This becomes all the more important once a candidate has received an offer.

Choosing Sides

Let’s look at that example: when your client decides to make an offer to a candidate, if you as a recruiter are involved in the negotiation process…what exactly should you be fighting for? The lowest package possible for your client? The highest package possible for your candidate?

Neither. An agreeable and fair solution should be the endgame, but that requires managing expectations on both sides. You should keep in mind the extent of your client’s resources and be able to gauge their limits, but at the same time you should be able to confidently provide feedback if you believe the offer is not sufficiently competitive. Ultimately, securing your candidate an appropriate package that allows them to comfortably assume their new role without hesitation will make the entire closing process much smoother and stress-free.

I personally like to think of it this way: while searching for candidates, I work for the client, introducing them to the best talent available; but when a candidate receives an offer, then I work for them to ensure they get exactly what they need to take this next step in their career.

However, candidates, like clients, can be unpredictable, so blindly trying to appease their every request in negotiations will likely end with a frustrated client and no signed contract. This is where the paradigm of fairness comes into play. As a recruiter, your knowledge of the life-sciences market, the position in question, the client’s resources and the candidate’s profile should all factor into how you approach brokering negotiations in a hire. While it is indeed a delicate process, if you are discerning in your judgement and provide honest feedback to both sides, you are much more likely to earn the lasting respect of both clients and candidates.

Written by Alex Sedler, Pharma & Biotech Recruitment Consultant. Call Alex at +31 (0)20 290 0016 or email him at to learn how Seuss Recruitment can fill your vacancies.