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Recruiters and shakers: Going from recruiter to life-sciences recruiter

I am not what I would call a “science person.” When I was in the 8th grade, my father, who has been a psychiatrist/medical professional for 30+ years, seemed dissatisfied with my penchant for letters and languages and my inability to master the hard sciences. One evening he asked me, “Alexander, do you know what the limbic system does?” To which I replied, “Of course, Dad; I’m not that dumb. It controls your limbs.” I am fairly certain he still tells that joke at his departmental Christmas parties.

Although I have experience being a recruiter in the translation-services industry, I made a big change this year when I decided to take a new Recruitment Consultant position…that happened to be with a company that works exclusively for life-sciences companies. As any good recruiter knows, knowledge of your industry is key in finding, screening and ultimately placing the right candidates. So how could this possibly work? Well, I decided it was time for intensive learning and focusing on my strengths.

Confidence in Your Core Skills

I don’t wish to entirely undercut the statement that industry knowledge is key, but at the end of the day, recruiting is more about the people with whom you work rather than the industry in which you work. Certainly, industry knowledge is a prerequisite for understanding your active positions, but more often than not those nitty-gritty specifics can be learned or researched on the job. What makes you a good recruiter is the ability to get strangers to open up to you – about their personality, their wishes, their successes and their failures. Far too often, recruiting is played as a numbers game, which makes little sense when you think about it as the art of matching people (not just candidates to clients, but clients to candidates as well).

A good recruiter should be able to discern quickly whether or not a candidate has legitimate potential for the position. Then the real work begins: analyzing character and competencies to identify just the right person for an employer-employee relationship that’s truly symbiotic. Good recruiters don’t just focus on the hire; they focus on the quality hire – and that is all about understanding people.

Don’t Shy Away From the Challenge

As a recruiter (or with any position, really), moving into a new industry can be intimidating. But you shouldn’t let that discourage you! If you’ve recently changed industries, chances are you were enticed to do so by an exciting new employment opportunity or a really cool company. Once you’re hired, a pragmatic and worthy company will help you prepare for your new role (regardless of your background). On many teams (like my awesome one!), you’ll receive various in-house trainings to help prepare you before you start to work on projects and will support you as you progress further.

If you are willing, even excited, to take on such a challenge, step one is: you need to prepare yourself as well. Doing some cursory research in your spare time will put you at ease, especially if you work in a technical field with a lot of ‘industry lingo’ (like the pharma-recruitment industry). Researching the LinkedIn profiles of active professionals in your field is a great way to become familiar with the positions, terms, and companies that will be important in your work. Get active on social media, especially Twitter, where industry discussion happens in real time and you can engage with and seek advice from other professionals. Google is also an old, dear friend. Ultimately, if you enjoy recruiting and have been successful with it, you don’t have to box yourself into a specific industry when thinking about long-term career goals. You will likely be surprised: I never expected to be interested in pharmaceutical clinical trials – but sometimes your greatest experiences are the ones you least expect.

Written by Pharma & Biotech Recruitment Consultant  Alex Sedler – who enjoys sharing his interest in the life-sciences industry with his followers on Twitter @alexcrenny. If you are ready to partner with a pharma recruitment company that truly cultivates enthusiasm and knowledge in bio-science business, call us for a lively conversation at: +31(0) 20 29 00 016 or email: