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How to Find Recruiters for Life Science Jobs

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Many people call recruiters, such as myself, to ask for help finding life science jobs. Unfortunately quite often these people do not realize that recruiters often specialize in one niche and therefore cannot help all those who call. There are several reasons I often cannot help people with their search for a new position. First, my search firm, Clark Executive Search, specializes in finding jobs for senior level scientists and doctors in pharma and other life science companies. Second, my niche gets even smaller for I only work with PhD or MD candidates. Third, I am usually asked to fill science jobs with candidates who have quite a bit of industry experience at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Fourth, my firm is small and we do not have a large volume of positions at any one time. This means the chances are unlikely that I will be working on a search that matches the caller’s background even if he is a PhD or MD candidate and is working in R&D in the life science area. Therefore when BS or MS candidates call, I have to tell them I cannot help them. The same applies if the person is a recent postdoctoral fellow or from academia.

The next question I am always asked by those I am unable to assist with science jobs is, “ Can you help me find a recruiter who will be able to help me?” I cannot provide these people a recruiter list, but I do offer alternative places where they can find other recruiters to help with their quest for  life science jobs. I also suggest several networking possibilities. Here are some of my suggestions in no particular order:

1. Thelabrat.com is a focused site for finding life science jobs. They have a list of recruiters who specialize in the area. Clark Executive Search is listed here, for instance.

2. BioSpace also focuses in the pharma and biotech area. They too have lists of recruiters as well as as a job board.

3. The Riley Guide has its own list of recruiters by specialty but also a list of recruiter directories. My search firm is listed here as well.

4. Oya’s Directory of Recruiters is another good site to find recruiters by specialty. My search firm is listed under biotechnology for example.

5. The Kennedy Directory of Recruiters is a paid service but does offer an easy way to find recruiters listed by geographic area, specialty and whether they are a retained or a contingency agency

6. BioJobBlog Another career site geared to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical job searcher. There are also a lot of great articles for scientists

7. Recruiter.com is a huge outfit for both recruiters and job seekers. However it is not life science focused like some of the other sites. I haven’t had too much interaction with this site yet but will keep an eye on it

8. LinkedIn has a large number of scientists, physicians and executive recruiters listed as members. All these individuals are searchable and you can ask them to join your network. If they do, then your pool of leads grows. There are a vast number of groups for all kinds of scientific or clinical interests. If you partake in the discussions within these groups you can slowly build a name for yourself and become known. There are also jobs listed in these groups. If you see a job listed on a pharmaceutical company’s web site that you know would be a perfect fit for your background, you could try to find the hiring manager on LinkedIn and contact him directly to see if you can summit a CV to him instead of applying online. This direct approach is often better than being sent down the company’s black hole of a online posting.Here is my Clark Executive Search LinkedIn company page

9. Twitter has many scientists as members and if you follow them you might hear about jobs or after awhile you could ask them if they know of a job for you. You don’t want to spam these individuals but someone might be able to help you if you are polite. There are also recruiters, such as myself (@clarksearch), who have twitter accounts. They send tweets about the positions they are recruiting for and you could find a job this way.

10. Massbio.org has quite a few life science recruiters listed. And they also list a great many companies with their websites. SO a person could easily check out biotech jobs by going to the individual biotech company sites

11.Google +  Be sure to check out Google + for finding recruiters and other scientists. The good thing about G+ is that you can place all the life science recruiters you find into a Circle. Then when you want to ask them a question you could do so all at once. Here is my Ellen Clark Google Plus Profile and my Clark Executive Search Google Plus Profile

Finding science jobs in today’s world is difficult enough but with of some of these online resources you should be able to find someone to help you. Just don’t make the mistake of sending your CV to too many places. This makes you look desperate and unprofessional. And keep in mind that recruiters do not like candidates who submit a CV to many recruiters at the same time. (See my post about how to submit a CV  here and writing a CV here) So be selective. Another tip is to maintain a spreadsheet of all the places you have sent your CV.

Do you know of any other good sources for sourcing science jobs?

For Related Career Advice, check out an interview of Ellen Clark in Genomeweb.

01/22/14 Recruiters spend about 6 seconds reviewing a resume or CV. But as a life science recruiter, I spend a few more seconds. I also check out the quantity and quality of scientific publications. Remember the number of publications isn’t as important if they are not in top tier science journals like Science



  • […] After I tell a person on the phone that I can’t help them since they are not in my specialized area, they invariably will ask me” do you know a recruiter who can?” I don’t work with any other recruiters and I keep my nose to the grindstone working on my searches. I really don’t know anyone else in my field. But I know there are many of us out there and it is up to individuals to do their own homework to find them. If you google the terms “pharmaceutical recruiters” many firms will be listed. There are also directories with pharma and biotechnology recruiters listed such as at thelabrat.com.( Update: see a related post about finding a recruiter here) […]

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  • Dear Ellen,
    Very glad to find important information on your blog, as you could guess, I am among those viewers whom you mentioned above. It seems every effort of mine is unheard and I still couldn’t get to the point where I can be an easy fit, and yes I am Ph.D with over 6 years of postdoc experience and have great publications in the field with awards and fellowships, also I recently became a permanent resident. Even with quite impressive resume, I am still unable to find a good job with about 50K and my present job is good only till July end. My work is very much suitable for profitable industries and yet none doesn’t seem to recognize my resume.
    Could you please help me in this dire situation?

    Chandra — May 28, 2012
    • Hi Chandra,

      I am so sorry to learn about your difficulty finding a job and I wish I had something more encouraging to say that might help you.The fact of the matter is business is slow for recruitment of life scientist employees. I used to have to turn companies down as I had more searches than I could handle. Those days are long gone! Every day I hear from very qualified scientists who can’t find work. Many of these individuals have actual experience at a pharma or biotech company and were laid off for reasons having nothing to do with them.So you have steep competition and I wouldn’t let it get you down that you haven’t found a job. I mean, don’t take it personally. But don’t give up. There are jobs out there and the more you network, look at particular companies’ job listings etc., the quicker you will land a new job. Good Luck!

      Ellen Clark — May 30, 2012
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  • Quick question.

    In your opinion; how many years of practical experience equals a doctorate degree? I have a M.Sc. degree with over 15 years of “real world” experience in life sciences research working on many types of health problems (not just one area of research). I also contribute to publications in various ways; design, implementation, analysis, manuscript writing, but never first author of course as I am not the PI.
    Am I not as qualified as say a Ph.D. or post doc?
    Will I ever be taken seriously? Or should I just take a s a l e s position?

    M. Morgan — February 7, 2013
    • Thank you for reading my blog. Unfortunately I don’t think there are any quick calculators for experience into higher degrees. Since I never have searches for anything below a PhD or MD I really don’t have that much knowledge to answer your question completely.However I have found it depends on the company I work for and their culture as to whether they would ever take a MS degree instead of a PhD. Some are shocked that I even ask if I might substitut with a well experienced MS candidate. Others are open. This is probably because they worked with someone of high capabilities who had a MS. They “get it” that some MS can do the work of a PhD candidate. But again this happens so infrequently I just don’t have a large enough background to really comment. Wish I could help more

      Ellen Clark — February 8, 2013
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  • Looks useful


    Nik — July 17, 2013
    • You are welcome. Thank you for visiting my site

      Ellen Clark — July 17, 2013
  • Ellen,

    Thank you so much for this honest and frank post! As a PhD Candidate entering a job market for the first time in years it is a little unsettling without the use of experts like yourself. In conversations with colleagues in other industries many recommended that I seek the services of a headhunter/recruiting firm. Your blog post was one of the first I’ve read; in fact, I’ve printed and added to favorites in my web browser. I am going to take your advisement into practice during my search as I continue to seek employment, however I wanted to sincerely thank you. Who knows maybe I will become a client in the future. Best wishes and happy Holidays!

    LaTasha H. Lee — December 1, 2013
    • Dear LaTasha,

      Thank you for the nice comment. I really appreciate it when someone comments on my blog as it helps me realize there actually are people out there who find my posts helpful. Sometimes one wonders if it is all worth it as I sometimes spend hours on a post. That is why I gave up trying to write every day or week. I simply can’t do that and do my normal day job of recruiting. You see, I don’t hire writers and I write everything myself. So it can get overwhelming sometimes.

      Good Luck with your job search!


      Ellen Clark — December 1, 2013
  • I’m a PhD , age 68, recognized as a pioneer in sleep medicine , with over 200 publications, excellent speaking skills, living in the Detroit area seeking full or part time employment. I ve managed a clinic and research team for over thirty five yrs. can you help?

    Martin B Scharf PhD FABSM — April 21, 2015
    • I am sorry, Martin, I do not have any searches that require your particular skill set at this time. Perhaps send me your CV via the email on this web site in contacts?
      I wish you all the best with your job search

      Ellen Clark — April 21, 2015
  • Hi Ellen,

    I really appreciate all the useful information in this post, and I’ll definitely look more into the resources you’ve listed. That said, I also have a question on which you may be able to advise me.

    As a result of my wife’s declining health, she is essentially being forced out of her faculty position here in MD. As such, I am looking for jobs that can support our entire family in an area where we have a support network of family and friends. However, given my past experience (chemistry M.S. plus 10y experience in pharma, but covering a wide enough range of sub-disciplines that I don’t show up as an “expert” in anything) most of what I’ve found is of the “no out-of-state candidates” variety. But unlike many remote candidates, we are determined to make the move regardless, and I am perfectly willing to foot the bill for interview travel and relocation, with no expectation of assistance. However, until I have a solid opportunity, we can’t afford for me to leave my current position, and so don’t have an address in the new location.

    So how do I indicate this to hiring managers? Thus far I’ve been writing it in cover letters, but I’ve been on more than a few search committees and seen how cover letters get scrapped when some little facet of the résumé (e.g. address) don’t meet the pre-determined criteria, and I’d hate to be passed over for a position for which I would be a good fit. On the other hand, there are undoubtedly reasons beyond simple finances that a company may be seeking local candidates, and I have no wish to deceive them (several people have suggested using a friend’s address, but I can’t imagine this would look good for me should I actually get an interview).

    Obviously working through a recruiter such as your group provides is a good strategy, and I will definitely look into it, but I don’t want to rule out the possibility of a direct-hire position. Can you offer any suggestions for simply and effectively communicating my status to potential employers? The best I have come up with so far is providing a city and state with an asterisk and something like “*relocating {date}, no assistance required”, but never having been the point of contact on a search I don’t know how this will come across. Any other suggestions you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

    Lucas Westcott-Baker — November 11, 2015
    • Hi Lucas

      The relocation issue is tricky. My first choice while searching is local candidates if they are available. Then I try for ones at least in the same state, then same side of country, and lastly the same country. It is not just the cost of paying or a candidate’s interview or moving expenses. Generally, local candidates are more apt to”stick” at a company as they are established in the community, their spouses have jobs already, and their kids are in good schools. And your situation where you say you will move and pay your own way could put the company off because often people move just themselves at first, rent a small place, and bring the rest of the family after the school year. This is a potential risk in that if the candidate finds another job in the immediate area of his home town , he might quit his new company and just move home. I have seen all too often a company hire someone and the family is left behind. It causes all kinds of problems like running back home for every emergency. Companies want a full commitment and lower risks of a candidate leaving quickly.

      Specifically I would not lie and use a friend’s address. These things always catch up to a person and could backfire. Your best bet is to find a recruiter who understands. Sometimes they can send a CV with no contact info just to see whether the company likes the person’s background.If they do then the recruiter can explain the situation and that might help. Working through a company’s website might get you knocked out of the game early before anyone of importance sees your resume.I wish I could help suggesting a recruiter , but I only work with MD or PhD candidates and don’t know recruiters who work at other levels. But, one thing for sure, there are a lot of recruiters out there and you will find one, I am positive.

      Good Luck,

      Ellen Clark — November 11, 2015
  • Dear Clark,

    I would like to seek your helps with lookin for a new jobs. I have more than two years research experience with a M,D, and Ph.D degrees.

    It will be appreciated if you could kindly tell me a way to work with your for findin a new jobs.

    Thanks, Peng

    Peng Liu — December 26, 2015
    • Dear Peng,

      I don’t help people find jobs. Sorry. I work with a few companies to help them fill a specific role. Usually they hire me to do higher level searches than the entry ones they can post themselves on their websites. Good luck ,

      Ellen Clark — January 7, 2016
  • Dear Clark,

    I would like to seek your helps with lookin for a new jobs. I have more than two years research experience with a M,D, and Ph.D degrees.
    Thanks, Peng

    Peng Liu — December 26, 2015