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What Should the Candidate-Recruiter Relationship Look Like?

Recruitment consultancies derive 100% of their revenue from their clients. Their model is a purely B2B one. In today’s highly competitive and rapidly involving life sciences and biotech sectors, recruitment services are more important than ever. Companies operating at the cutting edge of healthcare and pharmaceutical technology are heavily reliant on life sciences recruitment agencies to supply the highly specialised skills without which the innovation that drives success in these sectors would start to become scarce.

Life Sciences Recruitment – A Balanced Approach

It’s not surprising then that so much of an agency’s focus is on understanding the client’s business and satisfying their needs. However, there is another party in the recruitment process who is just as important: the candidate. It’s vital for the agency to remember that they are assuming responsibility for an individual’s aspirations and career prospects. Just because they have no contractual obligation to candidates, this doesn’t mean they can treat them with any less respect or consideration than the fee-paying client. The best life sciences recruitment agencies will put considerable effort into cultivating the candidate-recruiter relationship.

This begins with attitude. It’s always wrong to treat candidates as commodities. Similarly, they shouldn’t be seen as one-off opportunities to make money – if a candidate is not successful in the first vacancy for which the recruiter recommends them, it doesn’t mean they’re any less capable than when they first signed up. The particular application didn’t work out but the recruiter needs to keep faith with the candidate. Too many mediocre agencies drop candidates after one or two rejections. Not only is that unfair on the candidate, but it also reflects very badly on the recruiter, whose reputation could be damaged if word gets around, as social media virtually guarantees it will.

Candidate Insight

Candidates pursuing a career in biotech or the life sciences are, by definition, highly skilled and motivated people. The recruiter should take the time to understand their specialisms, the challenges they’ve overcome, the projects to which they’ve contributed. If the recruiter doesn’t understand some of the more profoundly technical detail they shouldn’t move on until they do. Knowing as much as there is to know will make it easier to identify the best job matches.

Some applicants might be ideal for one of the global biotech businesses, while others would be much better suited to a startup or a scaleup. A recruiter must get to know their candidate thoroughly. A literary agent wouldn’t try to sell a book they hadn’t read. The same applies with life sciences recruiting. This approach will be appreciated by the candidate, who will respond with confidence and trust.


Consistent communication is central to the relationship. If you’re a recruiter putting them forward for a role, then you should explain the detail of the process with that particular client, using their preferred method of communication. Respect the fact that if they are already in a job, it might not be convenient to talk on the phone during office hours. Equally, if they’re interested in a vacancy for which you don’t think they’re suitable, be honest with them. Some candidates will go through periods of passivity when appropriate jobs might not be available or they are not pursuing them with their usual energy. In these situations make sure you check in with them regularly to reassure them you’re still actively working for them. Try to add something of value to each communication instead of just reporting that there’s nothing to report, even it’s just referring them to an article or a website or inviting them to a business event. All these relatively simple yet considerate acts help to maintain a healthy connection.

Expectation Management

Some candidates understandably feel that their qualifications and experience will automatically land them their dream job. If that doesn’t happen at once, they may wonder if their recruitment agency is under-performing. Although the rewards – financial and otherwise – can be considerable, the life sciences and biotech are difficult sectors in which to establish careers. Skills are always in demand, but the unique funding challenges facing these industries mean that making long-term commitments to employees may not be as simple as in other sectors. This is particularly true of relatively new entrants to the field. Many early stage European biotech companies discover that venture capital can be scarce, given the inordinately long lead times imposed by the testing and accreditation requirements which add many months to the process of taking a new drug, device or technique to market.

Try to keep the relationship balanced. An experienced recruiter has accrued a great deal of knowledge about the life sciences and biotech industries but they don’t have a monopoly on it. The candidate not only knows their own strengths, skills and experience, but they will also have gathered their own insights about their chosen field which are just as valid as those of the recruiter. Once again, this comes back to communication, transparency, trust, rapport and respect. It also requires sufficient empathy to appreciate the relationship from the candidate’s point of view.

One of the most difficult demands on the recruiter is always to find time for each candidate. That doesn’t mean being prepared to spend hours on the phone giving pep talks, but it does mean using the time of both parties to maximum effect. It involves helping with interview preparation, explaining aspects of a certain employer’s operation and managing deadlines. A recruiter should always spare time for the candidates they represent, even if it’s in small ways such as making brief call-backs in response to messages.

The candidate-recruiter relationship is first and foremost a professional one. But championing the interests of someone who is counting on you to further their career is also a highly personal relationship. It’s one of mutual dependence. Without the recruiter a candidate looking for the best jobs in biotech and the life sciences faces a painful uphill struggle. Without candidates, the recruiter has no business.

If you are looking for your next opportunity in the life sciences or biotechnology sector, let our team of experts help you find your next big challenge. 

ScaleX Consulting – taking a more consultative approach to recruitment. 

ScaleX Consulting offer trusted business consulting and recruitment services to life sciences and biotech companies, ready to take the next step in their journey, particularly with life science recruitment, sales and marketing.