Monday, January 9, 2017

An excellent rant about scientific recruiters

From the inbox, a really great rant about scientific recruiters from someone we'll call FX:
As a [45+] year old [advanced degreed] chemist who is about to be laid off again, I have been searching for new employment and getting lots of contacts from recruiters. The vast majority of my interactions with them are very frustrating. I would think it is obvious that someone whose resume shows [10-20] years experience as an [instrumental] spectroscopist is not interested in a temp job running HPLC for $20/hour. How does the scientific recruiting industry stay afloat when all its members seem so incompetent? 
I keep updated resumes at sites such as Monster, Linkedin, Indeed and Glassdoor. I have noticed some things about recruiters that find me through Monster. For the resume I keep there I used a unique email address and a Google voice phone number so I know when someone who contacts me came from Monster. If I modify my resume there, I am guaranteed to get a number of calls/emails shortly thereafter offering contract positions and unrelated offers such as selling life insurance. 
I am assuming that there is some service that recruiters can pay for which sends a daily list of updated resumes to them? I also notice even though the same resume is at the other sites, > 90% of recruiters contacting me have come through Monster.
These are also all for temp or contractor positions, never permanent. 
Is that just a reflection of the sorry state of the chemistry job market in [one of the 4-7 pharma-related metro areas that are not SF or Cambridge] or is it because most companies trying to hire a contractor will put it out to a recruiter rather than just posting on their career site and get the applications through there? Why is there not a roughly equal amount of traffic through the other sites?
These are great questions and great observations.

First, it's dramatically clear to me that the median scientific recruiter I've met in my professional interactions is 1) has never worked as a scientist, 2) is quite young and 3) does not have a professional-level understanding of the field. It's very surprising to me, as FX notes, one hopes there is a hidden reserve of incredibly bright, talented and perceptive scientific recruiters out there. On more than one occasion, I've responded to recruiters with "this position is wildly unrelated to what I do - you should be looking for someone who works in [other industry.]"

(We should all take a moment to remember the odd days of 2011 or so, when it seemed like every medicinal chemist on LinkedIn was connected to the folks at Klein Hersh International.) 

Readers, any ideas as to why scientific recruiters tend not to have an intuition as to which chemists would respond best to their entreaties? Any thoughts as to if Monster is particularly bad? (My answer: yes, I think it is.) 

20 comments:

  1. I think they are more likely minimum wage recruits, fresh out oh high school, and doing what exactly what their boss told them to do. Throw it against the wall and see what sticks. Deal in volume. I did once have one of these b... take me out to lunch and actually pay for the lunch. A new experiment by their particular office which probably didn't last.

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    1. I think this is pretty much it -- dealing in volume, just like telemarketing. They likely get paid primarily "by the sale" so it makes sense for them to try as many chances as they possibly can.

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  2. I completely understand why you'd have your C-team recruiters looking for warm bodies to fill open positions that don't matter. (That's adopting a douche-bag exec's POV. Salary rarely equates with value anymore...if it ever did.)

    However, at the high salary end, you'd think companies would use quality recruiters. The fact that they don't more often use specialized recruiters/headhunters is somewhat puzzling.

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    1. I am not puzzled because of my experience with recruiters in the patent field. There I dealt with recruiters who not only knew what I did but twice got me a job at a higher salary than I had been making. The difference is the demand. There is a huge surplus of chemists at all degree levels. The government restricts slightly entry into the patent field and perhaps coincidentally demand exceeds supply.

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  3. There are maybe 5-10 good recruiters who know my industry well. The vast majority of calls I get are from some 21-year-old recent graduate who majored in communications or something like that, matched a couple of keywords from my LinkedIn profile, and is wondering if I'd like to give up my stable full-time job for a 3-month temp contract running routine HPLC's for $15 an hour.

    I don't understand why there's a market for this. A recruiter who really knows an industry would be valuable, but someone who has no idea what the technical terms in a job description mean and is just blindly matching keywords doesn't bring anything to the table and is likely to present a hiring manager with a pile of irrelevant resumes. They're also likely to inadvertently screen out good candidates because someone's resume used a synonym of the keyword in the job description.

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  4. I recently had a recruiter cold call me about a open position at a biotech startup. She was friendly, although obviously reading from a script and had no idea about anything science-related that I spoke about. We chatted for about 20 minutes and I told her from the very begining that I was willing to listen to the opportunity but I am pretty happy in my current position and probably wouldn't leave. At the end of the call, she told me she needed my current salary. I told her that it was private and that I really didn't know her to share that information (this was the first time I had spoke to this recruiter). She fought me over this for another 5 minutes before aggressively telling me that she would not bring my application to the hiring manager (...which was fine with me, I wasn't looking for a position). Left a really bad taste in my mouth.

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  5. I've gotten the majority of my jobs (even PhD level) through recruiters thus far, so I don't have the distaste for them that a lot of others do. I've also gotten contacted about leaving my permanent synthesis position for a temp QA/QC position, that's something that doesn't seem like it will ever change.

    I think the worst experience I had was with Yoh. I'm not censoring their name because they deserve to be outed. I was contacted about an analytical position which I tried to politely decline by saying that it wasn't my area of expertise. The recruiter told me that was no problem because he "successfully" placed a student fresh out of her PhD into a BS level position in order to get her industry experience and he could do the same for me. I was not as polite when I declined the 2nd time.

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    1. I also had an experience with Yoh that left a bad taste in my mouth. I did a temp job through them after a layoff when the economy collapsed around 2009-10, and the recruiter was in a big hurry to close the deal and get things started. A month or two after I started the position, she called me in a panic because my references hadn't come through. She admitted that she had fudged my reference check because there was a big rush to move forward when I first started, but they needed official written statements from the references I had put down in case they get audited, and my references still hadn't responded. One of them was a former boss who was out of the country and difficult to contact, and another was a peer who had previously agreed to serve as a reference for me, but wasn't answering calls or emails despite both the recruiter and me hounding her for a few weeks. I later found out that she had gotten spooked by a warning from upper management that giving references was against company policy.

      I had no other problems with Yoh, but they don't seem to be very honest, in addition to the problem of young kids fresh out of college recruiting for industries they've never worked in and don't understand.

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  6. As for Monster, it probably has nothing to do with chemistry. I'm sure that these recruiting companies have some sort of algorithm that checks for updated resumes and spams them for contract positions, assuming that an updated resume implies a job-seeker. If .1% of the people they contact respond, it's probably worth it to them.

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  7. One recruiter contacted me about a position that required experience with "sensitive" chemistry. I asked about whether it was air, moisture, light, etc. sensitive? All she could parrot back was "sensitive" chemistry.

    How can you do a good job as a recruiter when you have no idea what you are recruiting for?

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    1. There are non-subject matter expert recruiters who actually ask questions; they are the cream to be separated from the rest. The best will go over the post with you, ask if it's a fit, and ask what best positions you for the job; they then go to the hiring manager with that, and do something similar. Sadly, there aren't enough of them in the field.

      One of the worst HH interactions I've had was a woman with a PhD not in, but near my field. She was certain she knew what I wanted in a job, and I couldn't persuade her otherwise.

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  8. Yep, most recruiters are young and clueless. One told me that an entry level PhD ought to be thrilled with an 80k starting salary in Boston.

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    1. well it is a lot more than the recruiters bring home

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    2. Perspective, I guess. But it's not much more than I took home as a BS Chemist + 2 years experience, ten years ago.

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  9. When I was looking for a job, I had nearly identical resumes posted at Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, and CareerBuilder. I got so much spam through Monster that I had to take it down.

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  10. The only site that the recruiters seem to know what they are doing is LinkedIn. I haven't taken any positions from there, but all the ones who have contacted me were at least in the ballpark and most pretty close on the position match. All the rest are terrible in my experience, Monster most of all.

    As for recruiters being bad, the problem is that most HR people everywhere are bad themselves. Once you have some experience at multiple employers, you realize that there are very few people in HR anywhere that know anything about science, hence most places feel free to burn money on recruiters in the hopes they might catch someone better simply from a wider net.

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    1. Almost every HR person I've ever met washed out of something else. No one aspires to work in HR, but it's a great place to move a bad accountant, bad salesperson, etc.

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  11. It's crossed my mind to feign interest for positions where I'm a wildly inappropriate fit, just to mess with the jerks who hire these fly-by-night agencies, and expose the incompetence of said agencies.

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  12. I hear you buddy! Same boat, keep plugging away, Good Luck!

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  13. Very interesting... in my recent experience with recruiters in the UK, the majority had scientific training. One had a PhD & some postdoctoral experience from a big name synthetic group that was right up my street, so we talked about that for a bit. One had training but it was certainly lapsed. Then there was one I emailed who didn't have a university ('college') degree - she didn't get back to me, though. None of them (far as I knew) were especially young, either.

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