Friday, December 10, 2021

The Great Resignation has hit industrial chemistry: quits and recruiters

From the inbox, these observations (redacted for privacy, lightly edited for readability) from KV: 

I work at a [redacted - large] site of a well known global CDMO.   We are losing people left and right.  I know turnover at CDMO,  water is wet.  However, I wonder if it is different this time.   Historically, people have quit to take new jobs for promotion,  more money,  being poached by competitors, etc.

Now, people are quitting without having new jobs lined up. It was shocking to me. And while mostly it is the under-30 crowd, some mid-career staff have done the same.

I keep hearing this "Great Resignation" talk and wonder if it is real, and how all these people have the money to just quit with no back up plan.

Also, I will report an uptick in recruiters contacting me.

(Incidentally), what is with all these recruiters contacting me for jobs that I am not even a match with.

If I had a dollar for every scut QC job I get offered even though I'm [a synthetic chemist] and most of them are offering salaries I wouldn't have accepted 20 years ago.

You want me to move to southern California for an entry level QC job that pays 40k, when my resume says I have 25 years of experience? You are just wasting everyone's time.

Has recruiting become so lucrative that everyone is starting a recruiting company?  I remember getting contacted by recruiters that had degrees in chemistry and engineering that knew the difference between analytical and organic. Now it's all people with [non-science] degrees.

Overall, I agree with KV - it feels like there is a lot of turnover. I feel like I'm seeing it on LinkedIn and in my work inbox. My general theory has always been that private sector chemistry is pro-cyclical, and we are not immune from bad shocks. We may also not be immune from trends that are seemingly an aspect of rising tides within our industry. 

It would be interesting to know if there are higher job quits in the pharmaceutical/chemical industry than other sectors, or on average, but I'm pretty sure that's not something that can be gleaned out of JOLTS data. 

Finally, I'm too am quite tired of recruiters who are contacting me for jobs that I am a very poor fit for. There was a moment this summer when, all of a sudden, the quality of the recruiters I was speaking with shot up significantly, and they were actually offering me positions that fit well. Sadly, that's not the case anymore - my most recent communication with a recruiter, regrettably, ended with "you are wasting my time, and yours." 

I do suspect that recruiting is one of these industries where the entry-level requirements are quite low, and therefore the turnover rate is incredibly high. I imagine that recruiting firms (like anyone else) will take someone who can fog a mirror these days - more's the pity. 

Readers, what say you? 


  1. Regarding The Great Resignation and quitting without a backup plan: speaking for myself, I find that life sometimes annoyingly offers up no-win situations, and maybe this is what drives some people to quit without a concrete plan. For example: what is the "winning" choice between continuing to work in a toxic environment or foregoing one's income for an indeterminate length of time? Neither seems like a "win" to me. Furthermore, I suspect the conditions of the pandemic and lock-down have changed people's view of the balance between considerations in situations such as these.

    For the record, I haven't quit (yet...) but these kind of things go through my mind.

    Regarding recruiters, I think one problem is the typical issue of incentives. A recruiter's client is the firm whose position(s) they are trying to fill, not the job-seeking candidates. Since they get paid after placing people, there's the incentive to cast a broad net just to hopefully find someone who can do the job. Couple that with many recruiters coming in from a variety of backgrounds, and the chance of a good match go down. I can understand this, although I don't like it.

    What I don't understand is this: aren't these recruiters embarrassed when they reach out to candidates who tell them the position is a non-match? Or worse yet, have a candidate (maybe desperate or as-yet unsophisticated to the process) tell the recruiter to go ahead and submit their materials, only to have the client ask them what they were thinking sending such a poor match? I guess there must really be a lot of churn in that industry, as CJ already indicated.

    In my relatively little experience in working with recruiters, I have had two (one independent and one corporate) who were very selective and knowledgeable contact me years ago. I also had one who left me scratching my head as to what in the world they saw in my background that would make me a fit for the job they contacted me about (and there were other suspicious things that time). I had one who was in the middle - not as clueless as the last, but not as sophisticated as the first two.

    1. I am good friends with someone who is probably around 30, married, his partner did not work, and has 2 younger kids; he's highly intelligent and was already looking for jobs I want to say late last year through Q1 to early Q2 of this year. Their job was at a CDMO in pharma but highly toxic, insane workload, zero recognition and a 24/7 facility that was "proud" to brag to clients about running on holidays. His job was supporting manufacturing so holiday work was somewhat standard for him. One day he got assigned something else on top of his already insane workload and he just straight up said "I quit" and left. Never came back. As I said, he already had applications out there and had an offer at a company roughly 1000 miles away from his residence, maybe 3-4 weeks after he quit and started another 2-4 weeks after the offer. But he was certainly not well-off financially speaking but was tired of the toxic environment.

      I have been in two positions like my friend, but both times, I made 100% certain I had passed the background check and drug screenings and have written confirmation from my new employers that I was ready to start before putting in notice at my current employers at those times.

    2. "Regarding The Great Resignation and quitting without a backup plan: speaking for myself, I find that life sometimes annoyingly offers up no-win situations, and maybe this is what drives some people to quit without a concrete plan"

      This is what happened to me exactly in 2018. I was in my first job, a very low-paying management consulting job close to my parent's house (where I was living at the time after finishing my PhD), when the CEO randomly decided that he was going to close the office here and relocate to the Bay Area, where the COL is obviously much higher. To make matters worse, the company offered 0 relocation assistance and no adjustment to the salary. I also did not find the work very engaging and got very little recognition for my efforts in the company, so I took it as an excuse to leave after just 1.5 years. I left without having another job lined up, and it took me exactly a year (almost to the day!) to get my next, current job. My starting salary at my current job was also 25% higher than what I was getting before, so the wait was totally worth it.

      It is funny that the job market is so red-hot now - I'm getting swamped with interviews and recruiter messages, and the thought that keeps going through my mind is "where the f**k where you guys when I was actually unemployed and desperately looking for a job?!?".

  2. With regards to recruiting being lucrative: I personally know someone who works as a recruiter for the coatings industry and this person claims to make a minimum of $300k a year for the last 10ish years now. They are mid- to late-career, used to work in that industry and has a lot of quality contacts and identifies quality talent, which is quite the opposite of what KV has experienced and even myself (with garbage QC jobs for someone who is well-qualified for something "better"). I forget the exact details of how this person charges for their recruiting work, but I know it was a portion of the hired person's salary (I seem to recall between 75-100%) paid either in a one-time payment or over a period of time.

    1. That sounds about right. A former colleague used to be an executive recruiter in the small and large pharma environment. His commission was 50% of the annual pay of the filled position. He knew everyone in the industry, so he was usually raking in more than the executives he placed.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20