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How To Build Relationships With Biotech And Biopharmaceutical Recruiters (With Email Templates)

How To Build Relationship | Cheeky Scientist | Pharmaceutical Recruiters

Written by Nikolett Biel, Ph.D.

What do recruiters do for a living?

I was attending a PhD jobs conference that was focused on writing industry resumes and giving industry interview presentations.

The owner of a recruiting agency was speaking.

He had worked in the biotech and biopharmaceutical industry for 20+ years.

He introduced himself and I started to wonder…

Am I really the only PhD in the audience who has no idea what recruiters do for a living?

As the recruiter started to talk, I quickly realized he knew the biotech and biopharmaceutical industries inside and out.

He also knew exactly which types of applicants industry hiring managers were looking to hire.

I took extensive notes.

After the conference, I shook my head and laughed at myself.

I was trying to get a job in industry but had completely ignored this critical aspect of the job search process—building strong relationships with industry recruiters. 

Sure, not all recruiters know what they’re talking about. But many do.

It was time I started finding and getting noticed by these recruiters.

Who Are Recruiters And What Do They Do?

Recruiters recruit. That’s what they do.

They specialize in finding the right applicants for industry positions.

Many recruiters are contracted by biotech and biopharmaceutical companies to identify top candidates for these companies’ job openings.

Companies may have their own, in-house, recruiters or may outsource the recruiting process to recruiting agencies.

In either case, a recruiter’s only goal is to bring in the best candidates possible to a company’s hiring managers.

Here’s the key…

Recruiters are great assets for job seekers.

Reaching out to and building relationships with recruiters is essential to getting an industry job.

It is one of the only ways to ensure that your resume gets into the hands of a hiring manager and not just some keyword scanner.

The more recruiter relationships you have, and the more you understand the recruiting process, the more successful your job search will be.

The problem is that many PhDs completely ignore the recruiting side of the job search process.

Most PhDs are clueless when it comes to who recruiters are and how they operate.

For example, did you know that recruiters have their own specialties?

Some recruiters focus on serving specific areas of the biotech and biopharmaceutical industries.

Others recruit for specific job levels, like entry level, director, VP, CEO, and so on.

In-house recruiters often focus on specific candidates.

In other words, recruiters and recruiting agencies are not one size fits all.

How To Follow Up With A Recruiter | Cheeky Scientist | How To Make A Cold Call

5 Keys To Building Relationships With Recruiters

Doing your homework on the company and position you’re interested in is not enough to secure a non-academic job.

You also need to do your homework on the recruiting agency that will best fit your needs.

You need to build relationships with these agencies and, more importantly, with individual recruiters.

The key is that most recruiters are NOT going to seek you out.

You must seek them out.

You must send emails, cold call, and follow up over and over until you’ve built a strong relationship.

Only then will you become known in the recruiting world and start having job offers sent to you personally.

Here are 5 tips for successfully building relationships with biotech and biopharmaceutical recruiters…

1. Find the right recruiters and get in touch with them.

The most important part of finding the right recruiter is doing your research.

Take your time to seek out the right recruiter or recruiting agency.

Don’t think of yourself as a beggar willing to accept the help of any recruiter.

Don’t have a poor academic attitude.

Instead, know your value and make the recruiters sell themselves to you.

You are a top candidate.

They get paid for helping companies hire top candidates.

You are doing them a favor.

Act like it. 

Be polite and friendly, but don’t be needy.

Here’s how to find a recruiter that’s right for you…

Most industry hubs will have several agencies that serve the local companies.

Some agencies cover several major cities while others cover a single, specific location.

Very often, agencies will list their top recruiters by their recruiting specialty, as in which jobs they recruit for and which candidates they are seeking.

Do your research, make a list, and get ready to reach out confidently.

2. Upload your resume to recruiting agency websites.

Once you have identified the agencies that are the right fit for you, start uploading your resume.

But, before you upload, make sure you’ve adjusted your resume.

Never give a recruiter the same resume you’d give a hiring manager.

Instead, create a special recruiter resume for each agency you’re targeting.

Professional recruiting websites will have information for both companies and job seekers.

Go to the job seeker portion of the website and create a job seeker profile.

Then, upload.

But don’t stop there.

Don’t do what most PhDs do and sit on their hands after uploading their resumes.

Instead, start networking.

3. Call the recruiter or recruiting agency.

Uploading a resume is not the same as building a relationship.

The only way to build a real relationship with a recruiter is to get on the phone.

Don’t make this a big deal.

You’re just calling someone on the phone.

It’s not an interview; it’s just a hello.

If phone calls make you nervous, practice by calling vendors.

Find the customer service phone number to some instrument or reagent you’re using in the lab and dial it.

Then start a conversation with the customer service representative that answers.

Ask him or her some questions about their product and then hang up.

Calling a recruiter is the exact same thing.

They are there to serve you and serve the companies they work for.

Again, act like it.

The initial phone call you make to a recruiter should be short and to the point.

Introduce yourself by telling the recruiter who you are and why you calling.

If you’ve identified a specific position that the recruiter is responsible for, simply ask if that position is still available.

If you have not identified a specific position, tell the recruiter why you feel her agency might be a good fit for you and then ask her if she agrees or disagrees.

From there, keep the conversation going by asking questions about the recruiter’s agency.

This means you need to do your homework beforehand.

Show her what you know by asking good questions.

This will leave her impressed and eager to hear back from you.

4. Follow up via emails and LinkedIn messages.

Emails and LinkedIn messages are a great way to follow up with connections you make over the phone.

Just make sure you’re writing the right kind of LinkedIn messages.

If you can’t find a recruiter’s email and if you’re not connected with him or her on LinkedIn, you can still reach via InMail by upgrading to LinkedIn Premium.

Here’s a template that has proven to be particularly effective for me and other Cheeky Scientist Associates

Dear {recruiter’s name}, 

I really enjoyed talking with you on the phone about XYZ company (and/or ABC position). 

I am very impressed with your agency and believe I am exactly the type of candidate you and XYZ company (and/or ABC position) are seeking. 

I’m looking forward to talking again soon. Have a great day. 


P.S. What is the best way to set up an informational interview with XYZ company (and/or ABC position)?

Following up with recruiters after your initial conversation is the most important part of the relationship-building process.

You can also use email and LinkedIn messages to contact recruiters who don’t have phone numbers listed online.

The best way to reach out in this way is by introducing yourself to the recruiter and telling her that you understand she works for “XYZ” recruiting agency and specializes in “ABC.”

Then write that you’re interested in a career in that particular field and would like to officially connect and start building a recruiting relationship.

Here’s a template that has proven to be very effective for contacting a recruiter for the first time…

Dear {recruiter’s name}, 

I hope you don’t mind me taking the initiative to contact you, but I am very interested in XYZ company (and/or ABC job). 

I’ve done my research and am impressed with your knowledge of the job market I am targeting. I believe that I would be a good fit for XYZ company (and/or ABC job) and would like to talk briefly with you about the next best steps. 

I look forward to talking soon. Have a great day. 


P.S. When might you be available for a short phone call? 

Send this first message, wait a week, and if you don’t hear anything back, follow up.

Don’t be afraid to follow up again and again if you don’t hear anything.

When you follow up, ask if you may provide any additional material to demonstrate your candidacy for the position.

5. Schedule a face-to-face meeting.

If you live in an area where recruiting agencies are located, start scheduling face-to-face meetings.

Recruiters want to meet you.

They want to get to know you as well as possible so they can make a credible recommendation to company hiring managers.

If the recruiter you’re talking to is reluctant to meet you, then lower the activation energy by telling them you’ll be in the area anyway.

Recruiters, and people in general, are much more likely to meet if you take away any pressure of them having to prepare for the meeting, any pressure of them having to “give” something back to you for coming all the way to meet them, and any pressure of having to sit for hours talking to some nerd (i.e. you 😉 ).

Here’s a template that has proven to work very well for setting up in-person meetings…

Dear {recruiter’s name}, 

I’ve really enjoyed our discussions about XYZ company (and/or ABC position). Thank you for all of your great insights and help so far. 

Are you free for coffee on Wednesday? It turns out I’ll be in your area for most of the day and would love to pop in for 5 minutes to say hello. No worries if you’re not available. Please let me know either way. 

I’m looking forward to saying hello. Have a great day. 


P.S. What’s your favorite kind of coffee or tea?

Again, in each of the above situations, don’t be afraid to follow up. Willingness to follow up is often how recruiters and hiring managers weed out potential candidates. Most importantly, always thank everyone along the way for their time. Thank every single recruiter, hiring manager, referral, and professional you talk to, even those who snub you. Getting an industry job requires thick skin. You must get out of your comfort zone and continue to put yourself out there again and again. It will be painful at first but over time, it will become easier. When you get the industry job of your dreams, you won’t even remember the pain. You’ll only remember your success.

To learn more about transitioning into industry, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association. 

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Nikolett Biel, Ph.D.

Nikolett Biel, Ph.D.

Niki is a Ph.D. with a background in oncology, hypertension, vascular biology, translational sciences and preclinical drug evaluation. She is currently a bench scientist in a pharmaceutical setting where she works on oncology drug target development. Besides science at the bench, Niki is passionate about patient advocacy and taking part in fundraising activities for various diseases. She has also taught and mentored undergraduate and graduate students both in class and the laboratory.
Nikolett Biel, Ph.D.
  • Kimball

    Yeah right, “Recruiters are great assets for job seekers.” This line is cent percent true. If we built a nice relationship with recruiters, it will help us to get new opportunities from industry. For that you must contact them by email or telephone and assure that you are the right candidate for this industry position. And then step by step you can create strong relationship with recruiters.

    • Niki Biel

      Exactly. Recruiters will bring you right to the hiring manager if they feel that you are the right candidate for the position.

  • Jodie May

    I like your idea of uploading different resumes to different agency by tailoring it according to their requirements. First, I afraid to call my recruiter, but as you suggest I tried calling them to just ask if there are any new specific position available or not. It’s just short and nice conversation with him. After a few months of nice relationship, he arranged an interview with a biochemical company for me last week. I already cleared the first round and tomorrow, I am going to the next round of interview. So it will be beneficial if you have good contact with your recruiter.

    • Niki Biel

      Fantastic! Excellent example of how important these relationships are. Hope your interviews went well!

  • Dr. Hopkins

    Exactly! Face to face meetings with your recruiters are very helpful for you if you don’t feel any pressure to meet them. Make sure that you prepared yourself for the agenda of the meeting and have all your documents and resume/CV with you. I think you have very nice and intelligent template for in-person meetings. After the meeting, all you need to do is to take follow up regularly with your recruiter. I am going to send this template to my recruiter and will set up a meeting next week.

  • SterlingPhd

    Great article! I never see such organized articles with in-depth details for PhD students. I am last year student of PhD in Electronics and TeleCommunication. Me and my PhD friends are now thinking of joining some recruiting agency so we can extend our contacts into industry and can get a good job. Now the first thing we are going to do is find a correct recruiter who can have contacts in the industry for my position. I will take care about your tips while meeting with my recruiters.

    • Niki Biel

      Glad to hear you are finding the Cheeky Scientist articles useful! When I was a PhD student and a postdoc I have read many of the blogs as well and found them extremely insightful. Keep up the great work!

  • Dr.Smith

    I was always looking for the email templates that are not only up to the point but also professional.I have tried writing emails, but I wasn’t satisfied with those, something was always missing.What would be better than this, which are provided by an industry person itself.Thank you so much for these samples, Dr.Biel.

    • Niki Biel

      You’re very welcome! I believe that writing the appropriate emails as you reach out to recruiters for the first time is so important to ensure a fruitful relationship to both the candidate and recruiter. Best of luck!

  • Bonita Gumb

    First of all I would like to thank you for your Industry Transition Article every week, it helps me a lot to learn about academia to industry transition.

    From this article I get to learn many things, especially how to send email or a LinkedIn message to your recruiters. Your sample template looks very effective, as I compare my current template with it. I have already prepared all my project work and research as a demonstration for recruiters, so it will assure them, I will be the best choice for specific positions.

    • Niki Biel

      Best of luck in building these important relationships!

  • Dr.Carter

    Thank god I came across this article in early stages of my PhD. I would not prepare myself for this,if I hadn’t read this, and would end up in unemployed, perhaps.But no worries, I have plenty of time to build a career base, thanks to you.I can contact plenty of industry people and recruiters,by the time I complete my PhD.

    • Niki Biel

      Great to hear that the article was informative and helpful! Can’t stress enough how important building these relationships are for you to advance to the next step!

  • LenaPhD

    I didn’t know recruiters have specialities,too.It’s good to hear, because that will make my approaches targeted and more effective.Otherwise it would be like shooting with closed eyes. Knowing this thing important because it’ll raise my chances of being contacted back, and will save my time and energy.

    • Niki Biel

      I didn’t realize that either at first. When I started looking for recruiters and recruiting agencies in areas where I wanted to find jobs, I was amazed at how different companies are. It makes sense, biotech and pharma come in many flavors and recruiters will be most effective at brining the right candidate to the hiring manager if they thoroughly understand the needs of the company. It would be extremely difficult to be able to recruit for all kinds of jobs and companies. Some agencies are very large and will specialize in many areas of biotech and pharma by having recruiters geared towards the different fields. Other agencies are smaller and will therefore have a smaller focus.

  • Dr.Brook

    I’ve been following cheekyscientist for a long time. So I know the importance of building a network. So I had this in mind, to contact recruiters, but I didn’t know, my that problem is solved,too. Now,I have email samples,too. That’s a great help one can get. Thank you so much for the article.

    • Niki Biel

      Good luck in building relationships!

  • Jack Dorce

    If two places have gap in between them, a bridge is required to go from one place to another. So bridge is necessary to be passed to go to another place.In real world scenario one place is you and another is a company and the bridge is recruiting agency, so we can’t ignore recruiting agency to go to corporate.It is equally important.

    • Niki Biel

      It is extremely important! Probably your best asset to take the next step in your career! 🙂

  • Elizabeth Campbell

    Fantastic article! I have just started the move into industrial sciences, and your article is definitely on point. I have found that ‘old-fashioned’ calling to specific biotech recruiters and setting up face-to-face meetings is the best way forward. It also seems a lot more efficient than emailing and hoping to get a reply!

    Thanks again for the great article, this series has been a wonderful source of information 🙂