Written By: Cathy Sorbara Ph.D.
When I decided to leave academia, it wasn’t a calm, rational decision.
I left running.
I was trying to leave the stress of academia as far behind me as possible.
But, this frantic job search was not advantageous to me.
Networking seemed too hard, so I submitted my resume to as many online jobs as I could find.
It didn’t take me long to realize that this was not the way to get an industry job.
I took a step back.
I started networking the right way — by adding value.
But, I was always unsure of how to talk with recruiters.
How could I add value to them?
How would I know who to contact?
How could I convince them I was the right person for the job they were advertising?
I knew that recruiters would be able to help me get a job, so I wanted to figure out how to approach them.
With a little help, I realized that networking with recruiters is completely different from networking with other industry professionals.
Once I was doing things the right way, I started getting interviews through my recruiter contacts.
It was wonderful.
How Contacting Recruiters Will Boost Your Job Search
If reaching out to recruiters is not already part of your job search, you are missing out on a huge resource.
Recruiters work directly with companies who are looking to hire.
One recruiter will have many job positions that they are recruiting for.
So, by speaking with one recruiter, you make yourself known as a candidate for several positions all at once.
And, the recruiting industry is booming.
The recruiting industry has nearly tripled in the last decade, going from $8 billion in revenue to nearly $20 billion today, according to Bloomberg Business.
This increase is due, in part, to the dramatic increase in the number of jobs available.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 9.8 million jobs will be added to the US economy within the next decade.
There is a record high number of jobs available, and recruiters are filling many of these positions.
Recruiters can work for a recruiting firm that sources jobs for several companies, or they may work for an in-house recruiting department and source candidates for one company.
Large companies tend to have their own in-house recruiters.
Since there is currently a high demand for new hires, now is the time to reach out to recruiters and let them know you are a great candidate for the positions they have available.
Recruiters are very influential in the hiring process.
If a recruiter doesn’t like you or your resume, then the hiring manager will never even see your resume.
It is essential that when you reach out to recruiter on the phone, via email, or via LinkedIn, that you make a good impression.
But, reaching out to a recruiter is different from reaching out to an industry professional.
You must make sure you are approaching recruiters appropriately.
5 Mistakes PhDs Make When Reaching Out To Recruiters
It should be a part of your job search to reach out to industry professionals and ask for informational interviews.
This is a great way to network and learn more about the industry positions that are right for you.
But, when reaching out to recruiters, you should not ask for informational interviews.
The method to successfully approach a recruiter is very different from the way you would approach another type of industry professional.
Many PhD job seekers do not know the correct way to approach a recruiter.
Here are 5 mistakes to avoid when reaching out to recruiters…
1. You try to make small talk with the recruiter.
First of all, recruiters are busy people.
They will have many jobs they are recruiting for and explicit deadlines for filling these positions.
They are not interested in small talk.
It is their job to connect job seekers with appropriate job openings.
Your conversation with a recruiter should be direct and concise.
In a general networking situation, your first LinkedIn message to a new contact would be a place to add value.
You would send them an article you think they might like, or congratulate them on a recent achievement.
With a recruiter, this is unnecessary.
The recruiter is interested in whether you are a good candidate or not.
Your first interaction with them should tell them directly why you are a good candidate for the positions they are trying to fill.
This does not mean that politeness should be sacrificed — you can be direct and respectful.
2. You contact recruiters who work in a field not applicable to you.
This may seem like an obvious mistake to avoid, but it is very important.
Companies will be recruiting for positions from receptionist to lead research scientist, so it’s essential that you are speaking with the correct recruiter.
To figure out what type of positions a recruiter usually fills, you will need to do some research.
Look at their LinkedIn — what types of positions are they normally advertising?
Also note — where are the positions that they normally recruit for located?
If you are not interested in the majority of jobs or locations they have previously advertised, this is not the right recruiter for you to contact.
The better the fit you have with a recruiter, the more likely they are to select you as a candidate they recommend to the hiring manager.
3. You ask about one specific position.
Do not target your message to a specific job that the recruiter has advertised.
This is especially true if you are not the greatest fit for the position you want.
The recruiter likely has many positions they are looking to fill, some of which they may not have advertised.
Maybe they have an unadvertised position open that is perfect for you.
If you target your message to one job, and the recruiter doesn’t think you are the right fit, they may overlook you for other positions.
This is a unique approach and in other situations, your resume should be targeted to the specific position that you are applying for.
By sending a more open-ended message, you give the recruiter the opportunity to use their expertise and match you with a position.
Don’t miss out on opportunities by sending a recruiter a message or resume targeted to one specific job opening.
4. Your LinkedIn profile is unprofessional or your resume is too long.
Usually, you will be reaching out to a recruiter via LinkedIn.
So, it is very important that you have a professional and complete LinkedIn profile.
Academia may have made you think that your LinkedIn profile is not important — this is wrong.
Nearly all recruiters use LinkedIn and will screen you out if your profile is bad.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure your profile looks professional before you reach out to recruiters.
The same thing goes for your resume.
You should attach your 1-2 page results-oriented industry resume to the message you send a recruiter.
This should include a list of your relevant technical skills.
But, if this resume looks more like a CV and contains irrelevant information, it will turn the recruiter off.
5. Your message is missing key information.
In addition to being direct, the message you send a recruiter needs to contain the right information.
Recruiters get paid based on the people they hire.
So, they want to know right away which job or jobs you might be the right candidate for.
There are 6 things your message to a recruiter should include: job type, desired location, description of your background, results-oriented experience, special skills, and contact information.
(There is an example of an appropriate message to send a recruiter that includes each of these parts below.)
The first two things to include are the job types you are interested in and your location.
The job type you include should be a generic job type such as project manager, communications, or research scientist.
Do not mention a specific job title, as this will limit your options.
Instead, write the broad job categories that you are interested in.
Your location is essential information that the recruiter needs to know about you, so make it easy to find.
Clearly state your location in the first or second sentence.
Next, you should include a broad description of your PhD and/or postdoc focus, as well as highlight a key transferable skill.
You want this brief description to be a one-to-two sentence synopsis that makes you seem like a great candidate for the types of positions you are interested in.
Recruiters need to know that you have the required experience and skills to get a job done.
So, you need to include a results-oriented description of the relevant experience that you have, like a mini resume that highlights your biggest or most important experiences.
On this same note, are there key skills you have that would set you apart from other candidates?
List your special skills in a bullet format, so the recruiter can see them easily.
The last thing to include is your email and phone number at the end of your message.
Leaving your phone number lets the recruiter know you are serious, and gives them a way to contact you immediately.
Bonus example of an appropriate message to send to a recruiter
Thank you for connecting with me on LinkedIn. I am in the process of looking for a Project Manager/Research Scientist opportunity in Boston/New England. I would love to speak with you about any opportunities you may know of at your earliest convenience, and have attached my resume for your review and consideration.
If you know of someone in the Boston area who may be a good contact, please forward my information along to them. I appreciate your kind help.
I have a PhD in Oncology/Molecular Biology with 10+ years of Mass Spec, Data Science, Cross-Functional, and Project Management experience. I am very personable and enjoy working in a team-oriented environment. I am able to work in positions asking for an MSc or BS as well.
My experiences include:
–Developing cross-functional relationships with other PhDs, MDs, project team leaders, budget departments, and tech transfer professionals to get large-scale, team-oriented projects done (we raised $100K in grant funding this past year and got 5 papers published).
–Innovating 3 new methodologies for detecting B cell lymphomas earlier (this involved collaborating with two other labs and led to a joint grant of $1.25 MM).
In addition, I have 5+ years experience providing volunteer services and customer service in general, via various philanthropic organizations.
–Biomedical product and market knowledge
–Commercial acumen and understanding of current trends in health care
Thank you very much for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible via the contact details provided.
*Attach a 1-page resume with technical skills section (2 pages at most)
Recruiters are a great resource to use during your job search. Recruiters will have many job openings that they are recruiting candidates for, so by talking to one person you gain access to multiple job opportunities. But, you must make a good impression on the recruiter by approaching them in an appropriate way. Make sure you avoid common mistakes when reaching out to recruiters, such as: trying to make small talk, contacting recruiters from a field unrelated to your target jobs, asking about only one specific position, having an unprofessional LinkedIn profile or resume, and not providing the recruiter with the information they need in the very first message you send them. As a PhD, you are valuable and recruiters can connect you with opportunities that you may not have been aware of otherwise. Just make sure you reach out to them in an appropriate way.
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