Navigating the Hidden Job Market: Advice from a Recruiter (Part Two)

Did you know that 80 percent of jobs never get posted or advertised? This is what some refer to as the hidden job market: jobs that are offered to people already known within the industry. As we discussed in part one of our blog series on breaking into the biotech and pharma industry, networking and making connections could be the best way to get your foot in the door.

In part two, we discuss the ways in which you can start building a network of valuable contacts, how to work with a recruiter, and how to prepare for and execute your interview.

Building a Network

After connecting on LinkedIn with employees and hiring managers at a company you wish to work, try to take online connections offline for more conversational interaction, such as through a Zoom call or phone call until in-person meetings become safe. Remember to avoid asking directly for a job, but rather get curious, and ask these contacts about their role, what their company is looking for, or learn more about the projects they’re working on.

It’s important to make networking a habit, says Caskey, so try to set a goal to connect with someone new every day.

In addition to using LinkedIn as a tool, Caskey offers a rundown of local and national networking events available to job seekers:

  • BioBuzz
  • Maryland Tech Council
  • Women in BIO
  • SoPE
  • Alumni groups
  • Company hiring events
  • Trade shows/conferences
  • Associations

If you’re unable to find company leaders or other access points into a company, search for biotech and pharmaceutical recruiters on LinkedIn.

Working with a Recruiter

Recruiters are a great resource for job seekers, but Caskey admits there is a certain approach to working with them. Recruiters typically are more transactional versus relationship-oriented. That could mean that if you reach out and they don’t have a role available that requires your skill set, there may be a lull in a response.

If that is the case, follow up either weekly or on a biweekly basis to keep your name top of mind. If it’s been a considerable amount of time, it may be best to work with other recruiters.

When getting in touch with a recruiter, know exactly what you’re looking for and know your  elevator pitch, which should briefly promote your interests, experiences, and area of expertise. For example, be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What is your motivation for a new job and your end goal?
  • Why are you passionate about what you want to do?
  • Why are you a good fit for the position?

If the recruiter sends you a job description prior to the conversation, review it in depth. Show up with talking points regarding the company, the role and how you’d be a good fit.

If you don’t have experience in a certain area required, be sure to bridge the gap between past experiences. For example, you might highlight something you accomplished in your graduate program, showing that you have foundational knowledge in the field, and also explain that you would be willing to put in the work and any additional research to develop a new technique or skill.

The Successful Interview

If you’ve impressed the recruiter, they will likely refer you to the company and set up your first conversation with human resources or a hiring manager. Keep in mind that most interviews have transitioned to an online format, such as via a phone screening or an interview in the form of a video call.

Caskey offers a few simple tips for making a great impression on the interviewer:

  • Do your research prior to the interview (i.e., know the job description, hiring manager, company information).
  • Prepare questions.
  • Find good cell reception and a lack of background noise.
  • Have your resume in front of you to refer to.
  • Speak clearly and slow down.
  • Show interest; enthusiasm is important.
  • Always follow up with a thank you email.

Do not get discouraged if getting the job, or even the interview, takes time. Caskey recommends that a new graduate start searching for and applying for careers three to six months prior to graduation because breaking into the industry can be a lengthy process. In addition, you should factor in another 30 to 90 days, the average time it takes to get through the entire interview process.

By prioritizing networking as a job-finding tactic, you will put yourself in a good place to land a job since most new hires are hired via referrals. By following the steps in part one and by building your network and using a recruiter when necessary, you are bound to get a foot in the door.

Leave a comment with any feedback or recommendations you have for job seekers looking to break into the biotech and pharmaceutical industry.