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Recruiter asking for a referral: What are they really saying?

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Recruiter asking for a referral: What are they really saying?

Postby Nate W. » Fri Jul 31, 2015 8:47 pm

Recently, I received an email from an internal recruiter asking if I knew of anyone qualified for two positions. This has happened several times in the last year where a manager has asked for a referral and I was adequately qualified for the position. Often I try to help out and locate a qualified candidate I know. But why should I help them out in these cases? Are they really going to return the favor?

I am wondering if the recruiter is really asking me if I was interested in the position. It appears they are having trouble finding a local candidate with the right scientific background. The scientific expertise required is quite specific to a given disease state. However, the position requires post-doctoral experience in this field and an additional MBA (maybe neg.). However, I have the expertise, publications, and I am local but I don't have the post-doctoral experience and MBA.

Rather than trying to help out my colleagues, I think I am going to apply for this position and not provide a referral even if they say no. Since options are so limited here, I am quite reluctant to forward these job specifications to scientists in my local network.

Next time this happens, I am not going to provide a referral unless I am absolutely not interested. Otherwise, I am going to take first dibs on the position.

What is the recruiter really trying to say?
Am I being reasonable?
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Re: Recruiter asking for a referral: What are they really saying?

Postby Dave Jensen » Sat Aug 01, 2015 11:18 am

No, that's not reasonable.

Why not just ask the person when they call or write, "Am I a fit for this position? If not, can you share where the mismatch is occurring?"

I always ask the people I turn down for a job if they know others, and the people who respond back favorably with ideas, or who I know forwarded on my job description, they earn brownie points in my opinion! I will always help them out. This is a "I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine" kind of process . . . that's the way it's always been, and it will continue to work that way.

Your attitude Nate is going to earn you nothing. You'll at least be in line for a favor from that person if you assist them. If it's easy, why not? Good networkers help other good networkers, and the cycle is repeated to both parties' benefit.

Dave
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Re: Recruiter asking for a referral: What are they really saying?

Postby Nate W. » Sat Aug 01, 2015 12:00 pm

Dave Jensen wrote:No, that's not reasonable.

Why not just ask the person when they call or write, "Am I a fit for this position? If not, can you share where the mismatch is occurring?"

I always ask the people I turn down for a job if they know others, and the people who respond back favorably with ideas, or who I know forwarded on my job description, they earn brownie points in my opinion! I will always help them out. This is a "I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine" kind of process . . . that's the way it's always been, and it will continue to work that way.

Your attitude Nate is going to earn you nothing. You'll at least be in line for a favor from that person if you assist them. If it's easy, why not? Good networkers help other good networkers, and the cycle is repeated to both parties' benefit.

Dave


Dave, thanks for the reply. Over the years I have helped numerous people in my network and even those I don't know. However, rarely have I received much help from those I don't know, especially recruiters, even when I have helped them.

Previously, I helped a contact I didn't know. They took the lead and gave it to a friend who beat me out for a position I was truly interested in. I am a firm believer in the motto, "you scratch my back and I'll scratch your back." In my experience, rarely do strangers reciprocate, especially in a tight job market. They are more interested in their own financial concerns. Why should I put their financial needs ahead of mine? Thus, I am reluctant to help complete strangers who write me out of the blue and that I have never met.

My thought is why did they ask me. This organization has many more contacts in the field than I do and can easily reach out to KOLs in the field. The community of life scientists here is extremely small and can be quite insular; I can't afford to throw back good leads.
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Re: Recruiter asking for a referral: What are they really saying?

Postby Dick Woodward » Sat Aug 01, 2015 3:01 pm

Nate:

I strongly suggest that you read an article that Dave Jensen and I wrote on "The Care and Feeding of Executive Recruiters"; you can find it at http://www.contractpharma.com/issues/2008-01/view_managing-your-careeer/the-care-and-feeding-of-executive-recruiters/. It points out that with recruiters, they do remember the people who helped them - and the people who did not.

When recruiters contact you, it is often because they received your name from someone else. As a matter of professional ethics, they almost never reveal the name of the referring person unless they have specifically been told that it is OK.

I cannot tell from your post if the contact that you did not know but helped out anyway was a recruiter or just some random person. Helping out recruiters is generally a good idea, and gets you on their radar. Helping out a total stranger is a bit more problematic, as you are effectively giving a reference to someone that you don't know.

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Re: Recruiter asking for a referral: What are they really saying?

Postby Nate W. » Mon Aug 03, 2015 10:17 am

Dear Dave and Dick,

I'll let you judge for yourself. This is an internal recruiter that found me on LinkedIn and knows that I have significant expertise in the desired disease state (and contacts in the field). I don't know this individual and nobody in my network mentioned my name to him. Here's the email:

"Dear Nate,

I am currently recruiting for two X opportunities. Would you please review the attached positions and let me know if you might be able to refer someone to me?

We are based at X. Should someone not be local, the position can be remote as well. Feel free to forward this attached job descriptions."


I don't see anything in this email that suggests he would reciprocate. Thus, it is presumptuous of him to assume that I should help him locate qualified candidates for these positions w/o any form of reciprocity. I thought this was his job, not mine.

If the request was restated as follows, I would probably help him out:

"Dear Nate,

Recently, I saw your online profile and was struck by your expertise in X. Thus, have you considered applying for a position at X? I am recruiting for two positions that might be a good match for you or someone in your network.

I don't know if you are currently looking for a job. Please review the attached job descriptions and let me know if you are interested. Otherwise, could you help me with any contacts in your network that might be interested?"


This same situation happened to me previously. An external recruiter contacted me about a sales position that I wasn't qualified for. However, there was another position where I was well qualified. So, I tried to horse trade with him. We made small talk and covered the expectations of the desired position. Then I steered the conversation towards the other position I was interested in. I was going to help him if he submitted my name for the other position. However, he refused and then went ballistic when I told him that I didn't know anyone.

When dealing with recruiters, the conventional advice is that candidates shouldn't expect the recruiter to find a job for them because they work for the client.

Why then should I be expected to help the recruiter find qualified candidates for a position or hand over my network to help him w/o any an offer of reciprocity?

A good salesman never hands over his best leads to the competition. I am tried of the games recruiting middlemen (HR and recruiters) play. Frankly, I don't know what they teach in HR recruiting school but he missed the lecture on politeness.

For this position, I am going to write to the medical director and ask for an informational interview. If it goes well, I'll ask about the open positions. I'll just turn this into a positive and make lemonade.

PS: Jokingly-----Maybe I should ask him for a finder's fee?
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Re: Recruiter asking for a referral: What are they really saying?

Postby Nate W. » Mon Aug 03, 2015 1:28 pm

The email came through LinkedIn. The recruiter provided no contact information. No email, no phone number, no address. I provide a phone number on my LinkedIn site.

If he really wanted to help and build relationships, pick up the phone! Geez, this guy is a recruiter. A good networker attends meetings, makes phone calls, and really gets to know people in the field as well as their needs. Only then can he build the right relationships where reciprocation occurs. He beats the bushes for leads and doesn't hide behind email making unsolicited requests to do his job for him w/o anything in return.

Someone professionals are just lousy at networking.
Last edited by Nate W. on Tue Aug 04, 2015 3:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Recruiter asking for a referral: What are they really saying?

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Aug 03, 2015 2:34 pm

Nate, I thought that you are a MS scientist. This position requires a PhD and postdoctoral experience. Do you have those?

I send out emails like this as well. It's easy to get into the habit. But, in reality, you're right. Phone calls are better.

But there is indeed reciprocity built into every element of our day-to-day communications as recruiters. I wouldn't hesitate to take a call from anyone who has helped me. If someone buzzed me off as you are implying you might do, than good luck getting ahold of me at anytime in the near future (if I were that recruiter, that is.)

Can't you see that this is just how it works? Also, company employees in HR are taught NOT to "direct recruit." He may have INDEED been "fishing" to find out if you were interested. I think I suggested this before -- why not just say, "What about me?" in a call or email.

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Re: Recruiter asking for a referral: What are they really saying?

Postby Nate W. » Tue Aug 04, 2015 2:37 pm

Dave Jensen wrote:Nate, I thought that you are a MS scientist. This position requires a PhD and postdoctoral experience. Do you have those?


It is hard to tell from the job description if one of the positions requires a PhD and/or post-doctoral experience. I have a problem in that I appear to be a PhD level scientist on paper. Thus, I am always asked to explain wny I only have a MS and a bunch of publications. I hate answering this question because I know that I will be not judged holistically or fairly no matter how I answer it. There is a good explanation but it is not something that I would talk about to a prospective employer. No, I didn't fail my prelims. My thesis resulted in three publications. The loss of funding and the unethical conduct of a coworker resulted in my PI being asked to leave which resulted in everyone losing their jobs. The department head washed his hands of the situation because he thought my boss was a jerk and had seized the grant. No matter how I explain this, honestly, it will be viewed as a negative, resulting in no job offer. Plus, when answering this question, I feel like I have to cover for my former PI and this coworker.

In regards to this position(s), I know the field quite well since it is directly related to my thesis and publications. So, I am quite confident that I can help this organization or any medical affairs efforts related to my expertise in certain fields. I have 26 credit hours in graduate pharmacology courses in addition to my 32 credit hours from my graduate degree. This is more than a typical PhD program. I have authored six publications which includes two first author papers in the fields of hepatology and molecular physiology. My background and the situation related to my former lab is what is; people will either accept it or reject it for what I don't have. A PhD is an entry level degree for most alternative career paths for those with a life science background.

This is part of the reason why I am trying to make a transition to the business side of biotech. People in these areas tend to be less judgmental about my background and respect candidates with productive experiences, not just degrees or certifications. Despite my best efforts to reconcile this situation, I couldn't find a solution. Plus now, my former PI is asking me to help him with a phenotype I published in a paper that was key to him getting back his grant. Between this request and prospective employers asking about why I don't have a PhD, I am getting down right frustrated. After 2 years away from this lab, I am just trying to forget this and move on as best I can.

Recruiters or generalist HR folks routinely screen me out because they have a box checking mindset and don't any understand the science. Thus, they can't draw distinctions among candidates. It is a plug and play mindset. Just having a D degree will not make me any more qualified than I already am. Recruiters will never be able to see this regardless of what I accomplish professionally.

Any thoughts?
Last edited by Nate W. on Tue Aug 04, 2015 3:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Recruiter asking for a referral: What are they really saying?

Postby Nate W. » Tue Aug 04, 2015 2:47 pm

Dave Jensen wrote:I send out emails like this as well. It's easy to get into the habit. But, in reality, you're right. Phone calls are better. Dave


Yes, they are. I can get done more with a phone call than a string of emails or tweets.

In this situation, it was just bad form for a recruiter to expect me to help him with his search. That's what he is paid for, not me.

As an experienced lab manager and patent analyst, I realized in my career that you have to give a little in order to get something in return. You can't expect people to do your job.

Often I had post-docs trying to get me to do their experiments; I would either horse trade with them or tell them to do their jobs.

Nobody likes a freeloader.
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Re: Recruiter asking for a referral: What are they really saying?

Postby Nate W. » Tue Aug 04, 2015 3:00 pm

Dave Jensen wrote:But there is indeed reciprocity built into every element of our day-to-day communications as recruiters. I wouldn't hesitate to take a call from anyone who has helped me. If someone buzzed me off as you are implying you might do, than good luck getting ahold of me at anytime in the near future (if I were that recruiter, that is.)
Dave


There is no offer of help mentioned in his email. He could have worded it differently and got a much better reaction from me.

There is a difference between you asking me for the same favor and a complete stranger asking me for unsolicited referrals. Even though we haven't met, I have contributed to this forum since 1998 and have read many of your posts. I also know that you have a solid reputation in the industry and are actively involved in the industry. Further, you handle mostly retained searches; so I know that you have legitimate contracts with biotech companies and that you aren't just fishing for resumes to spam around to companies where you don't have contracts.

Thus, I trust what you are saying and your reputation in this industry.
Last edited by Nate W. on Tue Aug 04, 2015 3:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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