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A Question for Recruiters

Some of you may enjoy See Arr Oh’s “Open Letter to Biotech Recruiters“. Or then again, you may find that you don’t enjoy it one tiny bit. Either way, it’s worth a read, and some thought.

31 comments on “A Question for Recruiters”

  1. Anonymous says:

    “It’s me, …” is OK and common although “It is I.” is more correct (predicate nominative).
    “How’s things?” may sound OK in the vernacular but it should be “How’re things?” (How ARE things?)
    Do you think that we in HR are going to pass along the paperwork of a highly qualified chemist who abuses simple grammar rules? We have to justify our jobs somehow and weeding out bad grammar is how we do it.
    CRO needs to go back to school and get a PhD in English for further consideration.
    Seriously, I don’t know what he’s been reading — or inhaling — but his “Back then [the 90s], doctoral degrees only took 4 years, and then you could jump out into a six-figure job …” section is false and delusional.

  2. Ted says:

    Hi:
    Chemistry graduates, at any level,are crazy to limit their search to biotech/biopharma companies.
    This is like watching someone beg to go to prison, or struggle to score a date with that really mean bastard…
    -t

  3. Anonymous says:

    #1: “Seriously, I don’t know what he’s been reading — or inhaling — but his “Back then [the 90s], doctoral degrees only took 4 years, and then you could jump out into a six-figure job …” section is false and delusional.”
    Are you sure? I know several people who did just that twenty years ago or so.

  4. See Arr Oh says:

    #1 – Your assertions regarding my grammar remain correct. I accept my chastisement. My bad, dude.
    (P.S. I met a bunch of the folks I described during my first internship. Six figures, signing bonus, no postdoc. Really)
    #2 – Interesting point: I’ve limited my job search thus far to biotech companies, pharma companies, fine chemicals, teaching positions, business development, government labs, consulting agencies, advertising, academic research professorships, analysts, venture capital firms, crowdfunding, legal firms, and editorial positions.
    Perhaps I should branch out more?

  5. Pfinally says:

    @1 – I think HR needs a little more sense of humor! He may be a little off on his 90’s mythology, but not really that far. When I started in big pharma in 2001 (in biology) chemists ruled! Bigger salaries, more of them in senior roles (at least in discovery), and loads of respect. Within 8 years it was almost reversed. And NOW – forget it, the MBA’s and finance drive it all. Of course this is my N of 1 example and experience. Interested in other views.
    PS – If I were starting over, I’d either go to med school or get a degree in economics/finance and play that game.

  6. Suggestion says:

    @Arr Oh: Have you considered creating your own job by starting your own company? Otherwise, why should you expect a job over those just as needy but with more experience? Either get to the back of the queue, use your own connections to get to the front, or create your own job. Those are your 3 options.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I know exactly how he feels. I’m in the same position except I have a BS with 28 years of pharma experience. Company is circling the drain and I actually don’t even get paid very well at all for that many years experience. Even worse, my resume makes it hard to hide that I didn’t get to the PhD level. So they won’t interview me for a non-PhD position and they won’t interview me for a PhD position. And I’m 50 too, another strike. And I don’t live in San Diego, Boston or San Francisco either. May as well throw myself on a sword and get it over with.
    Here, let me practice, ‘Would you like some fries with that?’

  8. paperclip says:

    @1 Dude/dudette, chill. See Arr Oh wasn’t actually sending this to a recruiter or HR person. I’m sure it was just meant as a way to let off some steam in a colloquial fashion.

  9. Anon says:

    @5, medschool/denistry school is where its at. They have been limiting their degree output and putting up huge blockades for international prospects.

  10. Oldnuke says:

    The MBA cachet is fading fast, as are the prospects for new law school grads.
    Hot air will only get you so far. Excepting political careers.

  11. Hap says:

    Have you considered creating your own job by starting your own company? Otherwise, why should you expect a job over those just as needy but with more experience? Either get to the back of the queue, use your own connections to get to the front, or create your own job. Those are your 3 options.

    I can’t imagine why people aren’t lining up for science degrees – spending ten (or more) years in school (with debt for at least four of those) to get a job in the riskiest and possibly least financially rewarding* way is soooo attractive!
    *I am assuming that most of the payouts go to the VCs – some will end up with upper management, thought, and onto the endless teat, at least if you make enough friends. Maybe that should be the STEM-encouragement line – “Spend lots of time in school, make lots of friends, and you too could milk your unfortunate investors out of their retirements in style.”

  12. NoDrugsNoJobs says:

    I’m guessing the oil industry would be a pretty good place for an organic chemist to look to branch out into. Might take some additional coursework in chem engineering or oil engineering but I’m guessing they are hiring with all the frac work going on, just a guess.

  13. Chemjobber says:

    I don’t know about oil and gas chemistry per se, but boy, if you are a synthetic chemist with experience with guar gum, now is your time!

  14. Woz says:

    At least there’s still a need for chemists to develop new legal forms of recreational drugs. Or so I’ve heard.

  15. Quiz says:

    According to Francis Collins there is no problem with over supply of PhDs. He’s actually instating more funding for programs to increase diversity….I guess all those H1Bs and international postdocs don’t count towards his specific kind of diversity…

  16. RD says:

    @7: Been there. I worked at a PhD level position at my last job for 8 years before I was laid off. I don’t have a PhD and actually think they’re kind of overrated.
    Every recruiter I talked to liked my skill set but told me I didn’t have a prayer without a PhD. So, I did some consulting work and bided my time. I just got hired again in a full time position. I’m doing the same work as before but not for a major corporation and for a lot less pay. The good news is I don’t live in NJ anymore so I’m saving a lot of money.
    So, it’s not hopeless. In the end, I think we’re all in the same boat no matter what degree we have.

  17. RD says:

    @7: Been there. I worked at a PhD level position at my last job for 8 years before I was laid off. I don’t have a PhD and actually think they’re kind of overrated.
    Every recruiter I talked to liked my skill set but told me I didn’t have a prayer without a PhD. So, I did some consulting work and bided my time. I just got hired again in a full time position. I’m doing the same work as before but not for a major corporation and for a lot less pay. The good news is I don’t live in NJ anymore so I’m saving a lot of money.
    So, it’s not hopeless. In the end, I think we’re all in the same boat no matter what degree we have.

  18. Anonymous says:

    @5, @8: Anonymous #1 noting that I recognized CRO’s sense of frustrated humor and that I am not HR. The standard route is for resumes to pass thru HR for filtering so God help you if you use terminology or abbreviations that HR wasn’t told to look for … or use the wrong color paper. (OK, colored paper was before e-submissions, but you know what I mean.)
    Sorry CRO: there is a PhD glut, at least in chem, and everyone IN the boat knows it. I wish I had a better answer for you and the rest of us but I don’t think this sinking ship has enough life preservers. Use your connections as best as you can.

  19. Ted says:

    Hi CRO:
    No offense, but I’ve worked at six locations in my ~20 years. Big pharma, small biotech, contract work – everyone got a shake. Five resulted in layoffs. I’ve also been through three mergers that didn’t result in layoffs – that’s why I refer to “locations” rather than “jobs.” My employers have been US-based, UK-based and German-based.
    This is a tough business, and it’s getting tougher every day. My last employer closed our US site because pharma isn’t profitable “enough.”
    I’m sorry you’re having trouble, but you are in about as good a position as it gets. The older you are, the more experienced you are, the more reasons employers have to NOT hire you. It’s screwed up, but there you have it. Try getting a job as a PhD forest ecologist…
    All but one of my jobs came through networking. Real networking. Like, “the job description appeared after I interviewed” networking. Despite the taunts above, you might consider medical writing (very tough to break into, but AMWA can help), technical writing, patent agency (ugh…) or consulting work. Rather than cooking fries, have you considered analyzing oil uptake at various temperatures by potatoes of differing starch content?
    One very gracious poster on this very board contacted me about an opportunity at one point, probably because I managed to write something that inadvertently made me sound knowledgeable. Nonetheless, you have to get serious about beating the bushes for opportunity. Writing is the best way to increase your visibility.
    I spent one of my unemployed stretches consulting with a biodiesel manufacturer. Nothing came of it, but it did give me some interesting insight to continuous processing techniques.
    There are no full time jobs left. They’re all temporary now.
    Good luck,
    -t

  20. InSilicoConsulting says:

    Breaking bad! 🙂

  21. See Arr Oh says:

    Ted, Anon #1, RD – Thanks for the candid comments. Agree that it’s a situation facing just about all scientists right now, and that networking might be the only way to climb out.
    This thread also maintained an air of professionalism and dignity, for which I’m grateful.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Keep firing out your CV; make sure you highlight in your resume skills that make you unique to other applicants. Eventually someone will bite but it may take some time. I finished my masters degree last summer and after 6 months unemployment I’ve found a job at a CRO doing some cool chemistry. The salary ain’t bad (I wouldn’t turn down more though!) and its exactly what I’ve wanted to do since before I left school at age 18

  23. Aerrigad says:

    I understand CRO’s point. I was advised after undergrad NOT to pursue a PhD for just that reason – too many in too small a field.
    I am (thankfully) employed… in Pharma. And I have had at least one coworker who didn’t list her PhD on her resume when she applied just to be able to land a job!

  24. Xero says:

    Just because some ppl in my company have been working here for past 7-8 yr are team leaders (they joined on masters and just finished phd thesis btw); while even after doing a post-doc I (couple of others) even after completing 5 yr here are on bench. Shame on pharma companies, really!

  25. Teddy Z says:

    @#23…I am curious about that because I have always felt it was lying not to list the Ph.D. Way back when after my first layoff I thought about it when applying for a job as a ticket reseller, but I listed it. What do others think?

  26. paperclip says:

    @25 Yes, it is deceitful to leave it out. Ethics aside, you could get in trouble if your employer finds out, and claiming to have done nothing during the time period you worked on your PhD won’t look so hot on the resume, anyways. Best to be honest and make the case that you are not overqualified and will not be itching to jump ship.

  27. Mylz says:

    @6
    Very Bateman-esque question to ask. “Why aren’t you connected, experienced, and wealthy enough to start your own business?”
    You acknowledge that someone got their early career caught in the down market cycle, that they lost out on money, experience, and connections (AKA – necessities for entrepreneurship). Also probably got caught in the long-term-unemployment downward spiral of hiring. You also imply (properly) that no one cares about stunted career growth and these are the 3 available options.
    But, despite that, your first suggestion is entrepreneurship. Starting a small pharma company or maybe consulting. With few connections, little industry experience, and little money. To a person you acknowledge lacks the experience to get hired for a pharma job.
    It seems more insulting than inspiring.

  28. Suggestion says:

    @27: Sorry, my comment was really meant to be inspiring, rather than insulting.
    Perhaps this definition might help:
    “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of creative new opportunities *despite* limited resources”.
    That includes limited finances, experience, and also contacts. In any case, one can only use what they have, or have not, so why not think of more creative ways to do this?
    I’m not saying that entrepreneurship is easy by any means, but it can be very rewarding in terms of personal/career development. It’s just one option (and possibly the only one in the current market), but it’s always good to keep an open mind, and follow your dreams despite the hurdles.

  29. Mylz says:

    @28
    Thanks for the clarification.
    I’ll simplify my point to calling it something of a Catch-22, particularly in pharma.
    Of course optimism is good, and entrepreneurship always an option to keep in mind.
    Maybe seeking out jobs with new entrepreneurs at small start-ups as a learning experience would be a good path. It suggests a way around the Catch-22, rather than the bare implication of running headlong into it. This might be a more optimistic/effective way to present the idea to the disaffected.
    /all with a grain of salt
    //good to understand your point of view

  30. Suggestion says:

    @28: Your proposal to team up with other (current or potential) entrepreneurs and/or small start ups is a great suggestion.
    Either way, if one doesn’t have existing finances, experience and contacts, one must be creative to build these over time by leveraging what everyone does have: ideas and time.

  31. kemist says:

    Don’t underestimate how many job postings are just branding or H1B visa justifications. These HR depts are just laughing at all the resume submissions.

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