It is hot. No, not the summer heat but the MSL/Medical Affairs job market. The value of the MSL role was highlighted during the stay-at-home orders of the pandemic when MSLs were able to gain and maintain access to physicians. Despite the pandemic, physicians still had patients to treat and still needed the latest scientific data to guide their treatment decisions. Companies realized that investing in the medical team yielded returns on the investment in terms of access, sharing of data, and patient outcomes. The research and development of new treatments, especially in rare diseases, has also increased the demand for experienced MSLs. Both factors lead to the expansion of existing teams and the creation of new teams. With many new opportunities available, Medical Affairs recruiters have been busy finding talented candidates to submit for consideration.
After an influx of emails via LinkedIn touting new, dynamic, and exciting opportunities, I became curious about what opportunities I may be missing by disregarding the emails. I had not previously worked with a recruiter, and I began to hesitantly respond back to the emails that interested me. Through these initial contacts, I quickly realized that not all recruiters are created equal. I ultimately worked with a recruiter who was experienced, credible, energetic, and passionate about her work. Through our efforts together, I am moving onto my next MSL role and feel fortunate to have worked with such a dynamic individual who guided me through the process.
Since I had no experience in working with a recruiter, I learned as I went through the process. Here are a few things that can increase success in working with a recruiter.
- Know what level of service you want from a recruiter and what level of service the recruiter can provide. Do you want only an introduction to the company, or do you want guidance and support with each step of the hiring process? Do you want to be a part of the negotiations when an offer is made to you, or do you prefer the recruiter negotiate on your behalf? The level of service may vary from company to company.
- Know your current salary and the equity you have with your current company. Recruiters are compensated by the hiring company based on the salary you are offered so you can feel confident that your recruiter will work to negotiate the highest salary for you regardless of your current salary. If you will be leaving equity behind, your recruiter can share this information with the hiring company’s talent acquisition team.
- Ask about the recruiting company’s relationship with the hiring company. The job posting may be available to more than one recruiting firm. In an ideal situation, the recruiting company has a proven track record with the hiring company which can help your candidacy for the opportunity. Through their previous work with the hiring company, a recruiter can influence the hiring process. Be selective in your choice of companies.
- Assess how well the recruiter knows your LinkedIn profile during the initial call. A good recruiter will have carefully reviewed your profile and matched your abilities and interests with the role. If you feel like you are only a “number” to the recruiter, this could foreshadow how the working relationship may be. You must be comfortable with the recruiter and confident in their ability.
- When you share your CV with the recruiter, ask for any suggested changes to be made by you or approved by you if the recruiter makes the changes. It is also important to understand if the recruiter will only share your CV with the hiring company you are discussing. Some recruiters may share your CV with other companies without your consent and you may have no interest in working for those other companies or in those therapeutic areas.
- Be honest, open, and flexible with your recruiter and expect the same from your recruiter. If you are working with another recruiter or are preparing for a final interview, you can share that information. You can keep the details to yourself but sharing where you are at in your job search can create a sense of urgency for the recruiter.
- Be accountable and follow up with your recruiter after each step with the hiring company.
- Be patient. My favorite saying is “patience is a virtue but not one of mine” and going through the hiring process requires patience and understanding. Do not assume the recruiter is ghosting you if you do not hear back from the recruiter in the time frame you would like. The recruiter may be waiting to hear back from the company on your candidacy. No news does not always mean bad news; it may just mean there is no news to share.
- Ask colleagues and other MSLs about their experiences in the recruitment process and ask for recommendations.
- After working with a recruiter, continue to stay in contact and maintain the relationship that you have already established.
Numerous podcasts and webinars are also available on how to successfully work with recruiters. Pursuing another opportunity is exciting and nerve-racking all at the same time. A talented recruiter can make the process feel much easier with their experience, guidance, and encouragement.
Angela Valadez, PharmD, MBA
Angela Valadez, PharmD, MBA, joined Alimera Sciences in May 2019 as the Medical Science Liaison for the Central States Region. Angela has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Kansas and a Master of Business Administration from Baker University. With a passion for using evidence-based medicine to guide treatment decisions, Angela has worked with physicians throughout her pharmaceutical career to manage patient care and impact health outcomes. She was named an MSL Rookie of the Year Finalist in 2020 and was named MSL of the Year for Alimera Sciences in 2021.