Three recruitment agencies tell Yfke Hager their job hunting tips, and explain how they can lend a helping hand

Finding your dream job can be difficult, especially during a recession. So getting the professional help of  a recruitment agent can really make a difference.

Access all areas

It’s important to realise that many vacancies have limited circulation, says Adam Isle, director at Hudson Shribman Scientific Recruitment. ‘If you’re registered with an agency, you’ll have access to roles you wouldn’t otherwise hear about,’ he says. Dominic Graham, professional and technical director at Kelly Scientific Resources, agrees. ‘Temporary positions can be a good way to get a foot in the door,’ he notes, ‘and these are often only advertised through agencies.’

Peer to peer guidance

According to Mark Wilkie, operations director for science and medical recruitment at Matchtech, the best agencies employ recruitment consultants with a scientific background, which means they can provide expert advice. It also means they can talk to candidates on an equal footing, says Graham. ‘They can describe the technical requirements of the job and understand the candidate’s experience.’

Practice makes perfect

Good recruitment agencies conduct mock interviews to help with a candidate’s preparation. ‘Competency-based interviews can really help candidates with the real interview by giving them a chance to prepare coherent, targeted answers,’ says Isle. And recruitment consultants will offer constructive feedback to help candidates improve their performance, Graham adds.

Industry insights

Recruitment consultants in specialised agencies spend all of their time networking with science businesses and candidates. ‘They can provide unbiased, expert advice on industry trends, and on the best options for driving a candidate’s career forward,’ says Wilkie. Isle notes that this insider knowledge means that consultants do the legwork for you. ‘They can identify the roles that most closely match your profile, which dramatically increases your chances of securing an interview.’ Graham points to the Kelly Global Workforce Index, an annual survey conducted by Kelly Services, as an example of how agencies disseminate information about the global workplace.

Flaunt your scientific skills…

If your degree class wasn’t as good as you hoped, it can be tempting to leave it off your CV, but you’re actually doing yourself a disservice. ‘Recruiters will assume the worst, and the details will come out during the recruitment process anyway,’ says Isle. Make sure that any relevant work experience is prominent. ‘Don’t just write chemistry BSc, but add details of any work placements or sandwich years,’ he suggests. ‘Anything that helps the recruiter recognise your hands-on experience is extremely useful.’

…and your soft skills

‘When clients have multiple candidates to choose from, the job is often offered to the one who fits best with the team dynamics and who offers long term potential,’ says Wilkie. ‘So when a recruiter interviews a candidate, they will initially explore the science to ensure that there is a suitable match, before probing the less tangible attributes like communication and teamwork.’ Graham concurs, adding that modern graduates are expected to be able to communicate well within their scientific discipline.

Be selective

Don’t apply relentlessly for any job going. As a recruiter, it’s frustrating to be bombarded with the same CV regardless of whether the job is chief executive or a cleaner, says Isle. It’s a common mistake, agrees Graham, and gives an air of desperation. In a candidate-saturated market, employers are choosing carefully and are likely to keep searching until they find an excellent fit. ‘By investing the time to draw out how their expertise complements the job description, candidates portray themselves more professionally and applications will be received far more favourably,’ says Wilkie.

Do your homework

Before sending that application, research the role and the company. ‘This demonstrates enthusiasm, desire and commitment – key qualities that every employer looks for, and that can set a candidate apart,’ says Wilkie. Use LinkedIn to research the professional history of your interviewers, suggests Graham. ‘And prepare some questions – but not just about salary!’

Attention to detail

Your first contact with an employer makes a big impression, so make sure it’s a positive one. Don’t cut and paste from previous applications, and make good use of that spell checker. If your application is riddled with typos, says Isle, it won’t inspire confidence that you’re as detail-focused as scientific employers expect their staff to be.

Hang in there

If it’s taking a while to find your dream job, don’t despair. Recruiters are keen to hear from good chemists. ‘It’s a qualification that’s well thought of, and a very worthwhile career choice,’ says Isle. ‘Stay patient, motivated and confident,’ says Wilkie. ‘It can be a frustrating and emotional time, but the best candidates are those that portray themselves positively and professionally.’