Medzilla.com discusses making the transition to biotech recruiting

Marysville, WA - May 22, 2002 - Biotechnology recruiting is hot. It's more active than IT and telecommunications and it isn't suffering the shortages in other areas of healthcare, says Frank Heasley, PhD, President and CEO, of MedZilla.com, a leading Internet recruitment and professional community that targets jobseekers and HR Professionals in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and science.

Still, according to Dr. Heasley and other biotech recruiting professionals, it may not be the time to jump onto the biotech bandwagon. There are things that recruiters who are thinking about making the leap should know.

"A lot of recruiters have been thinking about biotech recruiting as a safe haven until their own sectors come back to life. But what most people don't know, is that it's among the toughest recruiting areas to break into," Dr. Heasley says. "We have seen a lot of people from IT and other industries having problems moving into biotech before they were properly prepared."

Learn the language of biotechnology

Veteran biotech recruiter Tina Hunter Stewart, President of Tampa, FL.-based BioPharmMed, an executive search firm specializing in medical device, biotech and pharmaceutical, warns that biotech recruiting is different than other recruiting areas because many hiring officials are at the PhD level. "Most do not have tolerance for recruiters who do not clearly understand the language of biotech. So it requires recruiters who have either come out of a biotech background, or have a very clear understanding of the regulatory requirements, clinical and scientific requirements and are able to speak the language of biotech at least on a conversational level," Stewart says.

Understanding the vocabulary is not only necessary when dealing with clients, Stewart says, but also with job candidates. "Recruiters have to be able to identify candidates and determine if they have the technical expertise necessary. Biotech is probably the most stringent area to get into. I think medical device and pharmaceutical is a little easier to pick up," she says.

Dr. Heasley, who holds a doctorate in bacteriology and was a biotech recruiter for five years before launching Medzilla.com in 1994, recommends that recruiters get to know the field and have a life sciences or healthcare background. "Some sort of background in the life sciences or healthcare is almost a prerequisite so that the language isn't foreign to you," Dr. Heasley says. "I would hate to be the person who doesn't understand this field calling up someone at the NIH, for example, and asking them to refer people. Communication is essential to the recruiting discipline. If you can't ask the right questions, then you can't expect reasonable answers."

While Susan L. Metayer, principal staffing consultant at Rockville, MD.-based Biotech Resources, a permanent staffing agency specializing in the bio-pharmaceutical industry, thinks biotech recruiters need to be knowledgeable, she doesn't think that the field is quite so daunting. "I have a colleague that I worked with at a telecommunications staffing agency and he had gotten into the biotech side. Basically, he did it because the telecommunications industry is dead in the water right now. He's doing well in biotech," Metayer says. "He has done a lot of research on the Internet, and I've been helping him out as much as I can. I think that if you have the background of recruiting it takes some studying and knowing the right people. Use contacts that you already have in the industry as a resource to increase your knowledge base."

Find the right candidate for the right job

According to Metayer, client companies are very specific on the type of background that they are seeking. For example, she says, recruiters should not try to fill an MD opening in an oncology trial with an MD who has a background in allergic diseases. Even for mid-level clinical research positions, clients want people whose backgrounds match the focus of the trials.

The option of doing what you know in biotech

Stewart says that she has seen recruiters going through a difficult transition period while moving into biotech, which requires the same high level of knowledge and professionalism as the fields they already know. "I have a lot of IT recruiters calling me constantly because I'm on a couple of boards. Many of them want to get into this business but they don't know how to do it or they're nervous," she says. "What I try to tell them is
that every pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device company has an IT department and those departments will need your expertise. Why should you learn the biotech scientific area and try to transition from placing IT people to placing scientists and researchers and the like? Instead, stick with what you know."

Understand the industry

The shortages troubling other areas of healthcare are not so prominent in biotechnology, says Stewart. Still, there are some areas of shortage. "In biotech, we're finding that in the areas of clinical research and regulatory affairs there are shortages of available candidates. So, biotech companies are resorting to a lot more contracting and consulting
arrangements in those positions to offer flexibility and be able to staff up when they're in the middle of different phases of clinical trials," Stewart explains.

Stewart remarks, "We see somewhat of a turnover in the executive ranks at the VP, president and CEO levels. Companies are continually trying to attract new and different talent to their senior ranks to help them reposition their companies or to try to attract someone who has a presence in the industry who can lend them credence."

For those who are qualified, biotech offers rewards

To be successful in any business, one has to enjoy the industry, Metayer says. "I find biotech very exciting. The advances in medicine are fascinating," she says.

Dr. Heasley commented, "While they were challenging, the years I spent as a biotech recruiter and executive were rewarding. The industry makes a difference in people's lives, and, as a result, those who work in it need to be knowledgeable. They, in turn, expect the best from the recruiters they entrust with finding some of their most valuable professionals. At MedZilla, we work closely with pharmaceutical and biotech decision-makers, recruiters and job candidates on a daily basis. We are enthusiastic about the near and long term prospects for growth, discovery and contribution to the greater good in these fields."

About MedZilla.com
Established in mid 1994, MedZilla is the original web site to serve career and hiring needs for professionals and employers in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, science and healthcare. The MedZilla jobs database currently contains about 10,000 open positions. The resume databank currently contains approximately 7,500 resumes, less than three months old. These resources have been characterized as the largest, most comprehensive databases of their kind on the web in the industries served.


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