image credit: Andy Foster
Tina Persson, based in Sweden, worked as recruiter and talent sourcer for 7 years, connecting scientists with industry employers, specifically in life sciences and IT sectors. Having experienced life as an academic (Professor at Lundt University until 2006), she is perfectly placed to understand what academics want, and how she can help them. In this interview I asked Tina if she could tell us a little more about what a recruiter is, how academics can work with one and how they can benefit from the relationships that form.
Tell us a little bit about your background as a recruiter.
I started my career as recruiter after leaving academia, where I had been an Assistant Professor in the faculty of chemistry, and the move was seen by many of my fellow academics as a failure. My first year as recruiter was a mental struggle, because of this feeling of failure, but I got through it with the thought that as an academic recruiter outside of academia, I could support more academics in their career development, compared to being a Professor.
As recruiter I quickly realised I was so much more than just a scientist! I could transform most of the soft and technical skills (analytical thinking, being self-driven, hard-working, ambitious, goal oriented, used to dead-lines, coordination experience, project management and trained in computer tools) that I had picked up in academia into useful skills. I did find that I was missing a few of important skills like team management, business-mind-set, sharing attitude, working with a blend of people with no academic background amongst others. But these were simple to learn on the job.
What I did have was an understanding of many of the struggles that scientists face, from getting their CVs noticed by industry professionals to analysing their own transferable skills. With this background, I felt that I could help support those other PhDs and postdocs looking to transition into a career outside of academia.
What is a recruiter and talent sourcer?
A recruiter is a salesperson with an aim of matching your profile to a specific job position. Recruiters also look for future prospects, so if you have an interesting CV they will store it for future possibilities. Recruitment is all about business, so approach your recruiter as a business partner, not as a coach or therapist.
If you need advice about your personal brand, on-line presence, your CV or anything else career related, use a certified job coach with documented experience in your field. Recruiters are very busy and their calendar is not only booked with client and candidate meetings but also a vast amount of administration tasks. In addition, they spend a lot of time cold-calling to ensure a future pipe-line of prospects.
A sourcer is someone that identifies passive candidates (those not actively searching for new jobs) by using social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and various application tracking systems (ATS), for example Naturejobs, Monster and CareerBuilder (there are many more that specialise in specific research fields).
If the sourcer thinks your profile is an interesting one, they will store your CV or profile. When a recruiter or company comes along looking for someone to fill an open position, they can match your CV to it and pass it on to the responsible hiring manager. If you are contacted by a sourcer it’s worth being interested and listening to what they have to say. Be open-minded and avoid closing any doors.
What are the priorities or a recruiter?
Most recruiters work on mission-basis and therefore their drive is to fill as many job openings as possible with prospective candidates. Their salary is bonus-based and the more placements they close the higher the bonus. So, if you have an attractive CV that the recruiter can use, they can make a quick placement. But if you have a CV they don´t understand or that’s too long and academic, they won’t spend time reading it.
When receiving CVs for a job, what is the selection process like to find the best candidates?
Recruiters often use a computer system developed for organising job openings and for simplifying the applicant selection processes. As a candidate you apply by registering your CV and shortly after you get an automatic mail reply with the message “Thanks you for your application”.
Depending on the number of applications received, the recruiter might spend around 7 to 60 seconds looking at a CV in the first round of selection. This round is primarily based on key words that match job add requirements. The challenge most academics face is that they are missing important hard and soft skills on their CVs. As you have only 7 to 60 seconds to impress the recruiter you must write a CV including important key words matching the job you are applying for.
How can a young scientist looking for a job benefit from working with a recruiter?
In the short term a young scientist can learn from a recruiter’s activities on internet, particularly from those active on social media. This is what I call passive networking. Some recruiters are very active, sharing job openings and career tips on things like CV writing, interview techniques and future job and market trends. From the job adds they share on social media, you can get tips on job titles, skills requirements and terminology used for certain job positions. This information is important when transforming your first academic CV to one suited for industry.