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5 Tips for Working with a Recruiter in Medical Affairs

A job search can be a very daunting experience for most, whether it was your decision to find a new job or you were forced to find something new due to outside circumstances. Having a specialized recruiter to help walk you through the process can be extremely beneficial, especially in Medical Affairs for MSL roles where the interview process can be unique and time-consuming. As someone who never personally used recruiters before I became one, I know there are many others out there who don’t truly understand the most efficient and effective ways to use recruiters. Below are some tips that can hopefully be useful for you the next time you get a call from a recruiter, whether you’re actively looking or not looking to make a change at this time.

1.      Have a quick chat

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard from MSLs that they get calls from numerous recruiters on a daily basis, overflowing their voicemail box. One great tip to try to avoid this is to quickly respond to the recruiter letting them know your interest level, even if that is a “No, not interested”. Once a recruiter has touched base with a candidate and understand where they are in their career, timeline, or what motivates them, they should take the lead from what you have shared with them. You’d be amazed at how a quick 5-minute call with a recruiter could lessen the volume of calls you get!  Also, if you are able to have a quick call with that recruiter, you will be able to gauge the ones you might want to work with.

2.      Share your goals and motivators

Do you know what type of company culture you would be looking for if you were to move? Are you looking for growth in your next role? Does that growth entail people management or a strategic focus? What therapeutic space is your passion? If your recruiter has a strong understanding of what gets you out of bed every morning, they will be able to keep you in the loop on opportunities that only check those boxes. If your recruiter doesn’t have a full picture of your motivators, they will be shooting in the dark on what type of role would excite you, which could make you feel like you are getting flooded with irrelevant opportunities. Giving your recruiter your goals will help them limit the contacts to you for only really exciting companies or roles.

3.      Find a specialized recruiter to be your point of contact

The MSL space is unique for many reasons, so having a specialized MSL recruiter will help you immensely. That recruiter will be well connected in the industry and be able to tell you things that maybe aren’t on job descriptions. Also, how many countless smaller pharmaceutical and biotech companies pop up every couple of weeks? It makes it very hard to keep up with for the candidate, which is where a specialized recruiter can be vital! A recruiter’s job is to know the market and different companies out there. At SEMbio, we follow science and our staff knows what cool companies to watch for and where they may be in the hiring process. If you have a recruiter who knows your drivers in terms of the science, they can keep you in the loop on those innovative companies for when the time is right for you to move.

4.      Be open to sending your resume/CV

When a recruiter asks to see a resume or CV of yours, even if you aren’t currently looking, it can seem like an invasion of privacy. I’m here to try to debunk that! If you have identified a trusting recruiter, it’s beneficial for you as a candidate to share your resume with them for many reasons. As an MSL in particular, understanding a candidate’s scientific background for a recruiter is the best resource they can have in addition to your goals/motivators. Many in medical affairs have an intricate scientific history that can be translated into various therapeutic spaces, which helps your recruiter match more exciting opportunities to your background. Also, the more familiar a recruiter is with your background, the better they are able to advocate for you! Lastly, sharing your resume with a recruiter at SEMbio ensures that you have one point of contact here, which once again can decrease the number of random voicemails you get from recruiters on positions that are of no interest to you. If you are nervous that a recruiter may not keep the resume to themselves, make sure to ask them to ensure that is the case! At SEMbio, we can guarantee resumes are not shared with anyone without permission.   

5.      Tell us what’s up!

It is our hope that our candidates always feel that they can be candid and honest with us. Your recruiter should be an extension of you, and it can be difficult for both parties if we don’t have transparency and trust. We want to help you find a job that you’re excited about and one that will make sense for you- but we’re only as good as the information you provide to us to work with. We view our relationship with you as a true partnership, so please always be upfront with what you are looking for and what you are not, including compensation. We don’t take it personally if a position might not be a fit, or if the timing isn’t right, or if the compensation doesn’t line up with your needs. We understand there are many facets to a position being a great match, and we want to make sure we’re checking those boxes for you. 

 Even if you aren’t looking or you just landed a new position, no one has a crystal ball to know what the future holds (especially in medical affairs!). I always encourage MSLs to keep in touch with their recruiters so if timing ever does change, you have someone who knows you and can work with you quickly and efficiently. Also, if you have had an awesome experience, spread the good word about your recruiter. All recruiters are not created equal and if you have a great advocate in your corner, don’t be shy to pass along their information to any colleagues or friends of yours who could benefit from having them as a resource.

Questions or comments? Email me at

Author: Heather Barlow, Senior Recruiter

Heather graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with a Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience (BCN). A native Texan, she moved back down to the warmer climate to start a career path in the healthcare field. She always had a strong passion for science and helping others, which is how she landed at SEMbio in March of 2018.