In The News

St. Petersburg Times

All Aboard

By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer

ALL ABOARD: Holland America Lines celebrated its 20th year in Tampa by throwing a luncheon Nov. 16 for the Children's Cancer Center on the cruise ship Veendam. The cruise line donated the food, and 47 crew members gave up their day off to help. Their tip: four-hour phone cards from the organizers.

Waiters passed champagne and hors' d'oeuvres in the Rubens Lounge while Tampa Tribune scribe Steve Otto hosted a silent auction. Lunch and a live auction followed, emceed by WFLA Channel 8's Brian Fasulo. A tour of the ship included the penthouse with butler's quarters where cruisers can host a private party at sea.

The more than $160,000 raised at the event will help children being treated for cancer or chronic blood disorders at bay-area hospitals.

Chairwoman and Chairman of the Board of The Childrens Cancer Center Tina Hunter Stewart said it all: "Kids should fly kites, not fight cancer." discusses making the transition to biotech recruiting

Marysville, WA

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, 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 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."

shrm.gif (13852 bytes)

Working with Recruiters

Trust and values set the tone for a successful HR/Recruiter relationship

By Mike Kappel
Top Echelon

Human Resource professionals know that relying on Executive Recruiters to fill top-level positions is a part of the hiring game. In fact, HR pros at mid-to-large sized companies typically have budgets specifically allotted for using Recruiters.

Since interaction with Recruiters is often inevitable for filling senior level positions, HR pros must be savvy in choosing the recruiters with whom they work.


When partnering for a Retained Search or important contingency search, HR pros need, above all else, to trust their Recruiter. Your Recruiter should show clear signs of business acumen, not simply sales skills. Good Recruiters have their fingers on the pulse of the marketplace; they should be able to speak intelligibly about the movers and shakers in your industry, and they should be on top of general market trends as well. But most importantly, they should come across as sincere and trustworthy.

"Ethics, not greed, should be at the forefront of your Executive Recruiter’s agenda," said Tina Hunter-Stewart, President of BioPharmMed/BPM Resources, an Executive Search Firm specializing in the Telecom, Biotech, Medical Device and Pharmaceutical Industries. "Reputable recruiters strive to develop long-term relationships with companies, rather than push for one-time placements."

Good recruiting outfits should have solid testimonials from their clients; reputable search firms are proud of the quality work they do, and they keep lists of references readily available for prospective companies.

The best way to establish trust with a recruiter is a face-to-face meeting. This should be done for all high-level searches, whenever time permits. HR pros are analytical people by nature; questioning the recruiter until you’re satisfied you’re choosing the right person to conduct your search is time well spent.

Value-added services

Recruiting fees can be hefty, so make sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. Good recruiters check all references up front, and never "float paper," or send a résumé to a client if the candidate hasn’t already been interviewed in-depth.

"We recently performed a CTO search and carefully reviewed over 150 candidates worldwide before presenting 6 finalists to interview with my client company," said Hunter-Stewart. "This work was grueling, but I felt good knowing we put the absolute best possibilities in front of my client." Hunter-Stewart points out that her time spent on the extensive search freed up her client company’s HR team to tackle the many other tasks on their plates.

Recruiters also perform the near-magical act of finding passive candidates; these candidates aren’t looking for jobs and definitely aren’t reading the Sunday want ads or Internet job boards.

"Recruiters must know the top candidates in the industries they work," said Hunter-Stewart. "By aligning ourselves closely with senior executives, we know where companies are headed, what their long-term staffing needs will be – even who’s about to retire.

"With our eyes glued on the industry, we know what companies are set to do before they do it, and can often line up potential candidates before the job opening is created."

A good recruiter will also assist her HR counterparts in the all-important issue of employee retention. The best recruiting firms follow up with candidates they’ve placed months before, to ensure the candidate and the client company are getting along.

"I don’t feel my job is done after the candidate is hired," said Hunter-Stewart. "I have an ongoing dialogue with the Human Resource professionals at my client companies to ensure both parties remain happy, and the candidate stays with the company for the long term."

Relocation is another value-added service that the best recruiters will handle. Stewart actually functions much as a realtor would, checking out area schools, cultural life and homebuilders. She’s even chatted with candidate’s teenage children about their needs….since this age group can often nix a potential move!

"The area to which a family is moving is just as important as the position for which he or she is interviewing," said Hunter-Stewart.

Recruiters can also help determine why companies can’t hire the people they want. Perhaps your interviewing process needs tweaking, or your benefits aren’t in line with the industry standard. Or maybe your location isn’t conducive to keeping single people happy. Whatever the problem, recruiters can uncover the answers and streamline your hiring process.

Understanding your corporate culture

Recruiters deliver the most value when they are intimately aquainted with their client companies.

"Ideally, a recruiter grows to be seen as a part of a corporation’s culture," Hunter-Stewart said, "and is relied upon to help above and beyond placing candidates." Hunter-Stewart works with HR and Senior Level Management at her client companies to actually help define positions.

"I may have a candidate whose credentials exceed that of the company’s position opening," Stewart said. "Often times my clients will redefine who they are looking for around my candidate, and bring on a more talented person with a greater skill set than initially anticipated." Operating at this level inside a company requires a strong knowledge of the company by the Recruiter. And a strong trust of the Recruiter by the company.

Stewart develops this trust by getting to know many top managers at her client companies. Management and HR then feel comfortable that Hunter-Stewart knows their business, and is capable of finding the best candidates.

"Once this trust is established and a client company is confident with my firm’s ability to do the job and see every search through, we can create a mutually beneficial synergy that propels both parties forward," said Hunter-Stewart.

Hunter-Stewart personally visits many of her client companies to absorb the spirit and feeling of their corporate cultures.

"Since all companies are different, Recruiters need to be in tune with each client company’s respective needs," said Hunter-Stewart. "When HR professionals see the time I take to get to know and understand them – as people and as a company – all friction melts away and a great working relationship is established."

Executive Recruiters can save HR pros time, effort and money. Just be sure to base your selection on the ethics, reputation and value-added services the recruiting firm has to offer.

Mike Kappel is the president of Top Echelon. Founded in 1988, Top Echelon is the world’s largest and most profitable network of recruiting firms. Top Echelon has been creating technology employment solutions for 12 years.