BLUF: Do companies post job advertisements on various online sites (trade specific and linked in) that they have already hired someone for?  Is it worth applying for these jobs (assuming that they are recent posts?)


So I am working on PhD right now in chemistry and there is someone who is finishing right now and looking for a job.  He is searching for openings in industry (as opposed to a post doc position and Academia.)  As he looks for jobs he keeps saying it is pointless to put in a resume for the jobs at the well known companies because any job they post online they have already filled and his resume won't even get read?

 This doesn't make any sense to me.  What company would pay someone to post a job search online knowing who they were already going to hire?  And then pay someone to deal with all the inquiries that would be associated with that search?  

When I tried to point this out to him he just acted like I was naive.  I told him that I would still be applying to those jobs and following up with the people.  Any insight from someone at a big company like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, GSK, or J&J would be appreciated?


Kevin1's picture


Up front caveat: I have no insight into your industry.  In IT, I think it can be true, sometimes.  Some organisations are fully intent on filling a vacancy with an internal promotion.  They have rules though that enforce all vacancies to be internally and externally advertised in order to be able to show some kind of 'due diligence' was done in the recruitment process. 

In no way would I think that it is always the case that the jobs aren't real, nor would I even suspect that most of them are not real.  I suspect it would only be a very small %.  

The odds are surely better that applying for advertised roles will lead to eventual employment as opposed to the alternative of not applying for all the advertised roles.

Kind regards



BariTony's picture

First, some background about myself. I have a PhD in Biochemistry and used to work at Novartis. I spent 10 years in early discovery before transitioning to medical communications in an agency setting, so I believe I have some insight on your situation.

First, please check the news sites about announced layoffs. Also, check out some blogs that are followed by researchers in the pharma industry. One of the best is Derek Lowe's "In the Pipeline" blog. The noise level in the comments section is pretty low. Also, Pharmalot and Fierce Biotech are good sources of info. Avoid Cafe Pharma at all costs.

I've heard from my former colleagues in research that some of the companies you mention currently have hiring freezes. This includes BMS and GSK. The manager may have been "given" the head count, but when they go to hire, find out from HR that they can't send out any offer letters. In general, you should avoid companies with hiring freezes, as these usually precede layoffs. Merck just announced major cutbacks and they are currently in the process of layoffs. Pfizer is closing down its Groton, CT site. Do some research on a company's product pipeline and recent FDA approvals. A number of companies have thin product pipelines. Avoid those that have had recent FDA rejections of NDAs that were expected to be blockbusters. Layoffs often follow in short order.

In all honesty, chemistry is viewed as a commodity by management in pharma, and the industry in general isn't all that healthy. Merck, for example, has decided they are too big and are planning to cut 40% of their employees worldwide in the coming years. More and more of the early discovery work is being outsourced to China and India. The last stats I saw showed that pharma R&D has lost over 300,000 jobs since 2008 in the US, so there is a huge glut of chemists with pharma experience looking for work. When the recession began in 2008, 1/3 of the 600 or so publicly traded biotechs had less than 6 months of cash on hand, and investors have been reluctant to put more money into small pharma/biotechs. That means that most of the small pharmas and biotechs, private or public, have closed their doors in the past 5 years. 

I would suggest looking into alternative career paths. Remember this; the money follows the drug. There are more opportunities on the business side right now, with the recent emphasis on NDAs. There are opportunities right now for people with a science background in medical communications, medical affairs, regulatory affairs, medical information, publication planning, sales training, and marketing.

Good luck

maura's picture
Training Badge

I think it depends on where online you're looking. Most large companies have their own careers website, which I think stay fairly up to date (at least they do in my industry). However, many sites like,, etc. aggregate jobs from various sources, and they all seem to share these job postings with one another. Sites like that will frequently have outdated information. In short, if you are googling by job description, the first several pages worth of hits are going to come from aggregators, which are highly likely to be outdated.

They get a bad rap sometimes, but you may be better served by contacting a headhunting firm that already has relationships with the type of company you are looking for. They sometimes get advance information about upcoming openings that haven't been advertised yet.

timrutter's picture

Yes, we do. Now the longer answer:

It happens a lot because the organisation prescribes that all vacancies have to be advertised externally even when Functional, Resourcing and hiring managers have already identified their preferred candidate. It's the difference between what the rules say and how they are applied on the ground.

Additionally, he may be confusing rumour and reality. We all have a friend who told us X,Y and Z. You cannot identify which of these jobs is open competition and which have an internal or external anointed candidate, therefore, you have to apply regardless.

I suspect he is having a hard time getting past resume screens and has latched on to this as a comfort blanket. Maybe point him in the direction of this forum?


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Doris_O's picture

I worked at an organization that would keep job listings posted until the new hired has actually started working. I thought that was a little extreme until I worked for another organization in which a candidate started a position, worked for one week and then resigned.

Aside from that, based on what you've written it sounds like your friend may be a bit pessimistic. It's a good thing you know about manager tools and career tools -- you'll have a much better shot at getting the job you want than your friend will.

jdbrown1998's picture

Thank you everyone for the insight and suggestions.  I will pass on the info when he asks for it...but it is up to him if he will take it or use it (My high C/D comes out sometimes when I know I am right and someone is not listening to what I have to say.)