Image: Erica P. Johnson

Advances in gadgetry make a scientist's job easy. Finding the scientists who can wield the new instruments and assays poses a challenge. Companies now demand that scientists be veritable Swiss army knives of capability, posessing lab skills, scientific knowledge, and computer savvy.

But employers and candidates sometimes end up building bridges from opposite shores, only to find they don't connect in the middle. "Hiring managers are often ludicrous about what they want," says one life sciences recruiter, who requested his name not be associated with this candid review of his own customers. "They're looking for pie in the sky."

That pie yields plenty of positions. Genzyme Corp. in Cambridge, Mass., has more than 160 job openings for scientists of varied backgrounds, for example. To recoup the steep cost of its $250 million (US) Vacaville, Calif., manufacturing plant, built in 1998, Genentech keeps it operational round-the-clock to...

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