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Senior Executive Recruitment

Posted on: 20 Nov 02


Lets have a look at the healthcare market and some of the things that are changing within it and then assess the impact of the changes on companies’ ability to achieve effective recruitment.
The world is changing. Recruitment in healthcare is moving into new, uncharted areas. Everyone will have to learn techniques to be able to recruit in the new labour market place. Just how true are these [recently] frequently heard remarks and will we all have to do new things and learn new techniques? Lets have a look at the healthcare market and some of the things that are changing within it and then assess the impact of the changes on companies’ ability to achieve effective recruitment. There is now doubt that the number of companies operating in the sector is going down as mergers/acquisitions continue apace – witness Pfizer and Pharmacia, Ashfield and Ventiv to cite two recent examples in different parts of the market. Does this change mean fewer people will be employed in healthcare? The answer is almost certainly “No”. When companies merge it does not mean that activity is reduced, except perhaps at the Head Office/admin level. Clearly if two companies merge there will only be a need for one Company Secretary, but if they wish to sell as much/more product they may well need at least as many marketing or sales staff. Now consider the role of outsourcing/the use of agencies. The last ten years has seen an explosion in the service sector from CRO’s, SMO’s, through Med Comms Agencies, Market Research Companies, Advertising, niche consultancies offering specialised services, for example ZS, and so on – all the way to CSO’s at the sharp end of the selling process. All these types of organisations have been growing their headcounts dramatically and they have of course [since they are doing work previously done in big Pharma] the same sorts of requirements with regard to the backgrounds and experience of recruits as the pharma companies. It is my contention that overall headcount, company and service sector combined, has not fallen and may even have risen. Is the company sector as homogenous as it once was? Is a pharma company a pharma company, a pharma company? It would appear not. This sector seems to be cleaving into big Pharma and niche Pharma and within Eames·Jones·Judge·Hawkings we observe that the two parts of the sector seem to have different requirements. This would make a career move from AZ to GSK more likely to be successful than a move from, say, Forest Laboratories to MSD. These of course are generalisations not absolute rules but if accurate, will mean that the labour pool is dividing into two not necessarily equal parts. Another significant change has been the growth of co-development/co-promotion deals and licensing deals [in and out]. In a sense this is just another form of outsourcing except that this is where big Pharma often meets Biotech/niche Pharma. Where three mad scientists and a dog meet the button down world of global hard-nosed business [I shall decline to mention examples of either kind of company]. What these sorts of business partnerships have done has been to create a flow of funds into relatively small research/discovery companies who then have the financial muscle to grow their employment base – creating another upward pressure on the employment base of the industry as a whole. Looking at the financial situation of the industry as a whole there are few grounds for optimism. NCE blockbusters are ever more difficult to develop, the drugs bill within the NHS is under ever increasing pressure caused at least in significant part by the escalating costs of treating the diseases of age within a population. The fastest growing part of the population and the sector most expensive to treat, is the old. As one of the largest year groups of the post war baby boomer era [born in 1947] the author is now 55 and seeing the issues of age in increasingly stark reality. There is little doubt that with a rapidly growing old group within the population, needing drugs, which are not discretionary, the pressure on prices within the industry from the major customer – the NHS – will continue. So the industry is caught in a vice between the ever-increasing cost of drug development and hard-edged pressure to restrain sales revenue. There is therefore a massive pressure on companies to be more efficient, do things better, do better things, and to ensure they get full value out of every pound used in the business. Earlier, the proliferating partnerships with discovery companies was referred to and these are usually seen as a way of filling a short-term gap in the product pipeline. Many companies are seen as having a good medium to long-term pipeline but few are seen as being awash with products to launch in the next few months. At the same time the number of blockbusters coming to the end of patent protection is surprising – and this at a time when nearly all the major companies have been forced to can bright prospects in development or to put back launch dates. One reaction to this pressure on the part of companies has been to de-layer, to reduce the number of jobs people used to pass through on their way up through organisations, thereby cost saving. Another casualty [as in every recession since Adam] is of course training – that most deferrable of investments. What we see, therefore, is an industry in what is for them relatively hard times. This does need to be kept in perspective – when was the last time the engineering sector saw double digit growth? Has the pharma industry paid the government tens of billions to secure the rights to sell products nobody wants to buy [like the mobile phone companies]. No of course not – most companies have strong balance sheets and are making a good return if compared to other sectors. However the good times, when compared to previous years in the industry, may have receded, at least for some years and possibly forever. To put all the above together in a very few words we are seeing the industry under new and increasing pressure at just about every point in the business chain from drug discovery through product launch to patent expiry and genericisation of the product. The companies seem less cash rich and need to spend/invest wisely and more effectively. The employment market is becoming fragmented and the work group under-trained. Candidates are arriving at the selection process for jobs without having done any number of jobs, which in previous times would have been regarded as mandatory. In the labour market, because of the fact that there is probably at least as many jobs as ever, good candidates are increasingly hard to find. Whereas a few years ago, we would have tough decisions to move from the long list of agency interviewed candidates to the short list to recommend to the client, in today’s market we face the choice of working with barely enough candidates to make up a short list or dropping standards to “pack out” the short list. So what can be done? The first point to recognise is that there are no new technologies or methodologies to source candidates. Twenty years ago we could see who was on file, advertise, or executive search [head-hunt]. Those three options remain the only valid techniques – all the new technologies do is either give us new ways of delivering those techniques [web advertising instead of media advertising for example] or new ways of assessing candidates once they are hooked [biodata for example]. Hence the pressures on the employment market call for a response which is characterised by more professionalism, more comprehensiveness and thoroughness, more detailed sector knowledge, and harder work than in the past. Fifteen years ago, when the author was an HR executive in the industry, there were agencies who got good results by placing an ad in a relevant journal and waiting for the response to pour in. The author used another who would take an assignment and use their specialised knowledge of who was who to line up enough candidates by calling them and getting them interested. Those days have gone! To be successful in Senior Executive Recruitment in today’s arena, a recruiter has to do everything, and to a very high standard. Recruitment briefs need to be very comprehensive and thorough so that candidates have all the information they need to decide that the opportunity is one they wish to pursue. Files of past candidates need to be combed carefully, and from a knowing perspective to ensure that a brilliant, but unconventional, candidate is not missed. Records need to be kept up to date so candidates are not lost because of a change of address or similar event, which they may omit to alert you to. Advertising is essential in all but a very few cases – to make noise in the market, to reach the candidates that, inevitably, are unknown to the recruiter. Head hunting is now part of the recruiter’s life – and done on every assignment that we at Eames·Jones·Judge·Hawkings undertake. Specialist knowledge of the sector, the employment market and the movers and shakers can make the difference between success and failure. In short you need a specialist, agency with professional skills, knowledge of the sector the employment market, and the people, as well as a hard earned reputation and a background in the industry. Now where did I put my card? Eames·Jones·Judge·Hawkings

Peter Fortune

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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