Tens of thousands of pharma jobs have been lost in recent years. So can smaller companies now select at leisure from an overflowing pool of senior talent? Sadly not.

While this may have been true in the funding ice-age between 2011 and 2014, our evidence shows that the senior talent market in life sciences has shifted dramatically in favour of the candidate during 2015. Without engagement and recruitment, project planning companies will lose the people they need to be successful.

Both clients and candidates also must be honest and represent themselves authentically to each other – or through an independent diligence provider – to avoid nasty outcomes for all.

The data

Real-world data from over 150 global projects shows the speed at which senior shortlists can fragment. This is often due to competing offers or a lack of client engagement.

In Q1 2015 a strong shortlist could hold together for 10 weeks; by Q3 2015 it was down to 4-5 weeks and by Q4 2015 a first-class shortlist could only last for 2-3. The lesson? Do your due diligence and hire as soon as the data shows you have the best candidate.


Our analysis

We provide evidence-based decision support on key talent in life sciences, and these data provide an insight into the increasingly harsh competition for top talent. Great people are in demand and have choices. In a note to clients today we have explored strategies and approaches that reduce the risk of the best talent saying ‘No’ to you and ‘Yes’ to your competitors.

Our advice

Beware of big pharma candidates for SME roles

Despite the layoffs in big pharma, the executive talent required to successfully run small, agile organisations remains rare. The transition between large and small companies is a high risk for both candidates and clients. It’s therefore vital to assess the agility and adaptability of ‘big company’ candidates. Executives from big corporates are trained for a different (interrupt-driven) environment and they are used to focusing on managing stakeholders rather than solving the problems in front of them.  Delivery and initiative are vital in smaller companies and this is why so many pharma executives fail to thrive in a small company. We support and amplify the tech entrepreneur Ben Horowitz’ advice on this subject. I urge you to read it here.

Better diligence is required to examine available talent

In a more competitive world it is tempting to choose speed and cost of decision over quality. This is precisely the wrong decision. As existing talent becomes scarce, the need to critically examine and compare global talent becomes more, not less, important and long term failure is much more costly than doing it right first time. Companies making decisions using little data (or what some people call intuition) will make more costly mistakes than those who invest in time-effective due diligence up-front. Professional, two-way due diligence keeps candidates engaged and ensures the decision is supported by evidence.

Engagement and project management are critical

As candidates have more choice they should be engaged and nurtured at an early stage. It is also critical that the inception-to-decision process is planned with the same care as any other critical business project. Dates, decision-makers and interview slots must be agreed at the beginning, not ad hoc. If hiring is your priority, it must be treated as such.

Increased value from executive interims

In a world where the right permanent hires are harder to achieve, the flexibility of executive interims comes to the fore. More seasoned executives are electing to adopt a portfolio career. These executives can add rapid, high-value expertise to firms with time-critical problems to solve. Recognised life sciences interim providers can give you access to this community, together with the insight and analysis to engage the expert you need.

Be honest

The evidence above highlights the genuine need for both parties to promote realistic corporate and personal ‘brands’ – how they wish to be seen by others. If it seems superficial it’s probably fake. A person or business with an authentic ‘brand’ engages quickly with the right audience. It’s only when one – or both – sides are not fully and honestly represented to each other that things go wrong. And the longer it takes to go wrong the more expensive it is – for everyone.


To find out more about our Proof of Candidate® and due diligence approach visit www.theRSAgroup.com

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