Ensuring best practice in pharma recruitment

Man on ladder in clouds: Ensuring best practice in pharma recruitment

Giles Hampson, Managing director at RMG, discusses what should you consider when hiring to ensure best practice in pharma recruitment?

Writing as the Managing Director of a health and life sciences specialist Executive Search Company, best practice in recruitment is an essential pillar of our very existence. While this statement will not surprise many people, a lesser known theme is how the potential employer’s behaviour can positively, or contrastingly negatively affect the best practice associated with a given piece of recruitment.

Choose your recruitment partner wisely, or if hiring directly, be sure that you are genuinely reaching all corners of the market

Questions to ask

Looking at matters from an employer’s perspective, there are many things to consider when seeking to effect best practice when hiring:

  • Is the role I’m looking to recruit essential?
  • Have we given ourselves the optimum chance of attracting the highest calibre individuals in the market?
  • Have we balanced internal interest/talent appropriately and objectively?
  • If we are hiring externally, have we made a suitable assessment of culture and values fit?
  • Are we effectively and courteously communicating with unsuccessful candidates, in a manner that reflects our business in a positive light?

If I were to ask you to arrange the above points in order of importance, I would receive a whole host of different priorities. The reality is that each of the above is as important as the others. The challenge comes when a certain point is over-prioritised, leading to a negative effect on some of the others.
For example, one could almost entirely immerse oneself in point 2. The company makes a not insignificant investment in chasing the perceived best talent in the market for a given role, pays over the odds to poach from the competition, and once successful in doing so effectively ignores or fails to provide sufficient feedback to other candidates in the process (5), and completely overlooks an internal candidate who has been displaying succession potential and is absolutely ready for that promotion (3).

Result: ‘We hired the best person in the market – big tick in the Best Practice box.’
Result (with a dose of reality): A talented individual in the market was hired from a competitor business with a very different set of values and operating practices (4) to your own. The talented internal candidate has just resigned owing to a lack of development opportunities (3), there is negative feedback in the market about your business from candidates who have been unsuccessful, as they were given little or no feedback (5); consider the likelihood of them choosing to join your business in the future, when they’ve developed their skillset and
become a more attractive proposition.

After doing some effective horizon scanning after the event, you realise that the role that has been recruited wasn’t actually that business critical (1). In 12 years of recruiting in the health and life sciences market, I have seen certain roles and functions disappear from organisations, as well as new ones being created. By the way…that talented person you hired left after 12 months, because they only joined for the pay rise and have just received a better offer elsewhere!

“Most companies hire on competence and fire on attitude – save yourself the heartache further down the line”

Learning points

To realise best practice in recruitment:

  • Effectively scrutinise the need for a certain role in your business. Are your competitors employing these roles? How essential is the position? Could the responsibilities be better handled by a different function? The answer is probably, very essential, and no – give yourself the peace of mind of assessing it first.
  • Choose your recruitment partner wisely, or if hiring directly, be sure that you are genuinely reaching all corners of the market.
  • Assess internal interest. If using an external search business, put your internal talent through their screening/assessment process; this means that even if they are ultimately unsuccessful, they will feel like they’ve been through a fair process.
  • Assess cultural fit effectively. Most companies hire on competence and fire on attitude – save yourself the heartache further down the line.
  • Rejecting a candidate in the correct manner is the first step to hiring them in the future: ‘They were rubbish anyway, we wouldn’t want them’. While this is of course true on occasions, a ‘rubbish’ candidate can still pass feedback on in the marketplace, affecting your employer branding. In any case, if they were that bad, shouldn’t the blame lie with you or your recruitment partner for interviewing them in the first place?

Best practice in recruitment is achieved from doing the right things consistently and with discipline, particularly in a niche market like pharma and life sciences where bad news travels faster than good.

Giles Hampson is Managing Director, RMG. Go to www.rmg-uk.com