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Biopharma recruiting: How RPOs can help narrow the talent gap

August 24, 2023

At the moment, the biopharma industry is nothing if not turbulent. Layoffs soared in 2022 and continued into 2023, and M&A activity has rebounded after a years-long lull. Economic uncertainty, failed programs, shifting focus and other forces are at play.  

Small- to mid-sized biopharma companies have been hardest hit because instability means investors shy away. And organizations can’t move therapies forward without the money for R&D and testing. Startups have struggled unless they’ve been gobbled up by bigger biopharmaceutical companies. While large pharma companies are not expected to be significantly affected by the credit crunch, small biotechs and generics makers may experience the squeeze for a while longer. 

Whether it’s a downturn, recession or just market fluctuations may be debatable. But, what’s not disputable is the toll it’s taking on the talent front.  

3 ways RPO firms enhance biopharma recruiting efforts 

The biopharma industry has faced talent shortages for years (and it’s especially tough for emerging organizations). Working with a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) firm can help biopharma companies navigate recruiting uncertainties by building strong talent pipelines, improving candidate experience and increasing agility and scalability. Hands down, RPO firms can engage and hire top-tier candidates more quickly and efficiently. 

Here's how working with an RPO partner can help you navigate biopharma recruiting challenges. 

 #1: Building strong talent pipelines

Pharma and biotech are historically recession-proof industries. Demand is always there; we need new and better medicines and treatments to combat illness, disease and other biological problems. The problem is predicting when, where and what talent may be needed – in the near and distant future – to see the development of these drugs through.  

Building talent pipelines in advance is critical for winning the war for talent in the biopharma industry. Finding the total addressable market (TAM) and regularly engaging these potential future candidates will help ensure you have a talent pool to approach when it’s time to hire. Using a labor market intelligence tool, like Claro, can allow you to identify passive talent to add to your talent community and determine what companies talent is moving to and from.  

By investing in talent networks today, biopharma companies can ensure they have access to the right candidates when they need them in the future.

#2: Improving candidate experience

Despite layoffs in the biopharma industry, it’s still a jobseekers’ market. The skills required to be successful in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries are hard to come by. This means potential candidates have the upper hand when it comes to job opportunities and negotiations.  

The competition is real – and it’s only going to get fiercer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 18% job growth in the bio and pharma industries by 2026. Organizations in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries must provide a seamless candidate experience throughout the recruitment process, starting from the first engagement. And it should carry through to onboarding and employee experience to increase retention of top talent.  

Providing a positive candidate experience is important for building relationships and ensuring favorable brand association (useful for the future). RPO firms will brand as their client and provide “white glove” treatment for every candidate, resulting in turnkey candidates for future openings. 

#3: Increasing agility and scalability

Especially in turbulent markets, organizations may not want to staff an entire talent acquisition team that they aren't using to capacity. Working with an RPO firm provides greater agility and scalability that can adjust to fluctuating needs and an ever-changing market.  

RPO firms can offer a dedicated team of recruiters who are well-versed in the pharma, biotech and medical device industries and will work to improve hiring metrics. Their expertise allows them to develop sourcing strategies focused on uncovering hard-to-find talent and building pipelines of candidates with specific skill sets or experience. It also frees up internal teams, allowing them to focus on other strategic talent initiatives.  

Recruiting in any industry that’s experiencing market fluctuations and persistent labor shortages is difficult. In the biopharma space, it’s essential to consider growth opportunities, pipeline maturity and targeted therapies in recruitment efforts.  

But, with the help of an RPO and cutting-edge technology, it’s possible to refine recruiting processes and emerge stronger on the other side of this market. Taking proactive measures and embracing cost-saving technology could create positive long-term changes for the biopharma industry. 

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About Matt Ward

Matt Ward serves as the head of sales at WilsonHCG, where he spearheads global talent acquisition solutions for the life sciences sector. With a career in talent acquisition spanning 16 years, Matt has spent the last 14 years in RPO, primarily catering to the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and clinical diagnostics sectors. Before transitioning to client solutions, he amassed invaluable experience in executive search, followed by leadership roles in RPO program management, overseeing large scale RPO initiatives.