Pharma still gaming the hiring process

QUICK READ: You would think that pharma companies, by now, would recognize talent and hire people who can strengthen their organization but unfortunately, that’s not true.

I’ve been in contact with a number of people in different functions who are looking to either change companies or enter the industry. The stories they tell about “multiple rounds of interviews” and the general “non-interest” even though they have impressive resumes and sterling track records.

Here are some of the tales:

-A digital marketing person who has worked for Google applied for a Digital Director position at a leading pharma company. She worked on the healthcare side at Google and had an MBA from Stanford. She had to go through four rounds of online interviews, prepare and present a presentation and after waiting 4 weeks was told the position went to an “internal candidate”.

– An MSL who was happy in current position but had to relocate because of a reorganization. He interviewed with three pharma companies, multiple rounds, and still after 3 weeks has not heard a word from the hiring manager or HR.

-A DTC marketing person who is one of the best in the industry, IMO, was looking for a new position as her current tenure was ending do the dissolution of a partnership between two companies. She spoke to numerous pharma recruiters and after two months has not had a nibble even though she has a list of impeccable references.

So who is getting hired? A digital marketing guy who has bounced around from one company to another throughout his career without any real accomplishments. A marketing director who is being brought in from the sales force who has zero marketing experience. An MSL director who has a business degree with no medical background because the hiring manager felt “she was a good person”.

Do you see a pattern here? Of course, this doesn’t apply to ALL pharma companies but if you want to work in big pharma it’s almost certain that you’ll go through multiple rounds of interviews and wait.

Of course rushing to hire a candidate can result in a mistake but let’s face it the only reason pharma strings alongs candidates is because everyone wants a say to protect their territory.

Working as a consultant I’ve had the opportunity to apply for many jobs. The one I really wanted in Boston was recommended to me by the hiring manager who told me “I’d love to have you on my team”. When I got the interview schedule (4 rounds, multiple people via Zoom plus I had to do an in-depth deep dive on one of their website analytics) I turned the job down. The hiring manager said, “this was the standard procedure” upon which I replied “that scares the shit out of me. If it takes this long and this much work to hire someone I can’t imagine the level of bureaucracy it would take to implement great cutting edge digital marketing”.

CEO’s are too enamored with Wall Street and financial performances to even think about looking at their internal processes. It’s one of the reasons why so many people leave the industry.

Unless pharma starts to act like a nimble company and relies less on cumbersome hiring processes they are going to struggle.