The first step in a great pharma marketing organization starts with recruiting

SUMMARY: Pharma marketing is in a funk. Somewhere over the last decade, the passionate people who believed that helping patients was the first step in excellent marketing have been replaced with people who want to know the ROI of everything. We need to hire people who have a passion for learning, exploring, and implementing great patient-centered marketing. One employee who is passionate about what they do is worth more than five who “check off the boxes” for their position.

Last week I was pitching our business to a Director at one of the top pharma companies in the US. It was more of a casual conversation when I mentioned that I was the author of this BLOG. After she read some of the posts, she said, “wow, you seem to be really down on our industry”. I responded from the heart, telling her that I had seen a focus on financial metrics over the last four or five years rather than reaching out to people who are desperate for clear, credible health information. Her response was I can’t argue with you on this point; we seem to have lost our passionate people.

Workers who demonstrate more passion in the workplace are more committed to their employers and respond better to the diverse challenges of a globalized marketplace. According to a survey, 79% of those who claim to be passionate employees say that they’re working for their “dream organization” even if they were not in their “dream position.” But, can we say this finding is true for pharma?

According to a survey from Deloitte, passion is made up of the following 3 characteristics:

  • A long term commitment to a specific domain that is goal-oriented and unruffled by short term turbulence
  • A questioning disposition where they are always seeking knowledge from new challenges
  • A connecting disposition, meaning a tendency to form strong, trust-based relationships

You can’t teach passion.

Employees either have it, or they don’t, and no matter how well you create a work environment that encourages it, finding passionate employees is pivotal to your organization’s success. However, within any company, passion can be drained by a culture that relies on meetings and shared decision-making for even small ideas.

When I was hired to first work in ethical pharmaceutical marketing, I brought two key attributes. The first was a drive to learn everything I could about the way the company did things. The second was to share what I had learned with others around me. As I gained experience and started making a difference, other marketing people came to me for advice and input. To me, that was a huge badge of honor.

If you want to hire passionate employees but don’t know where or how to find them, you’re not alone. Few organizations know how to identify “passionate” talent, and most companies choose candidates based on work history and skills instead.

Identifying passionate employees means listening.

Ask candidates why they want to work for you, what motivates them, why your industry, what they think separates your product from the market, and what they believe makes your business successful. If they have no idea, then you can immediately eliminate them.

The candidates that have passion will give you a response that sends a chill down your spine – Or at the very least, makes you smile.

Here’s Some Interview Questions to Ask to Find Passionate Employees

  • How do you stay up to date in your field?
  • What’s a big question you regularly try to solve?
  • How do you connect with other professionals in your industry?
  • What makes you most excited about this role?
  • What is the most satisfying thing about your job?
  • How do you define success?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • What separates our product/service from others you’ve seen?
  • What do you think is our key to success?
  • What do you think we can do better?

Source: Orion Talent

Finally, managers should not feel threatened by passionate people. Passionate people tend to challenge the status quo and ask “why?” or “why not?”. Some see us as too disruptive, but creative disruption can differentiate between excellent marketing and just checking some boxes to get the job done.

Disruption is increasingly normal for industries. Our digital and physical worlds are merging in healthcare. Making people aware of a new treatment isn’t enough. We need to speak to our audience in clear, easy-to-understand language that makes them say, “I want to know more”. We also need to experiment more with different tactics, and, more importantly, we must be prepared to fail and learn.

I will continue to be passionate about working within the healthcare industry because I have seen firsthand how we can make a difference in someone’s life. We need more of that and less MBA spreadsheet marketing.