Blog | September 10, 2015

The Value Of Biopharma Headhunters — A Comprehensive Executive Resource

Source: Life Science Leader
Rob Wright author page

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL

recruitment in biopharma

In the September issue of Life Science Leader magazine, we published an article featuring EVP and leader of Sanofi’s newly created global divisions and strategic development organization, Pascale Witz. During our conversation, the former GE executive commented on the value of headhunters (recruiters) in being able to do more than fill talent gaps. “Having headhunters review job description drafts can be very helpful to identify the most critical aspects of a job so you don’t end up with a position that looks great on paper, yet will never be able to be sufficiently filled,” said Witz.  While recruiters can be great in helping to fill a company’s employee needs, they also can be excellent advisors for your next career opportunity. For example, I recently received a phone call from an executive who confided they would soon be making a career switch. Though the person admitted they would be getting a nice bump in salary, this was not the reason for why they decided to jump ship. In fact, being unhappy with salary wasn’t the reason for why the person admitted to being open to even listening to a recruiter when approached about an opportunity. Like so many people who opt to make a career change, this individual, a definite star performer, realized it was leadership’s lack of engagement regarding this person’s job that ended up being a primary motivator for why they even considered exploring a new career opportunity. Maybe you are happy with your job, your company, your career, and your salary, yet still show up to work feeling that something is missing. If that’s the case, consider the following advice from Jason Hersh, managing partner at the leadership placement firm, Klein Hersh.

Hersh’s Top 6 “Dos” When Beginning A Career Search

  1. Be transparent with your recruiter as to your real motivations for making a change. It’s important that your recruiting partner is aligned on the type of issues you are currently facing so they can improve your next move.
  2. Share with your recruiter the type of companies, including specific client names, that you would like to join.
  3. Disclose any companies that you are already talking to and/or sent your information to prior as there is no need for duplication of efforts.
  4. Timely and transparent communication with your recruiter is everything.
  5. Be selective. When engaging a recruiter, understand that this person is a key member of your personal team, no different than an accountant, lawyer, doctor, etc. Make sure you are dealing with a reputable professional who will be able to give you guidance and present you in the best possible light. Your recruiter is your advocate, friend, and your eyes and ears into the business community. Develop a relationship, but just as the recruiter is interviewing you, ensure you do your due diligence in selecting a recruiter that specializes in your market and has the experience to represent you in the market place. 
  6. Network, network, network. Although you need to be conscious of not spending too much time on unnecessary things, many meetings, phone calls, and exploratory discussions with other professionals will prove to be invaluable down the road. 

Hersh’s Top 6 Things To Avoid When Starting A Career Search

  1. Blasting your resume out to every company that could be of interest often send it into a black hole and then a search firm can’t help position you into these companies.
  2. Being secretive about what companies you are already in process with. This insight is valuable for a search firm to know, reduces duplication, and opens up search firms to consider you for additional roles.
  3. Holding back on sharing the real issues that are the main motivations to make a move and the real “wants” in your next opportunity.
  4. Not taking a systematic approach to a job search so you can understand your value in the market, and be smart with your most valuable resource — time.
  5. Not taking a long-term vision to your career search. Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that every person you speak with can lead you to another, and although that specific person might not seem appropriate at the time, the more you are able to share information and create dialogue, the more energy and information will be exchanged in returned.
  6. Understanding and communicating with your recruiter what type of culture you want and think you will be most successful in (e.g., big company, start-up, midsize).

Career Search Resources To Get Started 

While this list of 24 biotech and biopharma recruiters, as well as this more comprehensive list, can certainly get you started, it is a good idea to keep in mind that many recruiters often specialize in a particular niche. Jason Hersh compiled a short list of smaller niche and larger global firms (see table) to which I added his firm and Ashton Tweed.  

Short List Of Life Science Industry Recruiting Firms

Smaller Niche Firms

Larger Global Firms

Ashton Tweed  


Bench International

Egon Zehnder

Cornerstone Search Group

Heidrick and Struggles

Global Search Solutions (GSS)

Korn Ferry


Russell Reynolds

The Higgins Group

Spencer Stuart


Rather than only working with recruiters when you really need to, try applying the advice of best-selling business author, Harvey Mackay. When it comes to the successful management of your career, if you dig your well before you are thirsty and network with recruiters in an ongoing basis, you will never have to search for another job, as opportunities will find you. Finally, if you haven’t done a career search in a while, take the time to read a book or two on the subject. Though you can find plenty of resource recommendations, keep in mind that the book by Richard Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute?, has been in print since 1970, and revised every year since 1975. Wisdom, like best business practices, tends to stand the test of time.