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Post-Pandemic Life Sciences - The Pharma Recruitment Scene in 2021

23 December 2020

By Jay Freeman

Post-Pandemic Life Sciences - The Pharma Recruitment Scene in 2021

While recruitment in life sciences has nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels, that doesn’t mean recruitment looks the same across all sub-sectors. 

The post-pandemic world of work looks significantly different from before, with many new recruitment trends emerging in time for 2021.

In this month’s blog series, we’re taking a closer look at the post-pandemic world of life sciences recruitment - this week, looking at pharma recruitment trends in 2021. 

2021 recruitment trends for pharma

The pharma industry is in a state of flux, not least because of COVID-19. New business models (such as personalised medicines and direct-to-consumer), and new product verticals (such as gene and cell therapy) are changing the pharma recruitment scene. 

The top trends we’re seeing emerge in time for 2021 are:

A surge in pharma vacancies

While the post-pandemic effect on economic activity might reduce short-term hiring rates, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will cause a surge in pharma hiring. Why?

  • Governments are likely to reassess their priorities and focus more attention (and money) on healthcare. We’ve already seen the US government’s Operation Warp Speed invest billions into companies including AstraZeneca, J&J and Moderna.

  • Pharma companies are likely to lessen their dependence on China following the supply chain issues of 2020, which will lead to an increased demand for pharma factory workers elsewhere. 

  • The over-the-counter drugs market is predicted to grow with over 5.5% CAGR from 2019 to 2025, leading to an increased demand for top performers in consumer marketing, sales and product development. 

Flexible working patterns

According to Pharma Magazine, the post-pandemic working model will comprise 30% online and 70% offline work, affording candidates more flexible working patterns.

Not only is this great for work-life balance, but it could also address gender disparity in the sector. Women currently represent under 30% of executive directors at the top pharma firms, despite similar numbers of men and women entering the industry with advanced degrees in life sciences and medicine.

We also expect flexible working patterns to generate more geographical mobility in the sector, with remote jobs resulting in 20% more geographical diversity. This is great for increasing the opportunities available to you, but will create more competition from other candidates at the same time - meaning that you must polish your CV and interview skills. 

Emphasis on soft skills

2020 was arguably the year of the soft skills, where adaptability, change management and decision making set top performers apart. 

Accordingly, the demand for social and emotions skills in pharma candidates will increase by over one third in the next ten years - meaning that many vacancies will call for change management, continuous learning, and critical thinking skills. 

But research and development expertise will still be a priority for companies, especially with the shift in end users. Forty percent of doctors who aren’t currently teleconsulting expect to be within the next two years. Accordingly, pharma companies will invest significant R&D into medicines that patients can administer at home under remote guidance - expect vacancies to follow. 


It’s been a busy year for the pharma sector, which is why we keep on top of the latest updates and trends, so you have the best opportunities for your career. 

If you’d like to discuss your career opportunities in 2021 or anything we’ve covered above, get in touch with our pharma team today

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