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Alexander Graf von Perponcher-Sedlnitzky: Transforming German Life Sciences Recruitment

Panda has recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and with it comes even greater opportunities for growth in life sciences recruitment.

Adding another European powerhouse to its roster, Panda is opening an office in Frankfurt, Germany, with Managing Director Alexander Graf Von Perponcher-Sedlnitzky at the helm.

We spoke with Alex to find out more about his background before recruitment, what made him consider life sciences recruitment as a career, and why Germany is the perfect location for Panda to continue its role as a trusted recruitment partner for leading life sciences companies.

Let’s take a look at what he had to say.

What were you doing before recruitment?
Compared to others, I am a relatively late starter in recruitment, but the experiences I made were definitely helpful when transitioning into the industry, because I would describe my path as quite colourful. For example, as a drill instructor in the German army, I was able to develop my leadership skills and style. My ability to lead by example was formed there and is still helpful today.
My labour law degree is helpful in many cases; not just when asking candidates granular questions, but it also helped to develop my analytical skills which is brilliant when I’m consulting clients. I was also a radio journalist, which definitely helped me with my interview techniques. I also learnt how to be calm in crisis situations after spending time in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Long story short, every role I've had up until this point has shaped and moulded me to be a Managing Director that is prepared for the fast-paced, ever-changing nature of life sciences recruitment in Frankfurt.

How did you go from that to recruitment?
I thought it might be interesting to use my communication skills within an industrial company, because excellent communication helps to avoid most misunderstandings within a team setting.
After applying for a communications role, published by a recruitment company, the interview turned into a conversation about whether the recruitment industry might be an interesting change for me!
15 years later I am still in this industry, where I found what I was looking for. The chance to move into a role that changes people’s lives in a positive way, whilst also using the skills I’d acquired in other industries, was a complete win-win situation. Plus, few locations are as innovative and exciting for this as Frankfurt.

How did you get into life sciences recruitment?
In the last 15 years, there have been a lot of touchpoints - I started in legal recruitment, changed into more technical functions, and there were always a lot of opportunities in a 200km radius around Frankfurt in the life science industry. I was bound to end up associated with the life sciences industry at some point, and my recruitment experience is what led me here eventually.

If you compare Life Science recruiting with other recruiting markets, what is so special about this market?
Recruiting generally is a very positive business; it changes people’s lives in a positive way. The hires we make for our clients could have a massive impact on the success of the next product of the company and its complete business.
Imagine this new product, developed by the person you brought into that team, is the major vaccine against the next pandemic. Then your action as a Recruitment Consultant has an indirect impact on the health of millions of people. I get goosebumps when I think about that opportunity, to be the trusted partner of that industry, who protects our health and our future.

The Frankfurt office is new for Panda. What do you see as the biggest challenge ?
Recruiting is a very transformative business; it changes people’s lives in a positive way. The hires we make for our clients often have a massive impact on the success of the next product of the company and its complete business.
Within this trust we don't just want to send CVs for the sake of it like so many other recruitment companies. We want to find the best available candidates to match with our high quality standards, because we want to make the life sciences industry better through our work.
To find this ideal team that aligns with our very ambitious growth plans is a challenge, but one I really enjoy.

What could a future Panda employee expect from you?
Part of our vision is also to be the trusted partner of our employees. Continuity is everything in our industry, and the longer a colleague is on that journey with us, the more beneficial it would be for everybody.
We are in a people's industry, so in my opinion, leaders in a recruitment company should pay close attention in order to educate, qualify and motivate the team. Yes, there will be a lot of work to do, but we ensure that we do it with pride and joy, because an excellent internal team culture is, in my opinion, one of the guaranteed factors that our clients and candidates could benefit from.
We put a lot of investments into our team; for example, we have our own full time L&D Team. We are also willing to adapt to completely new paths, such as our optional four-day work week, to ensure that our team recharges their energy levels over a three-day weekend to be a force ready for our clients and candidates!
The business wants to grow so significantly, meaning there is so much opportunity and potential for our employees who want to develop a career in one of the most dynamic, innovative industries in Europe.

What made you make the decision to join Panda and take it forward into Germany?
It was definitely the conversations with Daisy and Jay (Panda’s founders). I have spoken to so many recruitment companies, and the most of them are talking about the same old-school methods - pressure, KPIs, and no sustainability. Here, I immediately had the feeling that the approach to candidates, clients and colleagues is different. In the first meeting we almost spoke only about the importance and the effect of the right company culture within this changing world.
It also comes down to trust. Trust is the key for everything. To earn trust, you have to trust others. And if you have trust, everything is positively impacted. I felt that trust here, with Panda, from the beginning.

Any closing thoughts?
Join me on this exciting journey! For me, it was always a dream to do something meaningful, and to create a legacy. Here at Panda, we don’t just have the opportunity to change people’s lives - we can, and will, do what is necessary to have fun in being successful.
I look forward to speaking with you!

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