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Trends and Challenges in Hiring for the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Sectors

The pharmaceuticals market reached a record revenue of $1,115 billion this year, and in the biotechnology sector the market size is expected to exceed last year’s $1.37 trillion. They’re sectors that have achieved phenomenal growth and development over the last few years primarily due to the calibre of the people who work in them. Here we look at the trends and recruitment challenges in hiring for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors.

Current Industry Landscape and Growth Trends

The pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors are evolving rapidly thanks to advancements in technology which are serving the changing needs of patients. Currently, several trends are shaping the landscape:

Personalised medicine – tailored treatments, based on molecular and genomic developments,  are gaining in popularity. 

Artificial Intelligence – AI and machine learning are speeding up the development of drug discovery and clinical trials. 

Digital transformation – wearables and apps allow patients to manage their illnesses and enable healthcare providers to monitor their conditions more effectively.

Emerging Job Roles and Skills

Thanks to the rapid developments and trends in hiring within the industry new and innovative roles are becoming available and new skills are in demand. Examples of this include:

Data scientists and analysts – extracting the right data from the millions of gigabytes that the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors produce every day and using it to inform research and development.

Cybersecurity specialists – protecting the data that the sector produces against hacking and cyber attacks to ensure confidentiality and protect intellectual property.

Gene therapists – one of the fastest-growing areas of the industry and used to correct defective genes by replacement, fixing or recognition.

Addressing Talent Shortage

Along with the rapid development of the industry over the last few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a worrying shortage of suitably qualified staff, posing recruiting challenges. It’s estimated that there are over 60,000 job vacancies in the biopharmaceutical industry alone – that’s a shortfall of around 8%. New entrants to the industry are badly needed, but they must also possess new skillsets as well as traditional expertise. Without addressing these issues the industry could face real problems in the future.

Effective Recruitment Strategies

The resourceful recruitment specialist will employ a variety of recruitment strategies to source dynamic and experienced talent. This will include looking beyond the traditional prerequisites for specialists and employing new and innovative sourcing strategies in recruitment to address shortages. These could include:

  • Building a strong employer brand to highlight an organisation’s mission, company values and culture

  • Networking and attending industry events to connect with established and up-and-coming talent

Diversity and Inclusion

One of the key drivers in many professionals’ requirements Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) has been proven to increase innovation, creativity and market share. A diverse and inclusive workforce can also highlight the need for more D&I in clinical trials, further enhancing the effectiveness of treatments, as well as a company’s reputation. 

Tech-Driven Hiring

Utilising tech alongside other recruitment strategies during the hiring process has many benefits for both recruiters and candidates. They include:

  • Speeding up the hiring process – positions can be filled more efficiently and quickly

  • Eliminating unconscious bias – helping to ensure that D&I remains a priority

  • Reaching more candidates – using social media in conjunction with online job ads enables recruiters to target a wider pool of candidates

  • Ensuring objectivity – by concentrating on relevant qualifications and skills and less on gender, age or ethnicity the recruitment process is fairer and more diverse

  • Enhancing the candidate’s experience – an engaged and informed candidate will have a more positive opinion of an organisation that enables a streamlined application and interview process 

Upskilling Initiatives

When conventional recruitment strategies are not enough to counteract the skills shortage in the pharma and biotech sectors, organisations can consider upskilling initiatives to ensure that the skills gaps are filled. Learning opportunities can be given to staff to enable them to flourish in an innovative environment, especially where new technology brings new demands for increased productivity and higher quality. 

Remote Work in Life Sciences

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced many life science specialists to alternative ways of working, including remote work, which remains popular thanks to its strengthening the work/life balance of many scientists. A recent McKinsey survey shows that only 37% of its respondents go to the office every day. Rapid digital transformation has made the shift easier and brought other advantages, such as increased innovation and improved collaboration, strengthening creativity and productivity too. 

Regulatory Compliance in Hiring 

Due to numerous strict hiring regulations within the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries many sectors are facing challenges when they try to source candidates with the requisite knowledge and experience of regulatory compliance. This means that candidates with expertise in these areas are in demand and that organisations must work hard to recruit and retain them. Some companies use external recruitment methods to solve this issue, relying on the expertise of specialist recruitment agencies to source the talent they need.


The changing trends and challenges in hiring for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors can pose real issues for organisations facing a skills shortage, people wanting to work from home more often, the growing desire for more diversity and inclusion, and the impact of technology on a rapidly-changing and innovative industry. To ensure that your organisation gets the talent it needs talk to us today on +31 (0)20 2044 502, email us at partner@panda-int.com, or fill in the form here.