Pharmaceutical finance recruitment update


Employers continued to be active in their efforts to secure top talent in the first half of 2016, despite economic uncertainty around the upcoming election, compounded by the economic slowdown in China.

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However, compared to the same time in 2015, many employers were somewhat more cautious when hiring, leading to the adoption of lengthy recruitment processes.

“By implementing lengthy hiring processes many hiring managers lost out on their first choice candidate when recruiting as the most desirable professionals were tempted to rival employers before a job offer was made,” said Neil Wittensleger, manager of specialist pharmaceutical and medical devices recruitment at Robert Walters.

“Despite the high number of jobseekers in the market, the most desirable candidates are still being sought by multiple employers, with the strongest candidates entertaining several job offers at once.”

Employers who are able to move quickly to offer jobs to desirable candidates were able to secure top talent, while those with longer hiring processes frequently missed out on their first choice candidates.

Key skills in demand

  • Financial analyst and senior financial analyst roles
  • Candidates with a background in pharmaceuticals or medical devices
  • Technical accountants with experience within SEC reporting, consolidations, IFRS, SOX and US GAAP were also highly sought after.
  • Candidates from the Big Four (audit, FAAS, assurance divisions) with client portfolios within life sciences.
  • Professionals specializing in corporate development/M&A particularly at the senior end (director to VP levels).

Key hiring areas

Despite the high number of jobseekers in the market, the most desirable candidates are still being sought by multiple employers, with the strongest candidates entertaining several job offers at once.

Senior Financial Analysts accounted for around 20% of roles, followed by FP&A Managers and Corporate Development/M&A (both at around 15%). In order to fill senior financial analyst positions many employers turned to head hunting to secure top talent. In many cases, candidates that weren’t given opportunities internally started to find roles externally, creating significant churn in the market.

Roles in corporate development and M&A were frequently seen in life sciences, as most firms actively looked at acquisitions and partnerships. 2016 was no exception and many firms looked to expand their portfolios, driving demand for candidates with experience and strong contact networks which could be leveraged.

There was also movement in the senior end from VP to “head of” positions which created movement and opportunities in the market. Clients primarily looked to look externally for professionals to fill these roles, rather than promoting from within.


For exceptional candidates with an in-demand skill set, employers have shown a willingness to pay above market rate to secure top talent.

Candidates within the “Big Four” Accounting firms, saw significant salary increases in an effort to avoid staff attrition and in order to compete with external opportunities. Industry leaders were able to influence and educate candidates on added benefits like work-life balance, flexible hours, vacation periods, mentorships, clear career paths and exposure to senior executives management groups which is often what candidates seek in order to make a move. 

“Candidates working at larger pharmaceutical or medical devices firms are being offered more than just salary increases to move to smaller firms. Those professionals willing to relocate outside of Manhattan are also in high demand. In many cases these candidates are able to obtain a more competitive all in package,” said Neil Wittensleger.

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Contact Neil Wittensleger on +1 212 704 9900 or neil.wittensleger to find out more about the current pharmaceutical and medical devices recruitment market.