Spotlight on Swiss Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs

Team Leader Patrick Whyman, who recruits pharmaceutical regulatory affairs professionals in Switzerland, gives an overview of the industry in this edition of our Spotlight series.

What are the main challenges affecting hiring in the market and why?

Regulatory affairs is a business critical area with a number of sub-niches. While the candidate pool is strong in many areas, there are some areas where the demand is much higher than the supply. 

Examples of this include local level candidates with Swiss medic experience, candidates strong in CMC biologics and candidates competent in leading regulatory pre-approval projects, just to name a few.

The industry is constantly evolving and becoming a much more broad profession to work in. An example of this would be new decentralised procedures. This leads companies to have more specific requirements regarding training and experience of candidates. In turn, this means managers within these companies need to be more versatile. 

How can we overcome those challenges?

One of our main advantages in this field is we actually understand what the challenge is to begin with. We know the difference between people working in generics, pharma, biologics and CdMO. We know the need for local candidates to work in an affiliate, we understand that someone working in CMC is different to someone who does post-approval. 

Hence ultimately we can be more targeted in our search from the get-go. Saving time for both parties and making it much more likely to deliver the end product.

What is the most common FAQ from clients in this space?

I think there are actually two pretty commonly asked questions. The first is “can you provide local candidates?”

My answer: Yes. 80% of the people we place are candidates already living in Switzerland. We build relationships with regulatory professionals across Switzerland and keep in regular contact with them to make sure we can provide this service to clients. Some of these people we have known for over 10 years!

The second question is about the process we take with candidates. Of course, the answer will vary on a case-by-case basis and I don’t want to overcomplicate this answer. Some recruitment companies will sell themselves as if they do something magical. Ultimately, we talk to people. 

Dealing with people is our business and we put a strong focus on needs gathering, by which I mean understanding what a person wants. The core of our process is to understand this and to realistically assess if this matches with what the client is searching for, in addition to technical skills, background, qualifications, salary expectation, location, and the other standard checks. 

What is the most common FAQ you get from candidates in this space?

Again, there are really two questions. Firstly, “do you work on mandate?”

My answer: Yes. We will not send candidates to a role where the client has not given us permission to work the role. Some of these are exclusive mandates, sometimes we are in competition with other agencies. We will not work roles that do not have a commitment from the client as it would be a waste of our time and the candidate’s. 

The second would be “what is your added value to me in a process?”

My answer: Other than presenting you with the opportunity in the first place, below are areas where we can add value:

  • Further insight about the company and the job that is not on the job description
  • Ability to play devil’s advocate and negotiate on your behalf
  • Help save you time in planning and interactions
  • Give you advice on if the role/company will meet your expectations
  • Provide you comparisons and other opportunities
  • Give you advice on salary and benefits

Any predictions for hiring in this market in the coming two to five years?

We don’t expect the current market dynamics to change too much. It can take 5-10 years for supply to match demand due to the lag in education. However, Switzerland has the advantage of being able to hire from other countries easier than most. 

We expect demand for pre-approval staff will increase as Switzerland continues to attract new pharma headquarters. In addition to this, given the success of a number of new manufacturing sites in Switzerland from 2018-2022, it wouldn’t be unlikely to see even more sites open, therefore an increase in demand for CMC and other manufacturing-related professionals can be expected.