Woman on laptop

5 challenges in pharmaceutical physician recruitment (and how to overcome them)

Pharmaceutical physicians play a pivotal role in clinical development across the biopharmaceutical industry. Drawing on their years of medical training, pharmaceutical physicians are legally required to advise across various stages of the product lifecycle to ensure that therapy options are safe, and effective for patients worldwide.

As the biopharma industry continues to expand and advance, the demand for specialist physicians continues to surge. In this competitive landscape, employers face a critical challenge – they must be able to not only find, but successfully hire the best physicians before their competitors.

In this article, I will describe the most common hiring challenges faced across pharmaceutical physician recruitment, and provide actionable advice based on my own experience as a medical recruitment expert.

Pharmaceutical physician recruitment challenges and solutions

1. Physicians have limited time for job applications

Time-sensitive projects and deadlines require physicians to focus heavily on their work, leaving little time to actively apply for open positions. 
Overcoming this hurdle relies on achieving a deep understanding of candidates’ personal and professional values to strengthen relationships. Once you’ve gained strong connections, you’ll start to receive recommendations and referrals – in my experience, this is where high calibre candidates are found.

2. Choosing the right skills requirements

While medical knowledge is the most important attribute for any pharmaceutical physician, there are other valuable characteristics to consider, and prioritize across the hiring process.

Look out for:

  • Strong verbal and written communication skills 
  • Experience with the production of publications, safety reports or educational material
  • Team working skills
  • Leadership and decision-making skills
  • Business acumen
  • Resilience

The ideal candidate will vary depending on your own business goals, culture and the role specification itself - but the right candidate should have the ability to remain proactive and flexible enough to stay on track and communicate across projects.

3. Lack of physicians in the pharmaceutical industry

While physicians are familiar with the pharmaceutical industry, merely 0.7% of the total number of physicians in the workforce have actively worked within it. 
Outlining similarities, and differences between clinical and industry practice can help ensure candidates fully understand the nature of the role.

According to research in the Journal of Diabetes, Science and Technology, these are:

Similarities – 

  • Dedication to improving the lives of patients
  • Medical knowledge and continuous medical education
  • Collaboration with academics and experts from a variety of fields
  • The importance of scientific rigour 

Differences – 

  • Large scale medical impact
  • Projects as long-term efforts
  • More indirect outputs
  • Different working day structures

4. Creating a motivational job description

Outlining a competitive salary is not always enough to motivate talented candidates to apply for positions.

In my experience, more physicians have been inspired to accept new roles because of the organization’s mission and scientific purpose, rather than reasons around salary increase alone.
The job description should delve further into the place the candidate would have in the team, short and long-term objectives, the value of the project to the wider healthcare industry, and the value delivered to patients.

5. Timing outreach to physicians

Although it’s possible to recruit a graduate for a pharmaceutical physician role, generally it’s important to focus your attention on those who have been established in the field for some time. Practical experience around patient care and clinical practice, on top of therapeutic practice specialisation, are extremely valuable for the transition into the pharmaceutical industry. 
Outreach timing can also depend on the position of interest.

Hiring for medical affairs opportunities can be fast-paced due to commercial pressures and the set of personal skills required to thrive in the sector. Meanwhile, a more considerate and patient approach is necessary for clinical science and safety opportunities to enable the right evaluation steps and decisions to take place. 
Given the fact that it takes 7 to 10 years on average (and sometimes much longer) to become a recognised professional, most physicians won’t be rushing to change their career path; a high-pressure timeline or a ‘salesy’ push will do more harm than good.

Key Takeaways to overcome the challenges of pharmaceutical physician recruitment

  • Take time to understand your candidates’ personal and professional values
  • Look for more than medical knowledge alone
  • Outline the similarities and differences between clinical, and pharmaceutical work
  • Describe your organisation’s mission and wider scientific purpose in the job description
  • Vary your outreach approach according to the position of interest

The reality is that recruiting pharmaceutical physicians relies on more than industry connections, high salary job ads, and contacts – the key to overcoming hiring obstacles is providing a meaningful return for candidates by aligning your efforts with their personal motivational drivers. 
Doing this successfully will enable you to establish a strong network and obtain the highest calibre of genuinely motivated physicians for your organisation.


Interested in finding a new pharmaceutical physician role? Connect with our specialist Vlad Babych on LinkedIn. 

Need help hiring for a technical or senior-level role in the biopharma industry? Email solutions@srgtalent.com to arrange a call back at a time that is convenient. 

Vlad specialises in finding Medical Experts and PhD qualified candidates for Medical Affairs, Clinical Development and Pharmacovigilance domains Internationally.

Specialist Areas: Medical & Clinical Development

The typical roles Vlad recruits include: Medical Director, Medical Affairs Lead, Chief Medical Officer, Head of Medical Affairs, Medical Advisor/Manager, Head of Clinical Science, Clinical Lead, Clinical Study Physician, Pharmaceutical Physician, Drug Safety Physician, QPPV and Pharmacovigilance Scientists.

How useful did you find this article?
Thank you for your feedback!
5.0 / 5.0

Share location?

Do you want to share your location for better user experience ?