Pharmaceutical and health sector under pressure: how to recruit in the face of a lack of attractiveness?



With a global turnover of 63.1 billion euros in 2021, the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector are a heavyweight in the French economy. However, despite these figures, this sector is struggling to recruit relevant candidates because it is cruelly lacking in attractiveness. So how can we explain this lack of interest and give professionals in this industry a new lease on life? Let’s decipher.


In the midst of a transformation, the sector is diversifying its recruitment levers (work-study programs, training for younger candidates, awareness-raising for different professions) to meet the employment needs of its companies, particularly in digital and biotechnology. Because the sector is struggling to hire ideal candidates, LEEM, the professional organization of drug companies operating in France, has reported two phenomena that have been holding back employment in the pharmaceutical sector in France in recent years: 


– A strong tendency to outsource activities to service providers (CROs, manufacturers) in France, but also abroad;

– A lack of clarity in regulatory and legal constraints, which slows down France’s competitiveness with other countries.


However, this sector is in demand for new talents. Arnaud Chouteau, Director of Employment and Training at LEEM, explained in an interview for Pôle Emploi: “It is estimated that there will be 10,000 jobs to be filled by 2030 in biotechnology, as the number of biological treatments marketed by pharmaceutical companies and the need for vaccines increases. Digital skills, which everyone is clamoring for, are one of our major needs: more than 5,000 positions are to be filled by 2026 in digital health professions in order to meet the challenges in artificial intelligence, digital simulation, big data or cybersecurity.” A sector, then, that has no shortage of job openings but struggles to find the perfect match because of the specialized skills companies demand.


However, while waiting for the new generation to be trained, it is possible to accompany your current executives in the development of their softskills through firms specialized in career management. Certified coaches will be assigned to do a complete skills assessment with your executives to build an action plan that will allow them to successfully meet the challenges of tomorrow.


The pharmaceutical and health sector in full transition


LEEM explained: “the pharmaceutical industry currently employs more than 103,000 people nationwide, with nearly 150 jobs spread across production, quality, R&D, marketing/sales, support functions, medical information and regulatory activities.” This shows the interest of the French in this sector. And rightly so! While the Covid-19 crisis has had many negative consequences such as the slowdown or even the abrupt halt of many business sectors, it has nevertheless put the pharmaceutical industry back at the heart of every strategies. 


On the one hand, digital technology concentrates a large part of the needs of the pharmaceutical industry, which is seeking to digitize its entire value chain.

An ageing sector struggling to attract young executives


This is the observation made by Arnaud Chouteau, Director of Employment and Training at LEEM. He explains: “Too often, people who have all the skills to apply for a job with us don’t think about it or don’t do it, convinced that this industry is not for them… whereas the sector (pharmaceutical, Ed.) recruits all types of profiles. At LEEM, we are used to saying ‘from bachelor’s degree to bachelor’s degree +12’, and this is a reality.”


The reason for the problem? Pharmaceutical companies suffer from a lack of knowledge and attractiveness. And it shows in the numbers. “The average age of employees in 2020 is 44.6 years old and continues to rise even though the rate of aging is slowing slightly at 1 year every 4 years. Indeed, the average age was 41.4 years ten years earlier.” This is where a recruitment agency is relevant, as it will help the company work on its employer brand and allow them to discreetly approach relevant candidates for the position sought.


Pharmaceutical companies in the grip of relocation 


Another limitation of the industry is that the health crisis has also shown the shortcomings of France’s ability to manufacture urgently on its territory. To support the industry, measures have been taken, including the relocation of the drug industry. “There is a French and European political will to relocate several activities including clinical research and drug production. This is a promising measure, which should have a positive impact on the volume of hiring,” explains Arnaud Chouteau.


And this relocation will certainly not prevent large groups from recruiting international profiles, quite the contrary. To anticipate this, direct approach recruitment in France and abroad is proving to be an adequate solution for finding the ideal talent. Hence the possibility of calling upon recruitment experts to accompany you in the search for your future executives in France and internationally.



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