Global Pharmaceutical & Biotech Talent – Where is the best value for money talent in Europe?

10 minutes

Walker Cole International is an executive search and interim solutions partner to the global...

By Andrew Davis

Managing Director at Walker Cole International

Walker Cole International is an executive search and interim solutions partner to the global pharmaceutical and biotechnology market. In this article, our Head of Search, Andrew Davis, shares his insights from the past 2 years of hiring across the European region.


Candidate Supply and Demand

The pharmaceutical industry has been through a significant evolution since the COVID-19 pandemic, which has continued through the financial uncertainty of the Ukraine war and crypto-currencies.

At one point during 2021, our pharmaceutical and biotech clients had such a need for talent that hiring was being done on a completely remote basis within the restrictions of the global pandemic.

During this year, as investment and hiring demands have slowed, the talent market has ‘normalised’ with more balance to the candidate supply and demand ratios. This has been due to candidates receiving fewer headhunt calls and the more active job seekers are returning to the job listing pages which have not been needed as much in the past 12 months. This is good news for employers with smaller hiring budgets and the desire to strengthen their employer brands, but we need to ask ourselves: ‘does greater supply always mean you will always see the best talent?’

Since September 2022, Walker Cole International has completed 97 mandates in our Executive Search and Talent Solutions businesses at Senior Manager to CxO.

Evolving candidate briefs

Europe offers a rich diversity of talent for employers able to hire across the region. I am seeing hiring preferences evolve to meet technical and leadership requirements, budget restraints and the desire for candidates to work on a minimum of a hybrid basis.

Walker Cole has 17 ongoing or completed searches with a location requirement spanning 3+ countries. Of these searches, over two thirds of these mandates required the candidate to be within commutable distance of a local, country site or willing to commit to once per week in the office. This is building a further case that employers are seeking more traditional, face-to-face engagement amongst their employees.

Cost of hiring

European pharmaceutical hiring has historically been dominated by countries such as Germany, France, UK, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Belgium, with a strong scientific community and corporate presence.  

A key result of the post pandemic market has been the emergence of new talent pools, candidates living in countries that have historically not been considered for European or Global level roles due to location restrictions are now a key part of conducting an effective and thorough European Search.

In 2023, Walker Cole has appointed 3 Senior Directors in European level roles for client’s headquartered in Germany and France. All 3 hires were made in Italy as the cost of hiring was 20% less than it would be to hire in Germany or France.

Interestingly, for a business leader writing this from a London headquarters whose clients are global pharmaceutical companies, the UK has become a value for money location for pharmaceutical companies. Director and Senior Director hires are in the range of 17 – 22% cheaper to hire in the UK versus Germany and France.

Accessing talent

As 2024 draws closer, I am supporting our clients with finding the right balance of investing in hard-to-reach talent, while finding cost effective solutions of direct sourcing and inhouse talent acquisition.

I would be delighted to connect with new and existing clients to discuss these challenges further.


Andrew Davis
Managing Director at Walker Cole International
M: +44 (0) 208 103 4401

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