Sourcing in the Pharmaceutical Industry

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Nov 18, 2019

Here is a quick-start sourcing guide for the pharmaceutical industry. We’ll cover some terms and techniques that are good to know when starting out in world of pharma.


Before you start sourcing in the industry, you will need to be equipped with basic knowledge on 4 different levels.

First of all, you will need to understand the full development life-cycle of a new drug. These are only the basic concepts, so you should not start sourcing until you have an idea of the bigger picture.

The pharmaceutical industry is full of acronyms but do not be afraid! A quick google search or consulting a website like the following ones will help you to understand them better:

Get to know the departments. The pharmaceutical industry is very straight-forward in terms of structure. Most companies / laboratories will be structured in a very similar way. Do some research about the different departments and what they do, keeping in mind the development life-cycle of a new drug.

Get to know the global market AND your local market. You need to understand the market, who the biggest players are and where to find the candidates.

You can check out this document from 2018 which will help you to understand the leaders in the market per country / molecule / therapeutic area / product name :

Get to know your company. Most companies specialize in different Therapeutic Areas (TA) and are known for specific research development projects. Get to know the strengths of the company you’re working with, whether they are leading the research on specific areas, their innovative projects, the molecules they’re using etc…



Work in partnership with hiring managers (HMs). They will have the best knowledge of the market and where the good candidates are, where similar projects are being developed and where not to look for XYZ reason. This of course applies to any industry, but the pharmaceutical world is a very small one, they might know exactly where to look for or have some information that will guide you on the right path.

MD, PhDs, scientists and other pharma industry professionals are very smart, and they will not respond to you easily if you do not make an effort when reaching out. You can already forget about templates or messages that are not giving crucial information about the role or the company. You will have to pique their interest with facts, even if they most probably know what the laboratory / company you are recruiting for is doing. From the very start of the recruitment process, you will have to be ready to answer specific questions and explain the context.

People are genuinely nice. I’ve noticed that candidates (as well as HMs) in this industry are warm and kind, always very open-minded and happy to tell you about their career. Be a good listener and as long as you are honest and transparent, you’ll have a great time talking to candidates. Bonus: they are usually more than happy to give recommendations and refer people they know if they feel like they can trust you.

They will make an effort to explain their job in a way you can understand. Just like software developers, scientists are able to explain scientific topics to non-scientific people.  

Most people speak English in addition to their mother tongue. If you recruit in research and development, most of your candidates will speak English fluently, no matter where they are from. On the contrary, if you’re looking for candidates for sales rep roles, they might only speak the local language their role is limited to geographically.



Now that the basics are covered, let’s get into the “real stuff”: where to find candidates.

General professional networks – LinkedIn / Xing / Viadeo

Most of the candidates have a profile on LinkedIn, more or less filled with useful details which will help you to assess the match with your role.

LinkedIn is obviously a good tool to help you understand the market using the search and company insights features.

Google Scholar

Aahh what would I do without Google Scholar? This is one of my favorite places to source from. You can add your Boolean string and search for scientific publications.

Once you are on the publication, you will get the names of all scientists / PhDs / MDs who have worked on that research project.

Google Scholar tip1: You will sometimes find contact details in the author section. If there are no emails or phone numbers, search the name of the publication on Google.  Also cross reference them on other websites with (email OR contact OR phone OR number) and you’ll probably find it. Most articles appear on different websites and there is almost always a publication with contact details.

Google Scholar tip2: Don’t forget to mention the paper you have read when contacting them. This will increase your chances to be read and considered. You are showing that you have done your homework and they are more likely a good fit for the role as you understand their area of expertise.

Google Scholar example 1:

For each article, you will be getting the source, the authors and the titles on the Google scholar results.  Let’s see what the second article is about.

On this website, it seems like we have the names of the authors, as well as their workplaces. We also get one out of the two email addresses.

Google Scholar Example 2:

Other example with an article which is only giving me one email address out of the 8 authors:

Applying Google Scholar tip1, I research the article on google by typing the title in the search bar:

I’m checking the second link to see if I have more luck with contact details:

It seems like this publication is giving me more information than the first one. 8/8 author email addresses 😊

Google Images

Another great source of candidates. When searching for high-level candidates, go to Google Images:

  • Type your Boolean search
  • Go into settings > Advanced search > Type > Faces

Cross-reference the names you get.

This is working particularly well with the following titles: Director / Head of / VP / consultant / manager (in smaller biotechs or CROs).

Thesis websites

All PhDs and masters have to go through the exercise of a thesis. It might be worth looking into some websites which have published thesis to get candidates that you might not have found anywhere else.

Some examples of websites to look into:


There are many conferences and events in the pharmaceutical industry on a global and local level. Make the most out of it and do a quick search before looking for candidates to find out any event related to the field.

Don’t forget to ask the HM as well during the intake meeting. You can always ask for recommendations of the best events to dig into.

I personally tend to look for European events and specifically for speakers’ or attendees’ lists.


Some areas of the pharmaceutical industry are tougher to source for than others. The main challenges that I have encountered were with the following departments:

  • Quality Assurance (QA)
  • Regulatory affairs (RA): just as QA, candidates do not move jobs easily. There are many specialized agencies which are dedicated to QA & RA candidates.
  • Biostatistics: just like other Data Engineers, candidates are very rarely moving jobs. You better put on your best sales hat to pitch the candidate when reaching out.
  • Radiopharmaceutical development: This is a very secretive market as most companies don’t talk much about it.

This is the end of this quick-start (pretty dense) guide and introduction to sourcing in pharma. Feel free to contact me directly if you have any further questions. 😊

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