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Hannah Light

Hannah is Digital Marketing Manager at Star OUTiCO.

27 July 2022

We spent some time chatting to Lauren about returning to work after 10 months’ maternity leave, her impressions of the industry’s development in that time, and what this means for her plans within Senior/Exec, Head Office and Marketing recruitment.

Welcome back, Lauren! How is it to be back after 10 months?

It’s been lovely to be back, as I love having routine and like reconnecting with candidates. It’s been nice to wake up in the morning, get the baby to nursery, get down to the allotment if I can, and then come to work!

I’m really enjoying chatting to all the candidates whom I might have known for a while – reconnecting with them, hearing what they’ve been doing, the companies that they’re working at, and just finding out how they see the market now. What’s also been nice has been finding new candidates who haven’t been on the market for years.

It’s been lovely from a marketing and head office point of view just chatting to all the candidates again, and I’m finding interestingly that the market itself – the dynamic of the pharma industry – doesn’t seem to have changed too much.

The needs of a candidate and the client are basically the same: the need for flexible working, and higher salaries has always been the case, but it seems to be more so now that candidates might be used to working from home, so it’s been quite interesting to navigate that expectation.

It’s been lovely just chatting to all the candidates again, and I’m finding interestingly that the dynamic of the pharma industry doesn’t seem to have changed too much.

Lauren Alexander

Are you working on the same roles as before, or has your role shifted slightly?

Before I went on maternity leave I was working clinical, marketing, and head office roles, from Medical Advisors, CSOs, and Pharmacovigilance, to Brand Managers, Digital Managers, Brand Leads, Marketing Managers, and so on.

My role hasn’t really changed hugely, but there is an added focus now on more digital roles. That’s great for me as I have a real passion for recruiting for those, though because of the market and the way that we’re seeing the roles coming in, there’s a need for me to be still focusing on senior exec level positions, Head Office, and Clinical, as well.

Due to what I’m seeing, my interest moving forward is to secure some roles within health tech, such as looking at front-end and back-end developers, and those that work within user experience. I’ll be educating myself in the coming weeks and months to get a good understanding of these types of candidates, and the terminology that would indicate good candidates within these fields.

It’s quite apparent now that those role types are going to be a big thing going forward for Pharma and MedTech companies, as well as ‘SaaS’ (service as a solution) companies. I’m seeing this mainly among startups companies, more so than larger companies using traditional methods like agencies.

Recently, we’re working with clients who are using these types of health tech roles for patient flow and making the life of the HCP easier from an IT point of view, as well as from an education point of view.

That’s I guess what I’ve challenged myself with going forward!

my interest moving forward is to secure some roles within health tech… It’s quite apparent now that those role types are going to be a big thing going forward for Pharma and MedTech companies, as well as ‘SaaS’ (service as a solution) companies.

Lauren Alexander

COVID had changed things before you went on mat leave, but what are the main differences you’re seeing now when it comes to sourcing for roles?

When I first started at Star OUTiCO I was working Med Devices (MedTech), and we’d have a CRM system filled with people. You’d have a hot list of, say, 10 people in each location, you would keep in touch with them and hopefully that would make role filling simpler and quicker.

Whereas now, working on the marketing and clinical side, every client has a specific idea of what a Brand Manager, for example, is, so the experience is so different – whether they’re digital, omnichannel, or more traditional, it’s definitely more challenging.

Candidates want a certain type of role: rare diseases and oncology are very popular areas, and there’s not a huge number of companies doing that. We’re seeing the changes in terms of how to recruit. It’s all head-hunting, so most of my time is finding candidates and then adding those to my hot list, and that hot list gets bigger and bigger every day!

You approach people who are hopefully open to work or open to new opportunities: sometimes they’re not but can sometimes be open to moving when you discuss a certain role – it is really interesting to hear about motivations for candidates and what drives them as often it isn’t to do with money which is what you may expect.

every client has a specific idea of what a Brand Manager is, so the experience is so different – whether they’re digital, omnichannel, or more traditional, it’s definitely more challenging.

Lauren Alexander

The industry currently seems quite fluid as companies iron out what they need from their workforce post-COVID. How are you finding this affecting the jobs market?

I think it comes down to expectations – candidate expectations versus client expectations. It’s like any other relationship, it’s making sure that you know they match, or that if they don’t match 100%, then people will take compromises and how far you are willing to compromise too.

What we’re finding is it’s a candidate-led market. I was very busy during the peak of COVID, and lots of people were moving roles. A lot of good candidates that I knew – I’d placed them or they’d found jobs themselves – started to move just before I went on mat leave. Now it’s a year on, they’re not looking to move, so what we’re finding instead are brand-new candidates to the market.

These candidates might not have looked for a job in say four or five years, and so you have candidates who maybe have very different expectations of job hunting. Maybe they’ve grown through a company with internal salary increases so when they come out to market they’re expecting a certain amount of money, and then they’re shocked that those roles aren’t offering what they want – this is generalising and only one example, but it is something to know and understand when starting the job search.

it’s a candidate-led market. A lot of good candidates that I knew started to move just before I went on mat leave. Now it’s a year on, they’re not looking to move, so what we’re finding instead are brand-new candidates to the market.

Lauren Alexander

How do you manage a situation like that as a recruiter?

By getting to know your clients and having a relationship with them that allows you to say, “Right, this is what the market is telling us”, and being honest and transparent.

It’s about having the confidence in your own ability that you’ve gone to market, done the research, spoken to X amount of people, pulled a project together, triple-checked with the client on their requirements, and asked the right questions, to allow you to say, “I’ve done everything, this is what the market is telling us”.

That then triggers conversations around benefits, flexible or hybrid working, that candidates in more senior roles are sometimes looking for more than a salary increase, and it might be around therapy area, growth in the role or progression, and really understanding the motivating drivers of the candidates.

I think we’ve all become more used to having time to walk the dog, have lunch whenever, or go for a walk, without a potentially stressful commute. People that have had that taste of remote or hybrid working are certainly more interested in continuing with those benefits rather than a higher salary.

Start-ups and biotech companies are doing well when it comes to putting packages together for employees. They have listened to the market, whereas potentially some larger more traditional pharma companies are yet to start introducing these packages, so it’s key to have those conversations to let them know what the market is telling us.

When we are looking at the misalignment of expectations and trying to marry candidate and client, it really does come down to relationships with both, and honesty. If it’s not going to work, then that’s fine – we’ll find the candidate another role and have further conversations with our client about their expectation versus market opinion.

It’s about having the confidence in your own ability to then say, “I’ve done everything, this is what the market is telling us”.

Lauren Alexander

You’ve been back nearly a month – how’s it been?

I was hopefully going to come back within nine months, but various family things meant that it got pushed back a bit and I came back after 10. I was able to do some ‘keeping in touch’ days beforehand, which was really nice. They helped me get myself back into ‘pharma brain’ rather than ‘mum brain’!

Danny as my manager was very open and said for me to ease myself back in, but I’m the sort of person who isn’t really able to do that because I just like to jump in with two feet! So, I’ve got lots and lots of roles and have taken on some from others that are within Marketing, so that’s been great.

Last month (July), I got a role on with a great company, and I managed to place within a week. I’d not even been back a whole month, so it’s just been lovely to get back into the swing of things.

At times it’s been pretty hard work, but once you’re on the phone you remember that people are people, and we all put our trousers on the same way in the morning! And talking about being back from mat leave has actually been a really lovely icebreaker with some people, because they want to congratulate me, or ask questions.

It’s quite lovely, and I think if anything, coming back from mat leave has taught me a lot more patience as well!


For a conversation around your Senior/Exec, Head Office and Marketing recruitment needs, get in touch with us today, or connect with Lauren on LinkedIn.