Q: What are the top challenges companies face in filling jobs and what positions are most in need?
A: The main positions that need to be filled within the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries are in sales because of the high turnover, especially at entry level. A specific difficulty in these sectors is specialization. These areas require a high degree of specialization, product or therapy knowledge as well as experience working with the government (IMSS, ISSSTE, SEDENA, PEMEX) and the private sector so talent from other sectors is not always appropriate.
Q: Where are companies finding that missing talent? Is it coming from abroad?
A: Mexico is not so focused on importing talent yet. First, companies have to be willing to import international talent and then the laws of each country have to be flexible enough to allow this, otherwise it will take longer to bring the person over. The solution is to fill entry-level positions and develop that talent through programs, as many have done. Another solution is to use agencies like ours.
Q: To what extent are companies cooperating with universities?
A: Most of our clients employ second and third-year students through internship programs. Usually the students are not paid but they gain experience, so it is a win-win for both sides. At the master’s or doctoral level, internships are often a program requirement and for companies it is an opportunity to get to know future talent. However, sometimes students enter a university program with a specific plan and five years later, when they finish, the industry is no longer in the same position as when the program was designed. Still, the relationship between companies and universities is a priority and an opportunity to work together to solve the industry’s talent gaps.
Q: What skills do Hays and its clients look for and how does that apply to the public and private sectors?
A: We consider hard and soft skills. When we look for hard skills we go after people who have worked with the government before, because it is composed of complex institutions that are particularly different from private companies. This experience is necessary for management positions. For private sector sales, we look for soft skills. However, for both clients, flexibility is mandatory because the health market always has different opportunities. With sales, it is important that applicants can highlight the advantages of the products, because selling is not about prices or competitiveness but what the patient can get from the drug or the equipment.
We are also living in a world of mergers. We have many Big Pharma brands in the process of downsizing, so they have to do more with fewer people. For each person, this translates to more work. Before, product managers focused on one medical device or a single group of products. Now, they deal with larger portfolios.
Q: How important are soft skills over traditional medical skills?
A: Medical skills are much appreciated but those who have been working in the industry for 15 or 20 years have gained knowledge from their experience. They may not have a medical background but most unit directors have excellent medical knowledge. It is not possible to have a successful sale to a hospital or IMSS if you cannot detail the benefits for the patient and the pharmacoeconomic information of a product.
Q: Hays is the number one staffing firm on LinkedIn. What role does social media play?
A: It is extremely important. The digital age allows the most direct and fastest way to reach our audience with quality specialized information. We try to be visible to our potential clients because in life sciences we only dedicate our time to pharma and medical devices, which is unusual for staffing firms. Therefore, we strive to be the first company to come to a candidate’s mind due to our knowledge and opinion leadership. This should make the difference for candidates and clients in the market.