Foreign execs flocking to Asia to meet growth demands, says recruiter

By Fiona BARRY

- Last updated on GMT

Singapore is driving demand for senior pharmaceutical employees. (Picture credit: Flickr/Eustaquio Santimano)
Singapore is driving demand for senior pharmaceutical employees. (Picture credit: Flickr/Eustaquio Santimano)

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Local talent is not satisfying the “tremendous” demand for top-level pharma employees in Asia and recruiters are searching internationally for candidates, a pharmaceutical head-hunter has said.

Elizabeth McCabe, US head of life sciences recruitment firm RSA, told rapid growth in hubs like Singapore and China, driven by biotechnology, generics and biosimilars, means “finding enough people to manage the growth can be a challenge.

You really need to be creative and not just stay within one geography. This person might be based somewhere else so you really need to scan the globe to find the best fit for the position.​”

What your CV needs: a year abroad

McCabe told us ambitious pharmaceutical employees looking to be head-hunted for the rising Asian markets should cultivate their CVs with a stint abroad.

In terms of global markets, ideally if the person has had experience living in that country or region, that’s always preferable. They might have worked for three years or so in Singapore and come back to the US. That’s a fantastic experience to have and something my clients are looking for.​”

While prior experience living in the same area as the job vacancy is most attractive, head-hunters are also pleased to see candidates who have worked for a time in any region outside their home country, she said.

If someone has successfully worked [abroad], even if it was in a different global region, I think it really proves there’s a certain skill set, a mentality. [We look for] people who are willing to take on a challenge, get out of their comfort zone, live abroad, and be able to successfully work and meet whatever obstacles they find there.​”

Remote experience

While a previous foreign “rotation​” for a couple of years is very attractive to recruiters, American candidates who want to join thriving Asian pharmaceutical industries can also benefit from remote experience.

Even from a position based in the US, to have some kind of management responsibility for an Asian geography would be a great experience to have as well.​”

The ideal outsider candidate for placement in Asia must have a “global outlook,​” said McCabe, and be personally interested in learning about another culture.

When you arrive in a region there are a lot of sensitivities in terms of the culture, how they live, and how they conduct business, and you really need to have an interest in learning about it so you can really work according to those customs.

If someone isn’t interested, it’s a tougher learning curve for them, whereas if someone has an interest in outside cultures and languages, they generally make that transition a little bit faster.​”

RSA works with client companies and its candidates to make sure the employees relocating internationally are prepared for cultural sensitivities, McCabe told us; “You want to set them up for success.​”

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