Talent Acquisition

In-house Expertise

“We understand the Challenges of Talent Acquisition”

Coulter Partners is fortunate to draw on the first-hand experience, knowledge and skills of team members who have worked for the likes of AstraZeneca, Roche and Eisai in Talent Acquisition, in-house. The insights they bring have helped the global team to understand the challenges of in-house Talent Acquisition and to develop strategies to tackle these in close collaboration as trusted partners.

Specialists in Conversation

Our colleagues Marie-Garance Leroy and Samantha Ng here discuss what they see as the typical challenges of Talent Acquisition for Life Sciences and how mutual understanding can be the foundation of strong and enduring partnerships between executive recruiters and a Talent Acquisition team.

Complexity, Volume and Timelines

Marie-Garance: Timeline complexity, heavy workloads and the need to gain approvals can mean a great deal of persistent and patient communication is needed. There is never enough time in-house! The volume of requisitions can be extremely high and steering this to meet the expectations of all stakeholders is very challenging. Being judged in line with KPIs on speed of delivery and best quality candidates brings added pressure.

Sam: Keeping abreast of deadlines and expectations with time spent conducting interviews and assessments are just some of the challenges faced in-house.  Delivery times and costs are monitored and reported on too. Our role as search partners is to deliver great candidates to our clients. It is important not to overpromise, but to be transparent about any challenges and to work towards a positive solution together as client partners.  We can support further by reducing unnecessary interruptions and by helping to manage candidate expectations.

Marie-Garance: 70% of the time the Talent Acquisition team is in emergency mode. Constantly jumping from an interview to a briefing meeting, from a candidate feedback session to a strategic line manager meeting, they are often forced to make some very quick decisions. As search partners we can support them as much as possible to avoid the emergency timeline mode and to focus on the quality proposition we can offer.

“One HR”

Marie-Garance: Talent Acquisition is part of the strategy for “One HR”. By that I mean it encompasses not only talent attraction, but also talent management, onboarding and support. HR professionals understand internal stakeholders, budgets, the strategy of the business and as business partners, they understand the critical timelines best.

Sam: In-house you are a supportive partner to your HRBPs and hiring managers. When in-house we invest in building these relationships to gain timely information; identifying talent gaps, finding suitable internal / external candidates and managing the process.


Marie-Garance: As search partners our focus is on building strong mutual understanding and strong relationships to align with our clients’ goals. Establishing good relationships with the Talent Acquisition organisation will lead us to deliver extra value to the client organisation.

Sam: Plus, there is always so much going on in-house. Other commitments and projects can consume a great deal of energy and resource. These may include revising the PSL, opening a new affiliate office, developing a direct sourcing model, managing direct reports and attending many meetings. As search partners we need to play our part with empathy and efficiency.

Being a Trusted Partner

Marie-Garance: In-house our goal is to maintain a constant partnership with not only the line manager and HRBP, but also with candidates. We need to lead the selection process from day one right through to on-boarding, keeping all the three partners informed and happy and adjust to organisational changes that may have an impact on the currently recruited role.

Sam: Yes, developing stakeholder relationships with everyone and not working around or against them.

Marie-Garance: As Consultants, we add value by collaborating to help deliver the goals of internal “Talent Advisors”. By being aligned and working in parallel we can support the Talent team not only with their immediate vacancies, but also with pipelining for succession gaps. Our in-depth knowledge of the markets enables us to be forward looking in this way.

Sam: And in-house there is often a lack of in-depth market intelligence, specific to the function being recruited.  This can include the extent of the potential talent in the market or real-time salary benchmarking data, for instance. We can really add value here by providing our clients with good market insight.

Marie-Garance: At Coulter Partners we provide a service that is efficient and top quality.  We bring quality candidates that a standard recruitment process would not achieve, through our careful identification, assessment and selection process. We regularly showcase our work through case studies, so that clients can get to know our credentials thoroughly.

Adding More Value

Sam: There can be a negative perception of the recruitment process. In-house we often need to raise the importance placed on the candidate experience, and as search partners we can help with this by delivering a great service all-round.

Marie-Garance: Yes, we can add value in all sorts of ways. We can promote the brand and opportunity by communicating a company’s culture and USPs to our networks and further building their reputation.

Succession gaps, talent gaps, diversity gaps

Marie-Garance: At high levels in an organisation there may be sensitivity around succession gaps and we can become an effective business partner in talent pipelining. A client may realise there are not enough lean profiles for instance – people to optimise processes and handle “lean pharma projects”. Inspiration and creativity may be needed to identify competencies and often brand-new roles may need to be defined.  We can support the set-up of scouting strategies for the best talent on the market.

Sam: At Coulter Partners we can support the creation of pipelines for identified successions gaps on key positions at global, corporate and operational levels that clients have now, or can see coming in the medium term. This is a piece where many companies are not yet strong, and where the scouting model is not yet well enough developed.

In Conclusion

Sam: Having the inside knowledge and insight of the challenges faced really makes us better partners.  Through our personal experiences of working in-house, we can picture situations and understand the differences between mid-sized and large pharma organisations, as well as the expectations and scope of a job role within organisations of differing sizes.

Marie -Garance:  We understand how functions interact with one another and the challenges faced when a decision is needed or approvals are required.  We understand that there are many factors and complexities that can add time to a process and that should be factored in and discussed with clients early on. Maintaining this kind of openness will enable a smoother process throughout.