Interim VP solves hiring freeze headache

Our client, a mid-sized, Swiss-based pharmaceutical company, was going through an approvals process for a new product. They needed a Global Vice President of Regulatory Affairs to help get this product approved but had a hiring freeze at the same time.

We had been working with this client for six years at the time, exclusively recruiting permanent employees. We discussed this dilemma with them and understood their uncertainty as to whether or not their product would get the approval.

In such a situation, even without a hiring freeze, it would have been risky to appoint a permanent employee as it could have led to an expensive termination should they not secure the product approval. In Switzerland, an employer would typically have to give six months’ notice when terminating a permanent employee.

This is when we pitched a temporary solution: bring in an interim VP. This person would be technically hired by us and labour leased out to the client via our Swiss entity. With this solution the client was able to pull budget from elsewhere, rather than their usual headcount budget, and rather than a six-month notice period, could benefit from a four-week one.

We needed a VP with experience leading pre-approval procedures for both US and EU while also navigating a commercialised portfolio both early and late stage. The challenge was not necessarily finding someone who could do this, but someone who would be willing to do this on a temporary basis.

In addition, we were under time pressure to get this person in place within six weeks as the former VP was leaving.

Our Swiss life sciences recruitment lead, given his depth of knowledge and breadth of network, had identified over 60 relevant candidates, each differing slightly in experience and personal fit. Given the seniority of the position, he had video interviews with the candidates to test their knowledge, experience, willingness, and fit for the role.

Within 24 hours of the initial briefing call with the client, we’d delivered a shortlist of 15 candidates.

In less than three weeks, the client had chosen their preferred candidate, and signed the contract.  The person started a week later, just one month after starting the recruitment process.