April 18, 2024

Retained vs In-House Recruiting for Regulatory Affairs: Our Survey Results

The results of our survey of 40 biotech and pharma companies hiring a VP of Regulatory Affairs who either retained an outside search company or used contingent search.

Retained vs In-House Recruiting

Our Survey Results

In my 21 years representing regulatory affairs professionals for the biotech industry, my clients have experienced increased pressure the past few years to retain regulatory talent. With far fewer companies willing to groom entry-level regulatory fellows, as well as the many financial and clinical ups and downs in recent years, it’s a constant struggle to keep a company moving forward. In 2004, there were approximately 35 biotech companies between Boston and Cambridge. As of February 2024, there are over 260+ biotech companies in Cambridge, Massachusetts alone!

ERAPS decided to conduct a survey where we reached out to 40 different biotech and pharmaceutical companies that hired a VP (Head) of Regulatory Affairs between April 2022 to December 2023. We reached out to find out what their overall success has been, between the onboarding process to what potential challenges companies experienced to retain them.

What Our Survey Revealed

ERAPS reached out to a total of 40 biotech/pharmaceutical companies which were split into 2 groups of 20 per group.

Group A: Biotech / pharmaceutical companies that utilized in-house recruiters, hiring them as contractors to fill every position, which in turn lowers annual recruiting costs.

Group B: Biotech / pharmaceutical companies which hired outside retained search firms that have several years placing executive regulatory talent.

In-house recruiter (Group A) results

  • In Group A, 6 of the 20 Regulatory VP’s voluntarily left the company due to cultural misalignment. In a situation like this, it can be a case where company culture ended up being a mismatch based on the candidate. Perhaps there wasn’t enough vetting on the side of the recruiter. Or perhaps the candidate didn’t do enough due diligence during the interview process. Either way, the recruiter who represented the candidate should have done a more thorough job vetting the candidate. "
  • 2 VP’s were terminated due to misrepresenting their actual technical aptitude, and were not capable of leading very complex negotiations with the FDA / EMA. This is a failure from the recruitment side. There was a failure to ask the candidate difficult questions and to dig deeper into a candidate’s career experience and background.

Retained Search (Group B) results

On the other hand, Group B retained 17 of the 20 Vice Presidents using retained regulatory search firms.

  • In Group B, 1 of 20 employees was involuntarily laid off due to poor clinical data, which resulted in the  company’s restructuring. 
  • 1 VP voluntarily left due to a major leadership change, including the boss that initially hired them.
  • 1 VP voluntarily left the company for not being a good cultural fit.


Retained Search: A Better Value

Our survey’s results are loud and clear about the consequences of choosing retained search vs in-house contingent search. The short-term savings garnered by in-house search produce a worse result in terms of the actual hire. Those savings are usually not worth it.

What reasons exist for this large discrepancy? 

Overall, hiring Regulatory search expertise will help you find the most culturally and technically aligned candidates most efficiently. It reduces the risk of making a poor hire, and ultimately strengthens your regulatory compliance and overall business timelines and objectives.

What our survey also suggests is the power of having thorough familiarity with your niche network, and an ability to uncover the “true” success record so candidates are truly aligned with companies that are the right fit for their background. 

A final bit of advice that comes from our 21 years of regulatory search experience: dig deep to find out as much as possible about the regulatory candidate’s reputation at the  FDA, EMA, and ex-US  health authorities. Why? Because knowledge is power, and this power when shared will save your client company both a potentially significant amount of money, hours of frustration and potentially avoiding a candidate replacement! 

I’ll use the old adage of “it takes money to make money,” which in this case, rings true! There are no shortcuts for providing top quality performance to uncover the top 10% of regulatory leadership talent.  


ERAPS (Executive Regulatory Professional Search) is a Boston-based executive search firm with 20+ years executive search experience, providing biotech/pharmaceutical clients with a vast national regulatory network. ERAPS has expertise in all levels of regulatory search between Associate Director to Chief Regulatory Officer. In addition, ERAPS employs regulatory consultants nationwide, providing all functions of regulatory expertise to clients.

Looking to find your perfect placement in Regulatory Affairs?

Schedule a call with Brandan Sweeney today.

Ready to get your critical regulatory vacancy filled?

Schedule a call with Brandan Sweeney today.

Brandan Sweeney

CEO I Founder | Regulatory Search Expert

bsweeney@eraps.bio(617) 500-2510