Pharma Recruitment Agencies: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Costs And Benefits Of Outsourcing Recruitment Versus Doing It In-House

The pharmaceutical recruitment agency has two characteristics that make hiring especially important and expensive. The technical and management talent needed to develop and test new drugs can be expensive. The cost of a bad hire can also be quite high. And, as with any in-demand workers, the best life sciences people may not be cruising the job boards looking for work. A pharma recruitment agency would have the right business contacts, industry knowledge, and talent acquisition skills to streamline hiring and minimize the risks of making a poor hiring decision. Read on to learn more about the costs and benefits of outsourcing recruitment versus doing it in-house.

What a Pharma Recruitment Agency Does

A specialized staffing agency for the pharmaceutical industry helps fill temporary, contract, and direct-hire roles in life sciences and technology companies. The agency will have access to talent in clinical research, regulatory compliance, risk management, designing clinical trials, and clinical writing. For example, BDN uses a multi-step process to source and screen candidates with the right skills, working style, and industry experience to be a match for your role and your company.

The agency will fill openings in those roles, and others, by interviewing potential clients to find out what they need, executing a search strategy, and screening candidates. As with all sorts of outsourcing, using a pharma staffing agency carries certain costs and benefits.

Costs and Cost Savings

Obviously, all recruiting efforts cost money. There are direct costs, like LinkedIn ads, and indirect costs. The more recruiting a firm does, the bigger the HR department needs to be. A mid-sized pharmaceutical company might need to fill several scientific and technical roles per month, including technical writers, risk managers, and project managers. Consider how much that might cost in terms of staff time and advertising costs.

Outsourcing talent acquisition only reduces HR costs, so the more hiring going on, the higher the costs will be. With that in mind, a professional staffing agency will probably charge 20% to 50% of the first-year salary for an employee. If you hire a research project manager at $100,000 per year, the staffing agency will charge $20,000 to $50,000. Costs are likely to be similar if you go through a third party to hire a contractor for a project.

These recruitment costs have to be balanced against the potential savings of outsourcing some searches. For example, partnering with a staffing agency like BND can even help you avoid the cost of expanding your HR department to support an expanding business. For established and stable businesses, you can also cut down on your costs by partnering with a staffing agency instead of outsourcing. One experienced talent acquisition person might easily cost the company $80,000 a year in salary, benefits, and overhead.

The direct cost of retaining a staffing agency brings certain benefits beyond just allowing you to operate with a smaller HR department.


The main benefit of hiring a pharma recruitment agency may well be risk reduction, though there are others worth knowing about. Consider the potential cost and other implications of hiring the wrong person for a role. Turnover in professional scientific and technical work can be extremely costly. Whatever else may have happened, the cost of re-advertising and filling the position could top $90,000.

In addition to risk management, hiring a staffing agency also brings three important advantages:

  • Reduced time to hire – The longer a position remains open, the more issues that opening causes for the company.
  • Lower cost to hire – Outsourcing the search and screening process for your pharmaceutical talent means the firm’s own HR department can be smaller, as a staffing agency like BDN allows you to easily ramp up hiring or scale back as needed. There is no need to hire a couple more talent acquisition specialists with all the associated hiring costs and overhead.
  • Better prospects to recruit from – A good staffing agency has more ways to reach qualified talent, including people who may not be actively looking for work.

It may be a little anxiety-provoking to turn over a critical recruiting effort to a third party, but it really isn’t a risky move. When you invest in professional pharmaceutical staffing, you save time and reduce your risk while also controlling costs.

Minimize Hiring Risks With Specialized Staffing Help

A pharmaceutical staffing agency offers a way to fill an open position in less time while also helping a life sciences firm reduce risk and cut the overall costs of talent acquisition. An agency like BDN with a rigorous process will also minimize the risk of a bad hire that introduces new challenges. Consider the value of making BDN your workforce development partner. If you need pharma or life sciences talent, we can help. We can also help your business with engineering, tech, and project-based staffing. If you need talent in the areas of quality control, clinical testing, and regulatory compliance. Contact us to learn more about our staffing services.