The fierce competition to recruit talented healthcare marketing professionals is beginning to translate into numbers, according to the results of our annual Career & Salary Survey.

The average salary this year across all companies and positions has risen by an eye-opening 6.9% to $133,700, and recruitment professionals are in little doubt this is a direct result of a dogfight over the best people.

“You can just feel it,” says AstraZeneca’s senior director of recruitment Ron Williams. “How you find talent and how you go and get it is becoming more of a challenge.”

While the demand straddles all companies and categories, certain therapeutic areas, such as cardiovascular, oncology and diabetes, are hot. In fact, Kevin McGuire of executive search firm Imperative Resources says that people with a science background in oncology and other sought-after specialties can often command a 10% bigger paycheck.

Having a high-science background seems to be the holy grail for healthcare marketing recruiters. “There is a much higher demand for people with PharmDs or even MDs or PhDs,” says McGuire. The trouble is, most good candidates are not scientists.

So how do you give your company the best shot at filling positions with the best people and how do you keep those folks happy?

Salary, of course, is a big factor, and despite what some employers may like to think about the motivations of their workforce, a resounding 61% of respondents ranked salary as the most important of nine considerations about their jobs.

Our survey results certainly support the anecdotal insights from recruitment professionals that most pharmaceutical companies and agencies have already responded to employees’ demands for more dollars.

But when everyone pays a big enough salary, other points of differentiation begin to come into play. Of the 26% of respondents that intend to seek a new job in the next year, a surprisingly modest 36% state their primary motivation as being salary, while one in four say they will be mainly looking for a better working environment. This cultural consideration has become a key battleground in the fight for recruiting and retaining talent.

Agencies, in particular, have been working on their cultural appeal for some time. In “Thinking outside the cubicle” (page 66), we look at a number of innovative ways that firms are attempting to separate themselves from the talent-hiring pack, such as structured training opportunities, employee empowerment and recognition, and spectacular company outings. (A cruise to the
Bahamas, anyone?)

Where do you look when the more conventional talent runs out? “It’s about looking at whether [candidates] have life experience that can easily be transferable,” says AstraZeneca’s Williams.

Again, agencies know all about hunting in unusual places. In “Where did they get you?” (page 75), we look at five of the more unusual recent agency hires: an active trader account exec., a British pharmacist, a film school graduate, a genetics counselor and a digital agency founder. Doug Burcin of Euro RSCG Life, hirer of the latter, sums up the potential rewards of looking outside the traditional talent pool when he says of his recruit: “He brings leadership that comes from outside the traditional way of doing business…where they’re really much more sophisticated at building relationships and understanding their customers than we are.”