Skip to main content

What legacy will your leaders leave?

Written on .

Seeking to fill the Japan and Asia Regional Regulatory Affairs position, one American Pharmaceutical had hit their breaking point. Despite retaining a global executive search firm, pouring over 23 potential resumes, and interviewing 14 candidates, none were suitable for the role.

The position had been open for 17 months, and they were no closer to finding a candidate. They wanted an executive to join the leadership team in Japan, with an accomplished RA track record and business-level English. It was imperative they understand rare diseases, have a keen interest in technology, and the foresight on how it may aid and support regulatory affairs. Reporting directly to headquarters, perhaps the biggest challenge they faced was that their senior executive had the reputation of being one tough cookie.

Challenge accepted.

You can imagine the pressure this placed on Morunda’s talent acquisition team. Every delay made the situation worse, and senior management regularly hauled them over the coals about why they hadn’t found the ideal candidate. I approached “the call” with trepidation, but as I listened, I’ll admit – the challenge excited me. We decided to take the retainer but approached it from a different angle. Sitting down with the line manager and relevant stakeholders to pinpoint their definition of success, we shifted the focus from what the candidate should have, like ten years of experience, to the key milestones to achieve within the next 12 months. In other words, what the candidate would need to achieve.

Once we knew the “why,” we could reach out to candidates and appeal to a different part of their rationale. It’s no secret that emotions play a role in accepting an offer, and we saw the opportunity for the right candidate to start building a legacy. The company did have many things going for it. The line manager was charismatic and trilingual, and an impressive pipeline of products for rare diseases offered an exciting opportunity. The downside was their bureaucratic reputation, and many thought they were slow to make moves in the market. We had our work cut out for us.

Our team put together six candidates in six weeks, moving quickly as the previous recruiter had let this company down. The client interviewed all six, and two progressed to the second and third rounds. Unfortunately, none were the perfect fit, and we were back to square one. It was a frustrating situation, that left me wondering if Morunda had bitten off more than we could chew with this client.

Back to the drawing board.

Inviting the line manager to lunch, we enjoyed Tempura overlooking Tokyo on a clear winter’s day, with Mount Fuji in all its glory on the horizon. Throughout the conversation, she went into greater detail about the position and the company culture. I could see her enthusiasm and passion as she explained her vision. But what excited me most was her desire to create a cutting-edge team that could transform the entire regulatory affairs environment in Japan. Intrigued, I had another idea.

Ten weeks had already passed, but armed with the new information, I checked in with a handful of candidates who initially passed on the role, but I had a feeling they might be interested in this unique opportunity. Of those I called, the client interviewed an additional four candidates. One was a clear standout. Building on several years’ experience in a European pharmaceutical, she’d been promised a regional position that was still yet to happen. She was just the person we needed.

Talented, with strong English skills and a desire to grow in her role to a regional level. The client was impressed, yet cautiously optimistic. I had a feeling they’d been here before, only to have it all fall apart at the last minute. Together, we met the candidate several times in Tokyo and Singapore. Aided by the Covid-19 travel restrictions that meant travel to the global headquarters wasn’t required, we gained a deeper understanding of her personal and professional interests, and the client was sold.

Finding the perfect fit.

Of course, there were still a few ups-and-downs towards the end of the process. But with our guidance, our client put together an attractive package that the candidate was happy to accept. She has quickly integrated herself within the executive committee’s leadership team, and today they’re all working diligently towards the future vision of the company they all share.

It’s another successful outcome for one of our clients. If you’re facing a similar challenge with your executive recruitment, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team today. We’d love to help you too. Simply email

Share This Post