Robert Ruth: New Executive Deepens Ashton Tweed’s Big Pharma Recruiting Experience

Robert Ruth


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Robert Ruth joined Ashton Tweed as our new Vice President and Managing Director in October. His career trajectory in staffing and recruitment—taking a leadership role at a mid-sized firm after years of progressively responsible positions at some of pharma’s biggest players including Novartis, Roche and Sanofi— mirrors the path that many of Ashton Tweed’s executive clients have taken in their own careers. After leaving big pharma, he gained an additional 7+ years of executive recruitment and business development expertise with a highly respected retained search recruiting firm, and now has decided to leverage his total experience with Ashton Tweed.

Robert sat down with us to talk about the staffing and recruiting experience he brings to Ashton Tweed, the role he plans to play in taking the firm to the next level, and how his favorite musical instrument has changed his life:

What drew you to Ashton Tweed?

Ashton Tweed has a really strong reputation. I knew the firm, the quality of their work and had a really positive meeting with them. We are very like-minded in our candidate and client experience, how we go to market and how we treat people. Our ethical cores are also really, really well-aligned.

Ashton Tweed also has a good mix of the types of projects, clients and breadth of market segments. Being able to add the interim staffing piece was compelling to me, because interim staffing and being able to support a client in an entirely new way is an underserviced concept in the United States.

How does your skillset fit in with Ashton Tweed’s strategy?

I have a unique background because I was in Big Pharma for such a long time, which complements the experience of Ashton Tweed’s leadership. So I bring a lot of credibility to the executive staffing process because I’ve been on the inside for so long.

When I’m engaging a new client or helping an existing client navigate the process, or there are particular issues and problems, my experience can facilitate a smoother process.

What are the biggest challenges in recruiting for large pharmaceutical companies?

There’s an inherent bureaucracy to it. Many times a lot of people are involved in the decision-making process. When you work in a large, bureaucratic environment you get sophisticated at long-view stakeholder management. The candidate management piece involves keeping the candidate warm throughout and making sure that there’s really good communication on every side.

For me, one of the keys to a successful search is having a deep dialogue on the front end and anticipating the different challenges as the search continues through its process. When you have a depth of experience, you can help candidates and clients in a deeper way.

What do you mean by a ‘deep dialogue’?

I mean really understanding the requirements, team, structure, culture of the particular group that’s hiring, the culture of the function and the organization, and really what’s going to fit. For example, I was on a call recently with a potential client and we were having that specific conversation about how candidates might have the right expertise but they might not be successful because of where the company is and where the candidate is in their respective growth trajectories. How do you match candidates and companies with similar experiences, similar interests, and a similar rhythm of decision-making? The culture fit piece is really the key ingredient for success.

What lessons have you learned about recruiting the right candidates?

Sometimes, the candidate that has a less conventional background for a particular opportunity is the best one. I had one client where the chief medical officer rejected my candidate multiple times because the person’s background was too far outside of what they were looking for. But I knew this candidate was someone that they should meet.

So, I kept going back to them and saying, “You know, you need to meet with this person. You’ll get it after you talk to them.” We had a good relationship so the CMO finally agreed to meet the candidate. He called me right afterwards and said, “I totally get it.” The client hired that person, and he’s done really well.

The life science industry is continually evolving. How do you stay up to date on the industry’s staffing needs?

I read every single day about what’s going on in the industry because there’s so much happening and we’re at a really exciting point where we’re leveraging a lot more technology. There’s a growing footprint in medical technology, medical devices and digital health. Digital health is a big, hot area right now, and so is the application of artificial intelligence across life sciences. We’re at a great time for the business and I get energized by being up to date. I think that helps increase the quality of the conversation you have with both clients and candidates.

What’s your favorite way to take a break from the business world?

I play the tuba with the Hanover Wind Symphony, which is a non-profit community group of about 75 people. I’ve played with them for over 25 years. I love all kinds of music—classical, jazz, plenty of classic rock—and it’s a great diversion from the business world to go make music with 75 friends every week.

Robert RuthRobert Ruth

Prior to joining Ashton Tweed, Robert Ruth served as Vice President and Principal of The Stevenson Group, a life science retained executive search firm. He was also the U.S. Head of Development Staffing/Global Staffing Head – Development Franchises and Drug Safety at Novartis. His previous positions in Big Pharma included staffing and recruitment roles at Roche Pharmaceuticals, Sanofi Synthelabo, Wyeth and Aventis Pharmaceuticals. Robert earned a degree in Business Management from University of Phoenix. Robert is married and enjoys spending time with his twin daughters, 11, and son, 13. He lives in northern New Jersey and is also an accomplished tuba player.


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