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Candidate-driven market flips clinical data management industry on its head

By Caroline Herrera, Team Lead, Clinical Data Management, US and Canada

April 2021

Candidate-driven market flips clinical data management industry on its head

The demand for clinical data managers in the US and Canada is so high right now that candidates can not only name their price but are simply turning their backs on roles that are not fully remote.

Across the board, companies are telling us how busy their pipelines of new studies and new business are, and with lots of acquisitions taking place in the CRO market among both small and large players, many are looking to expand their staff. The result is a candidate-driven market far hotter than it has been for a long time, and in a post-Covid world it is becoming clear that those trying to fill in-office roles are at an acute disadvantage.

All of our clients are focused on quality senior and lead clinical data managers that are able to hit the ground running, lead multiple studies at once and work independently; it seems every CRO is desperately seeking the same talent. Clients are frustrated at losing out on candidates to competitors if they don’t move quickly enough, and we see salaries hiked up by as much as $15,000 at each level compared to where they were a year ago. Most processes have moved from multiple interviews to just one and decisions are being taken within 24 hours in an effort to avoid missing out on the best candidates. Sign-on bonuses are becoming a feature of the market and yet still CROs are not seeing anything like the same number and quality of candidates that was on the market a year ago.

The market dynamics have shifted a fair bit during the pandemic and these candidates are now fully aware of the scale of demand for their skillsets.

 

The market dynamics have shifted a fair bit during the pandemic and these candidates are now fully aware of the scale of demand for their skillsets. As such, if clients are not offering top salaries, the best benefits and – crucially – more work/life balance, many just aren’t interested.

That is especially noticeable when it comes to the question of whether candidates will need to go into the office. With many data managers having proved their ability to work remotely effectively, positions that now require candidates to work in the office or even embrace a hybrid arrangement are just not getting traction. Big pharma and sponsors are suffering the most as a result, because by nature their roles tend to be in-office. Most CROs are now fully remote but even the few that are looking to have candidates in the office a couple of days a week are not able to hire.

That focus on work/life balance extends beyond remote working, too, to cover career progression as a renewed priority, the number of trials that individuals are willing to work on at any one time, as well as paid time off, where candidates will no longer accept anything less than 15 days. 

What is clear is that the demand for senior and lead data managers shows no signs of slowing down, so the candidate-driven market is here to stay for a while. We are not only back-filling positions but also staffing newly-created roles, and everyone we speak to is hungry for more talent. 

With candidates in the driving seat, we may see some long-term shifts in working patterns as pharma and sponsor clients face up to the need to offer remote opportunities and everyone has to up their game on benefits.