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CROs cast the net wider to hire straight from hospitals

By Jordan Bate, Practice Lead, Medical, i-Pharm UK

March 2021

CROs cast the net wider to hire straight from hospitals

With so much resource going into Covid-19 trials in the UK and globally, the focus of recruitment in the medical space has shifted at the start of 2021 towards clinical development clinicians rather than medical affairs. While medical directors with a board certification in neurology or oncology remain in high demand, the bulk of our instructions in 2020 and Q1 2021 were coming from CROs looking to bring on board specialist clinicians with virology or infectious disease backgrounds.

In light of the competitive landscape for these certified neurologists and oncologists with industry experience, we are starting to see some CROs shifting their focus away from candidates already employed by their competitors and towards hospital-based clinicians, with principal investigator experience. This is a significant change of approach for many, and one that we see working, as the need for strong clinical backgrounds and deep clinical research experience usurps the requirement to necessarily have another CRO’s name on the resumé.

Given the current state of play with Covid-19 trials, it is later phase clinical development skills (Phase II +) that are in highest demand. We find hiring managers focusing their attention on infectious disease, vaccinology and other key areas such as oncology/CNS. With the market so tight, clients are more willing than ever to train up clinicians straight out of hospital. It is heartening to see CROs broadening their outlook to compete and recognising the need to be creative in order to attract talent. Conversely, on the pharmaceutical side, we still see companies expecting candidates to have worked with at least one other sponsor company in order to make the grade.

"At a time when CROs are falling over each other to hire the best clinicians from one another, developing a pipeline of organic talent trained and nurtured from within can also play a valuable role in a CRO’s retention strategy."

 

There are many reasons why hiring straight from clinical makes sense. Most hires will come with principal investigative clinical research experience in the hospital setting and are attracted by the move into industry as an opportunity to get more involved on the other side of clinical trials. By offering training and a clear career development plan, CROs can inspire loyalty from a candidate that justifies the longer term investment. At a time when CROs are falling over each other to hire the best clinicians from one another, developing a pipeline of organic talent trained and nurtured from within can also play a valuable role in a CRO’s retention strategy.

Clearly tapping hospitals will not work for everyone and there will remain a market-wide need for CRO-experienced clinicians. At the senior end, senior medical directors remain unlikely to vacate their positions in hospitals unless they are seriously disenchanted with management, so those vacancies remain incredibly challenging to fill.

Nevertheless, as this year unfolds, we expect the demand for oncology clinical development physicians in particular to continue to rise, and we see CROs needing to get ever more creative in their search for talent.