Many recruiting companies take a cookie-cutter approach to recruiting, feeling that the act of recruiting clinical research professionals who will work on your clinical trials is much like recruiting for any other position.

We disagree.  

As with other industries, it’s important to adopt a plan or strategy as to how you will go about your CRA recruitment. With this plan, one should address what is wanted in a CRA, where to look for quality candidates, how to look, the vetting process for prospecting and qualification of potential candidates, and a plan on how to actually entice the desired candidate(s) to join your team.

Evaluate Your Needs

You should first evaluate your needs for additional CRAs. Seems simple, doesn’t it? But we work with several clients who just aren’t sure exactly what they need in a Clinical Research Associate.  Start by asking the following questions:

  • What project(s), trial(s), or research needs to be executed? 
  • What qualifications and/or job experiences must the candidate have?
  • What qualifications and/or job experiences would be nice to have, but are not mandatory requirements?
  • What type of candidate personality is best suited when it comes to working with your team? 

Second, engage anyone who will be working with the candidate to fine-tune your needs. Not only will this ensure everyone is in agreement to the candidate’s qualifications, but will also provide a tangible checklist when it comes to candidate selection.  Do this by working as a team (and by using the answers to the above questions) to draft a list or outline of characteristics and traits that are both necessary and desired for a candidate. Then, apply weight of importance to each characteristic. This can be a “wish list” of sorts, and the team should not hesitate in listing every detail or desired trait. 

Applying weight of importance to each characteristic will enable you to prioritize that list of desired traits. This will ensure you are focused on the most important candidate attributes, keeping you from holding candidates too strictly to the overall list of requirements.

Evaluate Current Industry Trends

I would be willing to state that this is the number one overlooked step by hiring teams.  If you are not aware of current industry trends, your approach to attracting top talent will be flawed

Conduct Research. Any organization looking for CRAs should be well-read on the industry trends and standard best practices regarding CRA recruitment, compensation, and education or experience. Conducting some preliminary research on the CRA market will assist you in establishing a strong strategy for finding the right CRA. It will also enable you to offer a competitive rate or compensation package relative to their market worth. 

Create a Well-Defined Job Post

Create a high-quality and well-defined Job Post.  It is important to make sure that one explicitly spells out the job function, tasks and activities involved with the position, skills required, skills desired, and applications of said skills. This will not only help the organization define what is wanted/needed and attract candidates who satisfy those stipulations but will also allow the applicants and candidates to become more familiar with the position and have a better understanding of what is expected of them.

Strategize Where to Find Candidates

After defining what you want in a candidate and drafting a job description, the next step in CRA recruitment, and possibly the one of the most important, is knowing where to find suitable and qualified candidates. Possible sourcing options to explore include industry-related events, company-specific as well as industry databases like ACRP and SOCRA, niched CRA recruitment companies, and social networks such as LinkedIn.

Industry-related events are great opportunities for companies to be exposed to promising talent and also to become a more familiar brand. Hiring Managers are able to interact and socialize with possible candidates in a professional setting, while also being able to attain smaller amounts of one-on-one time. Additionally, getting to know prospective hires in a more relaxed setting, such as an industry-related social event, certain candidate personality types will appreciate getting to know you and your organization on a more personal level. Furthermore, establishing contacts at such events can increase a company’s database size of candidates that may be better suited for other positions.

Company databases of candidates, both past and present, can prove to be useful when searching for the right fit. Just because one candidate wasn’t suited for a past position doesn’t mean that they may not be suited for the current one. Additionally, leveraging other industry databases such as the ACRP or SOCRA network can be powerful in attracting top talent.

Social networks are fantastic resources for learning about candidates. Companies can also establish and/or mature their brand on Social networks in order to better attract and network on an individual level. Candidates want to understand the company’s personality before committing to a long-term relationship; therefore, broaden your social media reach in order to help candidates become more familiar with your organization. 

In the CRA Recruitment industry, LinkedIn is an essential resource for any organization looking for job candidates and candidates looking for work. According to LinkedIn, six people are hired every minute on the platform. LinkedIn is a hub for employers and employees and is becoming increasingly important in the professional landscape with the increased dependence on virtual mediums to keep the workforce in touch. 

Don’t Settle for Less

Be aggressive in directly recruiting stars.  One possible idea that an organization may want to consider when searching for its ideal candidates is to simply handpick “dream” candidates and offer the opportunity to them. Obviously, it’s a little more complicated than that, but it’s worth a shot. If a hiring manager or other company associate is aware of a candidate or candidates that would be exceptional fits for the specified positions, contact them. Don’t be afraid to reach outside of those who have applied for the position(s). Everyone loves flattery and being told they have wonderful qualifications and are exactly what a company is looking for is a great ice breaker. According to an article in BusinessWeek, video game company Red 5 Studios handpicked 100 ideal candidates for various positions. The startup then sent each one a personalized iPod equipped with a welcome from the CEO. “The flattery paid off: More than 90 recipients responded to the pitch, three left their jobs to come on board, and many more potential hires discovered the company through word-of-mouth buzz generated by the search,” BusinessWeek says. Now I’m not saying to necessarily go the iPod route, but let them know they are wanted.

Don’t settle for less than what you need. In today’s competitive CRA market, it may be tempting to settle for a candidate that doesn’t fit the mold you need in a CRA for the position you’re looking to fill. They may not be a poor candidate in general, but perhaps they don’t have the specific education or experience qualifications you would like to see in a CRA. If they are too far off your mark of the perfect candidate to fill your position, it’s essential to continue your search rather than settling for that poor-quality candidate. Resigning yourself to hiring an ill-qualified candidate will often lead to poor experiences for both you and that candidate- you will be doing them a disservice and yourself by hiring them for a position they are not suited to fill. 

Familiarize yourself with your candidate before the interview. If you’ve been lucky enough to find the candidate you think is the perfect piece to your puzzle, the job is not over yet. Showing up to an interview unprepared can sour a candidate’s view of you and your business. It may lead to you not gaining the information you need to make an educated decision on whether or not to choose that candidate. Review their resume and credentials, and formulate some questions before the interview to get the most out of this process. Coming prepared also shows the interviewee that you respect them and their time and will lead to them doing the same for you. 

Retain positive relationships with candidates you’ve interacted with in the past but haven’t hired. You never know what the future has in store for your business- the candidates you’ve interacted with at length but never hired are likely still good candidates in their own right. If you don’t hire them, don’t just cut contact with them; these candidates could be the perfect fit for a future job posting within your organization.

Finally, go out and “get them.” Do what it takes to get that candidate that you feel best fits the position and the culture and environment of your company. There is nothing worse than settling- so don’t.

Consider Outsourcing Your Search

It’s essential to recognize that you may benefit from outsourcing your candidate search to a niched CRA Recruitment firm prepared to search for the right fit specifically for your project. craresources provides CRA staffing and is dedicated to finding excellent CRAs for every organization. Contact us to learn more.

Need assistance establishing a competitive clinical research salary or recruiting tips to improve your clinical recruitment results?  We offer a complimentary consultation in these areas!