The CRA hiring process has transformed, like work conditions, over the past few years. At the onset of COVID, we saw clinical research pause in many areas but then raced to restart once the industry learned how to adapt to the travel limitations thrust upon us by the pandemic. Because of the time lost during the pause, the industry is currently struggling to make up for the missed milestones and keep up with a huge backlog of work. This has meant a significant spike in the demand for qualified CRAs, resulting in higher rates and more CRAs looking to shift around to better opportunities. As a result, our industry is fundamentally different, and hiring managers have their work cut out for them if they’re interested in attracting high-quality CRAs in order to catch up.

Changes in the CRA Hiring Process in the Post-COVID Era

While many industries may consider themselves to be in a “post-COVID” situation, we believe many in our industry would agree that the“post-COVID,” statement is somewhat facetious. Regardless of the lingering danger of the virus, COVID has left its mark on our industry, and I believe we can all agree COVID isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. The industry has been irrevocably changed in that:

  • Remote monitoring is more significant than ever before. With navigating increased patient safety protocols due to the virus, many sites have closed or limited access to outside research personnel. Research sites and Clinical Operations Teams have had to adjust their monitoring methodologies in order to come up with viable alternatives to regular onsite monitoring.  Remote work has slowly crept into the industry, as it has in many other industries, but COVID changed this slow creep to a full sprint. Travel opportunities are slowly opening as requirements are changing, and vaccines are widely available, but we believe that the uptick in remote monitoring is here to stay. 
  • The pay rate for CRAs has increased. As mentioned in the introduction, COVID has turned up the market heat tenfold. As research stopped and restarted, researchers in the industry have sought to catch up on the missed time. This has meant a higher demand for CRAs as there have been more positions to fill all at once. It’s undoubtedly something you have heard your economics professors squawk thousands of times before, but it’s true- the sudden, exponential increase in demand for CRAs has caused supply to go down and rates to go up.
  • There is a perceived CRA shortage.  Because of the fight to make up for lost time and because of the uptick in demand for CRAs, many sponsors and CROs are struggling to compete when it comes to attracting high-quality monitors to work on their projects. While we disagree that our industry is experiencing a ‘CRA Shortage’, unfortunately, we are seeing many hiring managers embrace this perception, causing these teams to ‘settle’ for underqualified CRAs, under-performing CRAs, and/or overpriced CRAs.   
  • Travel has decreased. The increased difficulty of travel has changed the CRA hiring process drastically. Instead of searching for qualified CRAs in a specific region or location, hiring managers need to ask themselves what frequency of onsite monitoring is really needed and how that will manifest itself in the geographical location of the CRAs they’re willing to hire. Depending on a position’s travel requirements, you may be able to widen your pool of CRA candidates as proximity to sites may not be a significant factor. 

The Hiring Process: Change With the Times

We operate in a fundamentally different world than we were in the years prior to 2020. But luckily, as with any change, there are things you can do to get ahead of the curve and, therefore, your competition.

Transparency and Flexibility

Being transparent regarding your requirements is critical.  For example, travel might be the deciding factor for some CRAs. Some love to travel, some are indifferent, and some will avoid it. Be clear about your position’s travel requirements by explicitly mentioning in all descriptive material surrounding your open position where your CRAs will be required to travel and how often. This can help you attract CRAs with preferences that are the closest match to your position’s requirements.

In tandem with this, the value of flexibility can never be overstated. We have a wonderful client who has firm requirements in terms of ‘bottom in chair’ hours as they expect their contract CRAs to be online during normal business hours. Often we identify perfect CRAs as their qualifications and experience match our client’s position requirements and values. They interview well, their references are glowing, and they seem to be an ideal fit. However, many of these CRAs will not agree to the set ‘bottom in chair’ schedule.  

We have another client who requires their CRAs to travel nationwide.  Simply changing the nationwide travel requirement to a regional expectation would significantly open this client’s pool of high-quality CRAs. 

Transparency and flexibility will not only help you to attract CRAs who are a match for your open positions, but it will also help you to keep them once onboarded.  

Move Quickly

While the market is expected to cool down over the next few quarters, rates are unlikely to go back down, and the market is still very hot. This means that highly qualified CRAs are snatched up quickly. If you find the CRA you think is the perfect fit for the position you’re looking to fill, pounce at the opportunity. If you want to enable your hiring process to move more quickly, you can:

  • Button up your CRA hiring process. Many organizations have hiring processes that are ornery, outdated, and too slow. The most qualified candidates are sometimes contacted, interviewed, and contracted on the same day. If you drag your feet, you could miss out. Seek to eliminate any hang-ups or factors that may postpone your processes. If a key decision-maker in your process is out of the office or otherwise unavailable, redundancies should be in place that allows the process to continue regardless. 
  • Incorporate rapid initial screens. A short phone call, zoom meeting, in-person meetup, or any other format can satisfy this. Once you’re interested in a candidate, the goal is to contact them as soon as possible and begin the screening process to let them know you’re interested. If you still aren’t ready to pull the trigger, schedule another interview with additional personnel to keep the candidate engaged and give your team a chance to finalize your decision about moving forward.
  • Eliminate the pre-interview assessment. If you are working with a top-notch firm like craresources which already preliminarily screen candidates for industry knowledge and experience, consider ditching the laborious pre-interview assessment. Since our candidates come to you fully vetted, you can feel good about skipping straight to the interview knowing that we’ve already done the basic prequalification steps ahead of time.

Keep an Eye Out for Fraud

Unfortunately, the industry’s prevalence of fraud remains one of the top concerns of hiring managers moving forward with candidates. We’ve written a series of blog posts on the topic, but ensure you aren’t rushing to hire in this hot market without doing your due diligence. 

As we mentioned in part one of our blog posts on fraud, it’s been found that 40% of hiring managers would move forward with candidates even when those candidates are caught in a lie. Much of this is likely due to bias and personal preference; if you’re looking for the right hire, try to remain unbiased and keep your focus on the candidates’ responses during the hiring process.

Outsource Your Search With craresources

Outsourcing your CRA search can help your organization streamline your hiring process. craresources is steeped in the industry, has access to thousands of qualified CRA candidates across North America, and will help you find the right CRA resource(s) for your next project. In addition, outsourcing will save you time and money as we do all of the heavy lifting; CRA candidates who are pre-qualified with craresources have proven track records as we not only confirm their previous experience but also confirm their competency.

Contact us today to see how craresources can help you!