Vacancy activity remains relatively high in Australia’s life sciences market. Within regulatory affairs, ambitious Associates are seeking to move up into more senior roles faster than employers feel their experience warrants. In some cases, Associates cannot meet the criteria set by potential employers to become a Senior Associate since along with experience employers want candidates who can demonstrate specific key behaviours and competencies that enable them to operate as a senior. In addition, only a small number of companies have been able to provide candidates with the opportunity to attain the CAT1 and new chemical entity (NCE) experience that is sought for progression to Senior Associate. Given recent PBS reforms, new medicines might be delayed or not enter Australia at all and this will also create challenges for regulatory professionals to get the desired CAT1 and NCE experience.
In other trends, we continue to see demand for experienced Medical Science Liaisons and also Medical Advisors. There is an increasing trend for companies to seek Medical Science Liaisons with at least a PhD, or a PharmD, particularly at entry level. It is more challenging to enter this field without these qualifications. Having said this, candidates who lack these qualifications but who instead have MSL experience are still very much of interest to employers.
Clinical Research Associates (CRAs) with experience remain a focus of vacancy activity as do Clinical Trial Associates. Pharmaceutical companies continue to outsource the majority of work to CROs. CROs are working hard to improve staff retention by offering greater flexibility, more training, rewards and staff recognition.
Some pharmaceutical companies have rigorous hiring processes in place, including psychometric testing and assessment centres.
Some are combining the CRA role with project management duties and as a result CRAs are gaining more exposure to the project manager role without the title.
Finally, we advise employers to consider meeting candidates who align well with the key competencies and behaviours of a job, not just the number of years of experience. Research shows that a candidate’s years of experience is a weak predictor of job performance. Key job behaviours and motivators are stronger predictors, so identifying what these key success behaviours are and interviewing against these are more important. Focusing too much on experience can eliminate very strong candidates in a skill short market.
Hotspots of demand
Clinical Research Associates are in high demand. An increasing number of clinical trials are coming to Australia since they are now cheaper to run here given the strength of the Australian dollar. In addition, Australia is classed as one of the best countries to run clinical trials because of the quality of our work. The Research and Development Tax Incentive particularly benefits start-up biotech companies. As a result, CROs are bidding for more work than ever as biotechs from Europe and the USA set up a company house in Australia and launch clinical trials here
Senior Clinical Trial Associates are needed too. Experienced ‘career’ CTAs are sought; often this role is a stepping stone to others within the industry and therefore people usually remain in the role for one to two years. Employers are instead looking for candidates who are committed to a career in this role in order to provide experience and stability to a fast-paced clinical research environment.
Oncology experience is another area of demand. Oncology is one of the key skill areas required to progress within the industry. Many Senior CRA roles require candidates with proven experience managing oncology trials due to the complex protocols and high level of monitoring required.
We are also seeing demand for Brand/Product Managers. Candidates are looking for a new role in order to develop into Senior Brand/Product Managers or Marketing Managers. There are a number of average candidates however employers want candidates with a consistent career history and solid prescription marketing experience.
Finally, candidates with experience in multiple therapeutic areas are sought since they can operate cross-functionally.
Historically the regulatory affairs role was relatively isolated compared to other functions, however today more companies encourage their regulatory professionals to become more visible within the business and work cross functionally. The ability to demonstrate collaborate behaviours and have a commercial mindset are therefore now very important.
Clinical project management continues to be a popular career route that candidates want to take. They are looking for ways to lead on studies and take additional responsibility for project deliverables at a local and global level.
In most cases candidates are motivated by the opportunity on offer rather than a salary increase.