I have been recruiting for niche, specialist roles within the Life Science, MedTech and Digital Health industries for over nine years and it's always been a challenge. Marrying the right technical experience is fundamental to what I do. Helping an organisation to select the correct character is one of my most valued skills.
With the demand for regulatory affairs expertise at an all-time high, it's never been a more challenging time to recruit experienced professionals.
So what is the market telling us? Where is the most significant demand, and what should you expect if you currently hire in this market?
Why are you getting fewer job applications than before?
Regulatory Affairs professionals who are actively looking, those who are passively looking and those who are happy in their current roles receive details of vacancies from talent partners and recruiters daily.
Most job seekers are already in full-time employment, so it's common for them to focus on a few applications at once.
With high demand, advertised vacancies are plentiful, so they are selective. In many cases, you miss out not because the person wouldn't be interested but because your job advert hasn't come onto their radar or important information is missing and overlooked. In this case, you would benefit from working with someone who understands whom to target and how best to engage with them.
What do applicants want to know? Think about the big picture.
Regulatory Affairs job adverts can look very similar; standard requirements include MDD to MDR or IVD or IVDR transition, product registrations in multiple locations, maintenance or writing of technical files, and liaison with notified bodies.
When there is much choice, a job seeker will want to be better informed before they apply. They will do their research and want to know about the job role and the company history, the culture, the structure and the direction of the organisation, and opportunities for career enhancement.
In addition, most professionals want to know the salary and benefits before applying, with some only applying if the job spec includes the pay.
Senior professionals want to know about the potential for share options, the company's financial investment and security, or even plans to sell.
They will want to know this early on in the process and will want to research the senior management team for inspiration.
This information needs handling with care, and delivering the correct information can be critical to higher levels of engagement. We are seeing the benefit of positioning ourselves as brand representatives and providing this information to suitable targets with an impactful message so that even those who don't apply or are not successful may have a negative impression.
Brand perception feedback and positive applicant experiences will benefit organisations looking to scale up.
Remote working in regulatory
A couple of years ago, I started a fantastic partnership with a MedTech Regulatory Consultancy. They were offering something different; a fully remote position for regulatory specialists and managers – at the time, most permanent RA roles were office-based, so they had something different to offer.
Fast forward to the present day - fully remote working is no longer a rarity, the hybrid model has become the norm, and you'll probably be in the minority if you hire for fully office-based working.
Suppose you have an office-based working policy to compete. In that case, you need to understand the talent in your local geography and then make the most of promoting the other benefits of the role to prospective employees.
The appetite for remote working is now at an all-time high but is fully remote the right policy?
Employees can conduct much of the regulatory affairs role away from the office environment, so the short answer is yes in many cases, but this depends on the level. For example, we see regulatory associates and specialists in minor roles who are not progressing as much as they'd like or struggling with certain aspects of their positions without office-based support.
This article from PWC explores 'the great rethink' following 'the great registration' and discusses some considerations for employers when considering hybrid or remote working.
Specialist skills are in the highest demand.
A more significant population of professionals with administrative backgrounds can handle lower-risk Class I and II registrations as part of a wider team. Still, the skills pools are much smaller for professionals with a solid engineering background and a grounding in product development who can manage more complex submissions (Class IIb/III).
Organisations launching or marketing active (electronic, mechanical, software-driven) medical devices may need to hire a professional with a strong engineering background.
Grounding within electronics or software development is sought after, as is experienced in developing products to standards such as IEC 60601 and IEC 62304.
Certain positions are looking for additional skills in usability engineering (62366) and a high level of risk management (14971) experience.
These skills are only sometimes listed on CVs or LinkedIn profiles, so a recruiter will need a strong network and sound market knowledge of organisations developing similar products to find suitable targets.
Medical Device and IVD organisations favour entering the EU (CE Mark) or US markets, and there is a significant uptick in demand for experience in managing FDA/510k submissions. Some companies that cannot find this experience will need to employ the additional resource of a contractor or consultancy, which can be expensive compared to securing permanent help.
Massive investment in HealthTech, Digital Health, Software platforms and AI means an enormous demand for experience in SaMD (Software as a Medical Device). This experience is one of the most sought-after in regulatory, with the most significant experience and skill gaps.
If you need to know that you are hiring the best possible person available in the market with the slightest compromise, you will need a proactive, committed search by someone who understands the skills required and your company culture.
Salaries are increasing
The cost of living is getting ridiculous, demand is high, and salaries are increasing. You'll be paying more than you did a year ago. The most prestigious companies in the world, including Microsoft in Seattle, are combating talent retention and acquisition by reviewing and increasing salaries and benefits in a pre-emptive strike. For staff retention, it's better to review and adjust now than to counter at the point of notice.
For hiring, we recommend open dialogue around salary and expectations early on in the application process. Of course, it's about something other than money, but this will undoubtedly be a factor.
Understanding an applicant's motivations beyond salary will also help you to secure the right person.
Expect a counteroffer for your offered applicant. Around 90% of regulatory professionals now discuss what might make them stay when they hand in their notice, and finances usually drive the conversation. A good recruiter can help steer your offer home, but only if the person has the right motivations beyond money.
When a professional is only looking due to a need to earn more, we coach them on how best to put forward this request before they start their job search.
Careful applicant management, in this example, is a value add that a good recruiter can handle with care. Last-minute dropouts will be rare if this conversation starts early in the application companies can build process and trust.
IVD, Medical Devices, and Digital Health organisations don't benefit from a concentrated hub in the UK. There are spin-outs and a greater concentration of companies in and around Oxford, Cambridge, London and the North West, but many organisations are spread across the UK. In a short-skill market, this issue requires more candidate choices, especially for active job seekers or applicants. So what is the answer if a company has been looking for a few months or more (as in many cases)?
If your vacancy is a critical, urgent or challenging niche, but your organisation is looking for high-calibre professionals, we recommend a thorough search. Candidate target and competitor data can help to steer a hiring manager to what is available to them in the market. In addition, an analysis of their organisation's brand perception and engagement can inform recommendations and help make adjustments. Commitment from your recruiter on this project will unearth the best possible person available to you in the market for your current hire but will also help guide you on how best to position your brand for improved engagement for future employment.
In summary, demand is high; skills are short; applicants have many choices, job specifications look samey, salaries are increasing, remote working is trending, and job adverts are less effective. Therefore, vacancies take longer to fill.
But on the plus side, recruitment doesn't have to be hit and miss. Our placement rates remain fantastic, even for the most challenging hires.
Happy to share our insights further. Please get in touch to arrange a call.