Medical Writers: A Closer Look at Hiring Specialist Life Science Talent

by Mike Berich, Vice President & Global Practice Strategy Lead at KellyOCG

The Life Sciences talent landscape is wide and varied. We often talk about Life Sciences as a single group, but it is an industry with a huge degree of specialism. From research scientists to manufacturing workers, and quality control professionals to marketing managers. Recently, I was lucky enough to spend some time with the head of a strategic medical writing team and gain fresh insight into the challenges of hiring highly specialized Life Sciences talent.

Today, I want to explore this little-talked-about niche and the ways in which talent organizations can support the companies and hiring managers who are searching within shallow talent pools.

What Is Medical Writing?

Medical writing is a niche field that is filled with lots of micro-niches. Some writers focus on patient materials, some are supporting clinical trials, while others are taking care of the regulatory paperwork to help navigate FDA approval. It is a complex field and writers tend to specialize in a key area or discipline. Simply, it is about communicating scientific and medical data in a way that a target audience can easily understand. This level of specialism can make it difficult for Life Sciences organizations to connect with the right people at the right time. It can also be frustrating for hiring managers to work with recruiters who have limited knowledge of medical writing and who are unable to identify candidates with the right specialist skill sets.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Employers are looking for specific therapeutic knowledge, the types of documents writers have worked on in the past and – in light of the speed of scientific advancement and regulatory requirements – how recent this experience is. They are also looking for (unsurprisingly) solid writing skills and this starts at the very earliest stage of the application process. How cohesively a candidate writes their resume and application form can be an early indicator of potential for knowledgeable hiring managers. Employers are also searching within a small and insular field which means that they may have worked with or have prior knowledge of the writing candidates that are being put forward by an agency. 

Balancing Contingent and Permanent Talent

For medical writing teams, finding the right balance of contract or contingent, and permanent talent is crucial to success. Organizations require continual access to in-house writing expertise while having the flexibility to bring in additional resources when needed. Many writers are working in a contingent capacity and finding trusted partners who can help access this type of talent is a key priority for many hiring managers. Recruiters and talent organizations must understand how to meet this need and how to engage a growing contingent workforce.

How can Talent Organizations Support the Search for Specialist Talent?

The challenges faced in the medical writing space are a microcosm of the challenges faced by the Life Sciences industry as a whole. And great talent providers need to be able to respond to these challenges quickly and in a meaningful way. They must understand the world they are searching in alongside the unique needs of the organizations and hiring managers they service. They must build collaborative partnerships. Only by providing highly personalized, flexible, and knowledgeable solutions can talent organizations reliably help their clients to find the hard-to-find experts they need.