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How Can Organizations Stand Out to Attract Medical Affairs Talent?

Posted on March 2023

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Hiring managers and HR can benefit from key insights on attracting crucial Medical Affairs talent in the life sciences industry.

The life sciences industry is experiencing rapid growth, causing a surge in demand for highly skilled professionals. Ahead of the MAPS Global Annual Meeting, which is themed around expanding the horizons of Medical Affairs and unlocking potential, we spoke with Samm Zombolo, Head of Medical Affairs & Health Economics and who is attending the conference, on what the talent market for Medical Affairs professionals is currently, how the hiring landscape is shaping up for the year, and how organizations can differentiate themselves in a highly competitive recruitment market.

Meet Samm Zombolo at the MAPS Global Annual Meeting

What is the talent market like right now in Medical Affairs?

“Currently the first part of this year has been slower. Organizations are watching the national and international economic movements, and professionals are being more cautious in taking new opportunities, really evaluating more than just a compensation package.

“We expect this to shift quickly after the MAPS conference, with bonuses being paid out, budgets solidifying and M&A slowing down.”

How can organizations win over the most sought after talent in a highly competitive space?

“There are multiple ways that an organization can stand out in growing, highly competitive market. While therapeutic areas and portfolios will always play a big part in decision making, Medical Affairs professionals are currently extremely driven by the reputation of direct management, and executive management. During the interview process, as a manager you should not only interview a candidate but provide them clear insight into your management style, goals for the team and how this will impact the organization.

“Beyond the direct culture of the team, candidates in Medical Affairs weigh hybrid, or remote flexibility, competitive salaries, and a clear understanding of where they can grow in decision making processes.”

What talent strategies does EPM Scientific recommend to hiring managers to differentiate themselves against other players in winning talent?

“Three ways we have seen hiring managers be successful in hiring top talent are:

1.       Speed

Be quick basically, and make sure you and your stakeholders are making hiring a top priority.

2.       Streamline interview processes

The ideal interview process for a candidate is meeting the hiring manager, then a panel where stakeholders are combined into 2-3 2:1 with, if needed, a presentation in tandem with panel. Slimming this process down also speeds it up.

3.       Add in a peer

Giving candidates the opportunity to speak with someone who is not impacting the hiring process, but can give them direct insights into day-to-day activities, why they chose to join the company, and what the culture is like generally makes closing processes significantly easier.”

Where (if any) can organizations look to for transferable skills to fill talent gap?

“The Health Economics & Outcomes Research (HEOR) and Real-World Evidence (RWE) spaces will only continue to get more competitive. While often we hear hiring managers wanting someone who already understands the different stakeholders they will work with, there is not enough talent for this. We recommend organizations to look outside of direct industry to find professionals who can provide strong technical skills, different insights and a drive to work and learn.

“For Medical Affairs, the biggest frustration we hear from candidates is not getting the chance to break into a new role or therapeutic area. While a medical information professional might not have the direct experience for publications or an Medical Science Liaison (MSL) role, they have plenty of transferable skills to be successful. As a hiring manager, it is important to identify how you rank certain aspects of the role and therefore what you need, such as scientific knowledge, current title matches growth progression, presentation and soft skills, proof of learning new skills, and of course dedication.”

How can tackling bigger, societal issues such as equality, diversity, & inclusion (ED&I) and economic, social, & governance (ESG) assist with talent attraction and retention?

“If your Medical Affairs team isn’t talking about ED&I and ESG, you need to be. Every day, EPM Scientific is speaking with candidates who are looking for new opportunities due to social and governance concerns at their current organization. Similar to how organizations are working to improve clinical trials through social changes, such as diversity, race, data privacy, and safety, the same needs to be done for internal teams.

“Over the last two years, EPM Scientific has noticed a major uptick in interest, from professionals, when they know the Medical Affairs team has a diverse leadership team, as well as field medical team.”

How do you see the market developing over the next 12 months?

“Over the next 12 months I think we will see a couple changes to the market. Firstly, I think that small biotechs and pharmaceutical organizations will be looking to develop Medical Affairs & HEOR teams earlier, and I expect to see companies building MSL, HEOR and Medical Communication teams as early as Phase I.

“Additionally, we expect to see new roles popping-up in the Medical Affairs space. As an innovative, and data-driven space, we expect to see roles focused on Veeva insight integration, Medical Communications omni-channel strategy and pipeline development.

“Lastly, we are expecting to see diversity and inclusion to be a bigger conversation in the market. With Medical Affairs competing with Commercial, Research & Development, and HEOR to keep and attract talent, companies need to be open to different educational, industry and therapeutic backgrounds in hiring.”

Samm Zombolo, Vice President, Head of Medical Affairs & Health Economics

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