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Making your first hire in Clinical Development? Here's what you need to know.

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Making your first hire in Clinical Development? Here's what you need to know.

​Hiring your first Clinical Development employee; it's a critical decision that can shape the future of your company, so it's vital to have a clear vision and strategy for this process from the offset. But vision and planning aside, how do you find and hire the very best talent and fit your company? Here are some key factors to consider before making decisions:


Definitions and requirements - Make it clear

Before you start your search for suitable candidates, you need to have a clear idea of what you are looking for. What are the main responsibilities and objectives of the role? What are the skills and qualifications that you need? Do you need an MD, a PhD/PharmD, or both? Do you need someone who is board certified in a relevant specialty? Do you need someone who has experience in a specific therapeutic area or product type? Do you need someone who has leadership and management skills? Do you need someone who can work with different teams and stakeholders across the organization and outside? Assess you company's position, strategy and objectives and the use that template to answer these all-important questions.


Consultant v Permanent - What do you need?

One of the first questions to ask yourself is whether you need a consultant or a permanent employee. Consultants can offer specialized skills and flexibility, but they may not have the same level of loyalty and alignment as a permanent employee. Do you have enough work for a full-time permanent employee? Especially at pre-clinical stages, week-to-week you may not. The last thing you want is to pay a senior expert only for them to be under-utilized. Flexible consultancy support is the natural choice in this instance. However, many businesses prefer a senior hire to be more formally committed and ensure a long-term relationship. Overall, it's about finding the best person for the job.


Remuneration - Finding the sweet spot

The specific salary range will depend on the role, the candidate’s background, and the market rate. You need to offer a competitive salary of course in order to attract the best talent but it is important to understand what is going to be competitive based on the above factors. Looking at the Chief Medical Officer role, salaries here can vary from $380k-$500k depending on the company size, funding, location, etc. A reliable recruitment partner, who is immersed in the market can help you to understand what might be required for your role. In addition to salary, the surrounding package and additional compensation is key. Stock or equity options as well as bonus all come together and can increase the total annual compensation and appeal to top candidates.


Sourcing Strategy - Do your research

Once you have defined the role and employment type, you need to decide how to find the best candidates. There are different ways to source candidates, such as job postings, networking events, referrals, and recruitment or search consultancies. Depending on the level and the specificity of the role, you may want to use a combination of these methods. For example, a key hire such as this, being able to lean upon the market knowledge, you may want to engage with a reputable search firm that specializes in life sciences and has a proven track record of filling similar positions. This way, you can avoid wasting valuable time and resources on unqualified or unsuitable candidates.


The Timeline - Make it realistic

Hiring is not always a quick or easy process, especially when sourcing for a key position. It takes time to find, attract, interview, evaluate, and hire the best candidate for such a critical role. Be realistic about how long it will take and plan accordingly. A typical timeline for hiring a C-suite level medical leader from initial contact to offer acceptance is about 3 months. Of course, this may vary depending on various factors, such as the specificity of the role, the availability of the candidates, and your company's hiring process. However, it is important not to rush or compromise on quality when hiring such an important position. You need to make sure that you conduct a thorough and rigorous interview process that covers all aspects of the role as well as assesses the candidate's fit with your company's culture and vision.


Organizational Structure - How's it going to work?

If you already have a Chief Medical Officer (CMO) or a Chief Development Officer (CDO) in your company, you need to think about how the new leader will fit into the existing hierarchy. Will they report directly to the CMO/CDO, or will they work alongside them as peers? How will they collaborate and communicate with each other? How will they divide their responsibilities and authority? How will they handle any potential conflicts or disagreements? You need to have a clear and transparent structure that defines the roles and expectations of each party and ensures alignment and harmony.


Look beyond the CV - Hire for potential and fit

Finally, when you have narrowed down your candidates to the final few, you need to make your decision based on their potential and fit with your company. Potential means their ability to grow and adapt to changing needs and challenges in the future. Fit means their compatibility with your company's values, culture, goals, and vision. You need to hire someone who not only has the skills and experience that you need now but also has the potential to learn new things and take on new responsibilities in the future. Do they share your vision and mission and can work well with your team and stakeholders? Arguably this is the hardest element to get right as it less about marking checkboxes and more about gut feel.

All in all, hiring your first Clinical Development specialist is one of the most important decisions that you will make for your company. By following these top tips, you can increase your chances of finding and hiring the best person for the job who offers the greatest chance at success. At RBW Consulting, we can help you with all of these; in addition to guiding you through role design and outlining salary expectations we pride ourselves on finding the right cultural fit - their aptitude, character and ambition. Our approach to recruitment is deeply rooted in this philosophy: we’re always listening for the unsaid. We find, engage and represent you to the best person for your business, not just the best resume.