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Too Many Chefs – My Thoughts on the European Hiring Scene

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Too Many Chefs – My Thoughts on the European Hiring Scene

It’s chaos out there at the moment! I’m sure everyone working in the Clin Ops Talent Space, whether an agency recruiter like me, or as part of an Internal Talent Team would agree to some extent.

From the stop-start nature of hiring plans at the moment, to an unusually high volume of available talent following restructuring and workforce reductions, the European Clinical hiring space hasn’t been this disrupted for quite some time.


The Impact of 2023

2023 saw a significant fall in the number of open requirements, which was further exacerbated by redundancies through the CRO industry.This had an inevitable impact on internal Talent Teams who were also subject to cut backs as the industry as whole contracted.

The reduction in size of Internal Talent Teams Potential coupled with a surge in applications for fewer roles has potentially seen processes overwhelmed. It is not uncommon in my conversations with CRAs and CPMs, to hear candidates not receiving interview feedback or just receiving automated responses, leaving a negative view of a company due to poor application experience.

Many times, I have seen jobs come onto the market then go on hold or get pulled entirely. This massively impacts a candidates view of a company when being put forward; with companies looking like they have bad internal processes and strategy, when the majority of the time this is not the case.

The lack of new opportunities also has an impact on professionals already working within the company. With no open roles available for people to step up into, employees feel they are becoming stagnant in their roles. The opportunity for a good Senior CRA to move into a Lead role has always been scarce with many people I speak with finding the only way to move up is to move on to a new company but in the current climate it feels nigh-on impossible for them. This leaves the site management force frustrated with their companies.


The Negative Impact of Multiple Agencies

With hiring levels this depressed, when roles do become available to the market, they are often incredibly niche or specific or highly urgent. More often than not, this causes a knee-jerk reaction of instructing multiple third parties (often as many as five) as well as conducting a search via internal Talent Acquisition.

During a recent Senior CRA search in Denmark (a notorious candidate-short market with high needs for most CROs operating in the Nordics), I came across a number of individuals who complained about the multiple touch points from several companies and agencies that are all recruiting for the same position. One candidate even remarked that, after hearing an agency recruiter discuss the same top 5 CRO to them on 4 different occasions alongside outreach from that company’s own TA function, this actually deterred them from wanting to join that company altogether. It came across messy, frustrating, and unprofessional in their view.

It has also been the case that this leaves candidates confused about where their CV has been sent and by who. Candidates are being sent to the same position by different companies. This effects a company’s view of the candidate as un-organized. It is not without merit to say this is unfair on the candidate.


The Lengthy Recruitment Process

Despite there being fewer roles available, processes can feel slower than ever with candidates often having to take multiple screening calls followed by anywhere between two and four hiring manager interviews, making processes lengthy for budding applicants.

In clinical operations, CRAs and CPMs are often on a tight schedule and already working 120% to stay ahead of their targets. To then have interview processes with multiple layers of discussion and approvals places an even heavier time-burden on already hard-pressed schedules.

Candidates become disengaged with long interview processes whilst awaiting a final interview or approval. This leaves other companies the space to turn their heads when momentum has been lost during the recruitment process. Front runner candidates have been lost to competitors who were able to run a tighter process as a result.

I have experienced a process that insisted on a last-minute, additional screening for a Senior CPM role when the candidate had already completed an HR Interview and two face to face meetings with the hiring managers. The managers were ready to offer but in order to follow the process, an additional interview was set up. This put an extra week on the interview process and gave more time for the candidate to think of potential negatives. By the time the contract got to the candidate, it had been two weeks since their final hiring manager interview. In the end, they became disinterested and wanted to go into another direction.



What suffers most here is the Employer Brand. Recruitment levels may be comparatively low at the moment, but the tide will turn, as it always has done and the same companies that are turning candidates off right now will be scrambling to make up the numbers when the time comes. Damage done now will almost certainly have a significant impact on a company’s ability to hire in the future.

So, what can companies do right now to help them for the future?

Ensuring recruitment is fully signed off before going to market is vital to protecting your employer brand. Candidates will discuss with each other their negative interview experiences at companies.

If there is an urgent requirement that needs external support, utilizing a smaller number of agencies will likely give you better results in candidate-short markets. CRAs receiving 15 InMails on LinkedIn a day is a deterrent to engagement. Candidates in turn should partner with a select number of agencies too, this way they can better track their applications and avoid application fatigue.And finally, cutting out unnecessary interview processes can be key to securing the ideal candidate. Putting approvals in place before a final interview will also save time and keep momentum for an interview process.