CE Featured Article
It Is A Great Time to Move Within Regulatory – Especially If You Know What To Expect
The demand to fill EU regulatory roles is at its peak and is dictating the very nature of employment in the medtech sector. Amanda Maxwell spoke with recruitment expert Elena Kyria to hear her views on how to maximize the unique opportunities that currently exist. This is Part 1 of a three-part interview series on recruitment in medtech.
“When I first started recruiting in this sector around eight years ago, we worked on a ratio of three jobs to every candidate at specialist level. That means, if you have a highly-marketable candidate, with two to six years’ regulatory experience, they’d be considering three jobs. Now it’s more like eight,” Elena Kyria, founder of Elemed, a UK-based recruitment firm, told Medtech Insight, during an interview at their London headquarters.
There has always been a supply and demand issue in the EU medtech regulatory sector, she said, but the current situation is unique. Demand is so high that there are many opportunities to move and be trained for jobs, but she warned that these may not be so prevalent in the future.
After the date of full application of the MDR, there will still be a supply and demand problem, Kyria said, but there will begin to be fewer “interesting opportunities” opening up and fewer role creations, but there will still be a range of back-fill opportunities available.
For potential candidates, there will be questions such about salary trends while demand is far outstripping supply, and what precisely employers are looking for. Meanwhile, employers will be grappling with how best to attract these in-demand candidates.
This is what Kyria had to say in more detail about the current recruitment market for medtech regulatory specialists:
Elena Kyria: The spike in demand is good for recruitment, although it has created its own challenges. It’s opening a lot of new opportunities and growth within the market, especially for technical roles. Because we now have a significant supply and demand problem, companies are more willing to consider people from outside the medtech industry or from other vertical positions within the same industry, and to offer them opportunities for training and development. They are having much success with this approach.
The companies that are really struggling are the ones that are completely inflexible and unrealistic about who they recruit and when they start hiring – some seem to want somebody who is doing the exact same job at present and want to hire them for a smaller salary than they are currently earning, and to start “tomorrow.”
EK: We are seeing an increase in salaries but it’s not as big as you might imagine. In general, I would say we have seen a very small increase of 5% across the board for permanent positions. Companies tend to have a lot of red tape, because of internal equity, and making sure salaries are fair across the whole team.
That being said, we have had a couple of unique situations, including one where a few months ago we placed someone with a CHF20,000 ($20,350) salary increase because of the value the company put on that role. But that is very rare.
When it comes to salaries, there are good opportunities in contracting – i.e. in freelancing/ consultancy/independent working, where the daily rates have almost doubled in many cases, and freelancers are in the unique situation of being able to pick and choose their projects.
EK: My advice to employers is don’t under-offer. Some companies still think that they can get a good deal by offering €2,000-3,000 less. It’s just not worth it: it’s bad for your brand, it’s so risky, and you need that candidate. Pay a fair salary; don’t try and get a “cheap deal.” And if you don’t know what a fair salary is, find out.
EK: These candidates tend to be quite risk averse and by nature to stay quite a long time in positions. This has created a situation where a lot of recruitment companies are trying to tempt the same candidates. Social media, among other tools, makes it easy to approach these people, but this could be working against recruiters and companies, as candidates are being overwhelmed by offers, which is causing them to disengage from the process as they try to avoid spam in their in-trays.
EK: People often move from different vertical positions within the same company, like from research and development into regulatory, or from clinical or quality. The benefit for a company of taking someone from within the company is that you are moving people who already know the business: one of the biggest challenges when you recruit is how that is that person is going to fit.
I have even seen candidates move into medical devices from other very highly-regulated industries, such as pharma, and even chemicals – although that is rare.
With the IVDR coming on board, recruiters are going to have to take people from other industries, or other verticals positions in the same industry, because there are not enough candidates doing the job of regulatory in the IVD field right now.
EK: It is very interesting to see that people are moving from permanent positions into contract roles now. In the past, people tended to look for job security. Freelancing had always been considered one of riskier options because you don’t know where your next project is coming from and you don’t know whether there will be budget cuts that will impact you. But nowadays, with the ongoing high regulatory demand, there is more security in freelancing and contracts may even run for one to two years.
While freelancing is not a permanent position, candidates now consider that the job market is so buoyant, so flooded with jobs, that they still have job security to a certain extent. This option also offers them significantly more money so it becomes an attractive one.
Offering contracts to candidates works well for companies, too, as they may not be willing or able to add to the permanent headcount, but are able to offer long-term freelance contracts instead. This gives them more flexibility to work with higher budgets too.
I’ve also seen many people start up on their own as freelancers, with many fully booked six months into the future.
But with so much work on, recruiters are even running out of freelancers to place. They are then likely to try and attract people in permanent roles who may be a bit younger, less risk averse, no family ties, and be able to relocate; also those who are more willing to take on a project for, say, just a year and a half.
EK: For those who want the security of a permanent position and good salaries, there are many consultancy firms who are putting permanent staff on their payroll and sending them out on projects that are highly competitive.
These businesses tend to be much more able to respond quickly to the availability of talent, while manufacturers may have to go through lengthy approval processes to hire headcount. With consultancies, there tend to be just one or two stages in the interview process with a single decision-maker. They can create roles much more easily and offer higher salaries than the rest of the market.
EK: When it comes to recruiting, candidates tend to focus on what’s important for them; and location is a big decision factor. Take, for example, staff made redundant by a notified body closure, they will not only approach notified bodies for the next job, but will approach all the companies where their skill-set is relevant, as well as contract research organizations (CROs), and they might even think about freelancing.
Ultimately, their decision will be based on whoever makes the best offer – not just in terms of salary, but in terms of other factors that are priorities for them such as work/life balance or training.
Notified bodies offer particularly good training that you cannot get elsewhere, but some notified bodies are not competitive enough on salaries.
EK: Generally, I think it’s a very stable job market to be in given the demands of the MDR and IVDR, although there are peaks and troughs.
Right now, I think we are definitely riding the wave of demand for freelancers and contract-based recruitment. It’s all about the volume and about speed to be able to put these projects through in time for the MDR date of application deadline next May. The same will happen with IVDs.
IVD companies are now two years into their transition period, in the same place that a lot of medical device companies were in when they started hiring. IVD companies have been quite slow to push forward with recruitment – maybe because they felt comfortable that they had a longer transition period or maybe because many don’t know they will be impacted by the new requirements or have underestimated the time to hire and the available talent.
EK: People seem to misunderstand recruitment. They talk about how hard it is to find good people and uncover hidden talent. I believe the complete opposite. I say people are much more visible than ever before. With social media and the internet, it is very difficult not have some sort of digital footprint. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on LinkedIn or not, whether you’re active or not, the point is that people are generally more visible. But in being more visible, we see people being targeted much more.
Because of the constant stream of information, people are more disengaged. They are less willing to have that conversation about jobs; the “romance” part of being headhunted is no longer there.
Instead, companies need to be able to attract talent; and few seem to realize the importance of having strong company brands.
When it comes to their job search, candidates approach the process in the same way as if they were buying a pair of shoes online. They will read the job ads and then check the company or check where the company is and look at its reviews.
It’s not about finding people, it’s about branding and attracting people. This is how it is now and will continue to be the future of recruitment.
Companies should do an audit and a search on their company name and see what the feedback is, as this is the first point of contact that any potential job candidate might have with a company.