Get A Clinical Research Job – [THE BEAVER METHOD]
- You spent thousands of dollars on undergraduate or graduate program.
- You majored in medicine, science or engineering.
- You even have a GPA of 3.5+ with Honors.
But now you’re struggling with getting your into the door at a clinical research organization. You keep hearing the same lame excuse, “We need someone with two years of clinical research experience.”
Well, how are you supposed to get experience without having a clinical research job in the first place?
I may have a solution for you. In this post, you’ll discover exactly how to land a job in clinical research.
It’s called The BEAVER Method.
But before I explain to you how you can apply this method to your job search, you must first know what NOT to do.
So let’s get started.
#1 Mistake You Shouldn’t Make
The biggest mistake most job searchers make is that they apply for several hundred positions at once.
Yes, you read that right. Applying for several hundred jobs will DECREASE your chances of getting the job.
You don’t want to apply for every-single-job-opening out there. In fact, you only want to apply for 20 or fewer positions.
Let me explain you why.
Applying for more than 20 positions negatively impacts your job search. Here’s why:
- Not of focusing on handful positions, scatters your mind. And you start to lose focus. According to Tony Robbins, a world-renowned performance coach, you want to control and direct the focus of your mind on what has to be done. In this case, you want to focus on getting that clinical research position.
- You are competing with hundreds of other applicants who are doing the exact same thing as you. Therefore you won’t stand out from the crowd, thereby reducing your chance of getting the job. You’ll be lucky if you got called for an interview.
Now let’s get to The BEAVER Method.
If you know anything about beavers or have seen them in action at an aquarium or in the wild, you know they are industrious and hardworking creatures.
I actually also find beavers very cute.
Just like a beaver, I’ll show you have to can work hard and get the results you desire with your clinical research career.
#1: Broaden Your Understanding about Clinical Research
One of the biggest obstacles many entry-level applicants face is in their ability to believe in themselves and their know-how about clinical research.
Below are common reasons why many applicants lack self-confidence:
- I’ve never worked in clinical research before and don’t know where to start
- I don’t have the therapeutic or medical knowledge needed to get a job
- I need get a clinical research certificate before I can apply for a job
The truth of the matter is that they don’t teach clinical research in colleges. Most people get on-the-job experience.
But without self-confidence, you can’t and shouldn’t even consider applying for clinical research jobs. You’ll be flat out rejected.
However here is what you can do to quickly get up to speed on the key fundamentals of clinical research.
Learn about different clinical research roles
Understanding the different clinical research roles will give you a holistic view of your options. You’ll also get a sense of which roles are interesting to you and which ones aren’t.
Many people believe Clinical Research Associate (CRA) or Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) role is the ticket to getting your foot in the door. However, the CRA or CRC role may not be the right fit for you.
There are many other clinical research roles such as biostatisticians, clinical safety monitor, data managers, clinical study (or trial) managers, clinical quality, medical writing and more.
Here is an in-depth article in the various clinical research roles. Spend an afternoon reading it, so you can fully understand your options.
Read this 63-page FDA guidance on Good Clinical Practice
The FDA guidance on Good Clinical Practice (GCP) forms the foundation of how clinical trials must be conducted.
Even if you’re not from the US, this guidance document will serve you well. The overarching concepts of GCP don’t vary as much from country-to-country.
Also, all drug (pharma), device, or biologics clinical trials follow GCP. There are minor nuances depending on the medical product. But nothing significant for you to worry about at this initial stage.
Know about Clinical Research “Hot Topics”
It helps to have a basic understanding of these pain points as you prepare yourself for the next step in the job search process.
As far as therapeutic or medical product knowledge is concerned, I strongly recommend that you don’t worry about it at this stage.
There is no need to spend hours reading cardiology or oncology textbooks. I’ll explain more on this later.
#2: Evaluate Potential Employers and Employment Opportunities
As I stated in the beginning of this post, the #1 mistake job applicants make is applying for hundreds of jobs at once.
Instead, you first want to carefully evaluate your options and then narrow down your choices to 10-20 employers at most.
Ask Yourself the Right Questions
At this stage in the process, avoid worrying about the following:
- The company is too big (or too small) for me to get a job
- The company doesn’t have any clinical research job openings at this time
- I’ve heard they don’t pay enough
- The recruiter I spoke with said they’re only looking for candidates with work experience
Instead, here’s what you should be asking yourself the following questions:
- Can I commute to the office on a daily basis?
- If needed, am I willing to relocate to a different city, state or country?
- What salary or hourly rate would be sufficient so I can get my basic needs met (food, clothing, rent)?
- Any other “must have” requirements such as flex time or medical insurance that will determine whether or not you’ll take the job or not.
Now write down your responses on a piece of paper.
Use the responses to the above questions to guide you through the remaining steps of the job search process.
Start Researching Companies
The best way to research companies is to go their website.
But can you get to the website if you don’t even know the company name?
Well, you’re in luck because I have two amazing options for you.
Your list of 10-20 companies can be pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device, clinical research organizations or health IT/software companies.
Organize Potential Employers
Once you’ve identified these potential employers, type them on an excel spreadsheet. We’ll call this spreadsheet your “Clinical Research Job Search Tracker.”
If any of these employers have job openings that are of interest to you, add the job title to your Job Search Tracker.
Don’t beat yourself up if you find an interesting position but don’t have the experience or knowledge needed for that role yet.
It might also be a good idea for you to print our job descriptions that you find interesting.
#3: Assess the Quality of Your Resume and Linkedin Profile
Now that you have a basic understanding of clinical research and have completed your research on potential employers, it’s time to fine-tune your resume and LinkedIn Profile.
Assess the quality of your resume
If you haven’t worked in clinical research before, chances are that you don’t have any clinical research experience to include on your resume.
But you’ll surprise yourself by taking an inventory of your past educational or work experiences.
Below are the types of experiences you want to list on your resume:
- A research project you’ve been part of or led in the past. The size of the project doesn’t matter. You can write about a project that lasted for just 4 hours or one that involved only two people.
- Be specific about YOUR role on this project. If you led a specific aspect of the project or led the team, write that down.
- Any scientific and non-scientific publications or articles you’ve written. Writing is an important skill that most, if not all, employers value greatly.
- Any presentations you’ve done.
- Any volunteer work you’ve done in the medical or non-medical field.
Clinical research is a team-oriented industry. If you can demonstrate that you have strong written and verbal communication skills, you’ve won half the battle.
I find many fresh graduates write down the course names on their resume. This approach, in my opinion, is a completely useless.
If you took a Bioengineering 101 course in college, it tells the employer nothing about your skills. However, if you write down details about a specific project you did as part of this course, now it becomes more interesting and useful piece of information for the recruiter or hiring manager.
So in summary, write about different projects you’ve undertaken in the past. The more specific you can be about your contributions and the outcome of the project, the better.
Other general resume rules that you must not break:
- Keep your resume short, no more than 1-2 pages
- Use bullets to make it easier for employers to read your resume
- Typos, grammatical and spelling errors are generally not tolerated
- Use consistent line spacing, font size, and formatting throughout your resume
- Use free tools like Canva.com to create beautiful resumes
If don’t know how to write a resume or need help reviewing it, your career services or local library may offer this service for free. All you need to do is ask for resume help.
Create a solid LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is your digital resume. If your LinkedIn profile isn’t exceptional, you’ll miss out on potential employment opportunities.
There are many blogs and books written on LinkedIn profiles but I find the following to elements to be most critical:
Professional Quality Headshot
The first thing a potential employer will see on your LinkedIn profile is your face. So be sure to have a professional quality headshot (and don’t forget to smile).
You don’t want headshot with a busy background, showing you having fun at the bar with your friends, or pixelated.
Pay a professional photographer for a stellar headshot.
Add a Summary
In this section of your LinkedIn profile, you should summarize what you’ve learned and achieved in your previous academic or professional experience.
If your experience is not related to clinical research, describe how you’ll extend your experiences and skills to clinical research.
Make your summary section relevant to the clinical research industry.
Featured Skills, Endorsements, and Recommendations
Ask your professors or colleagues for public endorsements and recommendations on LinkedIn.
When it comes to current and previous work colleagues, I would encourage that you first endorse and recommend them on LinkedIn and see if they would consider returning the favor.
You may also want to tailor these sections of your LinkedIn profile to match the clinical position job requirements or qualifications.
#4: Vow to Create and Use a Job Search Tracker
The Clinical Research Job Search Tracker is the crux of The BEAVER Method. This is the same spreadsheet that you created in step # 2 “Evaluate Potential Employers and Employment Opportunities” described above.
What Is a Clinical Research Job Search Tracker?
A “Clinical Research Job Search Tracker” is a systematic way for you to organize contacts, company information, key communications and follow-up dates.
You’ve done your research and are now ready to apply for jobs and build relationships with potential employers.
Very soon you’ll be sending emails or calling potential employers. But if you don’t follow-up in a systematic way, you’ll get nowhere.
You have the option of trying to remember your last conversations and then follow-up accordingly. However, I find the “trying to remember” approach very stressful.
As humans, it’s hard for us to stay disciplined, especially when it comes to things we don’t really enjoy doing such as a job search.
This tracker, as boring as it may be, will help you stay focused and keep you on track with your job search.
How To Create and Use a Job Search Tracker?
The “Clinical Research Job Search Tracker” can be a Google Sheet that resides in your Google Drive or a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that you save on your computer. The advantage of a Google Sheet is that you can access it from anywhere and it remains saved in the cloud.
The key column headers of the “Clinical Research Job Search Tracker” are as follows:
- Company name
- Position/ Job Title
- Hiring Manager/ Recruiter/ Director/ VP First Name
- Hiring Manager/ Recruiter/ Director/ VP Phone Number
- Hiring Manager/ Recruiter/ Director/ VP Email
- Hiring Manager/ Recruiter/ Director/ VP LinkedIn URL
- Date of Last Contact
- Contact Type: Email, Phone, Other
- Next Follow-up Date
- Status: Phone Interview, Interview Round #1, Interview Round #2, Declined, On-Hold
You can get creative and use colors to denote the status of various items in this spreadsheet. You can also add more columns as you see fit.
The main thing here is that you want to use this spreadsheet religiously (even if you’re not a religious person).
Benefits of a Clinical Research Job Search Tracker
Here are some of the benefits of keeping a job search tracker:
- Keeps you organized with your job search and outreach efforts
- Ensures you have a clear plan on who you need to communicate with and when you need to follow-up
- Maintains a history of the communications you’ve had with the employer.
Trust me it gets very confusing, even with 10-20 employers.
#5: Engage With Other Clinical Research Professionals
By the time you get to this step in the process, you’ve already put in a ton of work into planning for your job search.
The heavy lifting is done and now you’re ready to reach out to potential employers and apply for jobs.
There are four fundamental through which you can build relationships with potential employers and land a job interview.
Schedule Informational Interviews
Through your research, you’ve identified potential employers. Now you need to reach out to people at these companies and schedule informational interviews.
The informational interviews can be in-person or via phone. When you reach out to individuals for informational interviews, be clear that you are not asking them for a job.
The purpose of an informational interview is to understand the hiring process, skills that are important to the employer, types of candidates that make it through the interview process and the organization’s culture.
If you end up meeting in-person, be generous and pay for coffee or lunch. Yes, it will cost you a few dollars that you don’t have. But this act will pay huge dividends in the long run. Plus don’t forget that this person is taking time off from their busy schedule to meet with you.
Join LinkedIn Groups and be an Active Participant
One of the best ways to connect with other clinical research professionals is LinkedIn Groups such the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) or Society of Clinical Research Professionals (SOCRA).
You may also want to search for niche LinkedIn groups that are specific for a given therapeutic area or medical product you’re interested in.
Once you’ve joined the group, take the time to read the latest posts in the group and start engaging. The simplest way to engage with others in the group is to make thoughtful comments or ask insightful questions.
People in the group will start noticing you and then you can reach out to those people for an informational interview as described above.
When people are in the same LinkedIn group, they already feel connected to each other and are more likely to meet with you or have a phone call.
Reach out to People with Director Title or above
This is my favorite tip for engaging with decision makers in the clinical research. My advice to you is to go all the way to the top!
Email and call directors, vice presidents or even CEOs depending on the size of the company.
When you reach out to high-level management, don’t send them your resume right away. Instead, ask them if they would be willing to schedule a call or in-person meeting with you.
Sound energetic and enthusiastic and clearly express why you’re interested in working at their company. If you can convey your passion and desire to work for them, your chances of getting an interview will increase manyfold.
The other key reason for reaching to the people on the top is that they are the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to hiring. Who doesn’t want great people to work on their teams?
Surround Yourself with Clinical Researchers Who Can Help You with Your Career
You the average of five people you surround yourself with. If you want to become a clinical research professional, then you need to surround yourself with other clinical research professionals.
There are many ways to achieve this. One of the most effective ways is to attend a clinical research national or regional conference.
If money is an issue, email the conference manager and find out if you can volunteer at the event and get a complimentary pass in exchange.
#6: Reinforce Your Interest in the Company and the Clinical Research Position
Once you’ve started to make connections and experienced a few informational interviews, you’ll a get a feel for different employers and what they are looking for.
Using your “Clinical Research Job Search Tracker” as your compass, apply for clinical research roles that you think you are ready to take on right away or can grow into the role in 6-12 months time.
If you meet close to 80% of the job requirements in the job description, I would encourage you to apply. When it comes to prior experience, think about ways you’ve met the job requirements through your previous academic and professional experiences.
The key here is to be able to articulate how your previous experiences make you best suited for the role you’re applying for.
Follow-ups – The Holy Grail to Landing a Job Interview
Follow-ups with potential employers via personalized email and phone communication is the only way you can differentiate yourself from other job applicants.
When you follow-up with employers, write the down the key points you want to bring up during your call before you dial the number. If the person doesn’t answer the phone, leave a voice message with your full name, the purpose of the call and your callback number.
When you call an employer or recruiter thinking they are doing you a favor by offering you a job, your voice will soften and your heart will beat faster. Don’t let this happen to you.
Jobs are a two-way street. The employer needs you and you need them. You must sound confident on the phone or on email.
Once you follow-up, type in the date and conclusions from your follow-up on the “Clinical Research Job Search Tracker.”
Some employers will ask you to contact them at a later date, some will respond by saying they are not interested and others will never respond to your follow-up.
For people that don’t reply, you can follow-up every 3 business days. I usually like to follow-up till I hear a “No, we’re not interested” but in general, you can stop following up if you don’t get a response back after 3-5 follow-up attempts.
For larger organizations with many departments and divisions, a “No” from one department or division, doesn’t mean it’s a “No” from other departments or divisions. You want to be consistent (and persistent) with your follow-ups and look broadly when it comes to larger companies.
Now that you have an in-depth understanding of The BEAVER Method, it’s time to put your learnings into action.
In order to get a job in clinical research, you want to tackle your job search in ways other applicants are not.
- Broaden your understanding of clinical research by learning about various clinical research roles, reading the FDA guidance on Good Clinical Practice and increasing your familiarity with hot topics in the industry.
- Evaluate potential employers and employment opportunities by asking yourself the right questions, researching companies you want to work at and organizing potential employers using the “Clinical Research Job Search Tracker”.
- Assess the quality of your resume and LinkedIn profile. Focus on projects you’ve led or been part of and detail out your role on each of those projects.
- Vow to create and use a job search tracker to keep track of potential employers and communications with the companies you are applying for jobs at.
- Engage with other clinical research professionals by scheduling informational interviews, actively participating in LinkedIn groups, reaching out to senior leadership at various clinical research organizations and surrounding yourself with people who can help you in your career
- Reinforce your interest in a company and the clinical research position you’re applying for by consistently and persistently following up with the right decision makers.
Let me know what you think about The BEAVER Method. I can’t wait to hear about your success.