With the global medical writing market predicted to reach $7.7 billion by 2027, the medical communications industry is one that is rapidly growing. With the continual need for marketable content that translates drug-related information to healthcare professionals (HCP) and patients, it’s no surprise that medical writers are in constant demand, but when it comes to hiring a medical writer, what do agencies really care about most?
I had a fantastic discussion with Angela Young, HR Director at Lucid Group, a global family of healthcare communication companies, to find out what they look for when hiring a medical writer.
From essential traits and the importance of showcasing examples of creativity, to whether you need a postgraduate degree, Angela shared some fantastic insights.
What are the most important traits you look for in a medical writer?
From a technical perspective, unsurprisingly we look for a passion for science and a real desire to help others, and ultimately transform lives. As a medical writer at Lucid, we can guarantee that they’ll be working with the best scientific brains in the world, who need our help to tell their stories that have the potential to change patients’ lives. This must be done brilliantly, with heaps of passion and commitment, so seeing that shine through is incredibly powerful for us.
When it comes to soft skills, first and foremost, attention to detail and absolute precision and consistency in the communication are must-haves. Non-writers may refer to this as being pedantic but, as boring as it sounds, it is key.
Problem-solving is essential to be successful as a medical writer, as you need to be able to show grit and perseverance in the face of problems that emerge. A critical eye is crucial, so you can anticipate problems before they happen. You need to be able to step into the shoes of all your stakeholders (patients, HCPs, specialists, etc.).
The ability to analyse, translate and present scientific data in a way that tells a story to HCPs is very important. We’re therefore also looking for creative minds; medical writers who’ll pioneer in our space by developing new and exciting ways to tell a story, whether that’s distilling an entire document and summarising it clearly on one slide or developing a stand-out symposia agenda. By obtaining the perfect mix of science and art we can be sure to create magic for our clients and patients.
We look for the ability to build strong relationships, as partnerships are at the core of our business, inside and outside of the business, online and in person. At Lucid, we work across a wide range of therapy areas and coupled with the advances we are constantly seeing in the pharma space, it’s key that our writers can adapt and be open to learning about new areas. Interestingly, our writers are also saying that they want more exposure to different therapeutic areas and projects, so this is something we are keen to explore with them.
It’s important our writers actively listen to take clear project briefs and really understand the issue or challenge. This means asking the right questions and clarifying responses in order to glean the most important insights.
Resilience is key. Your work will be reviewed a lot – that piece of work you’ve spent hours labouring over comes back covered with comments by a more senior writer or picked apart by the client. It happens no matter how experienced you are. This is how we learn, how we continue to raise the bar and improve, it’s not personal!
And finally, we look for individuals who are curious and keep an eye on developments in a scientific area. Being curious about what’s happening more broadly in the business and society also keeps the grey matter whirring and it means we’re always listening and learning.
Do you have any advice or examples of where medical writers have shown their creativity?
We want to see diversity and range, and the depth of projects they’ve been involved in. Examples of thinking outside the box – whether that’s a hobby or an interest, we want to see something where you can really showcase that you’ve shown that element of creative flair.
Also, examples of where they’ve planted a seed in the mind of a client, who has moved on to create a programme of work, are great ways to showcase creativity.
You can look at creative thinking through several lenses and, ultimately, it’s about thinking that through and drawing on those different experiences, taking from work and your personal life to demonstrate that.
How essential is a postgraduate degree to landing a job at Lucid Group, or do you consider medical writers with relevant experience in publishing or pharmaceutical sectors?
For our Graduate Scheme, which we refer to as The Futures Academy, we do tend to prefer candidates to have a PhD/MSc in a life sciences discipline, which is based on feedback from previous grads who have said that many of the skills they developed as a postgrad, e.g., statistical models and interpretation, really helped their transition into medcomms.
That said, we aren’t totally beholden to this; we have hired undergrads who have gone on to be very successful, progressive writers and, in fact, we have recently hired a senior writer who reflects this break from the norm.
It’s also a very tight talent pool in medical writing, particularly for more senior roles, which is also quite a passive pool, so we’re trying to broaden our horizons and talent pools. We appreciate that there are many other talented writers who may want to transfer to medcomms from other careers such as pharma, where they may have experience in regulatory or medical affairs such as medical science liaisons, or those with ABPI final signatory sign-off or medical information managers.
Growth is at the heart of #LucidLife, so if there are any gaps we have lots of tools to help our medical writers develop and thrive in their career – we’re looking for talented individuals with a passion for science first and foremost.