Mark Atkinson

How is the Med Comms industry coping with being candidate short?

As most of you know, and I found out shortly after entering my role recruiting for medical communications agencies, the market is very candidate short. Nearly every Med comms agency Zenopa partners with is looking for at least one Medical Writer permanently, and are often waiting weeks, if not months to secure anyone. As you can imagine, this is creating several challenges both internally and externally:

An increased need for Freelance Writers

“With the demand for Medical Writers, Medical Communications recruiter Mark Atkinson looks at the challenges Med Comms companies are facing in a candidate short market.“

Firstly, not being able to hire a Medical Writer permanently means agencies must lean on the support of Freelance writers. Although they are as highly skilled as a permanent employee, this is not an ideal situation for the majority of companies for the following reasons: 

-/ Greater short terms costs (increased day rates) 

-/ A lack of consistency on client accounts if writers change from project to project or even partway through one.

-/ If you look internally, this could result in a situation where more junior team members do not have a consistent line manager or mentor. So longer term, this is probably not the answer…

But there is a fix… 

A possible long term fix is to look at employing several junior-level employees and take the time to nurture and develop them. Several agencies on the market have worked this into their business plan with initiatives such as graduate programmes and specific entry-level vacancies every year, to help people enter the industry.

Naturally, this too poses challenges; primarily the cost (both monetary and time) from recruitment, through on-boarding, training and simply getting them to a stage of being confident and competent to write engaging content. The other element is retention – once you’ve spent all this time and money on getting them to Medical Writer level, how do you keep them…?

So, maybe there are simply not enough people working in Med Comms. The industry is crying out for candidates, and it seems there is way more work than people to do it! Are there any other reasons why the market is so short – why are people staying put?

Having spoken to several writers about this, it has come down to many key factors which you can see above – I have explained a few of the main ones in more detail:

-/ Flexibility – This encompasses home-working and flexitime, work and development. Agencies have recognised the things they need to put in place to keep staff.

-/ Pay – Although not always the ‘main motivator’ in someone leaving, every little (or sometimes a lot) helps!

-/ Feeling valued – This is very personal, so sometimes hard to get right but it is important to give recognition, opportunity, and sometimes the best thing to do is simply listen. Making someone feel that their opinion and feelings are valued is make or break.


It would great to hear your thoughts on these factors and to discuss your motivators further to help us keep gathering information on this. Zenopa pride themselves on ‘Talent Driven, Culture Focused.’ We are here to understand our candidates’ motivations and goals, and our client’s business objectives and culture fit and match the two together.


If you are interested in seeing our current roles, do take a look through as mentioned we’re not short on options at MW/ Senior MW level!

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medical communications    healthcare comms    medical writers    medical writing    freelance writers    healthcare writers