How to Land a Job as a Clinical Research Associate

How to Land a Job as a Clinical Research Associate

In a field where transparency and ethics reign supreme, a CRA needs to be self-motivated and have strong core values in order to deal with the daily tasks and challenges of the position.

As recruiters and hiring directors for clinical research organizations (CROs) notice a dramatic increase in the number of fraudulent applications for open positions, finding truthful and well-suited clinical research associates (CRAs) has gained a newfound significance within the industry.

This is particularly critical for the role of the CRA, as the individual is tasked with the responsibility of verifying that the safety, rights and well-being of all patients are protected.

According to Angela Roberts, head of CRA recruitment at craresources, the position is also important because the CRA must ensure that the reported clinical trial data is accurate, verifiable and complete.

“I think CRAs are the most, if not one of the most, important positions in our industry,” said Roberts in an interview with Xtalks. “That’s because the CRA is the individual that goes out to the site, that is conducting the study and monitoring the patient records to confirm what needs to be done to protect the patient safety and to ensure that regulatory and protocols is being followed.”

Craresrouces focuses solely on placing CRAs and site managers, so the recruiting agency knows exactly what pharma, biotech, medical device companies and CROs consider throughout the hiring process.

For those looking to break into the industry or switch careers, Roberts says these three factors will aid a candidate in securing a CRA position and excelling in it.

A Strong Foundation

Starting with a strong educational foundation is necessary for landing a CRA position, and most postings will require applicants to have an undergraduate degree in life science or another health-related discipline. Additionally, while it is not always mandatory, having a graduate degree can also be valuable for candidates seeking employment in this field, particularly for more senior roles.

While education will get a candidate in the door for an interview, those who display an obvious passion for research are more likely to stand out from the crowd, according to Roberts.

“For some companies, they like to hire more entry level individuals and then train them according to their processes,” explained Roberts. “They’re typically going to be interested in those who have a life science or medical degree of some type, is always a great foundation to start with. And then individuals that have that research capacity, the people that really like digging into research.”

Those with experience in the medical industry will be particularly well-suited for this role and may find it appealing as it offers an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of patients in ways they may not be used to.

“We see a lot of individuals with a medical background that enjoy working in this industry because it gives them the opportunity to still make a big difference for patients but they’re not touching the patients anymore. You’re not dealing with the intimacy with the patient and their illness, you’re looking at it more from a macro level” she said.

Job-related Skills & Attributes

A career as a clinical research associate appeals to many, as it offers an opportunity to travel and work independently while doing rewarding research. As a result, it requires a certain type of person in order to excel at the job.

Roberts says these are the qualities of a person that will find success in this position, “The role of a CRA is a very independent role. They need to be great critical thinkers, and then just honest, being very honest is important. This CRA is a watchdog to make sure that everything is adhered to, so these people have to have high ethics and strong integrity so they can do the right thing.”

In a field where transparency and ethics reign supreme, a CRA needs to be self-motivated and have strong core values in order to deal with the daily tasks and challenges of the position.

 “Self-motivators, people that meet their deadlines and don’t have to be chased. Those that raise their hands whenever they have problems without being prompted. Just really strong, high quality, ethical people,” said Roberts.

Going into an interview candidate should also be able to showcase a well-versed understanding of the clinical research and healthcare system.

Find the Right Fit

Although candidates with experience in clinical research monitoring have an advantage, there are opportunities for recent graduates as well. Roberts says that certain companies are more willing to train newly hired employees to suit their needs and protocols, so it is important that applicants are honest about what they have and haven’t done.

“List your therapeutics, the phases that you’ve worked, the years of experience you have in each and be honest about it. Put months and dates on your resume so that no one thinks you’re trying to hide short tenures and be honest about the dates,” Roberts emphasized. “If you’ve got job gaps or if you have a short tenure be ready to explain those without trying to hide those.”

For those fresh out of school, graduate recruitment programs with larger companies are usually their best bet, as some offer training programs and valuable internships. Although finding a job can seem daunting and difficult without experience, Roberts says that if candidates are honest about their history it will lead to success down the road.

“I think being upfront, there’s a fit for everyone,” she said. “There’s a culture fit, there’s a company fit, a therapeutic fit for everyone, but the key is being honest so you can get into the best situation, the situation that’s going to make you successful.”

Having realistic expectations are also important, along with the willingness to start in a junior position and work your way up within the industry.

Tailoring your cover letter and resume to each position by highlighting relevant experience and skills can make the difference between a successful application or one that is rejected. Potentially leading to a career that has a real and meaningful impact on people’s lives.

 “The people who do a great job are in this industry because they want to be. They want to make a difference and to help solve problems and cure illnesses, expand livelihoods and lives,” she concluded.