This is a post by Anurag Srivastava, a scientific and medical writer with a strong academic background, including a PhD in molecular medicine. Anurag enriches our platform with knowledge and a profound passion for translating intricate scientific concepts into accessible, engaging content.
Are you someone who enjoys simplifying complex concepts to make them easily understandable? Are you thrilled by the prospect of transforming raw data into engaging narratives? Do you excel at merging your scientific expertise with the art of storytelling to drive action and challenge conventional thinking? If this resonates with you, keep reading this article to discover how to get into medical communication.
The article discusses the key pointers from a panel discussion on “Spotlight on Medical Communications Career” hosted by Becka Lodo of Ambit Careers, which celebrated Med Comms Day on 14th June. The panelists were experts from top medical communication agencies, such as AMICULLUM, Langland, and Oxford PharmaGenesis. It included senior medical writers like Simone Boldt and Leanne Hamersztein, account executives Bethany Clarke and Lauren Alexander, and talent acquisition personnel Lewis Burne and Maureen Reid. The panelists discussed the growth of the medical communication industry, the different aspects of scientific communications, and how to enter the agencies after studies. One of the key points they highlighted was that most agencies want aspiring medical writers from a life science background, and they are opening up to diverse backgrounds.
What are the major challenges faced by scientists transitioning into medical communications?
The panelists stressed that working in academia sometimes becomes a lonely journey, whereas medical communication agencies ensure that a medical writer works in diverse teams with multiple stakeholders. The environment for new medical writers is supportive so they can excel in their performance. They also underlined how a supportive team environment can help medical writers break into an initially daunting, fast-paced, and demanding medical communication field.
The panelists emphasized that being a scientist is a boon and bane at the same time in the medical communication industry. Although coming from a research environment helps to get to the facts and focus on the details, exaggerated curiosity can sometimes lead to over-analysis and over-researching of a specific topic.
What is the difference between science communications and medical communications?
The panelists highlighted the difference between science and medical communications. They agreed that science communications and medical communications are interchangeable terms. However, although their objectives are to translate complex scientific topics into engaging stories, they differ in client types. In medical communications, the clients are primarily pharmaceutical companies, and their topics relate to medical devices, diseases, clinical trials, and patient care. By contrast, the clients that hire science communication experts could be beyond pharmaceutical companies, requesting help digesting complex scientific topics into layperson terms. Science communications can include advisory meeting summaries, blog posts, and marketing pieces for scientific products.
What are the key selection criteria for medical communication agencies?
The panelists also discussed how medical communication agencies screen a candidate and shared some tips for aspiring writers to break into medical communications. According to the panelists, the selection procedure has mainly three rounds. Round one focuses on the basic screening of CVs and cover letters, round two tests the writing skills of the candidates, and the final round consists of interviews, where personality and behavior are assessed.
The screening round
The panelists stressed that candidates often create keyword-dense CVs assuming that agencies use software for screening. It is one of the fatal mistakes candidates commit, as many medical communication agencies have talent acquisition (TA) teams that carefully screen the CVs and cover letters. The TA team looks for the relevant skills required for the job, and writing experience increases the chance of the candidates moving to the next round. The panelists agreed that they mostly look for applicants with a master’s or Ph.D. degree but that candidates with a bachelor’s degree also can be considered if they fulfill the vacancy-specific criteria.
The panelists underlined the importance of a well-crafted cover letter and discouraged using templates. They said applicants must highlight their motivation for the advertised position and how they fit the role with previous experience. The cover letter should highlight their strengths and weaknesses with relevant examples and how applicants see their career growth in the future. One of the common mistakes by applicants is to underplay their achievements, and all panelists stressed the importance of candidates sharing relevant achievements and highlighting why they want to transition from academia to the medical communication industry. In short, the panelists said a cover letter should showcase the applicant’s true self with a clear connection between their background and the advertised position.
The panelists also mentioned that in some cases, the TA team might make a screening call to check candidates’ attitudes and cross-check the educational background and skills mentioned in their CVs and cover letters.
The writing assessment round
Once the agency has successfully screened candidates’ backgrounds, applicants take a writing test that assesses their writing and critical thinking skills. Some agencies conduct the writing test live, whereas others send the writing assignment to candidates. Senior medical writers of the agency evaluate the test, which is the most impactful step of the selection process.
The interview round
After successfully clearing the writing test, candidates are invited for an interview with a panel of potential team members. The panelists suggested that applicants go through the job description and be clear about their motivation. The interviewing panel assesses the candidate’s behavior and essential job skills. They also check if the candidate’s profile and personality fit the team. The key tips for preparing for the interview round were to be professional, courteous, attentive, and consistent, especially applying the information provided in the interview, CV, and cover letter.
The panel discussion gave insights into the working style of medical writers and how the recruitment process works. It also provided an excellent opportunity to network with people in the agencies and freelance scientific and medical writers. The event’s main highlight was how the selection process works in the medical communication agency. It is of utmost importance for applicants to present their true self in the applications. For more astute tips on improving your scientific writing, you can check out our blog. For example, you can check out how to become a scientific writer in six steps.