Meet's US Contract Division - 6 months later...

Launching a new team, in a new market, is no mean feat. 

With support from our established UK contract team and a strong foundation from the Permanent Life Sciences division in New York, Paul Banks (our Contract Division Manager) has spent the last 6 months building Meet’s first US contract team from the ground up. 

So, just over 6 months on from their launch, how is it all going? We caught up with Paul to hear about the journey so far…


To kick us off, can you tell us about the market? 

Because contract recruitment is all about helping businesses to find temporary support - often at short notice and with very specific requirements - the market is extremely fast paced and much more dynamic than permanent recruitment. 

No two briefs are the same. We support a diverse range of projects, from clients who require additional expertise or an extra pair of hands to clients who hire contractors as part of their business model.

Similarly to the Permanent Life Sciences team, we recruit across the East Coast from our base in New York, working in close proximity to two of the largest Life Sciences clusters in the US, Boston and New Jersey. 

A key part of our strategy when breaking into the East Coast contract market was to touch base with our permanent clients and introduce the new contract team; not only did that give us a great kick start but also an insight into where contractors were in highest demand. When we first launched the team back in November one of our established clients was recruiting heavily in Clinical Operations, Biometrics and Medical Writing, so it made sense to focus in those areas initially.

We still see a high demand in these core sectors but we’ve been really lead by the market, growing the business to cover Quality, Regulatory, Safety/PV, Medical Affairs, and Clinical Development too. What we’ve seen so far is that the contract Life Sciences market mirrors the permanent market, following similar peaks and troughs in hiring throughout the drug life cycle. 


So, what is the need for businesses to hire contractors?

As I said, businesses hire contractors for a huge variety of reasons; tight deadlines, the need for a specific skill set, short-term projects, the list goes on! One trend we’ve seen, particularly with some of our smaller clients, is the temp to perm model. This is where a client will hire someone on a temporary basis with the view of making them a permanent employee long term. This ‘try before you buy’ approach gives both parties the opportunity to get to know one another before offering or accepting a permanent position. 

In other cases, a temp to perm solution might be put in place because a team is struggling to get commitment on a role; setting up a 6 month contract gives them the opportunity to demonstrate the need for the additional headcount, from there they are more likely to secure sign off on a permanent position. 

Interestingly, we’ve seen different trends in hiring depending on the kind of company. The temp to perm business model is much more common with Biotechnology and Biopharmaceutical companies, whereas Clinical Research Organisations (CROs) tend to offer longer contracts. CROs partner with sponsors (for example a pharmaceutical company) on a contract basis, so it makes sense for them to offer assignments for the same length of time as their contracts. Healthcare Communications is totally different too, not many projects last longer than 3 months or are even part-time, so the work is much more freelance. 


…a really diverse market, what are the challenges? 

One of our biggest challenges is ensuring that the recruitment process moves at the right speed for both our clients and candidates. As I mentioned the contract market is really fast-paced, however, clients who aren’t used to hiring contractors will often use the same lengthy process as they would for a permanent hire, holding 3 or even 4 interview stages. That isn’t realistic in this market, especially when a strong contractor is available. 

It’s frustrating when clients lose out on the top talent because of process. We’ve had a lot of success working with our clients to adapt their processes; reducing the number of stages, providing contractor references and briefing contractors fully, so that they are ‘job-ready’ when they start. 

It’s also been difficult educating our clients who haven’t had much experience with the contract market on the benefits of hiring contractors. For example, we had a case where a client was struggling to fill a business critical permanent vacancy, but would not consider a contract solution. Their concern was having to on-board and train someone just to replace them. By educating them around the contract market, and the fact it’s part of a contractors’ role to hit the ground running, we were able to persuade the client to consider a freelance professional. This professional started almost immediately and is now supporting them whilst our permanent team continue the search for a full-time employee.

We get this kind of push back all the time. But, once our clients understand the nature of contractors and the valuable industry experience they bring, a contract solution becomes a lot more appealing. Particularly as all of the interim professionals we work with are thoroughly vetted - at the end of the day they are an extension of our business.


And what's the best thing about the contract market?

Personally, I love the fact it’s a very fast-moving market and I find the urgency our clients’ need exciting. Contract recruitment requires both speed and quality. Working up against other agencies we’ve got to know our network inside out, so that when a role comes in we know exactly who to call. As specialists in Life Sciences as well as contract recruitment our network is niche, giving us a competitive advantage. 

Over the last 6 months I’ve been pitching to a lot of companies who have a PSL (preferred suppliers list) and what I’ve heard is that a lot of agencies aren’t delivering because they’re not specialists. The companies who we have started working with have been really impressed with our service - it’s great to be getting this kind of feedback so early on in our growth.

It’s also a great market because it involves building really long term relationships, both with our clients and contractors. I’d hope that we will be placing the contractors we’ve worked with over the last 6 months on new assignments time and time again. From my point of view it’s a partnership; we’re supporting these professionals to find new positions and provide a steady stream of work but they’re also opening up our client base too.

Finally, contractors are really engaged in the industry because they are always looking for their next assignment. They’re also much more relaxed about the assignments and the companies they work with. Moving jobs is one of the most stressful things we do in our lives, but if you’re a contractor you are use to moving companies and adapting to new environments. Plus, you don’t have any additional perks or company benefits to consider so there is less to evaluate when making a move.


It sounds like there’s a lot of potential working with contractors, so where do you see the future of the contract team?

We’ve more than doubled in headcount since we launched just over 6 months ago, which means we’ve got a lot more energy on the desk and we’re making a bigger impact on the market. With the amazing response we’ve had from our client base I believe we could double in size again before the end of the year.

We’re very well established in Biometrics, Medical Writing and Clinical Operations now, purely since that’s where we have seen the highest demand. However, there’s still a huge amount of opportunity in the market, especially to grow further in the Quality & Tech Ops, Pharmacovigilance, Regulatory and Medical spaces.

There was a transition period where we were an extension of the permanent team but we’re a separate unit now, with our own client base. Obviously, we’re still working very closely with the permanent team, offering a complete service to all of Meet’s clients.

My ambition is to replicate the success of the permanent Life Sciences team here, and eventually rival their revenue. Once we’ve got the headcount there’s more than enough potential in the market to do that. 


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