Q&A With Worldwide Clinical Trials Matt Miller: Staying Agile in a Candidate Driven Market

Matt Miller is the Senior Director of Global Talent Acquisition at Worldwide Clinical Trials, a Contract Resource Organization founded by physicians to advance medical science and achieve successful drug development. With a global team of more than 2,000 experts managing clinical trials across more than 60+ countries, the talent acquisition team was challenged with rapid growth and greatly impacted by market changes brought on by the pandemic. Here, Matt shares how agile technology and a focus on the candidate experience helped his team keep pace and evolve.

Can you take us back in time to describe what the early part of 2020 was like for the Worldwide Clinical Trials team?

Looking back to February of 2020, we started to hear rumbles about the impact of Covid on our clinical trials overseas. In particular, we had several studies in process in Italy and, in what felt like an instant, our Clinical Research Associates were grounded. Italy went into lockdown. With our CRAs unable to get to our research sites we saw the first big red flag surrounding the way we do business. By March, as we all know, that impact was felt globally.

However, clinical trials didn’t stop. They soon ramped up. Many new studies were launched relative to Covid-19 and like most organizations, we quickly started to figure out smart ways to adapt and advance positive change to keep our teams doing their very important work. For example, by mid-May we were able to shift many of our CRAs to perform remote monitoring of their trials—a practice that prior to 2020 was somewhat rare, but now is a norm.

As a result, our talent acquisition team went from tapping the brakes to accelerating hiring at a record pace because of the growth in clinical trials. Much of our ramp up activity happened within a matter of a few short months. In addition to almost tripling our TA team, Worldwide Clinical Trials is also on track to achieve a 50% growth rate as a company in 2021.

Has your accelerated growth created challenges with recruiting?

Before the pandemic, our team was easily half remote. Moving forward, Worldwide Clinical Trials will likely be a company that’s 70% remote. Keep in mind that many of our jobs are based in labs and clinics. You can’t bring the lab or clinic home for some of our roles. Plus, other positions we hire for are hourly. The supply and demand of talent today coupled with the added competition from attractive gig jobs is making things more challenging not just for hourly positions, but across the board.

It’s a candidate driven market and there are new expectations on what today’s candidates want from an employer. People have had time to reflect on what they want to do professionally and where they want to do it. A candidate’s motivation for a new position has become more philosophical and frankly emotional. Our team has had to adjust the way we attract and communicate with candidates to differentiate our offering and to be more competitive at the same time.

What’s helped you compete?

For us, we recognized a need to be faster and more highly responsive to candidates than we may have traditionally been. We looked at the entire hiring lifecycle, from screening to offer, and uncovered impactful ways we could truncate that process and automate steps without missing out on key interactions that would validate that the person under consideration is the right fit for the job we’re trying to fill.

To do that, we looked closely at our data in GR8 People to uncover where there was latency. We asked: Is it with the hiring manager or the recruiter? Is it an issue with a redundant step in our process? By pinpointing issues causing unnecessary bottlenecks and correcting them quickly and thoughtfully, we’ve created a more efficient and streamlined hiring cycle.

Another win-win we achieved by looking so closely at our data is that we now have a stronger and more compelling way to level set expectations on time to fill. We can engage with hiring managers early on in the process with empirical data, not anecdotal insights, or gut checks, of the right amount of time it will take to find this type of person in this country for this role and for these requirements.

One of the adjustments your team made this year was to add text recruiting from GR8 People to the mix. What’s been the impact?

I’ve often found that tech can lead to positive changes in strategy and process. At Worldwide Clinical Trials, we’ve achieved just that by embracing GR8 People’s text recruiting solution to leap over email and speed up candidate communications. It’s important to note that for text to be a winning communication and engagement strategy, there’s one critical, and sometimes challenging, step in the process—getting candidates to opt-in.

Many of our leads opt-in to receive texts immediately. However, just as many don’t. It’s not really surprising when you think about it. As consumers, there’s a natural hesitancy to allow anyone outside of our immediate sphere to text us. To combat that, we’ve found it very easy to round up those who have applied and did not opt-in for text and launch a campaign in GR8 People to encourage them to do so. We want to reengage with our leads at critical touchpoints especially when we have the candidate’s full attention, like right after applying for a job. Our messages are clear and include a simple link back into GR8 People to change their preferences. We further confirm with them that by opting in, they definitely won’t be spammed, their information will never be sold, and that they’ll only be texted if advancing in the hiring process.

Timing and messaging that builds both trust and the start of a positive relationship with our brand have helped us make considerable gains in our ability to text and connect with candidates faster. We also encourage post-interview follow-up questions, many of which can often be answered instantly, to be sent over text. Plus, sending a text that just might beat an email sent by another hiring organization to a great candidate also helps us differentiate and, without a doubt, compete.

Are there recruiting automation solutions new to Worldwide Clinical Trials with GR8 People that are helping you save considerable time in the hiring process?

Going back to our rapid growth, about a third of our current total workforce was hired in 2021. We just would not have been able to keep pace without GR8 People as our ATS and core talent platform. Our team is able to easily adjust workflows based on the role we are hiring for and the associated automations with each unique workflow ensure that we never miss a hiring step and our candidates are always informed.

So, the answer to your question is yes. A really good example is how we now manage scheduling. Just as we have with text recruiting, we’ve turned to GR8 People for automated candidate communications to allow for easy self-scheduling. That has helped our recruiters become more efficient, candidate-friendly and free up their Outlook inbox. We’re sending significantly less internal emails to book interviews and we’re also able to gather internal feedback because everything is now centralized in GR8 People. The more that we can do in GR8 People the better—for data, for our team’s visibility into activities, overall efficiency, ability to compete, and absolutely the candidate experience.