Assessing Communication Skills in Medical Affairs Candidates: Top Questions for Hiring Managers

With a background specialising in Medical Affairs recruitment for the past 6 years, I have a keen understanding of what a good candidate looks like. While a strong understanding of the science is, of course, important, communication plays a critical role. Whether you’re looking to hire medical science liaisons, medical writers, or any other role within your Medical Affairs team, assessing a candidate’s communication skills is paramount. In this blog, I’ll share the top questions you can ask candidates to evaluate their communication abilities. Thus ensuring you select the best fit for your organisation.

Describe a complex medical concept to a non-scientific audience.

One of the primary responsibilities of professionals in Medical Affairs is to bridge the gap between highly technical information and laypersons. By asking candidates to explain a complex medical concept in simple terms, you can gauge their ability to convey information effectively. Which is vital when communicating with healthcare providers, patients, or even regulatory agencies.

How do you stay updated on the latest medical developments and industry trends?

Effective communicators in Medical Affairs must be well-informed. This question assesses a candidate’s commitment to ongoing learning. As well as their ability to gather, synthesize, and share up-to-date medical information. A candidate who demonstrates a proactive approach to staying informed is more likely to be an asset to your team.

Give an example of a challenging interaction you had with a physician or KOL (Key Opinion Leader) and how you handled it.

Medical Affairs professionals often interact with key stakeholders, including physicians and KOLs, to gather insights or share scientific information. A candidate’s response to this question can reveal their conflict resolution skills. As well as their adaptability, and ability to build and maintain relationships within the medical community.

Share an experience where you had to explain a complex scientific study to a non-scientific stakeholder.

Effective communication in Medical Affairs means translating scientific data into actionable insights for various audiences. Candidates should be able to provide examples of how they’ve successfully communicated scientific findings to non-scientific stakeholders. Such as marketing teams, sales representatives, or regulatory bodies.

How do you approach written communication in the context of Medical Affairs?

In addition to verbal communication, written communication is crucial in Medical Affairs. Especially when preparing medical publications, regulatory documents, and educational materials. Ask candidates about their approach to crafting clear, concise, and scientifically accurate written content, as this is a fundamental aspect of the role.

Can you explain a time when you had to present a medical topic to a diverse audience, and how did you tailor your message to suit their needs?

Medical Affairs professionals frequently engage with diverse audiences, each with varying levels of medical knowledge. A candidate’s ability to adapt their communication style to suit the audience’s needs and preferences is an important skill in ensuring effective communication.

Share an example of when you had to deliver unwelcome news or information to a team or stakeholder.

In the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, challenges can arise, and difficult conversations may be necessary. Candidates should demonstrate their ability to handle such situations with empathy, transparency, and professionalism.

Effective communication is the linchpin of success in Medical Affairs. By asking these key questions, you can evaluate a candidate’s communication skills, their ability to adapt to different situations, and their commitment to staying up-to-date with medical developments. When building your Medical Affairs team, selecting candidates with strong communication skills will help ensure the delivery of accurate, impactful, and compliant medical information to all stakeholders, ultimately contributing to the success of your organisation in this highly specialised field.

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