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Expert Hire: Profiles of 5 Top Clinical Research Recruitment Agencies

The cost of running a clinical trial is enormous and it’s a well-known fact that recruiting patients is a challenge.Thankfully, the task of hiring staff for clinical research positions is more straightforward, but it’s certainly no less important. In fact, sponsors and CROs require the best possible candidates for their organizations to help ensure the maximum likelihood of a trial’s success.

With that in mind, we collated a list of five leading agencies in clinical research recruitment that successfully staff clinical research organizations both established and those starting out.

Allen-Jeffers Associates

Allen-Jeffers Associates, which has been in operation since the late 1970s and is based in Laguna Niguel, California, provides executive and technical staff for startups, particularly in the medical device, pharmaceutical and allied technology industries.

After all these years, the firm still retains some of its first clients, with their referrals being the most successful avenue to new business. The recruitment agency likes to take a partnership approach with its clients, embedding itself in their markets to stay abreast of any evolution. With a focus on flexibility, Allen-Jeffers can adapt and help its clients fulfil the special needs of early-stage venture capital startups, turnaround, LBO, pre- and post-IPO firms.

In addition to startups, Allen-Jeffers Associates provides staffing solutions for Fortune 1000 firms.

Company Leadership

Bob Jeffers, president and founder of Allen-Jeffers Associates, started his career in recruitment in 1976 at Reed-Mathews Consultants, a niche medical recruitment company. He soon shifted his focus to his own enterprise. Even further back, Jeffers was in operations management and manufacturing with C.R Bard and American Hospital Supply Corporation.

Life Search Technologies

One of the younger firms on the list, Life Search Technologies still has nearly two decades of experience, having opened its doors in 2002 near Baltimore. The agency focuses on biotechnology and healthcare, and uses its in-depth market knowledge and partnerships within the scientific community to place the best candidates.

For the biotechnology division, Life Search specializes in filling roles in executive operations, marketing and sales, as well as placing scientific professionals with expertise in drug discovery.

Some of the functional areas the organization focuses on include:

  • Molecular/Cell Biology.
  • Genomics.
  • Immunology.
  • Antibodies.
  • Microplate Readers.

The healthcare division, on the other hand, specializes in executive management and practitioner positions for the healthcare and medical marketplace, such as administrative, nursing and allied health professional candidates at the vice-president, director, manager and supervisor level roles.

Life Search employs its own search process methodology that includes a needs analysis to understand client nuances and requirements; a targeted search to select the most suitable clients from its broad network of candidates; and in-depth screening and long-listing process based on strict criteria, followed by a short-listing process.

The next steps include briefing and debriefing clients and candidates with ongoing support as to whether the candidate will suit the job demands. The recruiter also tests offers on candidates. This tends to increase the likelihood of the candidate accepting when the client manager officially extends an offer of employment.

Company Leadership

Before starting Life Search technologies, Glenn A. Davis, CEO and president, worked in recruitment sales and operations, and also helped to launch a technology startup. The reason for starting his own enterprise was to provide an individualized approach to recruiting, with a personalized touch and a focus on each client’s unique needs.

Top Clinical Research Recruitment Agencies



Headquartered in London, ProClinical has offices in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, as well as in Europe and Asia-Pacific. The staffing firm focuses specifically on recruiting candidates at all levels of seniority from its database of more than 10,000 screened professionals.

The roles they recruit for are at life science companies conducting various phases — Phase I, Phase II, Phase III, post-marketing surveillance and development (Phase IV) — of clinical trials.

It has more than 15 years of experience working across multiple continents and collaborating with human resources, talent acquisition teams, department heads and clinical project managers to place candidates in contract and permanent clinical trial jobs.

Some of ProClinical’s clients include:

  • Global top 10 pharma companies.
  • Multinational CROs.
  • Medical device pioneers.
  • Biopharmas and biotechs.
  • Consumer health, nutrition and cosmetics brands.

ProClinical recruitment consultants are specialists in the life science field, which helps them better understand the roles for which they’re hiring. Each recruitment consultant, who is a specialist in the life science field, operates within a delivery team focused on a specific functional area such as regulatory and medical affairs, compliance, HEOR, drug safety, medical communications, technical operations and biometrics.

Company Leadership

Daniel Smart is group CEO and co-founded the company in 2005. Smart oversees the company’s growth and development globally, emphasizing back office operations teams and growing recruitment divisions. He has worked in life science recruitment since 2004, assisting more than 100 candidates secure positions at 47 life science organizations.

Reaction Search International

Reaction Search International has experience in 35 different vertical markets with its headquarters in San Ramon, California. The firm says its competitive edge is that their recruiters are industry insiders with experience of working in the markets for which they recruit. They are connected to the important and relevant players, with a network of top talent only.

RSI has more than a decade of experience specifically in the pharmaceuticals executive search with its search consultants offering 30 years of collective experience in recruiting for the industry, and providing full-coverage staffing solutions.

With such an extensive network, RSI is able to put together a team of pharmaceutical representatives in a short period, including managing partners, project directors, managers and coordinators with specialties in recruiting for:

  • Clinical pharmacology.
  • Pathology and toxicology.
  • Drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics.
  • Drug discovery.
  • Process and product development.

In addition to the technical skills for the job, RSI ensures its candidates are eager to help people and make a difference in the world through clinical research. The company maintains that this is an essential attribute of a successful client. They say candidates should also enjoy collaboration, be outgoing and candid, and enjoy solving complex problems.

Company Leadership

Managing director Robert Boroff has more than 15 years of knowledge and success in search experience, recruiting and digital marketing. He’s worked with many Fortune 500 companies and early-stage businesses and before joining RSI, was an award-winning practice manager with Management Recruiters, an international recruiting services company.

Top Clinical Research Recruitment Agencies

Smith Hanley Associates

While not solely in the business of recruitment for the clinical research sector, Smith Hanley Associates has been operating generally since 1980 and involved specifically in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries since 1985.

The firm’s highly specialized recruitment consultants have helped mid to senior level executives further their careers. With a thorough understanding of the market needs, the recruiters are able to devote more time to learning about their clients’ company culture to ensure successful staffing decisions.

Success with clients requires strong relationships with candidates and Smith Hanley’s staff will become a candidate’s success coach, going beyond the resume and listed achievements to discover the person.

The organization has an interesting history with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute grads, Brant Smith and Tom Hanley, launching it in New York City in 1980. Expanding into the Midwest a decade later, the company steadily grew. In 2004, billion-dollar pharmaceutical services company InVentiv Health bought Smith Hanley and, eight years later, Tom Hanley, Rick Wastrom, Jacque Paige and Jud Smith purchased Smith Hanley Associates back from inVentiv Health.

Company Leadership

Tom Hanley is a qualified lawyer, but chose to pursue recruitment instead. He is now president and CEO of Smith Hanley Associates and has grown the firm to 100 employees in three offices in Chicago, New York and Southport, Connecticut.

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