The MSL Society is thankful to have The Carolan Group on board as a Gold sponsor of the 8th Annual MSL Society Conference this year. As a result of their partnership, we interviewed Tom Caravela, a Managing Partner of The Carolan Group and this is the result.


What growing trends have you seen in the MSL profession since the COVID-19 Pandemic hit?

Throughout the course of the pandemic, the Carolan Group team has seen the MSL recruitment process, timeline, and final interview format shift significantly. Somewhat ironically, the amount of available MSL positions has not changed – initially there were a few roles put on hold, but our volume has largely been the same – if not higher. One key trend is that pharmaceutical organizations have not stopped hiring on the clinical and medical side. Additionally, we have seen a dramatic shift in timeline and process. Companies can complete interviews with desirable candidates extremely quickly by utilizing virtual platforms, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. An interview that might’ve taken a few weeks or months to complete pre-COVID can now be completed in two weeks.


What best practices have you seen from the companies your organization is working with that can be shared with the MSL community?

One best practice being employed by our clients is a different assessment checklist of prospective MSL candidates. For any MSL that is actively interviewing, please keep in mind that you will be assessed on your ability to deal with adversity and overcome challenges, give the back-drop of COVID. Also, your ability to effectively utilize technology to your advantage and communicate calmly, compelling, and scientifically from behind a screen will also be heavily evaluated. Communication skills and emotional intelligence have never been more highly desired. In short, Hiring Managers are looking for grit, drive, and the ability to thrive in our technical/virtual environment.


How is your organization adapting to the shift to digital? And what are the lessons you have learned from going through it?

Our organization is adapting to the digital shift by leaning into it and embracing it wholeheartedly. We used to communicate with our clients almost exclusively via phone calls, but now we are getting the opportunity to meet with our clients virtually via Zoom and Microsoft Teams conferences. In a way, our relationships have never been stronger or more mutually trusting. Also, we have learned that the MSL market is as competitive as it has ever been. Do to digital engagement, a candidate can complete a full interview process in a matter of weeks and from the comfort of their own home. This has made the market even tighter, even more time-sensitive, and even more aggressive when it comes to a highly marketable and talented MSL.


What advice would you give MSLs struggling to get valuable engagements with KOLs?

Creativity and perseverance. During this time, KOLs are especially hard to get in touch with (specifically if you are trying to generate a relationship from scratch). Utilize any connections you may have – perhaps a veteran Commercial colleague can introduce you via email. Perhaps you have a first connection on LinkedIn that can help build a bridge and connect you. Perhaps you can attend a virtual conference where you can make connections in a more natural and meaningful way.


Why did your organization decide to sponsor the 8th Annual MSL Society Conference?

For many years, Tom Caravela and the Carolan Group have considered the MSL Society extremely valuable partners – for their great content, information, and helpful surveys. As an executive search firm dedicated to Medical Affairs (and largely MSL positions and team-builds), we appreciate Samuel’s work and continued dedication to this career path. We find great synergies between what our teams do, and the MSL Society has been a very valuable resource for us – not only for information, but to make strong connections in the MSL and Medical Affairs community.


What are you most excited about this year’s conference?

The speakers are always very compelling and our team enjoys the various Medical Affairs topics discussed. We also look forward to networking with experienced and newer MSLs as well as other key industry professionals!


What has been your biggest challenge this year and how did you overcome it?

Our biggest challenge was the March time-frame, when COVID hit our area (Northern NJ) especially hard. We were not sure the outcome of the pandemic: Would hiring stop? Would all of our MSL and Medical Affairs positions effectively go on hold until 2021? We have overcome this challenging and chaotic time through a combination of teamwork and a company-wide do-what-it-takes attitude. Our team has shifted to 100% virtual engagement and has not given up on a single candidate or job. Our results have never been better, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to land MSLs in great jobs – during COVID and beyond it.