UCL Careers


Bioscience recruiter view of PhD graduates, Fishawack Health

Hear from Jack Dixon, Director of Talent Acquisition (Medical Communications, Global) at Fishawack Health about various aspects of recruitment in his company, focusing on healthcare communications.

Close up portrait of Jack Dixon.

29 September 2022

Academia is home to many researchers but not everybody decides to stay and pursue an academic career. Not only securing a permanent academic position is pretty hard these days but some people feel more suited for a career outside academia, in industry, etc. Many though wonder whether their PhD and research experience would be useful and valued. 

Tell us about your current role and organisation 

I am a Talent Acquisition Director at Fishawack Health, with eight years’ experience in global Talent Acquisition. Last five years I have been recruiting within the Healthcare Communications industry across a huge variety of roles and levels.  
Fishawack Health (FH) is a leading global commercialization partner for the biopharmaceutical, medical technology, and wellness industries, aiming to help solve complex healthcare challenges. We work across the product and service lifecycle, from Research and Development (R&D) to post-launch. 
The future of health is fast-paced and complex and demands a different approach. Established in 2001, our 1,300+ healthcare experts combine their knowledge and expertise across our 4 core disciplines — Consulting; Medical; Value, Evidence and Access, and Marketing.

Do you recruit PhD graduates and/or postdocs in your organisation and if so, for what type of roles?

Yes, we hire both PhD graduates and postdocs at Fishawack Health, alongside undergrad and masters graduates. They can apply for any roles we recruit for: Medical Writers, Medical Copywriters, Project Coordinators, Account Executives, Client Services, Creatives etc., across all our capabilities: Medical, Marketing, Consulting & Value, Evidence & Access. We have also just launched an internship program and are launching a grad program in summer 2023. 

A PhD is not needed for the majority of these roles (with some exceptions depending on role specifics), but it is advantageous for some of these positions, e.g., Medical Writers. 

What sort of background, experience and skills do you look for these roles?

Depends on the role/capability. All are slightly different, however, for medical writing it would be scientific understanding, data interpretation, writing, communication and enthusiasm/willingness to learn. A strong desire for a career in the industry is also incredibly important as this is something that naturally comes across during the recruitment process.  

If applicants don’t need a PhD, is there an advantage in having a one anyway?

PhD’s would be expected to progress slightly more quickly, however it is very much dependant on performance in role. The main advantage to having a PhD would be for our Medical Writers – our recruitment process involves a writing task and PhD students tend to perform much better at this task, simply because they have the additional writing experience. 

What main challenges do you think PhD graduates and/or postdocs experience/face when transitioning from academia to industry?

Possibly the change of pace from a role in academia to the agency world. Our work is fast paced, extremely demanding during busy periods and heavily client facing. 

What’s the common career progression of PhD graduates and postdocs in your organisation / sector?

Senior Client Services and Scientific roles are fairly common. Each capability, department and function have a different career pathway. FW has a dedicated career experience team and several supporting platforms to aid structured and cross-functional career development opportunities. Lots of info on our website on how this looks. 

How do you recruit for advertised positions, or are you also open for speculative applications?

We advertise all of our live vacancies on our careers page on our website but also LinkedIn. We have remote, hybrid and office-based roles. Fishawack is fully flexible as an organisation, so we typically recruit with flexibility and not one particular location. Job adverts will give an indication on this if required. 

Any useful tips how the applicants can increase their chance to be successful in their job application?

Utilise LinkedIn and organisational networks to find out about opportunities within a company. Don’t be afraid to reach out to Talent Acquisition or employees already doing that role to ask questions. It demonstrates a proactive approach and a strong desire to work in that particular industry. 

Careful consideration should be given to your CV - make it stand out. It needs to be tailored to role, company and industry. Highlight all transferable skills/experience, e.g., if you had experience writing a scientific blog in spare time, don’t forget to include that in your CV. Do your research before applying and select the position you want to apply for carefully.