How do I get a job in pharmaceutical sales?
This is a question you may have asked yourself, especially after seeing what a pharmaceutical sales career has to offer.
For example, pharmaceutical reps enjoy nice salary packages, sales incentives (e.g., quota bonuses), and travel reimbursements.
According to a MedReps.com Salary Report, pharmaceutical sales reps that call on hospitals enjoy higher salaries.
A pharmaceutical career offers flexibility, excitement, and a never-boring environment.
Pharmaceutical products are diverse as well. For example, there are typical drug classifications for the treatment of hypertension, COPD, Alzheimer’s, and so on. There are expanding delivery methods as well to include injectables, infused oral meds, and inhalants.
Professionals who flock to these roles tend to be “A” personalities, which means they are competitive and driven.
Does this sound like you?
If yes, keep reading…
Let’s examine 3 different scenarios:
#1 If you have no B2B sales experience to speak of…
Doing a quick search of Indeed, I found several “Pharmaceutical Inside Sales Rep” jobs that state, “Sales experienced preferred but not required.”
This is great news for jobseekers who have zero sales experience.
Though, maybe you had more in mind than an inside sales position.
If yes, I have even better news.
Companies like Sanguine BioSciences, Kowa Pharmaceuticals, and Syneos Health Commercial Solutions, routintely seek jobseekers with entry-level sales experience. There are many others too.
Yes, you’ll need SOME B2B SALES EXPERIENCE (or skills that resemble sales) to how hiring companies that you an aptitude for building profitable client relationships, strong sales pipeline, and overall revenue.
The best first step when you don’t have any sales experience is to write what we in the resume writing industry call a “bridge resume.” This essentially means that you find ways to write about sales, and spend less time writing about your recent job role.
It’s not a perfect strategy, but it helps.
[RELATED ARTICLE: How to Write a Resume When You Have No Sales Experience]
#2 If you’ve been in sales or marketing…
If yes, you’re in the best position because you can tap your existing, relevant skill set.
What skills are typical for sales reps?
Here’s a sizable list of keywords to assess and possibly use when writing your resume and LinkedIn profile:
- New Account Acquisition
- Sales Call Management
- Customer Retention
- Territory Management
- Sales Reporting/Forecasting
- Pharmaceutical Product Knowledge
- Consultative Selling Style
- Sales Goal Achievement
- Physician & Specialist Relationship Building
- Brand Awareness
- Market Expansion
- New Market Strategies
- Product Introductions
The best step is to weave sales-specific keywords like these into the body of job-search materials, so your resume scores well when assessed via an ATS system.
#3 If you’re career changing …
Unless you’re in sales, you’re likely concerned that your current job(s) won’t transition well to pharmceutical sales.
Reflecting your “career relevance” to pharmaceutical companies is an absolute must.
No doubt, shifting from real estate to pharmaceutical sales is a bit of an obstacle.
Anytime you’re transitioning from one career field to another, you must get hiring managers and pharmaceutical recruiters to see your “relevant” value … your “relevant” potential … and, your “relevant” work history.
RECRUITERS: Here’s a list of pharmaceutical recruiters for you.
With some ingenuity, career obstacles like these are nothing more than “paper walls” when approached differently.
The following represents an interview I conducted with Sonja Plamper, a client focused on pharmaceutical sales.
Ms. Plamper was not only in real estate, but she had mostly B2C selling experience, not the B2B background that pharmaceutical companies tend to prefer.
To address this transition, we implemented a few unique writing stategies with her resume.
For example, we focused on her ability to “farm the community” for leads. She was very approachable, which is what made her B2C career as a Sales Associate in real estate so successful.
She focused on relationship building, sending gift baskets and connecting with potential buyers who were considering relocation to the area. In fact, 99% of her new clients were generated through referrals.
Another strategy we used was to put emphasis on her Marketing degree from Ohio State University and her additional sales-related training.
To help you identify what worked/didn’t work for her, she answered my questions about finding a job in pharmaceutical sales.
My Client’s Transition From Real Estate to Pharmaceutical Sales
Below, you’ll find Ms. Plamper’s answers to my questions on what she experienced while transitioning to a pharmaceutical sales career.
(1) How many interviews did you attend? Provide an overview of the timeline between interviews; position title of who conducted each interview; and, what progressed after each meeting?
I initially became aware of the opening and applied immediately by submitting a resume and cover letter.
RELATED: Check out this sample cover letter for pharmaceutical sales.
I received a call from a recruiter with the company almost a week later.
She wanted to do a pre-screening over the phone and then if she felt I was qualified enough or liked my answers she would set up an interview with the district manager (DM) that following Tuesday.
Her big questions were, “Why do you want to get into Pharmaceutical Sales?” and “Why this particular company?”
She was pleased with my questions and set up the interview for a week later.
My first interview with the DM lasted an hour and he asked basic questions nothing too overwhelming – again, “Why Pharmaceuticals and Why this company?”
He wanted to get an understanding of what I currently do and how I thought some of those skills would transition to the pharmaceutical industry.
I made an immediate connection with him; we knew some of the same people.
I then received a phone call that same day, several hours later, from the same recruiter to schedule a second interview.
I was VERY shocked when I heard back the same day I had interviewed, it was something I was not used to at all.
The DM again held the second interview, I was told to have my brag book and that the interview would last 1.5 hours and it would be a situational interview.
For example, “Tell me a time when such and such happened,” “What did you do,” and “What was the outcome.”
I was told at the first interview there were about 15-20 people being interviewed, and in the second interview, he had already cut it down to 4.
I was told by the DM after the second interview he was going to narrow it down to 2 candidates.
Again, I was called later the same day I interviewed.
This time I was called by the DM, he informed me I had been selected to be one of the two candidates remaining.
The next morning, the DM asked me if I could do a ride along with another rep that following day – 2 hours away. Of course, I agreed. I was also asked by him to take an online profiling test.
After the ride along I was told by the DM he would call me at the beginning of the following week.
After not hearing from him, I decided to follow up with him the next afternoon.
After hearing back from him a couple of hours after my call, he asked if I could be available to meet the regional manager, and if I could have a 1 to 1.5-page autobiography prepared.
The interview with the RM (DM was also there) lasted over 2 hours and was pretty intense.
He repeated some of the questions the DM had asked but also asked a lot of questions about the ride along and what I learned and found challenging.
He also questioned my science grades in college because they were primarily B’s and even more C’s.
I just stayed positive throughout the interview and reminded him of all my strengths. After the interview, I was told I would be called again at the beginning of the week.
The same day of the third interview, I was called by corporate to schedule a drug test.
I was then called by the DM and offered the job.
(2) Was there something specific that helped you compete aggressively in this highly sought after industry?
First off, having my resume professionally written.
I learned quickly the reason why so many people don’t have any luck with finding jobs online is that they don’t know the “tricks.”
I am completely convinced that you may be the best person for a particular sales job but never in a million years get the chance to get face to face with someone because your resume doesn’t contain the keywords that recruiters and employers are looking for.
I found that my resume was looked at in a 3-month period over 100 times AFTER I had it professionally written.
I also read Cracking the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales, researched on the internet, and posted my resume on every site I could think of.
I also called and told everyone I knew that I was trying to get into Pharmaceutical Sales.
I also differentiated myself in interviews by doing creative presentations, things I thought others wouldn’t do.
I tried to “think outside the box,” something managers really like in reps.
One other big thing was locating a rep in my area.
I quickly got the reps phone number, called her, asked a lot of questions about the job, and what I could expect in the interviewing process.
Before I knew it, I had another person supporting me through the process, as well as giving me a good recommendation to the DM.
I had never even met this person!
I guess what I’m trying to say is, try to find out as much as you can about the interviewer, interview them as well. You will be surprised as to what you’ll learn about them.
Also, don’t forget to tell everyone you know who you are interviewing with or who you would like to interview with, chances are they know someone in the company!
(3) What part of the process did you find particularly difficult?
The waiting, although I got called back pretty quickly.
Also, never knowing what sort of assignment would be thrown at me. Another difficult aspect was sitting in an interview for as long as two hours. It was draining.
And many times, I had to think quickly.
(4) How much time passed from the beginning of your job search until accepting your new position as a pharmaceutical sales rep?
I accepted the position approximately 13 weeks after beginning my job search.
I did an interview with three other companies as well; two with pharmaceutical companies and the other was a skin care company.
(5) What advice would you offer to someone targeting this type of position?
Be prepared! Research the company, know about the industry in general: what attracts you to it, etc.
Get an idea of what sort of questions they will ask you.
I really studied the questions in Cracking the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales.
(Editorial Note: You can learn about this pharma sales resource here)
Also, try and set yourself apart. Do something different, be creative.
Stay positive, persistent, and try to really connect with the person interviewing you – remember they are just like you and me … they have a family, hobbies etc.
One last thing that I learned was they like to know you are money motivated, and they like to know you are a competitive person who strives to be the best!
Oh, and I almost forgot something very important to share.
Don’t assume that if you don’t have prior experience in pharmaceuticals or a medical background that you won’t get the job.
The other candidate that I was competing against currently sells medical devices and they chose me having no prior experience!
How to Find Pharmaceutical Jobs When You Have No (Or Limited) Sales Experience
First, pursue a B2B sales job outside of pharmaceutical sales.
You might not be crazy about this suggestion, however, you could consider this a temporary, stepping-stone job.
Other industries that hire individuals with limited to no sales experience include consumables, professional services, telecommunications, and technology.
The goal with this strategy is to gain experiences selling to businesses, so be sure that’s a dominant component of the job before you accept.
Second, search common job boards, such as Indeed, using the right search terms.
For example, “pharmaceutical sales entry level” or “pharmaceutical sales no experience.”
Search for companies that mention “entry level experience,” but offer sales rep training program.
These are the most viable options for you.
Third, know going into the process that your transition may take longer than usual. This will be particularly true for those who have ZERO selling experience.
If you write an optimal pharmaceutical resume, and remain patient, you’ll eventually get to where you want to go. 🙂