A medical sales career in the pharmaceutical industry offers myriad opportunities to the brightest graduates. What do recruiters look for?
For graduates who do their homework on the industry and show a passion to get into medical sales then it can lead to the start of an exciting and highly rewarding career. Our experience shows there are three aspects that determine whether we can work with a graduate. These are: education, insights and attitude.
Some of the more common degrees held by graduates we have placed include business studies, chemistry, physics, biology and sports science. Sports science graduates, for example, are positively stereotyped as being healthy, competitive and able to use scientific data within their day-to-day conversations – all of which are ideal traits of a medical sales representative. But a degree could be in any subject, as long as you show passion and commercial awareness.
It’s also very important to demonstrate an active involvement in different clubs and societies throughout your time at university – for most employers this is an incredibly important part of your educational experience.
Pharmaceutical sales is a serious and highly professional industry, so companies are looking for highly dedicated/conscientious individuals motivated by much more than just the appeal of a competitive remuneration package and a company car.
It’s vital to do your homework. You need to be able to demonstrate a real and sustained interest in landing your first role in pharma sales.
Industry knowledge, research, work experience and field visits are just some of the prerequisites you need to be able to discuss, to convince employers that you’re a suitable candidate for that first career break.
Your attitude leaves a lasting impression. To get a job in the pharmaceutical industry you’re going to need to convince employers that you can go out and sell to highly-educated customers (i.e. doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals) in a credible manner, without coming across like a pushy salesperson.
During interviews and assessments, you’re likely to be asked what your strong points are, but also where you believe you have weaknesses too, so a balanced but confident manner is essential. Show confidence but also practice self-awareness.
You have the right mix of education, insights and attitude – now, what’s next?
Crafting a CV
The first thing you’re going to need is a great CV. Don’t worry if you don’t have any field sales experience yet, but you are going to have to find a way to make sure you get your message across that you will be good with customers. Use examples of providing good customer service via a weekend job, or entrepreneurialism through selling things online, for example. Demonstrating that you’re a high energy person who’s had a lot of different experiences is crucial.
If you find you’ve got gaps in your CV, fill them by taking on a part-time job or volunteering. Experience and initiative can help you get your foot in the door.
Start finding a way to network with people already working in pharma sales. Tell your university mentors, your parents, their friends, your wider family, even your GP… anyone who might know someone who works in the industry that you want to get into. You might just be surprised at what connections transpire.
Go onto LinkedIn and start building connections with people in the industry. Reach out to them with a personalised message telling them your ambitions and asking if they have any advice to help you. Many people will be willing to help you.
Prepare a series of half a dozen questions that you want to get out of any discussion you have. Anyone who does speak to you will be extremely busy. Show you’re structured, efficient and have considered their schedule. Who knows, through networking you could end up speaking to your future boss before you even apply for a job!
Think carefully about the different types of medical sales jobs and companies and decide which are right for you.
Leverage your recruitment consultant. They will be able to both advise you and speak directly to the hiring manager, coaching you through each stage of the recruitment process should you be put forward and be considered for a role.
You could apply directly to companies, however blind applications to companies will rarely be responded to in our experience.
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get the first job you apply for in any profession, so the final thing you’ll need in your quest to join the pharma sales industry is persistence.
There are no shortcuts and there will be competition for jobs so be prepared to apply for several jobs before you get an interview.
Once you get your first role then you’ll be working in a great industry renowned for nurturing good people, so all of the hard work and persistence will be worth it.
Securing your first pharmaceutical sales role will require you to apply yourself and show commitment. However, if you are successful, you could well be taking your first steps into a career that will be hugely fulfilling – professionally and personally.
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