By: Donalyn Spisak


This is a question I hear every day. Pharmaceutical companies see themselves as the crème de la crème. You are expected to present yourself as such. Otherwise, you will never be seriously considered for a pharmaceutical sales position. There are two general types of pharmaceutical sales companies. These are the contract houses and pharmaceutical manufacturers. If you work for one of the contract houses, you could be selling for any one of the many companies who manufacture pharmaceutical products. If you work directly for a pharmaceutical manufacturer, you will sell only their products. In each case there is usually a base salary plus bonus structure as well as a corporate vehicle.

Your first duty when seeking a position in this industry is to familiarize yourself with the industry. My suggestion would be to go to websites for these companies, go to careers and read the qualifications required by these companies. There are many locations where you can find direct links to pharmaceutical companies. DO NOT APPLY DIRECTLY on these sites. What happens when you do this is your resume goes to a database of resumes. Only apply when you know for certain that that particular company is currently hiring for a position in the geographic area where you wish to live and work AND when you have a contact name within that organization. If you apply to a website and don't have a contact name, there is no way for you to follow up. As a sales representative, you will learn that you always target your decision maker before you call on any potential customer-otherwise you won't know who your decision maker really is. Successful sales people make certain they are selling to the real decision maker. Unsuccessful sales people waste a great deal of time selling to people who say they are the decision maker while their competition is selling to the actual decision maker. In the interview process, knowing your interviewer's name is as important as in the sales process. After all-this is the most important sales call you will ever make. Generally speaking, these companies like to hire individuals for entry level positions who live in the territory where they will be working or at least within 20 minutes of that particular area .

Always gear each resume to that particular position. The days of having one general resume are over. Employers no longer waste time trying to read between the lines to try to determine if you may have the skills they are looking for. Remember, they are seeking only the best candidates. These candidates will clearly show all that is required.

In many cases, a clerical or human resource person will receive your resume before it goes to the one who will be doing the initial interviewing. That person may be working from a list of required skills and qualifications. In this case, if they do not see the skills and qualifications they are seeking, your resume will go into the database, or even worse into the "round" file.

Once your resume has been submitted for consideration, you will need to make certain that your professional portfolio is completed and ready for presentation. All of the pharmaceutical companies I recruit for require that each candidate come to each interview with a brag book. My candidates go into these resumes with a portfolio. The difference between a professional portfolio and a brag book is the difference between K Mart and Kaufmanns. Be the person to compete with, go to your pharmaceutical interview with a professional portfolio.

Now that you are prepared with your resume and portfolio, you must have done research on the company you will be interviewing with. Each of these steps is equally as important as the next. You can have a wonderful resume with an exquisite portfolio but, if you know nothing about the company for which you are applying, you have only done half of your homework and you will not get the next interview let alone the job. Know their products. Know their competitors. Speak to pharmacists about the differences and pros and cons of their products.

If you know a pharmaceutical sales representative, ask them to allow you to shadow them for a day. Getting this kind of hands-on experience will be invaluable to you when you are in front of an interviewer. What better way to understand it then to live it. Remember, if you act like you belong, they will believe you do. Do not give even this person your resume unless they contribute a name of the individual you will need to follow up with next week.

Next, prepare to answer interview questions. Then prepare a list of typewritten questions to ask in the interview. Some questions you may be required to answer could be:

1. Why are you seeking a new position at this time?
2. What do you think it takes to be successful in selling?
3. Why should we hire you?
4. Why are you interested in pharmaceutical sales?
5. How do you foresee a typical day here?
6. How have you helped to increase profits or sales?
7. How long would it take you to make a meaningful     contribution?
8. Give me three words that best describe you?
9. What are you looking for in this position?
10. What do you think of your current boss?
11. What do you know about our company?
12. Why do you want to work for us?
13. Describe a situation where your work was criticized?
14. Tell me about a time when you were asked to do      something which you were not comfortable doing and how      did you handle it?

As you can see, it is imperative to be prepared and to familiarize yourself with the industry standards when applying for a pharmaceutical sales position. Do not just send a resume unless you have prepared yourself. Learn from professionals who specialize in placement of pharmaceutical sales representatives. Recruitshop is a great place to start. Simply call Donalyn at 724-772-1149 or email jobbank@recruitshop.com to discuss your employment needs. Our website is located at http://www.pharmaceuticalsalesprep.com.