10 Tips If You Want To Be A Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

            I was in pharmaceutical sales for 15 years so a lot of people ask me about how to get a job in that industry.  Many people see being a pharmaceutical representative as a glamorous job.  It can be.  I write about my experiences with pharmaceutical sales in my book How to Reinvent Your Career.  Being in pharmaceutical sales was not a good fit for me personally.  However, it can be a good job for a lot of people.  There are good and bad aspects to any job. 

            Pharmaceutical sales may be a good job if you:

  • Like driving
  • Like not being at a desk
  • Like being in sales
  • Like traveling
  • Like making decent money
  • Like having a company car
  • Like having good benefits
  • Don’t mind having a boss riding with you watching you work at times
  • Enjoy taking doctors out for dinners/lectures

I can remember sitting at round table discussions with other representatives where we would talk about the things we liked about the job. Many people would say they liked driving and be away from an office.  I personally like office-based jobs, as long as you are not required to always be there 9-6 every single day.  But it can be nice to get out and about once in a while.

Pharmaceutical sales may not be a good job if you:

  • Don’t like driving
  • Like to work in an office
  • Like administrative work
  • Don’t like traveling
  • Don’t like the pressure of sales
  • Don’t handle rejection well
  • Don’t like to have a boss riding with you watching you work at times
  • Don’t like to hold a lot of luncheons and give presentations
  • Don’t enjoy having to take doctors out for dinners/lectures.

I live in Arizona where it is HOT HOT HOT!  It could be very difficult to do that job in the summer.  I think it could be just as tough to do that job if you lived in Seattle where it was always raining or Michigan in the winter.  Any job where you are going in and out of your trunk a lot out in bad conditions can be tough to do day in and day out. 

Pharmaceutical sales was not the best fit for me personally because I prefer to do administrative tasks rather than drive around and go from office to office.  In fact, I was happiest when I was doing my expense reports and other tasks that most sales people would hate.  The key is to find out what types of tasks you enjoy and pick your career based upon those.

If you think that a pharmaceutical sale is a good fit for your personality, you should consider the following:

  1. Realize every guy/gal and their brother/sister seems to be looking for a pharma job so you will need to stand out in the crowd.  Rev up your resume with bulleted points about things you have done in past jobs that showed you increased business, won awards, etc.
  2. They want sales people.  If you don’t have any sales experience, you should consider getting at least a year of experience before applying.
  3. Don’t start with Merck if you have no experience.  Certain companies like Merck hire the cream of the crop people that have had experience, possibly have a pharmacy degree, etc.
  4. You MUST have a college degree.  Usually they do not really specify a certain degree.  When I first started, they preferred science degrees.  Later they decided having a business degree was preferable.  I have seen everything from a sociology to a law degree as acceptable in the industry.  The main point is that you just have one.
  5. You have a better chance of getting into pharma sales if you can find a representative that is already working for a company.  Reps may actually get paid a referral fee should they recommend someone who gets hired.  It behooves them to submit your resume.
  6. If you don’t know a pharma rep., you should still apply to all jobs listings on the major sites such as MonsterCareerbuilder, etc.  but also look at some of the pharmaceutical specific job sites like Medzilla, PharmaceuticalCrossing, Biospace, and Pharmaopportunities. You can also go to this link for a more complete list: http://www.pharmaceuticalwork.com/Links.html
  7. If you get an interview, be sure you know your stuff!  Do not go into the interview without knowing everything about the company and their products.  Be prepared to answer why you want to work there vs. somewhere else.  Know what they have in R&D and are working on in the future.
  8. Be prepared for a lot of interviews.  When I was in the industry, they would first screen your resume, then do a phone interview and then do at least one face to face interview.
  9. Expect to take some sort of personality assessment.  They are looking for true sales professionals and they want to see that your personality fits that profile.
  10. Be prepared that you will need to pass a physical exam, you cannot  have a bad driving record and you can be sure they will Google you to see if there is anything bad about you on the Internet.