The job market for pharmaceutical sales reps has gotten more and more precarious during the last few years. We regularly see headlines about big pharmaceutical companies cutting jobs, and the general consensus seems to be that there are more to come. The result is that thousands of pharma sales reps have flooded the job market, many hoping to land another position in medical sales. As a career coach, I am often asked to help ex-pharmaceutical reps transition into these new careers, particularly into medical sales or medical device sales.
However, pharmaceutical reps have a few obstacles in their way. One is that they usually have worked in a “pod” system, meaning that their sales territory was maintained by a team, rather than individually. Why is that a problem? It makes it difficult to pull out their own individual contributions in order to market themselves as good sales reps. And, virtually every other area of medical sales requires its sales reps to work on an individual basis. Even though they might technically be on some type of team, each sales rep is typically expected to be an individual contributor selling into a particular territory or set of accounts.
So how can a pharma sales rep appear stronger in the job search, given that background?
First, don’t bring up the pod. If the interviewer doesn’t bring it up, don’t remind them.
Second, watch your pronouns. Many pharma reps, used to working as a team, speak in terms of “we” when they detail past successes. That gives the impression that you didn’t do it all by yourself, and that maybe you aren’t capable of achieving by yourself.
Third, rely heavily on stories about what you’ve done. What you’ve achieved, what you’ve accomplished, what the process was, what your manager said about it (and you), what his manager said about it, or the “attaboy” email you got all serve as proof that you can perform as a successful medical sales rep on your own. Give them tons of evidence that you’re fantastic, and it wouldn’t really matter if you were in a pod system or not, you would contribute to the organization in a very positive way.
These steps should help you push past the perception that pharma reps can’t achieve outside of a team setting, and help you land a job in medical sales.
Peggy McKee has over 15 years of experience in laboratory sales, medical sales management, medical sales recruiting, and job interview/career coaching. She is the owner of PHC Consulting, http://www.phcconsulting.com, a nationally-recognized medical sales recruiting firm.
Peggy offers one-on-one interview coaching and counseling to help you land the job you want. She can teach you specific, effective techniques honed by years of experience with thousands of candidates. There is a trick to it, but it’s easier than you think. Find out more at http://www.phcconsulting.com/interview-coaching/.