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What are the backgrounds of MSLs being hired with no MSL experience?

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MSL blog question markOne of the questions I am asked most often is what companies look for when hiring new MSLs. Is there one specific skill you can add to your resume that will guaranty you interviews? As a job search coach I have the unique perspective of seeing who ACTUALLY gets hired, what companies are hiring them, and what the interview process truly entails. What I am about to say may come as a surprise to many, but the reality is there is “no secret sauce”. While the MSL role is similar from company to company, what a company looks for in the backgrounds of MSL candidates can vary greatly. Over the last few weeks interview and hiring activity for MSLs has been exceptionally high. When I review the backgrounds of the candidates getting interviews, they are all very diverse. They include a Pharm.D. with clinical pharmacy experience, a Pharm.D. with retail pharmacy experience, a Ph.D. with two years of postdoc experience, a Ph.D. with clinical study experience, a Ph.D. with biotech industry experience, a M.D. with clinical practice experience, and a M.D. with research experience. In one case the same company interviewed a Ph.D. with all academic research experience and a M.D. with clinical practice experience on the same day. Both MSL candidates received job offers (for different territories). The candidates could not have been more different, but both fit with what the company was looking for.

Companies use a behavioral interview process to identify traits in a candidate that fit best with the MSL role. They will train a candidate on how to do the job, building from your clinical or scientific background combined with your aptitude and specific personality traits. The MSL interview process is extensive and designed to demonstrate not only your technical expertise and communication skills but also your strategic thought process, drive, focus, ethics, and collaborative abilities. Being a great scientist will not guaranty success as a MSL and companies know this.

Always keep in mind that no single candidate is going to be right for every company, but you only need to be the right candidate for one company. There are jobs within companies that will require experience, but most companies have extensive MSL training programs and will hire and train the right candidate.

What are your job search challenges? Ask Elizabeth, the MSL job search specialist, resume writer, and interview coach.

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2 thoughts on “What are the backgrounds of MSLs being hired with no MSL experience?

  1. Given the diverse experiences candidates possess, it appears that there is no specific formula for becoming an MSL. One’s focus should probably be on presenting themselves as an asset to the company that they are applying to.

    • You are correct that there is no one formula that every company looks for, but there are certain types of experiences that strengthen your candidacy. In most cases, aspiring MSLs do not realize which areas of their background are transferable and relevant. Earlier this year a major pharmaceutical company hired two of my MSL coaching clients for the same postion in different parts of the country (they both received offers the same day). Their backgrounds were completely different. One was a Ph.D. still in academia and the other was a M.D. leaving clinical practice. Who a company will hire is not just about a candidate’s scientific or clinical background, but personality and aptitude as well.

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