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Real strategies for landing MSL and Medical Sales jobs


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Should aspiring MSLs target large or small companies to land their first MSL job?

Blog - bullseye2016 has barely begun and it is already proving to be a busy year for MSL hiring. Two of my MSL coaching clients accepted MSL positions over the last week. Based on the high level of interview activity, the strong hiring trend will continue. I am frequently asked if there are certain companies more likely to hire MSLs with no experience. Finding that first MSL job would certainly be easier if there was a simple answer to that question. In looking back at 2015 I had clients accept positions at many of the major pharmaceutical companies as well as small biotech companies. Each company has a different set of needs when it comes to what they look for in MSLs. There will always be roles that require an experienced MSL with specific expertise, but in general I find most companies are willing to hire and train new MSLs because they view the MSL role as key and worth the investment to grow the right person. What makes someone the right person? That is going to vary based on each company and what they need from their MSL team. No one person is going to be the right candidate for every company or job. Last year a major pharma company expanded their field medical affairs team to support the launch of a new cancer drug. Two of my clients interviewed for oncology MSL positions in different regions. They interviewed the same day and met most of the same team members. They both received (and accepted) job offers. The two candidates could not have been more different. One was a Ph.D. with academic research experience and the other was a M.D. with clinical practice experience and some oncology research. The job description for the jobs they accepted was identical. It is situations like this that demonstrate how difficult it is to assign a “type” to a company. The reason companies use behavioral based interviews is to identify the traits a candidate possesses that will make them a good match for the role, the team, and the company overall. I recommend that aspiring MSLs keep their search broad. The type of company you fit best with may surprise you.

Elizabeth Danford, MSL resume writer, interview coach, and job search strategist

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

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.