2016 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