MSL and medical sales coach

Real strategies for landing MSL and Medical Sales jobs

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Where do you start when writing your resume for the MSL role?

Stop submitting your resume into the black holeI am asked almost daily for “tips” on writing resumes for the MSL role and how to overcome the challenge of not having existing MSL experience. The job search and interview process is complicated and impacted by many factors. It is a process, and there are no shortcuts. Your resume is the foundation your job search is built upon. It will have a direct impact on every aspect of your search. The views I share on resume writing, the job search and interview process are based on what I experience first-hand as I coach aspiring MSLs into their first jobs. Why am I so confident that a pro-active approach works? Because I see the results – beginning with writing the resume up to the point a job offer is accepted. In the last week three of my coaching clients landed their first MSL jobs. Each candidate was very different; one a M.D., one a Pharm.D. and one a Ph.D. Because each person is different, each resume will be different. Below are some general tips to consider when writing a resume for MSL jobs.

First, understand the role, not just what the job description says. While the focus of the MSL role may be the same, every company uses their MSL teams slightly differently. Yes, you will build relationships with KOLs, but what is the point of those relationships?

Second, look at your background objectively. What are your differentiators from other PhDs, MDs, PharmDs as they relate to the MSL role? Differentiators equate to your special features. Experience in areas like clinical research, managed care, protocol development, clinical education, and specific therapeutic expertise are some of the features that sought after.

Next, look at the layout of your resume. Will the reader have to search to put the pieces together? If you make someone work to understand your background they will likely move on to the next resume. Keep it basic and straightforward. Complicated formats are distracting and confusing.

My goal is to keep job history content to two pages if possible. Publications and presentations can be included on additional pages. There is no universal rule for how long a resume should be, but keep in mind too much detail is just as detrimental as a lack of detail.

A well-developed resume will help you in the interview process. Initial interviews last 20 – 30 minutes. If you spend 15 of the 20 minutes trying to explain your background because your resume is confusing, you will not be able to answer the other questions they interviewer needs to ask.

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

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Medical Sales resumes – are you telling the right story?

How effective is your resume?I am frequently asked for “tips” on how to write a resume that will get medical sales interviews. Resume writing is complicated. Every person is different and the resume should reflect their experience on an individual level. Below are a few tips that should be factored in with every resume.

Respect the reader’s time. If you make them work to figure out why they should interview you, they will go on to the next resume. Once your resume is opened, you have less than 12 seconds of the reader’s time before they decide to interview or not.

Objectively evaluate your features. Don’t bombard the hiring manager with every feature you possess, instead focus on areas that relate to the job you are targeting. Being a Microsoft Office expert is great, but a hiring manager is more interested in how you sell. Do you identify potential clients? Negotiate contract terms? Break into new accounts? Convert business from competitors? Keep the content relevant so that the hiring manager will spend that 12 seconds reading information that will compel them to interview you.

Avoid being gratuitous – don’t add words just because you think that is what a hiring manager wants to see. If you haven’t done something, don’t try to imply you have.

If you add accomplishments, be sure they are real accomplishments. Being ranked in the top 50% of your sales force is not an accomplishment that is going to make a hiring manager see you as a top performer.

Don’t over complicate your job history. A resume should not be a puzzle where a hiring manager has to put the pieces together. Your history should make sense and be easy to follow. I am not a fan of functional resumes. A well-developed chronological resume shows the path and skills developed that have gotten you to the place you are now.

Questions about your resume or job search challenges? Ask Elizabeth, the medical sales job search specialist, resume writer, and interview coach.

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Who hires medical reps with no experience?

Pic - interview questionHave you found yourself scratching your head trying to figure out which companies hire medical / pharmaceutical sales reps with no previous medical sales experience? Landing that first medical sales job can feel like a daunting challenge, especially in today’s highly competitive job market.

If your strategy is to respond only to job postings, you are fighting an uphill battle because almost all postings will require some level of experience. In reality, almost every company will hire a sales rep with no previous medical / pharmaceutical sales experience (there are always certain positions that require specific experience).

Every company has structured training programs that each rep will go through (experienced or not). Finding companies most likely willing to hire someone with your background is the key to a successful job search. Once you find the right companies to target, it is crucial that you get your resume into the hands of a high level hiring manager. Their focus is on supporting the needs of the sales organization, not matching you against 10 bullet points listed in a job description. Before you approach hiring managers, take the time to ensure your resume is not only professional looking, but relays your strengths and background in ways that are relevant to the job you want. The more you understand what attributes a hiring manager looks for the better you are able to present your background in relevant terms. Don’t let the fact that there is not a job posted stop you from sending your resume to a hiring manager pro-actively. Remember, over 40% of all jobs filled are never posted!

If you are serious about landing a medical sales job take the time to build a good foundation (resume) and develop a strategy that will get you noticed. I have coached 100s of people with no existing medical sales experience into medical sales jobs. It can be done. Learn more about how to market yourself in my easy to understand job search guidebook for medical sales professionals. Everything you need to know to conduct a more effective job search is laid out with easy to read illustrated instructions in “Breaking into Medical Sales – your Guide to Success”. Available only through my website –

Recent success stories include:

  • A B2B rep landing their first medical sales job
  • Insurance sales rep landing medical sales position with major medical device company
  • An experienced pharma rep landing a job in medical product sales
  • A customer service rep (minimal sales) landing a pharmaceutical sales job

Do you have questions about your job search or the medical / pharmaceutical industry? Ask Elizabeth, the medical sales job search specialist, resume writer, and interview coach.

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Should you put your job search on hold during the holidays?

picture - holiday blogIf you have put your job search on hold because you think that companies are not focused on hiring activity during the holidays, you are losing out on opportunities.  Over the last three years I have had several coaching clients who had final interviews and job offers during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Many companies are even more focused on their staffing initiatives to get a jump start on the new year.  Last week 3 MSL coaching clients had first interviews with companies and 2 medical sales clients had interviews with multiple companies.  This week is no different with a Ph.D. who just defended her dissertation going to a final interview for a Medical Science Liaison position.  Don’t let the holiday season lull you into missing great potential job opportunities.

Let’s face it, come January 1, everyone wants to get started with their job search.  Waiting only means more competition!

Is it time to update your resume?  Contact Elizabeth, resume writer, interview coach, Medical Sales & MSL job search specialist.

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Scary medical sales interview questions – “What is your greatest weakness?”

Pic - interview question

“What is your greatest weakness?”  This simple question can send tremors of fear through even the most confident of candidates.  Why is it so scary?  People try to make answering this question harder than it needs to be.  Most people fear that admitting a weakness will reduce their chances of landing the job.  The reality is just the opposite.  Properly answered, you gain the hiring manager’s respect and differentiate yourself from the other candidates.  Let’s face it, everyone has a weakness. 

You can make this question work for you.  I don’t recommend trying to outwit the interviewer by giving him a worn answer like “I don’t have a work / life balance.”  Hiring managers are smart and view that type of answer as a way of avoiding the question.  A hiring manager is looking for self-awareness – weaknesses can only be managed if you recognize them. 

This simple process will help you understand the question and answer it in a productive way.

  1.  Identify your weakness. WEAKNESS:  You are a control freak and don’t always trust others to do their part of a project as well as you could.
  2. Evaluate how that weakness can or does impact your job performance.  IMPACT:  You try and take on too much work and are not viewed as a team player.    
  3. Identify how you manage your weakness so that it does not have a negative impact on your job performance.

Revised answer to the question:  “My greatest weakness is that I am too much of a perfectionist and tend to want to control all aspects of a project to ensure it meets my quality standards.  I’ve learned that this is not only unrealistic, but also unfair to other team members because it limits their ability to learn and contribute.  I now manage this by focusing on doing my part of the project by my standards and supporting other team members as needed.  I have come to respect the fact that they are qualified or would not have been a part of the team.  Other people’s methods and views are as equally valid as mine.”

The above answer shows self-awareness, deals with the weakness head-on, and demonstrates maturity in the acknowledgement and management of the weakness. 

What are your job search challenges?  Connect with Elizabeth Danford, Medical Sales Job Search Specialist, Interview Coach, Resume Writer, & Candidate Advocate.

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Are you tired of submitting your resume into a black hole? There is a solution.

The most common frustration I hear from job seekers is the lack of response they receive from companies once they submit their resumes online.  In some cases a rejection email will arrive minutes after submitting Stop submitting your resume into the black holean application.   Over 50% of the rejection letters sent to job applicants are automatically generated by a computer based on the information input during the application process.  For every job posted there are an average of 300 resumes submitted.  Less than 10 of every 500 resumes submitted will make it to a hiring managers desk.  With odds like this, landing a medical sales job can seem more like a fantasy than a realistic goal.

You can dramatically increase your chance of landing an interview by ensuring that your resume is seen by a true decision maker.  Move away from the time consuming and frustrating cycle of submitting resumes online (and into the black hole) by identifying key decision makers at pharmaceutical and medical device companies and emailing your resume to them directly.  Show a hiring manager that you have initiative and know how to get past the gatekeeper (isn’t that what sales is all about) by emailing your resume directly to him.

Clinical Strategies & Resume Writing is pleased to announce that The Strategic Job Search Guide for Medical Sales is now available.  This game changing guidebook teaches you how to develop an effective job search strategy and provides step by step instructions on how to identify key decision makers AND find their email addresses.  It provides the tools to market yourself (yes, you are a product) to companies, increasing your chances of landing one of the mysterious “hidden jobs”.  How many times have you read that 40% of all jobs filled are never posted anywhere.  This process gives you access to those unadvertised jobs by teaching you to focus on companies and not only on job postings.

Changing your job search strategy will change your job search results.

Contact Elizabeth Danford, the medical sales job search expert, coach, resume writer, and candidate advocate for more information.  The guidebook is available electronically and can be purchased for $27.00.

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In a job search, everything matters – starting with your resume.

Picture of resume good and bad formatsYour resume is the foundation of your job search.  Once it is opened, the reader will spend less than 12 seconds deciding whether to interview you or move on to the next resume.  I’ve discussed the importance of content every time I write about resumes, but what about appearance?  How does your resume compare to your competitors (the other candidates applying for the same jobs)?  Take a quick glance at the two resumes pictured and decide which makes the more professional first impression?  First impressions matter.  Would you walk into an interview or client meeting wearing a suit that was not up to date and professional looking?


E-mail yourself a copy of your resume.  Open it.  Can you view the entire document without adjusting your screen settings?  Are the fonts large enough to read even if your vision is not perfect?

Keep in mind that if you make someone work to read or understand your resume, they won’t bother.  They will just go to the next resume.

View your resume at a glance.  What are your eyes drawn to?  Over use of all CAPS, italics, and underscore can create a level of resume chaos.  Do you see red and green editing lines?  These are major distractions from the content you want the reader to review.  Be strategic with the areas you highlight.

Print your resume.  Does the content remain in the same format you see on the computer screen?  Do you have borders that aren’t printing?  When you hit “print” do you receive a message that you have to address before it will print? (Margins are too small, etc.)  Shaded boxes may look pretty on the computer screen, but they look terrible when a resume is printed.

Read your resume!  This may seem obvious, but the number of significant errors I find when reviewing and writing resumes indicates that candidates do not take the time to do this.   Fairly common mistakes include errors in e-mail addresses, wrong phone numbers, wrong dates of employment, and spelling errors throughout the document.

Using your current resume, practice the “take me through your resume” question.  Do it out loud and time yourself.  This overview should take less than 3 minutes for a two page resume.  Do you find yourself jumping around to explain your experience?  A well written resume should make the interview easier.  It should tell the story of your job history in a way that demonstrates the progression of how you have built your skills and how you apply those skills in doing your job.  Always have a complete understanding of what is included in your resume.  I have found statements included in resumes that were unrelated to a candidate’s experience or simply made no sense.  When I ask for an explanation on these types of statements, I often learn that even the candidate doesn’t know.  Explanations include that they “copied it from a friend’s resume and don’t know” or “I paid someone to write it and that is what they came up with.”  If you don’t know what something means, don’t include it in your resume!

Is your resume getting the results you want in your job search?  A well written resume should easily serve as the foundation for your LinkedIn profile.  In addition to traditional resume writing services Clinical Strategies now offers detailed editing services with content and format recommendations included.

Questions about your resume or job search strategy?  Contact, resume writer, job search strategist, and interview coach specializing in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, and healthcare industries.

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Where are those hidden jobs hiding?

Picture of man searchingThe fact is, hidden jobs aren’t hiding at all.  To get interviews for “hidden jobs” you have to change your job search strategy.  It starts with being proactive versus reactive.  When conducting a proactive job search you focus on marketing yourself to companies and telling your story to key decision makers (isn’t that what sales people do?).  If you spend hours on-line applying to job postings you are conducting a reactive job search (passive and least effective).  It is crucial to remember that once a job is posted, you are automatically competing with 100s of other candidates.  Want to get noticed and get interviews – tell your story to a true decision maker.

Now you are asking yourself – where do you start?

First and foremost, define what your story is.  If you decide to market yourself, remember that you are now a product.  A resume has to draw a reader’s attention in less than 15 seconds.  A relevant, professionally written resume is the foundation for a successful job search.

Next you have to decide who should see your resume.  Focus on getting your resume into the hands of an educated buyer (hiring manger).  As a sales person you would not try to sell your products to the receptionist so why would you sell yourself to someone who doesn’t understand your background?  A high level decision maker is the person who knows what jobs will be available before they become job postings!

Are you ready to take control of your job search?  Contact Elizabeth to ask how you can change your job search strategy today.

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Why is being proactive and following trends better than being reactive and following job postings?

This announcement is a great example of why a job seeker would want to follow trends in the pharmaceutical / medical industry as a strategic part of their job search.  Newly approved drugs mean Picture pillscompanies will hire teams to sell those products.  The strategic job seeker was targeting Salix months ago to get the attention of key decision makers.  If your job search is focused on responding to job postings, you are conducting a reactive job search, which is the least effective at getting interviews.

How many other opportunities are you missing by not being proactive in your job search?

Questions about how to run a proactive job search?  Ask Elizabeth, Medical / Pharmaceutical Career Strategist, Resume Writer, Interview Coach, Candidate Advocate

FDA approves 2nd botanical in 8 years, Fulyzaq from Salix