5 Things That Will Stop You From Landing the Medical/Healthcare Sales Job You Want

1.  Wrong degree

To get a job in medical sales, healthcare sales, clinical diagnostics sales, laboratory sales, pathology sales, imaging sales, biotechnology sales, medical device sales, pharmaceutical sales, or any variation, you need either (1) a degree in one of the life sciences, like biology, chemistry, zoology, biochemistry, or biotechnology, for example, with some business classes and sales experience, OR (2) a business degree with a decent number of additional science classes (maybe a minor).  If you don’t have one of those, your chances are not good.  These are technical sales areas, so you need a working knowledge of science and medical technology to be successful. 

2.  Bad references

First:  when I ask about references, I’m looking for the name of one of your supervisors–either past or present, it doesn’t matter.  If you can’t give me that kind of a reference, it sends up a red flag for me–what are you hiding?  Second:  Know what your references will say about you.  You’d be surprised at how many references I call who (very carefully) don’t tell me fabulous things about the candidate.  If you’re not absolutely certain, stake-your-job-on-it sure that they will give you a glowing reference, don’t give me (or the hiring manager) their names.

3.  Bad driving record

You’ll spend your life as a sales rep driving to your customers, often in a company car.  No one is going to give you a company car if they’re not certain you’ll represent the company in a mature, responsible manner.  Reckless driving, DUIs, or even too many speeding tickets just won’t cut it.  Keep your driving record clean.

4.  Drug use

You’re supposed to SELL the drugs, not take them…  Seriously, any whiff (ha!) of drug use will put you out of the running faster than you can imagine.   It could be a little dangerous to have the surgical equipment sales rep standing in the surgical suite while stoned out of his mind.

5.  Criminal record/Felony

Same thing…do we even need to discuss this?  Employers in many industries routinely perform background checks.  Why would they in medical sales?  Pharmaceutical sales reps have access to drug samples.  Other medical sales reps–medical device sales reps, laboratory sales reps, surgical equipment sales reps, and  biotechnology sales reps, for example, are responsible for expensive  equipment, instruments, tests,  and more…not to mention the company car.

Biotechnology Degrees for Medical Sales Reps

FYI:  On BioJobBlog, I found a post I wanted to make sure you see.  “Is Biotechnology In Your Future?”  talks about growth and opportunity in the biotech industry (hint:  there’s a lot) and links to a Biotechnology Degree Guide  that helps those interested in biotechnology decide if it’s right for them and which school they should attend.  Very cool.

Biotechnology careers include a huge variety of job descriptions, including:  clinical laboratory technologists, biomedical engineers, forensic scientists, medical scientists, biological scientists, and more.   The related field I’m most interested in?  Biotech sales reps, naturally.  Somebody’s got to sell the products, equipment, and tests they use.  A biotech degree plus sales experience/business classes, and it could be you!

Medical Sales Training Programs

I had a question from one of my YouTube videos this week from someone who is interested in getting into medical sales and wanted to know if she should invest the time and money into a NAMSR (National Association of Medical Sales Representatives) training program. They (and many others you can find online) offer medical sales training for various areas for fees that can range anywhere from $300-$1000, depending on your professional level and area of interest. You can then put that training certification on your resume, and (in theory) get a jump over other candidates. So, she wanted to know if I thought a medical or pharmaceutical sales training program would be valuable for her.

On one hand, I think that all training is valuable, and many people do it. I’ve had a candidate who invested $5000 of her own money for training. I personally don’t think anyone needs to invest that much, though. You do need to invest a lot of time and energy—read a lot (sales books, on motivation and technique), listen, ride along, work with some folks who have had that experience. But– is the training valuable? Yes. Does it show initiative? Yes. Does it show commitment? Yes. I like all those things.

On the other side, it doesn’t really differentiate you from another candidate if, when you get on the phone or get to the interview, you’re not as strong as the other candidate. So, you might want to think about doing those things that will make you stronger than the other candidate when you interview. Polish your interview skills. Practice phone interviews. Have a 30/60/90-day sales plan.

I do provide custom consulting services as a medical sales recruiter, so that you can see what YOU need to shore up in your own situation to make the cut. Just this week, I helped someone who wants to be promoted to Regional Sales Manager within his company. He contacted me and purchased a little of my time this week for me to help him look at his resume and his 30-60-90 day sales plan and also to talk to him about how to handle certain interview questions. So, you might want to think about investing some time and money in that way, because an hour with someone like myself who can talk you through the interview process, who can role play with you, might be more beneficial than that training sticker is.

Because, when the rubber meets the road on the first phone interview with the recruiter, and the first phone interview with the company, if you don’t do well with those two things… it doesn’t really matter how well-trained you are in any area of medical sales, laboratory sales, biotech sales, medical device sales, or pharmaceutical sales.

Is There More Than One Way To Break Into Medical Sales?

I was asked recently about the National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives (NAPRx)—specifically, whether or not the training certificate program they offer is an adequate substitute for a 4-year degree if the end goal is breaking into pharmaceutical sales as a sales rep. 

There’s a couple of ways to answer this question, so here goes: 

First of all, my opinion is that no certificate program is an adequate substitute for a 4-year degree.  There is just no substitute for a solid science background if you’re going into medical sales.  Remember—the customers in this area DO have science degrees…if you don’t, it will be apparent that you don’t.  My top candidates all have 4-year science degrees and some kind of sales/business experience.

Second, of all the areas available in medical sales (laboratory sales, clinical diagnostics sales, biotechnology sales, DNA products sales, cellular products sales, molecular products sales, hospital equipment sales, imaging sales, surgical supplies sales, medical device sales, pathology sales, histology sales, medical software sales), pharmaceutical sales is the most volatile and the least respected—partly because pharmaceutical sales reps (as a whole, though there are exceptions) bring the least value.  The effectiveness of the pharma sales force is declining, and layoffs are everywhere. 

See my website, www.phcconsulting.com, for job listings.  Reading job descriptions and requirements will give you a much better idea of where you need to focus your prep time before getting into medical sales.

Friends don’t let friends get a degree in psychology!

All across America this time of year, college campuses are filling with new and returning students all looking for that magic piece of paper that will ensure their futures.  All that effort and all those tuition fees….  You’d better make sure it’s worth it.

No offense to those with psychology degrees, but the most valuable college degrees now and in the future are much more science and technology-oriented:  Engineering, Computers, Finance, and Science.

A List of Best College Degrees By Salary fills the top 5 with the engineering and computer science types, but #10 is Business Management, #11 is Marketing, and #13 is Biology.  Psychology is way down there at #19…past even English and Communications. 

A Top 10 List of High Paying Careers ranks Pharmaceutical Representative at #9 with an average starting salary of $51,000+.  I happen to know of similar sales jobs in clinical diagnostics, research laboratory, histology, pathology, imaging, DNA, cellular, molecular, surgical supplies, hospital equipment, and medical device where you can do better.  In a more specialized medical sales job, you can be one of the few, not one of the many, and be that much more successful.  What kind of degree is most helpful for those jobs?  Biology, microbiology, chemistry…you get the idea.  Not psychology.  Sorry.

Am I right?

What did you want to be when you grew up? Not this, I bet.

May 4, 2008 · Posted in Medical Sales Recruiting, Networking, Pharmaceutical Sales, What about an MBA?, Which Degree?, Which job offer should I take? · Comments Off on What did you want to be when you grew up? Not this, I bet. 

I was reading the Asia Pacific Headhunter blog and found this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJB0CzlzSwY I really enjoyed this and thought you might as well. Please do not see this as an endorsement of Monster. I just thought the video was funny.

One last thing, if you were in medical or laboratory sales, you would be less likely to be layed off. And if you are in pharmaceutical sales, you may not find this funny…due to recent experiences.

Career assessment sites

December 13, 2007 · Posted in Medical Sales Recruiting, Which Degree? · 2 Comments 

I found a site ( www.alexa.com ) that allows you to see where websites are ranked worldwide (mine is #3,188,312 as of today… that’s much better than it sounds–it’s had a 100% increase in the last 3 months).  The cool thing about it for you is that it also has a list of career assessment sites

The top three:

www.assessment.com is the most popular – it identifies how you fit in the workplace.  Here’s an article with tips for how to take a career assessment test

www.careerplanner.com – Provides an online test and free advice to help individuals identify their ideal career.  See if you’re a good match for laboratory sales, pharmaceutical sales, or medical device sales!

www.careerkey.org – Offers a test based on Holland’s theory of vocational choice to help individuals choose a college major or educational program.  See their blog page at http://careerkey.blogspot.com/

There are many more good sites to choose from.  I don’t know what their fees might be (if any) and I can’t guarantee their effectiveness for you, but I certainly think they are worth checking out.



I loved this….

I stole this graph from Alexander Kjerulf. Not sure that you should follow it but it is amusing. I find that people are too quick to quit and if they hung around and pursued other avenues within the organization their opportunities could be much greater than they are in the job market. Also, the only constant is change – maybe the boss you can’t stand will quit? So think it through. It is much easier to get a job when you have a job.

Should Tony Soprano call a recruiter?

June 9, 2007 · Posted in Interviewing Skills and Tips, Medical Sales Recruiting, Which Degree? · Comments Off on Should Tony Soprano call a recruiter? 

I don’t watch very much TV, but I must admit that I follow the Sopranos. I find it entertaining. With all of the questions about Tony (will he live, will he die, what will he do), I wondered if he just needed a job change. His job is very demanding. He can never let his guard down, his friends really are his employees and any little slip could cost him their respect. It involves a lot of dirty work and moral compromises. Does the money make it worth it? No. Besides, I don’t think he has done a good job of saving and Carmella is very unsure of their financial security. But if he called me and wanted to talk about what he should do….I would not be able to help him. Why? (the obvious reason is that I am not sure that he has his BS degree, has worked in a laboratory environment, sold into the medical arena or managed sales people in the laboratory supply industry) Well, I don’t think people can change more than 15-20% and he has a number of areas that would need improvement for him to survive in my client company environments. What areas? Conflict management, employee development, honesty, integrity, work ethic, respect, empathy, deference, etc. Another issue, even though he might tell me he is okay with the pay structure of my client company, his lifestyle would burn through it (I have candidates do this all the time)and he would have issues at home that would affect his ability to perform his job successfully. So if Tony asks you for a great medical sales recruiter, don’t give him my name.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

March 16, 2007 · Posted in HealthCare Sales, Interviewing Skills and Tips, Laboratory Sales, Medical Sales, Medical Sales Recruiting, Which Degree?, Which job offer should I take? · Comments Off on Thank you, Thank you, Thank you 

I have received so many emails and phone calls from those of you who have read my blog. Very positive feedback (blush, blush). Thank you for taking the time to read this. I really do want this to be a helpful site. So if you have a topic that you would like me to address here, please let me know. I will do the best I can….But you must remember that my discussions are based on my experiences as a recruiter (8 years) and as a sales, marketing and sales management professional (7 years). Of course I will not divulge company names, product names, candidate names or any other information. Again, thank you for reading and please forward this site address to your friends. Remember, it is all about networking (this would be a wonderful way to reconnect with someone from your past….and we know why that is important? Right?).

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