Your Pharmaceutical Sales Interview – How to Get Connected, Get Organized and Get That Interview!

As a former pharmaceutical sales recruiter, my coaching clients find it odd when I state that networking with pharmaceutical reps is the key to landing their first pharmaceutical sales interview, rather than simply calling a recruiter. But let’s face it, if a manager can hire a sales pro recommended by his/her rep at a much cheaper fee than through a recruiter, then which do you think the manager will choose?

And, although networking seems to be feared by many first time pharma sales candidates, it has become increasingly easier to do over the last few years.


Sheer numbers, my friend! With over 100,000 pharmaceutical reps in the United States alone, chances are high that someone in your network of friends or acquaintances is a pharmaceutical rep, or at least knows one.

In my pharmaceutical sales interview coaching business, I’ve found that only the strong survive a career search in pharmaceutical sales. To put it bluntly, gaining your 1st job in pharmaceutical sales is not for the faint of heart. You must be willing to “put yourself out there” and not be timid about utilizing your network of friends/family or approaching pharmaceutical reps that you do not know.

Here’s How to Kick-Start Your Networking Activities and Land That Pharmaceutical Sales Interview:

  • First Step: Send out networking letters to everyone in your circle of family and friends. Inform them of your fervent desire to win a job in pharmaceutical sales, and ask for further networking contacts.
  • Second Step: Develop a tracking system of your network – who you’ve spoken with, the results of the conversation and if/when follow up is required. This is important to begin right away, as you will soon have so many contacts it will be difficult to keep track of your next step.
  • Third Step: Make a list of your physician/physician assistant contacts. Your children’s pediatrician, your personal doctor, a family friend who is also a physician – all of these are perfect networking connections. Contact these individuals via phone, or write an informal note and leave it for them at their place of business.
  • Fourth Step: Utilize your current relationships with office personnel in local medical clinics to provide networking contacts. Ask for a copy of the local pharm rep association list, or at the very least for the names of 3-4 reps that the office personnel really like and trust.
  • Fifth Step: Visit your local pharmacy and ask the pharmacist for the business cards of reps that frequent the pharmacy.
  • Sixth Step: What about camping out in a busy medical clinic all day, dressed in your finest? Don’t be shy about approaching pharmaceutical reps as they make their way out of the clinic. Only take one minute of their time, and provide a 45 second “infomercial” of your education and career history that qualifies you for a pharmaceutical sales career. Finally, ask if you may contact them at a future time that is convenient for them.
  • Seventh Step: Show up at a local Pharm Rep Association meeting and ask to be introduced at the beginning of the meeting. Rattle off your “infomercial” and ask for business cards, so that you may follow-up with reps at a later time. Chat with the reps afterward to determine immediate openings and make dates for later conversations.

What Are the Keys to This Networking System?

  • Consistent Follow-Up: Follow-up through phone and email with your contacts on a monthly basis to discover new openings and to keep the relationship “warm”.
  • Organized System for Tracking Activities and Next Steps: Track your progress every step of the way; utilize spreadsheets and update accordingly.
  • Build Relationships: Develop a personal relationship with each of your contacts. Remember and track the “little things”, (as in your contacts’ likes/dislikes, birthdays, names of family members, etc.) and utilize that knowledge to build a positive bond with your networking contacts.

The above 3 tips can literally make or break your career search progress. Consider it practice for the pharmaceutical sales job you’ll soon have – organizational skills, follow-up, and repoire-building skills are a huge component of pharma sales career success.

But What if You’re Still Not Landing a Pharmaceutical Sales Interview?

It’s time to reflect…step back and take a look at the big picture. If you have a large network of pharma rep contacts (30-40 is good), you’ve passed your resume along through your contacts, and yet you’re still not gaining interviews…your resume may be the cause. Your resume must be a powerful marketing piece that showcases your skills/abilities/experience in a way that FORCES hiring managers to interview you! Consider a pharmaceutical sales resume writer to jump-start your interviews. Make sure to choose a resume writer with pharmaceutical sales industry experience, as this will ensure effective use of industry buzzwords and keywords…essential to gaining interviews!

And finally, don’t give up! Remember…pharmaceutical sales is not an easy career; in fact it is extremely challenging, as reflected in the high turnover rate. Today’s challenge of networking your way into a pharma sales interview will seem petty, once you obtain a pharmaceutical sales job. Keep this challenge in perspective, and refuse to give up. I’ve had clients waiting in medical clinic parking lots, ready to approach pharmaceutical reps as they get into their cars! Are you willing to be that determined and tenacious? Chances are…your competition will be!