Working in Pharmaceutical Sales can be an amazing and very rewarding experience. You can contribute to improve people’s lives, performing a prestigious job and earn substantial income.
In other type of jobs you would have to work crazy hours or perform tough tasks that may compromise your quality of life.
Being one of the most desirable jobs in the US and many other countries, competition to secure a job can be fierce. However this should not scare you. Because once you know what it takes to put yourself ahead of the crowd, you will be ready to start your new career.
Two Paths to Achieve Your Goal:
I have found there are two ways to achieve an important goal.
Let’s supposed you were overweight and your goal is to get fit.
Scenario 1: You enroll in a gym, but you have no idea about how to exercise, what routines to use, you don’t know anything about nutrition, how to use the machines, etc. You just start doing things by trial and error.
Could you get results this way?
But you will also face the risk of spending time doing things that are not helping you. Your efficiency will drop. You may get injured doing the exercises in the wrong way
Even worse: You may get demotivated because you were not getting the results you wanted. Many people will abandon the pursuit of their goal like this.
Scenario 2: You hire a personal training that is highly qualified. He will teach you all about nutrition. You will learn what to eat, how to substitute meals by healthy choices. You will perform an exercise plan he designed for you according to your needs and goals.
You will be trained to use the right machines, in the right way and he will push you to the limit while you exercise. He will also keep you accountable and give you a phone call if you don’t show up at the gym.
The question is:
What scenario is more likely to give you the right results?
I am sure you get my point.
Breaking into pharma is not really different from that example.
When I started it took me almost two years to break in the industry because I didn’t know better. I had to learn by trial and error and because of that I wasted too many great opportunities.
That is why I created this website, so people like you don’t have to go through those challenges.
My purpose is to hand you the information you need to take you step by step into a fast lane to pharma.
As there might be a lot of conflicting information in the web about where and how to start, this guide can be a great reference for you.
I really wish you the best of luck in your new adventure!
Getting Started In Pharmaceutical Sales
The Real Requirements:
The most important requirement to break into pharmaceutical sales is to have a Bachelor’s degree. The major is not relevant, as long as you have completed the program.
This may sound a little counter intuitive because some people think you should have a degree in a health care field or something like that. But that is not necessary.
That means if you have a bachelor’s in Philosophy, Comic Art, Astrobiology or Bakery Science…. You are good to go!
There is no gray area or exceptions regarding to this point:
If you hold a bachelor’s you may be considered to get the job.
If you don’t, nothing else really matters. You will not be interviewed.
To illustrate I will tell you a real life story: I have a friend of mine who was ranked top 1 pharmaceutical sales rep in the nation with Schering Plough in Latin America.
When he was hired in his country, the requirement to get in the industry was to have just an Associate’s degree.
He moved to the U.S. and when he tried to apply he received the same answer by every single Pharmaceutical Company: “Call us when you get your degree”
Never lie about your qualifications!
Pharmaceutical companies will always perform a rigorous background check and their offers are always contingent to their ability to verify your degree, GPA, graduation date and so forth.
I have seen people sent back from training because the company could not verify their information.
Don’t be one of those!
The main reason why the major is irrelevant and the so called “certifications” to be a drug rep are not needed is because pharmaceutical companies will provide you with extensive training about disease state, sales skills, compliance, product knowledge, etc.
They will give you what you need to do the job. That’s why their educational requirement is so simple and straight forward.
The other real requirement is to have legal work authorization in the country you are applying for.
If your legal status is temporary or you need sponsorship, they will never consider you no matter what.
In the U.S. you need to be a US Citizen, a permanent resident, a Refugee or to have any unrestricted status that will allow you to work for any company.
The Disqualifying Factors
Once you have the first requirements met, there are some things you need to know and those are the disqualifying factors.
You may go through the whole interviewing process but if you have one of these, you will be disqualified to get the job.
As I mentioned previously, to be hired in Pharma Sales you will need to pass a comprehensive background check. Pharma companies always include verbiage in their offer letters that make the job offer contingent to the clearing of the background check.
I explain in detail these disqualifying factors in this you tube video:
It is titled “who should not try to become a pharmaceutical sales rep”
Among the disqualifying factors are:
- A bad driving record.Having in your driving history something like a DUI will make you not eligible to work in pharmaceutical sales.
- Criminal Record. A history of felonies in your record will also prevent you from being hired in the industry.
- A horrible credit report: Having a bankruptcy or a horrendous credit history will not help. However some companies may have different criteria and there is not so much of a standard in the field. It is really kind of a grey area. Some companies will not accept that some others can be more flexible.
- Inability to pass a drug test. Make yourself a favor and keep yourself clean. In most companies you will be asked to take a urine test to screen for drugs during the hiring process. Some other can perform random drug tests while you are hired.
More On Background Check:
Companies will inquire about your previous employments. You will need to provide exact hiring and termination dates, position, salary and reason why you left.
Most companies will verify this information. Once again, don’t lie.
Make sure you have justification for gaps in your employment history, You will be always asked about it.
Your resume will not get you the job.
The goal of your CV or resume is to make your phone ring.
I have noticed that this is one of the weakest areas of the applicants. If you are applying and you are not getting phone calls from recruiters, HR Departments and Hiring managers, this is the area you need to work on urgently.
This is really where you get the job. Your ability to stand out of the crowd, to set you apart from the other applicants is what will get you the job offer.
This is achieved by mastering the art of the interview. Even seasoned pharmaceutical sales reps have this area as their greatest weakness and you can capitalize on it.
There are two ways to do this. One is through trial and error, as I personally learned which I don’t recommend because you are going to waste too many opportunities and time as you learn by making mistakes. The other problem is that you never get real feedback. The hiring managers will not let you know where you made your mistakes. Without honest feedback you can’t really improve what you need to improve.
The other method is to be taught how to master it, which I cover in detail on my online course..
There is no need to get certified or licensed as a pharmaceutical sales rep!
There are companies selling the so called “certifications” to be a pharmaceutical sales rep, but the truth is that those certifications are NOT required to break into pharma.
These companies have spent thousands of dollars in advertising, ranking pages in google and other search engines to promote the idea that people need to get certified or licensed to be a pharmaceutical rep.
That is totally false.
I really hate to see people getting mislead by these tactics.
Please give a better use of your time and money.
I really hope this piece of advice gets to you on-time.
About the Author
Elvis Duarte is a certified coach who helps people break into pharmaceutical and medical sales.
Elvis has over 15 years of experience in Pharmaceutical Sales. He has worked for top drug companies such as Pfizer, Bristol Myers-Squibb, Bausch & Lomb, Depomed, Kv Pharmaceuticals among others.
6 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide for Getting Started In Pharmaceutical Sales”
Tank you for the info. I would like to learn more.
I have a bachelors degree and some relevant experience.
I have not been in the full time workforce since I had my children. Soon to be an empty nester, I would love to pursue a career in pharmaceutical sales. Is it possible break in to a field as a second career?
It happens all the time
I am a recent college graduate with a B.S in Biology. I have medical experience working as an Emergency Dept. scribe and am certified in Phlebotomy. Do you think with my experience I will be able to break into this field quickly? My goal is to be in this field by the end of 2016.
Your profile sounds pretty solid.
What about sales experience? That’s important to break in quickly as you mentioned.
If you find a company that will be promoting a drug that is used on the ER, you are going to have an edge based on your experience.
Go for it Alexis!
Thanks for the very nice info..
i have 15 experience as medical representative/sales executive with BMS in Pakistan. I was promoting antibiotics,cardiovasculars, and multi vitamins. I moved here to united states 10 years ago and started my own business. But recently i sold out my business and want to go back to pharma field. My age is 49 , what do you suggest , can i get a job in pharma sales?
I am a us citizen now.
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