Hiring Process Recruiting

4 Tips for Hiring the Best Pharma Reps in an Overcrowded Job Market

You don’t need a lengthy industry report to tell you that 2010 was a tough year for pharmaceutical company sales. With more layoffs than any other business sector, there’s no doubt that a lot of pharmaceutical sales rep jobs have been affected.

Fortunately, 2011 is shaping up to be a much better year for pharmaceutical company news (and consequently, pharma reps!). According to the latest report from outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, job cuts at pharmaceutical companies are down 87% from where they were a year ago. In the first quarter of 2011 pharmaceutical companies reported 3,385 job cuts compared to 26,165 job cuts in the first quarter of 2010. Layoffs at pharmaceutical companies have definitely slowed and it appears that some pharmaceutical companies may even be hiring pharmaceutical sales reps again.

Of course, you might think the number of unemployed industry professionals would make finding quality pharmaceutical sales reps easy, but if you are fortunate enough to be in a position to hire new talent, you know that the overcrowded job market can make identifying the very best pharma reps even more challenging. Why? Well it turns out there can indeed be too much of a good thing. And when you have an overabundance of qualified pharma reps for a handful of job openings (as you are certain to have if you’ve posted your job on Medreps.com!), it can be tough to decide which candidates to contact.

Whether you are relying on an outside recruiter to provide you with a short list of candidates or doing the hiring yourself, consider the following guidelines to help you extract the very best candidates from what is sure to be a highly qualified applicant pool.

Create your ideal candidate…

Before you start scanning resumes, you should know exactly what, or who, you’re looking for. An overcrowded job market means you are allowed to be picky when hiring pharma reps. So think carefully about your ideal candidate – consider the type of degree your ideal candidate has, how many years have they worked in the industry, what pharmaceutical companies have they worked for in the past, and what additional skills should they bring to the role. Be as specific as you possibly can. If you have a clear picture of who you are looking for, it will be easier to spot them when you come across their resume. On the other hand, if you don’t know exactly what you want, you are likely to get distracted by pharmaceutical sales reps who may be impressive, but aren’t exactly right for the role you are seeking to fill.

…But don’t get greedy.

There’s no disputing that it’s an employer’s market. Job seekers frantically apply to every job they might be remotely qualified for in the hopes of finding something, anything, to get them back in the game. Meanwhile, hiring managers at pharmaceutical companies increasingly raise their expectations in an effort to filter the ever-growing applicant pool. As a result, candidates that would be considered overqualified in a normal job market are being seriously considered for roles well beneath their experience level and skill set.

While it’s nice to have your “pick of the litter,” be careful not to get too greedy. An overqualified candidate is unlikely to be happy in the role and will probably move on at the first opportunity. So before you snatch up the former sales manager for a primary sales position, think about whether that candidate will still be happy in the role a year from now. Unless there is a possibility of fast tracking them to management, chances are your candidate will be looking to move on before you’ve had time to schedule their new hire orientation.

Think Ahead

The job market may be improving, but the future of pharmaceutical sales job news is still in question. If you believe some of the headlines, the role itself is headed towards extinction. Fortunately, in a recent study funded by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), 69% of physicians said they use information from pharmaceutical sales reps when making prescribing decisions. While this is good news for pharma reps, it doesn’t mean that their role isn’t changing. Limitations on how pharma reps interact with physicians are forcing pharmaceutical companies to come up with new communication channels including online seminars and virtual training sessions. Pharmaceutical companies are also incorporating smartphone apps and electronic presentations into the physician detailing process. The most successful pharmaceutical sales reps won’t shy away from these changes but will be technologically savvy, easily adaptable, and eager to be a part of the next wave of pharma reps.

Simplify the search with technology

Even when you know exactly who you’re looking for, the sea of resumes on your desk can still be daunting. Simplify the process by searching an electronic resume database such as the one on MedReps.com. Rather than wait for applications to come in, you can search a database of more than 8,000 resumes using specific keywords. Your search should return a list of candidates with those keywords in their resumes. If the list is still too long you can add more keywords or other criteria to drill down until you have a manageable list of candidates.

Of course narrowing down the applicant pool is merely the first step, but it is a critical one. Phone screens, face to face interviews, and reference checks will guide your final decision, but you want to be confident that you haven’t let a top performer fall through the cracks. By following the guidelines listed here, you can be sure that your “short list” of candidates represents the very best of an impressive applicant pool.

Good luck and happy hiring!

Take a look at the Medical Device Companies Sales Hiring Report.