Breaking into Medical Sales Insights & Trends Job Search

Can I Break Into Pharmaceutical Sales With a Bad Credit Score and Bad Grades?

Written by Linda Hertz, medical sales recruiter, career blogger, and founder of the Linda Hertz Group

Hi Linda,

I’m interested in getting into pharmaceutical sales and have the following qualifications:

1. B.S Biochemistry
2. CNPR Certified
3. Over 2 years of direct sales experience

Recent coursework with credits and certificates (will add to brag book) in the following:

1. Medical Terminology
2. Pharmacology
3. Physiology

Some things that concern me are the following:

1. The sales experience is not Business to Business nor is it in the medical field.
2. I do not have awards for my sales experience because we are, instead, given more hours and small cash bonuses (so nothing to add to my bragbook to prove my sales numbers).
3. I have just over the minimum number of years in sales experience (just over 2 years).
4. I don’t have a criminal record nor a DUI, however, my credit score is bad due to outstanding debts from credit cards (over 4 years ago now). I do not have a bankruptcy or any liens against me, but it did show a negative credit history.
5. My undergraduate GPA was not too high. I will not be including my transcripts as part of the brag book as it will potentially reflect negatively on me even though it is from 6 years ago.

If all this means that I am only suitable for an entry-level position I am perfectly okay with that.


I have truncated your question for publishing, but I appreciate the other added details you included in your original email. In short, as everything stands currently in your life, it would be difficult for you to attain an entry-level pharmaceutical sales position.

You mentioned your undergraduate GPA was from 6 years ago, which would indicate you are not a kid out of college, but still early enough in your career to get on the right track. I also applaud you for doing your homework. You appear to know the basics of what a pharmaceutical company (or medical device company) looks for in top notch candidates.

At this moment, you don’t have it. That said, you still have time to do what is necessary to make some changes and to start quickly!

Let’s start with the most important changes you need to make right away:

Start Fixing Your Credit History

As you had mentioned in the original email, many medical device and pharmaceutical sales companies issue credit cards in your name via the company credit line. They have to pay the bill if you don’t! In addition, you will be responsible for an overall travel expense budget that you must live within. Bad personal credit would be an indicator to a company that you would be a risk.

You must begin immediately on getting this corrected. I, personally, love Suze Orman’s advice (I understand some people are not a fan, but it has worked for my family for years). Start with her article, The Best Moves to Boost Your Credit Score.

You mentioned your bad debt was four years ago, but if your score is still low, you may need to hire an expert who can identify what you are currently doing or haven’t done yet to get your score at an acceptable, hirable level.

Get the Right B2B Sales Job

You already know your current job is not a “business to business” sales position, and on top of it, not providing you sales rankings or annual sales performance awards you need to break into pharmaceutical sales. In addition, I would add that a B2B company has to be recognized by the medical sales industry as one that provides an EXCELLENT SALES TRAINING PROGRAM.

I highly suggest your next career move is to find an outside B2B Sales job with a top tier company that provides all those attributes. I have written many articles detailing the B2B Outside Sales Companies we value (follow the link to my blog string on this topic): ADP, PAYCHEX, CINTAS to name a few. You must be aware that your credit situation could hold you back on these openings as well, so work on that first!

I would not be concerned about your grade point at this stage of the game (yes, it is important, and I do ask the question on my entry-level or break-into device sales openings when I get them), but if you don’t have good grades, then work with what you do have.

Don’t bring up your grades unless asked. If asked, then think of reasons why the grade point was “not too high” and perhaps understandable; for example, if you paid for all or a large portion of your college expenses, you worked your way through school and graduated within 4 or 5 years or etc.  

Remember, you have a BS in Chemistry, that is a tough major! Make sure you emphasize the difficulty of the major. Certificates are not important, just nice fluff. So work on what matters and begin immediately turning around your credit rating and interviewing with the right B2B sales companies.