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How Pharma Reps Should Answer Tough Medical Sales Interview Questions

The Girl Is Stressing On InterviewAfter months of searching and applying to medical device sales jobs, you finally landed an interview. You prepare and enter the interview with confidence. But within the first few minutes, you get the feeling that the interviewer doesn’t like you – well, they don’t like your experience in pharma sales.

They’re asking some pretty tough medical sales interview questions. How do you respond? How can you change their mind about pharma sales reps?

The transition from pharma rep to medical device sales rep is a difficult one. Many employers will be prejudiced against you, and it’s up to you to demonstrate that you are the right sales rep for the job.

Don’t get flustered if you’re asked some tough questions. Take a deep breath and use these tips to ace the interview:

Tell me about a time when…

You’re well into your interview when the interviewer says “Tell me about a sales call in which you succeeded and one that you lost. What happened?”

You freeze. You’ve prepared to answer behavioral interview questions, but you don’t know how to answer this one. As a pharma rep, you didn’t make traditional sales calls. Sure, you called to keep up relationships with your contacts, but that’s not what they’re asking – they want to hear about a time you closed the sale. So, what do you do?

When transitioning from pharma to medical device sales, some of the medical sales interview questions may not directly match up with your experience. That’s OK. When asking behavioral interview questions, employers are trying to get a sense of what you actually did on the job and how you reacted in certain situations.

Although your situation may not exactly relate to the question, you can still demonstrate that you have the qualities the question is meant to assess. The first step is to identify what the employer wants to know from the question. Do they want to know about your communication skills? How you act under pressure? Your resourcefulness? In the example given, they want to find out if you are able to ask for the sale.

After you figure out the core of the question, you can answer it with an example you have experienced that demonstrates those qualities. Answer the question using the STAR format – Situation, Task, Action, Result. Describe the situation, your task, what you did, and the end result. After answering giving your answer, relate it back to the interviewer’s original question.

Let’s talk numbers…

The interviewer wants to know your numbers and they’re going to ask directive interview questions. What’s your quota? What did you achieve in the last quarter?

You know what your sales targets are, and what numbers you hit, but you also know that a lot of medical sales device employers won’t buy it. Many employers believe that success in pharma sales can’t really be measured, and that the results represent the efforts of a team, not an individual sales rep. So how do you answer?

Respond with your numbers and your most recent accomplishments. If the interviewer crossfires with a statement or a question about the legitimacy of your numbers, back up your numbers with specific examples. Discuss your individual contributions and successes. Focus the conversation on your individual achievements by saying “I” and “me,” not “we.” Provide the employer with evidence that you can perform the job well.

What makes you qualified?

The interviewer will have doubts about you. You may have years of experience making contacts and building relationships, but can you close the sale?

If the employer asks what makes you qualified for the position, or what makes you the best person for the job, listing your years of experience in pharma sales isn’t going win them over [Click to tweet]. Instead, explain how that experience translates to the current position and makes you a better candidate.

What are the most important skills needed for the job? What does the company value? What sector of healthcare are they in? What skills do you have that could benefit them?

Maybe your knowledge of a particular disease state or your contacts in the industry will help you perform well, or maybe it’s your ability to quickly adapt to new products, new regulations, or new clients. Tell the employer what special skills you learned during your time as a pharma sales rep and how those skills relate the job.

Although an employer may ask you some hard hitting medical sales interview questions, if you’re prepared, you can break the pharma sales stereotypes, ease their doubts, and land the medical device sales position you want.

What do you think? What tough medical sales interview questions have you been asked?