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Interviewing Pharma Sales Reps – 7 Questions to Find the Perfect Fit

Interviewing medical sales rep candidates requires asking more than the standard “What’s your biggest weakness?” question. Because of the diversity throughout the medical sales industry, it’s important to understand which questions help you identify the best talent in your market.

A pharma sales rep, for example, will need to have a different skillset and base knowledge than a rep working in biotech or medical equipment. In this article, we’ll break down the seven best questions to ask a potential new pharma sales rep so you’re able to evaluate their talent, knowledge, and fit for your company.

1.What about chemistry or biology interests you?

Medical sales reps don’t need to be formally educated in the sciences in order to do their job. But possessing a genuine interest in the subject will serve them well as they learn about the effects of the products they represent. If they grasp how a drug works and benefits a patient, they are able to sell that product better.

Communication is key in sales, but the ability to actually relate to and understand the complexities of a subject are what help build depth and create trust in relationships. You want to find a pharma sales rep who will enjoy learning about your products and be excited to share all the technical knowledge they acquire in the field.

2. What’s a skill, hobby, etc. you’ve recently learned? 

It doesn’t matter if it’s beer brewing, rock climbing or watercolor — the key is uncovering the candidate’s curiosity and their ability to learn and master new skills and ideas. Look for the people who get excited about new projects or a fresh school of thought they recently adopted. If they seem like the type of person who enjoys figuring things out, they’re likely going to be a good fit.

When a pharma sales rep enters your organization, they’ll be tasked with learning all the details of your products (and doing so relatively quickly). They’ll also need to be able to learn about new products as they’re developed and hit the market. 

Look for naturally-inquisitive candidates — the ones who enjoy tackling new challenges. If they get excited about their new hobby and talk at length about the dive they’ve taken into the nitty-gritty details, you have found a self-starter who will employ that same mentality as they learn about your product.

3. How do you organize your day when working in _______?

Organization is crucial to success, but it’s taken to a whole new level when reps have to adjust their approach depending on the setting in which they’re selling. Pharmaceutical reps sell in surgical centers, primary care offices, hospitals– and they all require a different approach.

Look for a pharma sales rep who handles their days with a balance of three key factors:

·   Understanding of the need for differentiation in their tactics dependent on the setting

·   Flexibility as they move from location to location

·   A dedicated and working formula for how they manage their days

If they seem to be a more “fly by the seat of my pants,” type, their sales techniques are likely missing the nuance that will allow them to be most effective in each situation.

4. What are your favorite and least favorite parts about pharmaceutical sales?

Sales reps, especially those in medical sales, tend to have a passion that led them to the field. But not everyone loves every facet of their job. This question will help you uncover what keeps the candidate moving every day while also giving you an opportunity to assess their fit for your specific company.

For example, your company may focus heavily on education-based sales in primary care offices. You may become excited if your candidate says they most enjoy surgical sales and working directly with doctors in that setting. But if they admit getting tired of sitting in waiting rooms waiting to deliver brochures and talk about the product, they may not be a great fit.

5. What are your career goals?

The drive to succeed is crucial in any sales role because of the independent nature of the position and the necessity to get up and go each day.

It’s not about finding every salesperson who is striving to be CEO. They don’t even need to aspire to be a manger. But you should look for a candidate who has clear goals and an eye on personal or professional advancement.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t hire a candidate who wants to build their career in the sales rep position. Finding long-term sales talent that is dedicated and driven would be the ultimate win. Just make sure they have an air of innovation, a competitive spirit, and they embrace challenges head-on.

Drive and motivation to consistently improve are key components in the fight against complacency, so be sure your candidate has both.

6. How much do you like to travel?

Our 2019 Pharmaceutical Sales Salary Report found reps traveling 25 or 50 percent of the time earn more than those whose time on the road makes up 75 percent of their work time.

Why is this? Reps who travel less are able to balance the in-person education and relationship building of sales with the administrative duties and backend support of their efforts. They devote time to learning, gaining a better understanding of their product which allows them to more successfully market its impacts. 

They also give themselves time for follow-ups which helps with both further education and trust-building. And they’re better organized because they have a dedicated home base from which to function.

Travel comes with the gig, but make sure your candidate acknowledges the need for balance and mentions their actions when they’re off the road as much as they talk about being on it.

7. Do you believe taking time to cultivate customer relationships is important? Why or why not?

In pharmaceutical sales, your pharma sales reps are competing with all the other reps out there for time and attention from customers. On any given day, a doctor or their office staff may need to entertain four or five reps, so it’s crucial your rep is one they want to spend time with.

A sales rep’s ability to build and foster relationships will be critical to their success. The most successful reps are “people people” — they’re good with names, have great memories, and genuinely understand how others tick. If your candidate is able to tell you about friends they’ve made through their work, then you can bet they’ll make friends with your customers too.

Interviewing for pharmaceutical sales positions requires specific focus in order to find the candidate who will best fit your company. Use these questions to really dig into what drives them, how they function in a sales role, and what parts of their experience have led them to you. There aren’t “right” answers, but you’ll know when you hear the answer that is right for your company.


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