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The Inside Scoop From Pharmaceutical Sales Recruiters


Want to know what it really takes to get a job in pharmaceutical sales?  While it may be next to impossible for you to pick the brains of individual hiring managers in the medical and pharmaceutical fields (who has the time for that anyway?), MedReps has interviewed some of the most well-known and respected pharma sales recruiters in the industry to get the inside scoop on what hiring managers are actually looking for.

Recruiters are essentially the middle man in the hiring process, linking the most qualified candidates to the best jobs available.  More importantly, these recruiters have formed relationships with the hiring staffs of multiple companies and know exactly what they’re looking for.  Get in with a good recruiter and you’ll have more than a decent chance at landing the pharmaceutical sales job you’ve been trying so hard for.



Speeding Up The Process

According to a MedReps interview with Peggy McKee, founder and CEO of, the hiring process is just like the sales process: “A candidate is the product, and in order to speed up the sale, they need to reach out to as many buyers as possible.”  In this case, “buyers” includes pharmaceutical sales recruiters.

While every job seeker should be using both hiring managers and recruiters, there’s definitely a caveat, and McKee likens medical sales candidates to fish in this case: “There are expensive Bluefin tuna and less costly catfish in the sea.  Those top Bluefin tunas are really the ones recruiters are looking for, they are the ones who are probably employed and getting calls about jobs on a regular basis, so they should take advantage of that and always pursue a good opportunity from a third-party recruiter.”  She mentions that for the less experienced, less qualified “catfish,” contacting a hiring manager directly can also be a good way to go because companies tend to hire these type of candidates, who most likely will turn into Bluefin after a few years of working in the healthcare sales industry.


It’s In The Resume

Jimmy Taylor, President of JT & Associates, Inc., an Atlanta-based recruiting firm specializing in medical sales and sales management, claims that he spends no more than 30 seconds looking over a candidate’s resume and can usually tell within just a few seconds of that person is worth calling or emailing.  In a MedReps interview with Taylor about sales recruiting, he said that 30 seconds might actually be generous: “I have been doing this for such a long time and have a background in medical sales and management, so I usually know by instinct if that candidate is a good fit.”  In addition, Taylor estimates that for every ten resumes he gets for a specific job, he usually eliminates eight right off the bat.  His “set” of criteria that he uses to analyze job seekers includes a work history, level of experience, the types of products they sold in the past, rankings and quotas met or exceeded.

Simply put, he looks for the best qualified applicant.  “It really is all about quality over quantity.  I constantly look for candidates that have the right skill set and other tangibles the company is looking for.  If I find a better, more qualified applicant during the review process, I may bump someone else out just to make sure I present my client with the best possible people.”

“What really what makes me take notice of a candidate is a professional resume that shows results, achievements and numbers.  So many job seekers use a resume to just list their past positions and it just reads like a laundry list of responsibilities, almost like a job description.  I want to see a person’s accomplishments, says Lisa McCallister, medical device sales and marketing recruiter for ConMed Corporation when asked by MedReps what prospective employees can do to get noticed.

To recruiters and hiring managers alike, resumes are indeed, the first, and sometimes the most important aspect of a job search and pharmaceutical sales reps should always be willing to fine-tune theirs.


Breaking In

What about candidates lacking experience and trying to break into the field?  Do recruiters ever consider candidates without medical or pharmaceutical sales experience?  McCallister’s ConMed Corporation’s recruiting team does in some cases.   She said in our interview that, in fact, some managers may even prefer it if they believe the person has what it takes to be successful. They will need at least some kind of B2B experience though, along with passion, commitment, and good fundamental sales training.  “However, for some divisions, it may be more difficult to hire someone without specific sales experience because it could mean a 12 to 18 month learning curve.”  Her company might also consider someone with limited experience for an associate’s position under the right circumstances.

Regarding candidates with backgrounds in sales but not necessarily medical sales, Jimmy Taylor says it’s basically the same advice he gives everyone: “Sales companies are looking for candidates with three or more years of outside sales experience, have sold a tangible product, have had formal sales training and are strong performers with statistics to back that up.”

Medical sales recruiter and consultant, Linda Hertz of the Linda Hertz Group agrees: “A qualified candidate with solid B2B experience (like Paychex, ADP, Copiers, etc.) with measurable sales numbers will get a call.  They will also up their chances if they have top sales awards, experience from a national or international company (not just regional) and have had their own outside sales territory.  Ultimately, Proper pharmaceutical sales recruiting will reveal employees that can bring valuable talent and experience to virtually any organization.

Lastly, for pharmaceutical sales professionals looking for a new position, Taylor says it’s important that candidates have a good and current LinkedIn profile, are in contact with local recruiters, and are diligent on job boards, especially, because it is industry-specific.


Beware the Blemishes

Overcoming resume blemishes may prove to be difficult for any hopeful applicant wanting to be considered for a position.  In our interview with Linda Hertz, she claims the number one blemish for her is job hopping.  If a candidate has two or three jobs in a row with two or less years of experience, it becomes an issue: “It takes time for medical and pharmaceutical sales people to build a solid resume, and they must be willing to invest time in each job.”

“If a candidate has a history of job hopping, they really need to take a look at the decisions that they have been making.  Are they selecting financially sound companies that are growing their business or are sales in a decline?  Job hopping can often mean that an applicant has not been performing, which is another red flag.”  Other blemishes include gaps of unemployment, multiple moves not related to a promotion, no college degree, lack of sales performance, and illogical changes of industries.

Red flags for Lisa McCallister include job hopping and a lack of numbers or awards.  In the pharmaceutical sales industry, she wants to make sure that a candidate’s past sales experience, even if from outside the industry, is relevant and will translate to success the field.

According to Jimmy Taylor, the biggest red flags are work history gaps with no explanation, lack of industry experience, not having a physical address (because the industry is so territory oriented), and incomplete contact information.


Backing It Up

In the end, smart candidates will listen to pharma sales recruiters and insiders because they know what they’re talking about.  It’s their business as well as their job to help you find a job.

If whatever you are currently doing is not working, you must be prepared to try something different to increase your chances of impressing a medical or pharmaceutical sales recruiter.  Peggy McKee’s advice is simple: be bold. “Candidates must be willing to try new things.  For example, if their resume isn’t working – they need to fix it.  Then, if they are still not getting enough of a response – they need to make sure that their resume is getting into the right hands.”

Furthermore, as pointed out by Linda Hertz, if a candidate is not getting any bites, or if they are getting interviews, but not landing a job, they need to take a long look at themselves, get help with their resume and make sure they are getting good advice from family, friends and qualified industry experts like MedReps.