Congrats! You’ve been invited to interview for a medical sales job. This means, on paper at least, you have all of the skills and experience required to get the job. But guess what? So do all the other candidates the hiring manager will be interviewing. So how can you set yourself apart from the competition? How can you make an impression that leaves no doubt that you are the best candidate for the job?
To find out the answer, MedReps.com asked Scott Rheault, a 28-year veteran of the healthcare sales industry and author of the book, “The Sales Interview: A Step-by-Step Guide for Sales Candidates in Pharma, Biotech, Medical & Surgical.” After hiring and training dozens of sales reps over the years, Scott has unique insight on what job seekers must do to stand out in an interview and increase their chances of getting the job.
MR: We know there is a lot that goes into evaluating a candidate, but given your experience, what would you say is the number one thing that sets a healthcare sales candidate apart in an interview setting?
SR: Confidence. A well-prepared, confident candidate stands out. They need to be self-aware but not overconfident. Doubt is the enemy in an interview — confidence and the ability to convey one’s skills, abilities, work history and results will eliminate doubt!
MR: How do you coach medical sales job seekers to prepare for an upcoming interview?
SR: I tell candidates to print out the job description and study it. It sounds basic, but it will help them align their skills and competencies to the position. They need to conduct extensive research on the company as well as people they might be interviewing with. Speaking with customers or conducting a preceptorship is often invaluable. They also need to be prepared to meet with a wide range of people and answer multi-layered behavioral questions about themselves and their performance in a clear, concise way.
For example, say a candidate is asked: “Tell me about a time when you overcame an obstacle?” They should really think in terms of STAR – situation, task, action and result. They should describe the situation, their task in that situation, what they actually did – the actions they took, and what resulted from those actions.
MR: When invited to interview, reps may have heard they should bring a “brag book,” that is, a binder or portfolio filled with ranking reports, letters of recommendation, awards, etc. Will this give them an edge?
SR: Yes, it will, but only if they use it as a visual aide and proof source. Candidates must know exactly what’s in it. It doesn’t need to be a huge binder but have concise, provable sales data. It should tell a story. A sales brag book can be an invaluable tool when the candidate uses it correctly.
MR: What are some other things you would recommend that candidates do during the interview that will convince a company that they are the right person for the job?
SR: It usually goes back to “why.” Why does this person want to work in medical sales — and for this specific company? I tell candidates they need to be able to discuss documented results clearly. Be specific, passionate, and professional, show enthusiasm, and speak about what they want rather than what they need. I also tell them to speak in terms of “I” not “we.” They can always address the team player issue when asked.
MR: What about the really tough questions? Any advice on what a candidate can do if they get stuck on an answer?
SR: Candidates should try to anticipate what those tough questions will be and practice the answers. If they get tripped up a bit, it’s OK to pause and restate the question, but never show doubt. If they feel like they left anything out, they can readdress it briefly at the end of the interview.
MR: What types of questions should candidates ask their interviewer?
SR: Prepared in advance, they should ask questions that show they are truly interested in the company and the opportunity — things like, what are the attributes of their most successful salespeople, what are their expectations, training opportunities, how are their sales measured, what does the interviewer like best about the company, and what is the corporate culture like. It’s also OK for candidates to ask to take notes during the interview — this will help them ask these types of questions later.
MR: What about the all-important follow-up interview, is there anything candidates can do differently to make sure they really “nail it?”
SR: Number one — they need to be consistent. They should think in terms of the first interview as a screening of sorts, the second is the “telling” interview — they need to dig deeper to reveal more about their skills, competencies and results.
MR: Scott, what advice do you have for sales candidates looking to break into the medical field?
SR: Preparation and research are key. Candidates must be prepared to tell the interviewer why they want to work in healthcare sales. Other than the pay and benefits, candidates need to know what the job entails and if they have the skill set and personality profile that makes them a good fit. They need to be self-motivated, willing to study up on the industry, know the process of healthcare sales and be able to comply with rules, regulations, and process.
If they have any doubts, they should evaluate their qualifications and write them down. A skills- and self-assessment is a great tool. Job seekers should also create a results-oriented resume, network with industry professionals and take advantage of LinkedIn and other professional resources.
MR: What other advice do you have for healthcare sales candidates as they head into their face-to-face interview?
SR: The most important thing for candidates to remember is to never make assumptions. Candidates with medical experience often just assume they will land the job based on work history, but all candidates need to be able to demonstrate clearly and concisely what they did, why they did it, how they did it, and how their ability got it done.
About Scott Rheault: As the owner of Rheault Consulting Group, Scott uses his insight on the medical sales hiring and interviewing process to help sales professionals break into the industry. He also coaches experienced professionals on how to advance their careers with medical device, surgical, or biotech organizations. His book, The Sales Interview: A Step-by-Step Guide for Sales Candidates in Pharma, Biotech, Medical & Surgical, is available on Amazon.com.
Contact Scott directly at ScottRheault@yahoo.com