Pharmaceutical Interview – Five Items to be Prepared With

As someone who has interviewed countless candidates for Pharmaceutical Sales Representative positions, it always surprised me the variety of colorful characters that have sat before me.  Moreover, it is interesting to find that many had not done their research on exactly what to expect during the interview process.  A blog post will only grab your attention for so long, so I will try to keep it succinct, but here are my thoughts on five items to definitely be prepared with during your pharmaceutical interview:

    • Be able to describe time gaps in your resume: If your resume has excluded items, and this creates a gap in your working chronology, a hiring manager is going to press you for “why” there are these gaps and want to get a better understanding of what you did during that time.  If you cannot describe what you were doing during those time gaps eloquently and concisely, this will raise a red flag to the hiring manager.


    • Don’t Leave less important jobs off your resume:  Many think that the menial job they had right out of college or even the ones that you worked during college should be left off the resume.  Many hiring managers that I have come across through the years have expressed that they want to hear about the “journey”, because it defines a person and perhaps (depending on the individual) shows work ethic and/or character.  Simply be able to concisely describe how these menial jobs shaped your character, or even led you to the moment you find yourself in….a pharma interview.  Be able to “tell your story” including the jobs that shaped you along the way.  Additionally, it allows for less gaps in chronology on your resume.


    • Situation, Task, Action, Result (STAR):  If you are not aware of how STAR plays its part in the traditional pharma interview, shame on you, you haven’t done your research. Past working history does not dictate future success, but if you cannot describe the situations your were faced with in your prior working history, the tasks or actions you took and how they led to a tangible result(s), frankly a hiring manager will simply go with the other candidate.  You will likely be asked at the least two STAR question, but likely more.  Be prepared with difficult situations you found yourself in, in the past, or a situation regarding teamwork and collaboration, or a situation where you disagreed with a partner but still were able to get a favorable result.  The key is the result and how your actions led to one.  Remember pharma sales is a “sales” position….they want to see someone who has gotten results because that is what would be expected of you in pharma sales.


    • Be able to describe the “jumping around” on your resume:  Many times when a hiring manager is sourcing resumes and looking for the “right fit”, if they see a candidate that has “jumped around” from one job to the next and has shown little consistency or loyalty, this creates a red flag that many times will preclude you from even getting a phone screen.  However, if in fact you get your phone screen or find yourself in a face to face interview, be prepared to describe why you had jumped from one job to the next.  Have a good story that gave you good reason for having jumped around.  Perhaps you got laid off and somehow this created a drive in you that pushed you to go after the career that you had always dreamed of having, or the company you were with allowed for no upward mobility and through your research you have found that pharma sales presents opportunities for “go-getters”!


  • Close the Interviewer:  Though the idea of closing in the interview process is becoming a bit cliche, it’s not so much the idea of closing as it is how you close.  Try a check in question at the end or what is called a “trial close”.  Something like:

    “(Enter interviewer name here), I want to make sure before we part ways that I have given you everything that you would need to make an intelligent decision on me as a candidate…have I done so?”

    Wait to see the interviewers response.  Look for positive or negative body cues and/or positive or negative verbal cues.  If you received positive cues, close more definitively.  If you you receive negative cues of any kind, I would probe further to uncover what their objection would be to your candidacy.  My thoughts are not just to close for the sake of closing, rather close when you know you have acquitted yourself nicely in the interview process.  If you close when it isn’t appropriate, the interviewer will think you have no self-awareness.   The only way to truly know if a close is appropriate is to “check in” or to “trial close” first.

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