hiring pharmaceutical sales rep

The Top 7 Tips for Hiring the Right Pharmaceutical Sales Rep


A top notch pharmaceutical sales representatives is one of the most difficult positions to hire for. First of all, it’s competitive. Hiring managers want the best reps meanwhile reps want to work for the best pharmaceutical companies. This makes for a cutthroat hiring process. The other challenge in hiring a top team member is that the pharmaceutical sales career sits at the crossroads of two different professional disciplines, business and medicine. So while you’re seeking a sales professional, you also want someone with an in-depth knowledge of the medical field. This candidate hybrid is hard to come by. However, if you want a knowledgeable professional representing your firm’s products and technology in the medical sphere, then it’s critical to hire sales professionals with in-depth knowledge of the biotechnology, research, and regulations of the medical industry. Follow these tips to ensure that you hire a medical sales representative who can bring you closer to clients through knowledge and trust. 

1. Know What You’re Looking For

It’s hard to identify the “right” candidate if you don’t even know what “right” means for you and your company. Have a clear job description before sorting resumes and conducting interviews. Ask yourself what your company needs to grow. Are you on the lookout for new clients? This requires someone who can hunt out prospective medical professionals and persuade them of the advantages of your treatment over those of a competitor. Or, do you want to pitch a new medical device to current clients? This goal, on the other hand, calls for someone who can foster long term relationships and educate medical professionals on the latest technological research. Both require exceptional research and communication skills. However, the former requires someone who is proactive, while the other demands a professional who can foster loyalty and integrity. 

2. Ask How They Plan to Drive Change at the Company

One of the best interview questions you can ask is what the candidate plans to do at the company. You can structure this as a 30-60-90 plan, or you can present it as an open ended question. Both require them to be perceptive to company needs. Presenting a vague plan shows they aren’t aware of the position’s demands or up to date on the latest industry trends. Look instead for someone with a clear outline based on insights about the pharmaceutical firm’s unique technology. They should consider past trends, potential hurdles, and future implications of the firm’s unique drug or treatment. Furthermore, their outline should identify realistic opportunities, such as doctor’s offices and relevant medical branches they would consult. Finally, a thoughtful planner will include checkpoints to measure progress along the way and leave room to adjust accordingly. 

3. Get the Numbers

Medicine is a data driven industry. You’ll want to hire someone that understands this. Look for a medical sales representative who knows how to back up their assertions with numbers. Seek out representatives who support their career accomplishments with metrics. If they can support their professional growth with quantifiable data, then they can educate a physician about a medical treatment with well chosen data and growth metrics, as well. 

4. Look for Someone Who Can Listen as Well as Talk

Hire a great listener when you’re looking to fill sales positions. Medical sales reps in particular should be attentive to potential clients’ needs and be able to make insightful suggestions based on those. Many medical practices specialize in treating specific conditions, so the same sales pitch won’t work from one client to the next. Because of this variability, you need a pharmaceutical sales representative who is fluent in scientific terminology and process and who understand their company’s treatment inside and out. That way, when faced with a client who deals with unconventional medical needs, the representative can be attentive and offer insightful advice. This adaptability differentiates general from pharmaceutical salespeople. While most business-to-business sales managers prioritize persuasive ability, the pharmaceutical industry demands a salesperson who listens rather than just performs a rehearsed sales pitch. Seek out hires who are thoughtful about their answers and ask intelligent follow up questions. 

5. Look for Specific Qualifications

Resumes are jam packed with information. A candidate may look impressive on paper, but that doesn’t mean they are the right fit. The best way to sift through them is to decide ahead of time the qualifications you’re looking for. While a bachelor’s degree is necessary, a major in biology or chemistry may not be. How you choose to evaluate their academic career will depend on your firm’s specific research or treatment. More complicated innovations occasionally require a representative with a STEM background. In many cases, though, a certificate through a training program, such as the CNPR Pharmaceutical Sales Training Program, is sufficient. A CNPR certification equips potential hires with interdisciplinary expertise geared toward the unique challenges of a medical sales career. 

Beyond education, how much experience would an ideal representative have? If they have a decade of work experience under their belt, you can be sure that they know the ins and out of the industry. But keep in mind that more experience is not always better. The biotechnology industry changes rapidly. A hire who received a more recent education of the industry is sometimes more teachable and up-to-date with the latest pharmaceutical advancements. Different levels of experience offer unique benefits, so setting a criterion will simply depend on your firm’s particular technology. 

6. Competitive Rates = Competitive Reps

Up until now, we’ve discussed how you can sort through candidates. Don’t forget that candidates are sorting through other companies besides yours, as well. If they are offered a higher salary by another company, they’ll pass your offer up. Talent comes at a price, so if want the best of the best, you’ll need to offer a competitive compensation. 

The same goes for experience. A candidate with prior experience in the industry is a valuable asset to your company. However, the more work experience they have, the higher the salary they’ll require. Most professionals won’t accept offers with salaries lower than their current or previous compensation.

7. It’s Okay to Ask for Help

There’s no shame in hiring a recruiting company to help you find a top-tier rep. A firm’s hiring managers know how to sift through top candidates. However, they may not have the resources to find and connect to these top candidates in the first place, especially considering that many of the most talented professionals aren’t wading in the applicant pool. Experienced pharmaceutical sales recruiters can seek out top talent, sifting through hundreds of resumes so that you don’t have to waste time on candidates who don’t fit the bill. With the help of a recruiting firm, you’re bound to discover a remarkable hire because you’ll be choosing the best of the best. 

Hiring a medical representative is no easy feat. The benefits of finding a fantastic hire are worth it, though. If a candidate survives your tough hiring process, you’ll be sure to gain a sales rep who is knowledgeable and organized, thinks critically about the technology and industry, sets and meets goals, and can acquire and maintain a loyal client base. 

Your company has spent considerable time cultivating its technology and establishing its place in the pharmaceutical industry. The benefit of hiring a remarkable rep is having someone who can relay your company’s unique story and extend your company mission into the medical world. 

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Written by

Ty Culver is the Client Development Director of CulverCareers focusing on talent acquisition and workforce solutions with a wide variety of local, national and global clients.

Ty has been working in various aspects of the industry for over 10 years and developed deep expertise in Executive Search, Executive Benefit and Talent Acquisition Programs along the way. He has a range of experience from SMB to Enterprise clients and hyper specific executive searches to high volume recruiting with companies in a dynamic state of flux.

Today, Ty leads a talented team of Talent Acquisition Specialists, Executive Recruiters and Client Success Managers at one of the most respected Recruiting Firms in the Nation, CulverCareers. While leadership is a key aspect of his role, Ty still enjoys working with clients on recruiting strategies, executive benefit solutions and workforce solutions to help clients build a holistic approach to talent acquisition and talent retention.

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