How can I find a job in the pharmaceutical industry?

PM-THREAD 0703-1

AUTH: Teresa Marshall
DATE: Monday, July 21, 2003
I am a recent graduate with a Bachelor degree in Business Administration.

I am very interested in the field of pharmaceutical sales.

I have applied for numerous positions with pharmaceutical companies online, but I feel as though my resume just gets lost somewhere in their databases.

I would love to be able to visit the human resources departments of pharm companies, but they are usually located out-of-state.

I have 12 years of experience in the healthcare field, including work as a certified pharmacy technician and administrative roles. I also graduated with the honor of Summa Cum Laude.

I know many physicians in the area (here in Flint, MI). I see that as a tremendous asset in the business, however, sales recruiters only seem to be interested in those with prior sales experience.

Does anyone have any advice for us new grads?

Thank you for your time-

AUTH: Norma-Jeanne Hennis
DATE: Tue, 22 Jul 2003
This is a very familiar scenario.

You could try working as an Account Executive in a Pharmaceutical Advertising Agency or Medical Education Agency. That would give you the sales experience and make it easier for you to go to the pharma side. I have known many young people who have done just that. Of course, if you know someone already working for a pharma, ask them to submit your resume directly or have them support your application via a special link on the pharma website.

AUTH: Danny Alvarez
DATE: Tue, 22 Jul 2003

If you know physicians in your area, ask them if you can make a copy of the cards of all the reps that call on him. His office staff should have them on file somewhere. Also ask them if it’s ok to use their names when you call the individual reps.

When you actually call the reps, tell them which doctor referred you, a little bit about your background, and what you are interested in doing. Generally, these reps will want to do a “favor” for their doctors (especially high-prescribing doctors). They should at least be willing to pass your resume along to the appropriate people or hiring managers.

This is actually how I got my job as a pharma sales rep when I first started in the industry in 1992. You just need the opportunity to get in front of the right people, otherwise, you’re just a resume mixed in with the thousands of others they receive.

Hope that helps.

AUTH: Bill Trombetta
DATE: Tue, 22 Jul 2003
Hi Teresa:

Just following up to the very valuable insights you have already received.

I would add to those tips the need to get in front of networking groups. For example, depending on where you live, in the NY/NJ/PA/DE/CT metro area, there is a very powerful trade group known as the Healthcare Womens Business Association (HBA). Each year they honor the HBA woman of the year. Last year is was Ms Catherine Sohn of GSK and the gathering to honor her in NY in early May numbered about over 1500 attendees!. Groups like this are all about networking and trying to help each other out.

HBA is hq’d in northern NJ, I believe in Fairfield NJ. If you have trouble tracking them down, please feel free to e-mail me and I will get you their address, e-mail, etc.

Good luck

AUTH: Aidan Tuite
DATE: Tue, 22 Jul 2003
Hi Theresa,

Have you considered a sales position with a pharmaceutical wholesaler? There are 3 major wholesalers: Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, plus a handful of regional wholesalers. They sell pharma and OTC products to retail pharmacies (chains, independents, deep discounters, supermarkets, etc), hospitals, mail-order pharmacies, etc (they sell more than that, but for purposes of brevity and keeping with your primary objective, I shall limit my description to the pharma aspect of this industry).

As in any sales position, the good reps make anywhere from good money to a lot of money and get promoted, and the pretenders fall by the wayside. For that reason, this industry is always hiring. With your background as a CPT, plus your desire to use your new degree in a sales capacity, you seem to be an ideal candidate to land a job with a drug wholesaler.

If your heart is set on being a pharma rep and calling on doctors, working for a drug wholesaler might be a good progression. You would gain the sales experience that should get you noticed by the pharma companies (an obstacle you appear to be dealing with currently). And calling on retail pharmacies – especially independent pharmacies – is very much like calling on medical practices (often difficult to get an appointment with the decision maker, and when you do, you may only get 10-15 minutes to make your case, and more often than not, you do not have that person’s undivided attention).

Good luck in your quest.

Aidan T

P.S. Only about 4% of all jobs are landed via the internet and on-line application (according to Lee Hecht Harrison – a career outplacement firm). That’s not to say that you don’t want to use this avenue, but you may want to consider a multiple contact approach instead of relying solely on on-line filing. And human resources departments don’t make hiring decisions. They are there to follow the orders of the hiring managers. Get your name and resume in front of as many people as possible, but your best bet is to connect with the hiring managers whenever possible.

AUTH: Peter Wirth
DATE: Tue, 22 Jul 2003

A couple suggestions:

  1. Go to a local pharmacy and ask the pharmacist if he/she can provide you with a couple of the reps for your area. Contact those reps and ask for District Manager or Regional manager names. Send them your resume.
  2. Try to spend a day with a rep so you get a better understanding of the business. This will help in interviews.
  3. You may have to target some of the smaller pharma companies to get your experience and foot in the door. You can then move on from there or stay with the small pharma house.
  4. Look on FDA website or other industry journals for companies that are getting new approvals and possibly expanding sales force.
  5. You may need to be flexible with location/geography…this is often strongly desired.
  6. Look at companies that hire out temp sales forces for pharma. (e.g. PDI.)

Hope this helps.

AUTH: Bob Owen
DATE: Tue, 22 Jul 2003
Another vote on this idea: “If you know physicians in your area, ask them if you can make a copy of the cards of all the reps that call on him…..You just need the opportunity to get in front of the right people, otherwise, you’re just a resume mixed in with the thousands of others they receive.”

I am a professor who has seen this method work. What is being suggested is that you develop a list of prospects who are are likely to be decision makers who need what you have for sale, or who can refer you to others if they don’t.

I had a student who had been a farm boy who, for whatever reason, wanted to work in the “containerboard industry.” He wanted to be the guy who sells those cardboard drums that hold feed. (True story!) During his Christmas break, he contacted anyone he could find in that industry, whether or not in a position to hire people, and when they said, “I’m have no responsibility for hiring,” he asked for a referral to someone who might or someone who might know someone who does in that or any other organization. He eventually got to meet a few people face to face during the break, and that lead to more referrals. By the time he graduated in May, he had his dream sales job in the containerboard industry.

The issue goes beyond simply side-stepping the HR people to locate someone who is willing to listen. If a student doesn’t have “real-world” sales experience, this process demonstrates directly to the person in authority that inate ability is present — planning and organization skills, persistence, and guts. If s/he cannot hire you now, s/he might just pick up the phone and call a colleague / competitor who can. The HR people could never detect this on a resume if you don’t have industry experience, so you will never get past them if you knock on their doors.

AUTH: Teresa Marshall
DATE: Tue, 22 Jul 2003
Hello everyone!

I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who were kind enough to take time out of your day to help a “newby” such as myself. I was truly touched by the number of responses I received. I hope it brings you a certain sense of happiness to know that you offered a “stranger” some help, and made a difference in (my) life!

Thank you so much!



Return to archive of selected discussion threads…