1. I am in college. What can I do to enhance my odds of being hired as a pharmaceutical rep?

Study hard and get good grades. There are many more applicants than open positions and the drug companies can afford to be picky. If you have an outstanding GPA, it tells the drug company that you are a hard worker and a disciplined student - two valuable traits.

Also, get involved in campus activities such as student-government or intramural sports -- these activities show that you are a team player and that you can get along with people.

Also, I strongly suggest that you take a life-science course or two to demonstrate that you enjoy learning scientific subject matter.

It is also a good idea to get some sales experience during the summer vacation or during the academic year. Sales experience is not an absolute prerequisite, but it can only help you land that job.

2. What are the pros and cons of working at a small pharmaceutical company versus one of the biggies?

There are a lot of advantages to working for a small pharmaceutical company. First of all, a small company may be more willing to take a chance on somebody with less experience.

It is easier for you to shine and advance at small pharmaceutical companies. Also, small pharmaceutical companies can become big pharmaceutical companies very rapidly. Small companies offer stock options as incentive to stay with them long-term. Often, small companies get acquired by larger companies, and the original stockholders get wealthy.

However, working for a small pharmaceutical company is riskier than working for a big one. If your company has a small stable of products, that means you have all your eggs in one basket.

Small pharmaceutical companies don't provide big expense accounts for entertaining clients, and you don't have as much marketing support. Also, the territories are bigger so you have to drive more. Instead of working a territory that's 3 hours end-to-end, your territory may be an entire state.

3. What should I bring to an interview?

It's a matter of opinion, but I wouldn't focus too heavily on a "brag book" full of your accomplishments. You should certainly bring a pen and something to write on, as well as additional copies of your resume. Also, bring your PMA ( pharmaceutical industry jargon for Positive Mental Attitude).

Make sure that you are on time, etc. There are many interview books and articles out there that go into detail regarding interview etiquette.

Go over your resume because the interviewer should have a copy in front oh him as he interviews you. Make sure you know the timelines of your employment or schooling.

You should look professional and well groomed.

4. What is a ride-along?
What is proper etiquette for a ride-along?

A ride along is where you ride with an experienced sales representative for an entire day. You are the representative's shadow.

You two go into each doctor's office together. On ride-alongs you get a good idea of what your day will look like if you get hired.

In the eight hours together, the two of you will talk, have lunch together, etc.

Did you ever hear the phrase " there is no such thing as a stupid question?" This does not apply to ride-alongs. Don't ask stupid questions that may give your host the wrong impression of yourself.

5. I have been on several interviews but received no offers. What could I be doing wrong?

If I knew the answer to this question, I would just wave my magic wand and give everyone who wanted one a job in pharmaceutical sales. I can't diagnose your problem, but I do recommend you take a good look at yourself.

This is a really tough question. There may be something that you are doing or saying that you are not aware of that leads the interviewer(s) to believe that you are not a good match.

6. I have tried to network, by collecting business cards of current pharmaceutical sales representatives, but none of the doctors or pharmacists in my town will give me any. What do I do next?

I have heard that statement a couple of times. My answer is that you need to be more resourceful. You have to use your imagination. I can think of 10 different ways of getting your hands on pharmaceutical sales reps' business cards and telephone numbers.

Networking is a skill that pharmaceutical sales representatives have to be good at after they are hired as well.

In a way, being able to obtain contact information of pharmaceutical reps is a test of the same skills you will use if you are fortunate enough to land a position as a rep.

7. What is a Job-Fair? How useful are they?

The problem with job-fairs is that they can be very crowded and have really long lines, so be patient even if the line is out the door. You are the gem, the job fair is the setting.

Job fairs are very useful. A company will usually not hold or participate a job-fair unless they have an acute need for candidates.

A job-fair is probably the 2nd best way of landing a job, after personal recommendation based upon networking.

Don't try to squeeze in a job fair into your lunch hour. Block off at least three or four hours minimum.

8. Should I accept a contract sales position if my real goal is to work directly for a drug company?

That's a matter of personal choice. Contract reps are highly regarded, although the pay and prestige level may not be as high at first. Working as a contract rep could be a great transition into your job of choice.

Contract reps that are good workers have the perfect opportunity to network their way into their dream-job. They can wait and choose the perfect territory rather than grab the first opening that comes up like you and me.

The contract companies are an integral part of the industry. Most new product launches employ contract reps for added share of voice. The biggest are PDI and Ventiv.

9. What is a contract sales company?

A contract sales company, such as Ventiv (formerly known as Snyder Healthcare) or Innovex is an organization that hires and then leases employees to a drug company. The drug companies "lease" the sales representatives for a contracted period of time, usually 2 years. They work along-side the sales reps of the drug company that has them under contract.

Drug companies contract pharmaceutical sales representatives to provide extra noise level for their products at a reasonable cost. Sometimes, the contracted sales-force is paid an hourly wage rather than a salary. Their benefit and bonus structure can differ from their associates who work for the drug company.

10. How many sales calls are you required to make each day?

As many as possible. In this business
, the more time you spend in front of the customer, the more successful you will be. The successful reps I know make a minimum of 10 calls per day. Some make considerably more.

There is a direct correlation between the number of doctors you see and your effectiveness, so it behooves you to learn your territory well and make lots of calls.

Some companies want you to make a minimum of twelve calls per day. Some companies want a minimum of eight calls per day. Your manager will articulate her minimum call-activity expectations in a very clear manner.

The longer you are in the territory, the easier it becomes to make lots of calls. If the receptionists and other gate-keepers like you, they get you in to see the doctor quickly.

You can count on your company to give you lots of goodies such as pens, hand lotion and other door-openers to fortify your relationship with the gate-keepers.

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