pharmaceutical sales interview questions

Pharmaceutical sales: typical interview questions and how to answer

Pharmaceutical career sales interview questions

What are the common pharmaceutical sales interview questions that you should think through before attending the interview? But first, have you thought of how the pharmaceutical industry connects with the prescribing doctors? The pharmaceutical sales representative acts as the bridge between the pharma companies and the doctor/pharmacist.

The reason being is that most countries/markets do not allow direct to patient advertising, therefore the way that prescription medicine can be increased is through message delivery of the drug to the prescriber. Sales is one of the entry tracks to join the pharmaceutical industry and before you attend any interviews, it would be great to think of the below typical interview questions that you should expect.

1st usual pharmaceutical sales interview question

The interview process is some what similar with sales position in other industries, however there are key differing points which is covered at the end. The typical first question is like any other industry, “Tell me more about yourself.” The interviewer is seeking to see whether you are naturally able to communicate and create a conversation. Try to make the interviewer comfortable and describe yourself based on your professional experience. Continue to speak until you see the signal that the interviewer would like to ask the next question.

You should typically spend at least 2-3 minutes describing your past professional experience bearing in mind that what the interviewer is seeking for is your ability to create an interesting discussion. Your background should also relate to why are you interested in pharmaceutical sales.

Key point to answer: What interests you most about a career in pharmaceutical sales?

What is your sales experience?

If you are coming from a sales background, you are certainly at an advantage here. You would know that you have to highlight your achievements in the past including growth based on your actions you took, territory business planning and recognition/awards that your past company may have given you. This could include “Best Sales Person of the year”, “Best Presenter” and “Best Product Knowledge”.

What do you do if you are a from a non-sales background? The hiring manager is trying to find out is how well and how quick you can connect with people. As with the sales job, you are required to quickly speak to the doctor or pharmacist whom you have not met before and strike the conversation with confidence.

What you should do here is to give examples of how you have communicated with others. For fresh graduates, you can point to school activities, debates, student body activities and such.

Key point to answer: How well can you influence people? 

How well can you understand basic science behind the disease area?

The question might not be direct word for word, “How well can you understand the disease area?” But that is the question behind the interviewer’s mind to judge the interviewee’s ability in understanding the science/disease area. In most companies, they would give you an opportunity to read on the disease area that the company is involved in and present 10 minutes on your understanding of the disease based on your personal effort. This is important to do demonstrate that you can take in facts and communicate the idea to the interviewer that you have basic grasp of science.

Here is where you would shine if you have done much research on the disease area that the prospective position will be in charge of. If you are not asked formally to present the disease area, make an effort to show what you have researched for the pharmaceutical sales interview. This will be a plus point to the interviewer that shows personal initiative and the interest in flourishing in the sales job.

Be careful not to make a mistake on misrepresenting/misinterpreting facts, otherwise this would work against you. In any case, you would not want to be caught being confident based on wrong facts, as that is a major turnoff for your customers who are doctors and pharmacist, who really do know their stuff.

Key point to answer: Are you interested in understanding the disease? Can you communicate the clinical data to health care professionals?

What is your experience presenting to an audience?

The next question would be how well can you present to an audience and your past experience. This is pretty straight forward and show the relevant experience. What is important is that you answer the question in the mind of the interviewer, “How well can this person convince a group of doctors based on clinical data?”

It is a routine part of the job to be able to confidently and accurately deliver the key selling message of the product based on clinical trial data. Product knowledge is the key factor for a pharmaceutical representative be successfully convince the prescriber.

Key point to answer: Can you confidently present data to a group of healthcare professionals?

Give examples of being a team player

The question would be, “What are examples of team work and how well do you work with a team that you had in the past?” Here, the interviewer would like to know how well can you work with the sales team which are a bunch of confident, individuals with high passion for the product and energetic. Be sure to also think of examples of how you handled conflict in the past as friction between the sales team might be high during competitiveness between the territories.

Key point to answer: Can this person add synergy to the team? Is there a tendency to disrupt the team spirit?

Business ethics

The typical question here, “Would you compromise integrity to achieve higher sales even when management forces you to it for the sake of business?” This question revolves around business ethics and it is a major red flag if your answer is yes. You might be pushed hard and given a lot of pressure on this during the pharmaceutical sales interview.

Under no circumstance, you should be pressured to act differently regardless of the coercion from  superiors. The rationale is that pharmaceutical is highly regulated and for good reason, as it related to the well being of another human life.

Therefore, always conduct yourself in a professional manner to safeguard the interest of the company. The company is liable for huge fines and litigation even if there is a small remote chance of being implicated in promoting the product in the wrong way. Never say anything that is not based on facts and not based on the official approved promoted label.

Key point to answer: Can this person be trusted to have high integrity even under pressure?

Understanding how the mind of the hiring manager works will be a guide to succeed in the pharmaceutical sales interview. Address each concern well and you may well have many more than one offer at hand. Read here on how to decide which job to select before accepting.

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