on the PharmBoard.com Message Boards asks . . .”When I go in for an interview, I like to know the drugs that particular company sells as well as the competitors’ drugs. How do I research the drugs and their competitors?”
That’s a great question glinton, and it’s one that many people seeking a job in pharmaceutical sales either ignore or let scare them from the industry altogether. For those with scientific backgrounds, most often the issue is not understanding the science or knowing where to find the information, it’s translating the scientific information into the features and benefits that are used to sell the product. For those non-science folks out there, it is often easy to make the translation to features and benefits once the science is understood. In this article, we’ll take a look at the steps needed to allow both science geniuses and non-science geniuses to succeed.
Start at the Beginning – While you’re waiting for the phone to ring . . . get busy!
Unless you are from a medical background, you probably aren’t very familiar with many of the medicines that are out there and who makes them. These simple tips will give you an edge over your competition when your pharma sales interview rolls around.
- Keep a small notepad on your endtable. While you are watching TV, write down the names of drugs that you see being advertised. If you’re feeling really froggy, see if you can determine the exact message that the company is trying to get across in the ad. Most ads have 2-5 high points they want to get across.
- Repeat the process with magazines. Nearly everyone has a stack of magazines lying around. They don’t even have to be the newest issues – so long as their not more that a year old. Again, pick out the high points of the message
- Because you have more time with magazine ads, you should definately be able to determine the high points.
- If you own the magazine, tear out the article and create a file for the company that makes the drug (this name will be listed somewhere on the ad)
- Staple another piece of paper to the ad and label that page ‘Competitors’. On the outside of the folder start a list of all the drugs made by that company.
- If you have any question about whether or not to add something in your folder, add it. Few things make a bigger impact on an interviewer than for you to show him/her how much homework you’ve done.
- Because companies only advertise products they are interested in selling, it makes perfect sense that you will be selling a drug that you see in one of these ads
Dig a Little Deeper – Sniffing out the competition.
You’ll quickly find out that this research can snowball in a hurry. Be sure to stay organized during the following steps or all your work will be in vain.
- Pick an ad, any ad and start searching for it’s class or therapeutic category (i.e. Zoloft is in the SSRI class of drugs and it’s major category is Antidepressant). If you can’t find that information on your magazine ad, do a search for the medicine on a site like . This will give you some early reading about the drug.
- Use the class and therapeutic category information to branch out and find the competition. Again, sites like Drugstore.com generate near perfect results for this information. Don’t believe me? Go to and type SSRI in the search box.
- If you find drugs or companies that you don’t have folders or pages about, add them now.
Take It and Run – There’s plenty here to keep you busy.
The cheif complaint that many pharma sales job seekers have is that it takes too long to get an interview. Just think about it this way . . . every day that you wait for an interview is another day you can prepare to impress the pants off of your interviewer. There is absolutely no reason anyone should go into the typical pharma sales interview unprepared. As you learn more and more about the products, don’t be afraid to go to the scientific literature and familiarize yourself with the main articles used to promote the drug (these will be listed in the drug’s package insert which is available on the manufacturing company’s website).
Freebies – if you put in the work, there’s no catch.
The best news for many is the ancillary benefits that result from you doing all this research.
- Imagine sitting in an informational interview and talking intelligently with your networking contact about a drug that she promotes. You can ask questions about common areas of concern that their customers have, the competitions’ spin on the products, and more.
- What if one of your networking contacts looked at his district manager and said, “Hey Boss, you know that resume I sent you the other day? That guy knows his stuff. The amount of research he has done on our products is amazing.”
The research is simple really. If you stay organized , start at the beginning, and drill down, you will find that what you learn will enable you to enter the interview with confidence and conviction. Ultimately, it is these two things that will seal the deal and put you on your way to the pharmaceutical sales job you want.
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