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Job-Search Strategies: Real Estate to Pharmaceutical Sales (Career Change)

One of the largest challenges facing career changes is going from one industry to the next.  Working with a recent clients, we came to the conclusion that with some ingenuity and persistence, even large obstacles are nothing more than “paper walls” when approached at them from a different angle.

(1) How many interviews did you attend?  Provide an overview of the timeline between interviews; position title of who conducted each interview; and, what progressed after each meeting?

I initially became aware of the opening and applied immediately by submitting a resume and cover letter.  I received a phone call from a recruiter with the company almost a week later.  She wanted to do a pre-screening over the phone and then if she felt I was qualified enough or liked my answers she would set up an interview with the district manager (DM) that following Tuesday. Her big questions were, “Why do you want to get into Pharmaceutical Sales?” and “Why this particular company?”  She was pleased with my questions and set up the interview for a week later.

My first interview with the DM lasted an hour and he asked basic questions nothing too overwhelming – again, “Why Pharmaceuticals and Why this company?”  He wanted to get an understanding of what I currently do and how I thought some of those skills would transition into the industry.  I made an immediate connection with him; we knew some of the same people.  I then received a phone call that same day, several hours later, from the same recruiter to schedule a second interview.  I was VERY shocked when I heard back the same day I had interviewed, it was something I was not used to at all.

The DM again held the second interview, I was told to have my brag book and that the interview would last 1.5 hours and it would be a situational interview.  For example, “Tell me a time when such and such happened,” “What did you do,” and “What was the outcome.”  I was told at the first interview there were about 15-20 people being interviewed, and at the second interview, he had already cut it down to 4.  I was told by the DM after the second interview he was going to narrow it down to 2 candidates.  Again, I was called later the same day I interviewed. This time I was called by the DM, he informed me I had been selected to be one of the two candidates remaining.

The next morning, the DM asked me if I could do a ride along with another rep that following day – 2 hours away. Of course I agreed.  I was also asked by him to take an on-line profiling test.

After the ride along I was told by the DM he would call me at the beginning of the following week.  After not hearing from him, I decided to follow up with him the next afternoon.  After hearing back from him a couple hours after my call, he asked if I could be available to meet the regional manager, and if I could have a 1 to 1.5-page autobiography prepared.

The interview with the RM (DM was also there) lasted over 2 hours and was pretty intense. He repeated some of the questions the DM had asked but also asked a lot of questions about the ride along and what I learned and found challenging. He also questioned my science grades in college because they were primarily B’s and even more C’s. I just stayed positive throughout the interview and reminded him of all my strengths. After the interview I was told I would be called again at the beginning of the week. The same day of the third interview, I was called by corporate to schedule a drug test. I was then called by the DM and offered the job.

(2) Was there something specific that helped you compete aggressively in this highly sought after industry?

First off, having my resume professionally written.  I learned quickly the reason why so many people don’t have any luck with finding jobs on-line is because they don’t know the “tricks.”  I am completely convinced that you may be the best person for a particular job but never in a million years get the chance to get face to face with someone because your resume doesn’t contain the keywords that recruiters and employers are looking for.  I found that my resume was looked at in a 3-month period over 100 times AFTER I had it professionally written.

I also differentiated myself in interviews by doing creative presentations, things I thought others wouldn’t do.  I tried to “think outside the box,” something managers really like in reps.

One other big thing was locating a rep in my area.  I quickly got the reps phone number, called her, asked a lot of questions about the job, and what I could expect in the interviewing process.  Before I knew it, I had another person supporting me through the process, as well as giving me a good recommendation to the DM.  I had never even met this person! I  guess what I’m trying to say is, try to find out as much as you can about the interviewer, interview them as well.  You will be surprised as to what you’ll learn about them.  Also, don’t forget to tell everyone you know who you are interviewing with or who you would like to interview with, chances are they know someone in the company!

(3) What part of the process did you find particularly difficult?

The waiting, although I got called back pretty quickly.  Also, never knowing what sort of assignment would be thrown at me. Another difficult aspect was sitting in an interview for as long as two hours.  It was draining, and many times, I had to think quickly.

(4) How much time passed from the beginning of your job search until accepting your new position as pharmaceutical sales rep?

I accepted the position approximately 13 weeks after beginning my job-search.  I did interview with three other companies as well; two with pharmaceutical companies and the other was a skin care company. 

(5) What advice would you offer to someone targeting this type of position?

Be prepared!  Research the company, know about the industry in general: what attracts you to it, etc. Get an idea of what sort of questions they will ask you.  I really studied the questions in Cracking the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales.  Also, try and set yourself apart.  Do something different, be creative.  Stay positive, persistent, and try to really connect with the person interviewing you – remember they are just like you and I … they have a family, hobbies etc.  One last thing that I learned was they like to know you are money motivated, and they like to know you are a competitive person who strives to be the best!

Oh, and I almost forgot something very important to share.  Don’t assume that if you don’t have prior experience in pharmaceuticals or a medical background that you won’t get the job.  The other candidate that I was competing against currently sells medical devises and they chose me having no prior experience!

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