How to make a great impression in a Medical Science Liaison interview

Dr. Samuel Dyer is a former Medical Science Liaison and MSL manager who has held leadership roles in Medical Affairs for companies including Bristol Myers Squibb, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Abbott and Genentech.  He is the founder of Medical Science Liaison World, a website dedicated to providing career guidance for MSLs. I recently spoke with Dr. Dyer, and have offered to share some of his career advice with the readers here at the Your First Pharma Job blog.  In this article, Dr. Dyer gives some great suggestions for making a great impression at your medical science liaison job interview:

Keys to Researching Pharmaceutical, Biotech, or Medical Device Companies for a Medical Science Liaison Interview

by Dr. Samuel Dyer,

The key to successful interviewing is preparation. This preparation includes performing thorough research on the company that you will be interviewing with.  Too often MSL candidates seek to limit the research stage and as a result appear disinterested and uniformed during the interview process. Insufficient preparation can seriously jeopardize your chances of moving forward in the interview process and ultimately obtaining a job offer.

Areas of Research

Many hiring managers and other interviewers will disqualify those candidates who don’t seem to have in depth knowledge of the company and its products especially those that the MSL will be working with.  Your research should include:

  • What products the company manufactures – or if it is a big company, its blockbusters?
  • What is its history, mission and goals?
  • What is the company’s primary Therapeutic Area or Disease State focus?  Who are its primary customers?
  • Is the company a National company or does it maintain a global presence in its specific market or the Pharmaceutical Industry?
  • How large is the company in terms of number of employees and revenue generated?
  • How is it positioned in the industry so that it differentiates itself from its primary competitors?
  • Who is the leadership team composed of? What are their backgrounds?
  • How does the company carry out corporate responsibility in terms of social and environmental issues?
  • Find out if the company is on the Fortune 500 list and where it is positioned?  Find out how it was positioned in the prior year and ask why the change?

Thoroughly researching a company will prepare you to be able to confidently and accurately respond to questions regarding these topics. There are a wide range of research tools that MSL Candidates can utilize to research a pharmaceutical/biotech/medical device company.

Tools for Research

  • The company’s website for its history, mission, marketed products, research pipeline, organizational structure, and staff bios.
  • Read any press releases as they will highlight current news, such as new product offerings or staff changes.
  • Review industry-based publications not only to obtain information regarding your target company specifically but to obtain the latest news related to industry trends and issues.
  • Use Google alerts to stay current with regard to company news.
  • Use social media to keep current on company and industry news.  Follow key decision-makers on Twitter and search for their profile on LinkedIn.  Use Linked In groups to establish a presence and build rapport with company and industry insider.
  • Online directories such as Bloomberg and Standard & Poor’s also provide financial and market data on many types of businesses. 

Discuss the Research

At some point during almost every interview you will be asked to describe how well you fit into the company culture and values, along with what you know about the company beyond the information contained on the company website. If you have performed sufficient research, this will give you an opportunity to potentially stand out from other less prepared candidates by allowing you discuss and share relevant responses to these questions. Taking the time to show interest in potential employers will likely result in their showing interest in you as well.

Whether you’ve succeeded in getting a job interview, or are still in the process of conducting informational interviews, you can use this advice to boost your knowledge and show off your awareness of the key issues facing individual companies and the industry as a whole.  It’s a great strategy for making the best possible impression and boosting your chances of getting your first pharma job.

Posted: July 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Interviewing, Medical Science Liaisons | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

How to prepare for a career as a medical science liaison

Medical Science Liaison jobs are often seen as the “Golden Ticket” for advanced degree holders looking at career options in the pharmaceutical industry. The thought of receiving a six-figure salary to travel from place to place discussing the latest scientific research is incredibly alluring, and many PhDs and postdocs see the skill sets required as a “perfect match” for their own experiences carrying out research and making presentations. But for most, MSL jobs remain out of reach, because they don’t think carefully about what the industry is looking for in applicants.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: February 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Marketing, Medical Science Liaisons, networking, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »