I’ve been given permission to share another article from Dr. Samuel Dyer, the founder of the MSL World career site dedicated to the medical science liaison role. Here, he provides some advice about cover letters. Dr. Dyer worked as an MSL manager for many years — it’s great to get the perspective of a hiring manager.
5 Strategies for Creating an Attention-Grabbing Medical Science Liaison Cover Letter
By Dr. Samuel Dyer
“Attached you will find my resume for the position of_______”. How many cover letters have you created and submitted that included such a standard opening? How many other candidates do you think have done the same? Put yourself in the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s position and imagine how tedious it must be to read submission after submission with these same or similar words.
Recruiters can easily receive 100’s of cover letters and resumes for each advertised MSL opening. As a result, your cover letter needs to grab the attention of the recruiter or hiring manager very quickly. Most employers will only spend a matter of seconds during an initial pre-screening or review of your cover letter. If it doesn’t grab their attention in some way, it will be discarded.
What strategy can you use to catch the attention of the recruiter or hiring manager? You need to use an attention-grabbing relevant opening while simultaneously remaining professional. In short, write something that will motivate the reader to learn more about you.
Here are five unconventional strategies to create an attention-grabbing opening:
1. Mention a previous discussion with the hiring manager
Obviously you can only pursue this tactic if you have spoken with this person. However, if you had shared such a conversation you have a distinct advantage. Start the letter by referring to this prior contact.
Example: “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me regarding the MSL role in the __________therapeutic area. This position is very interesting and seems to match well with my experiences and to what you and the company are looking for.”
2. Mention the name of the person who referred you
Recruiters and hiring managers are much more likely to remember a cover letter when it mentions a trusted colleague or friend.
Example: “Hello, my name is ______ and I received your name and contact details from John Smith. I am contacting you to learn more about the MSL role with _____ Pharmaceuticals that you are working on”.
3. Open the letter with a description of a major (and relevant) success
Concisely describe this major accomplishment and point out how you can achieve similar results for their company.
Example: “As a senior MSL with _______ Pharmaceuticals in CV, I was able to develop and manage significant KOL relationships which resulted in _____________. I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you regarding the MSL role in (CV or specific drug) with ______ Pharmaceuticals.” (You need to match and relate your background, accomplishments, pre-existing KOL relationships within the same Therapeutic Area, or any other relevant experiences to the needs of the role and company you are applying to.)
4. Quote the hiring manager directly
If the hiring manager has been interviewed in the media or has posted a comment to a social media site or blog, quote the statement in your letter and highlight how your business practices and values are aligned.
Example: “In a recent interview you had with _________, you stated, “the MSL role continues to evolve as a greater number of KOLs increasingly recognize the important contribution that MSLs can make in the development of their research projects.” After reading this statement, I was confident that my relevant MSL experience of documented history of successfully working with KOLs on numerous research projects would be valued at __________ Pharmaceuticals.
5. Quote a recent industry article or statistic
Quoting an article or statistic relevant to the specific company or industry demonstrates your knowledge of industry trends, latest news, or recent developments.
Example: “The recent (for example-specific Medical Journal reference) article stated that ________ Pharmaceuticals CNS product (or drug) went into phase III trials for the treatment of severe pain. Having relevant experience of worked with two pain products in phase III trials while at _________ Pharmaceuticals, will enable me to play a critical role in assisting the company to be successful in this important step.”
The first paragraph should make it clear how your background and experiences fit well with the role and how you can add value to the team. If possible, try to make a connection with the company, the hiring manager, a mutual colleague, or some other relevance to your background to grab the attention of the reader.
Obviously, the most important factor that a hiring manager considers when screening applicants is that the candidate meets the minimum requirements for the role. However, when several candidates meet the initial criteria, one way to distinguish yourself is to write a unique cover letter to grab the attention of the reader to motivate them to arrange a telephone interview or screen.
If you’re not already working as a medical science liaison, you may be despairing that several of Dr. Dyer’s examples are written from the perspective of an experienced MSL. It’s true that without direct experience, it will be that much harder to grab the attention of a hiring manager in your cover letter. You’ll have to find other examples from your experience that illustrate the same objectives as the MSL role, such as your abilities to understand the clinical implications of new research, to build relationships, and to effectively communicate with scientific leaders.