New global Medical Science Liaison Society launches

Dr. Samuel Dyer, founder of the MSL World career site for medical science liaisons, has asked me to share the following release regarding the launch of the first ever global Medical Science Liaison Society.

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Posted: November 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Medical Science Liaisons | Tags: , | No Comments »

Effective cover letters for Medical Science Liaison jobs

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.


Posted: August 9th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Medical Science Liaisons, Resumes & CVs | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

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, MSLWorld.com

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: , , , , | No Comments »

Medical Science Liaison careers: a cautionary view

Following my post the other day on preparing for a medical science liaison career, Jane Chin of the MSL Institute drew my attention to a cautionary note that she has for PhDs tempted by this career path:

I’m writing this in 2009, but I’ve been seeing Medical Science Liaison programs eliminated and entire teams laid off ever since late 2006. There are many MSLs who have experience and don’t have jobs right now. There are many more who are worried about their jobs. The reality is that at most companies, the MSL function is seen as a cost-center, and a heavy one at that. It can be easy to justify cutting heads from the MSL team to save the company money, or when the company’s drugs go generic, or when an investigational drug approval process gets interrupted.

Any PhD who enters the Medical Science Liaison career should consider the “what if’s”, especially in today’s times. What if I lose my job as a MSL? What are my alternatives? If an academic track has been this difficult for postdocs, what additional difficulties will this route present now that I’ve been out of the academic scene for a few years?

From my perspective, I suspect most of the PhDs who are interested in Medical Science Liaison jobs and other careers in pharma have already made the decision that a life in the laboratory isn’t right for them, so while the difficulty in returning to research is a real consideration, it probably isn’t one that weighs very heavily. And an MSL’s role, positioned as it is at the interface between clinical development, medical affairs and marketing, offers a number of possible exit strategies for continued career development in the event of layoffs. Nonetheless, Jane’s note is sobering and everyone, PhD or not, pursuing any career in pharma should go in with eyes wide open to the risks inherent in this sometimes chaotic industry.

You can read the entirety of Jane’s note, and find out more about her thoughts on MSL careers at the Medical Science Liaison Institute website.


Posted: February 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: 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.

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Posted: February 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Marketing, Medical Science Liaisons, networking, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »