Pharmaceutical Sales Job Interview Questions and Answers


Promote pharmaceutical drug sales by forging relationships with physicians, hospitals and managed care organizations. Through one-on-one sales presentations, group discussions and educational programs, a sales  representative presents the latest in medical news and treatment programs. 

Candidates require strong interpersonal skills, a team orientation and a mature, resilient outlook. Additional qualities include  strong analytical and communications skills.  Experience in the pharmaceutical industry and in advertising, marketing and sales, recent college graduates, and those with advanced business degrees are encouraged to apply.

 Sample Interview Questions and Answers with Explanation and Tips

What is your perception of a typical day for a pharmaceutical representative?

The Hiring Manager is looking for your perception of what the representative does every day. They are also looking for work ethic (working early, late) and commitment to getting the job done. The more you can parallel what you are currently doing to the pharmaceutical representative’s day, the better off you are. Show them you have done research and have spoken with someone in the industry.

*Note: If you can ride with a representative do that. This is a selling position-DO NOT SAY THIS IS A PUBLIC RELATIONS POSITION. Do NOT answer, “Drop samples and have dialogue with physicians.” Your interview is dead with that answer

I have an idea of what the day is like for a pharmaceutical representative and I think it parallels some of what my normal day is like. As a representative I would see as many of my assigned physicians as possible and sell them on why they should use my drug over the competition. I know some physicians are difficult to reach, so I would try to catch them early (6-7AM) in the hospital or after hours, like I have to do with some of my customers.

Some days I would utilize a lunch to better impact difficult to see physicians. After 5:00 PM I would enter my calls in the computer (or after each call) and pick up e-mails. At night I would look over pre-call planning for my next day. I don’t know if you entertain physicians like I do with my customers currently but I would do some entertaining at night (restaurant) or on the weekends, (golf, hunting, fishing)-whatever it takes to beat my numbers.

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of a pharmaceutical representative?

Again, The Hiring Manager is really trying to determine if you know the true challenges a representative faces daily. They are also trying to determine if you have the skills to meet these challenges.

Well number one, I think its probably getting quality time with the physician to impact prescribing behavior. Another challenge I think you would face is there are physicians that don’t see representatives. You have to be creative in finding a way to gain access to them. If you are currently in sales and face these obstacles in your present job, be sure to add this to your answer.

You are given a territory and a list of physicians to call on. How would you organize and prioritize your call schedule?

The Hiring Manager wants to determine that you set your priorities based on the greatest return on time invested. You should organize your territory based on calling on the customers with the greatest sales potential. He is looking to see if you know the “80/20″rule. Eighty percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers. Your goal is to find the 20 percent as quickly as you can. After the 20 percent has been contacted you move down the list and work on developing new clients.

I would analyze my territory, and determine the accounts that have the greatest sales potential. I would quickly work to determine my most profitable 20 percent of my clients. Once they have been contacted and I feel comfortable with my relationship with these clients, I would then work the rest of my customers and develop new clients.

Tell me about your last manager. Did you like him/her? If I was your manager, what is the best way to coach/mentor you to success? What qualities should a successful manager possess? Describe the relationship that should exist between the supervisor and those reporting to him or her?

The Hiring Manger is looking to see if he can work with you. The Hiring Manager is also looking at your perception of authority, your willingness to learn, how you handle criticism, and how you like to be managed. The Hiring Manager needs to know how to manage each of his/her sales representatives and provide the support and or tools to help the sales representative meet the goals. The relationship that should exist between the manager and sales representative should be open, honest, encouraging, and accountable on both sides. Be careful on how you answer this question. Again, no former manager bashing allowed!

I liked my manager and we had a positive working relationship. We had similar thought processes on how to run my territory and how to best manage me. The best way to manage me is to give me all the tools (training, funding) necessary to be successful. Then let me run my territory in a way to exceed expectations. I would like a manager who periodically rides with me so he/she can understand my account and provide open constructive criticism. I view my territory as my own business and take accountability for its performance. I feel the successful qualities in a manager are as follows: high expectations, openness, honesty, excellent communication skills and the ability to assist me in my career development and goal attainment. I want an open and candid relationship with my manager.

How do you think you would get a Physician to switch to your drug?

The Hiring Manger is looking for sales skills and your strategic process in dealing with physicians.

First, I would NOT expect the physician to make a sudden change to my drug if he is happy with the drug he is currently prescribing. I am going to have to start small and expand his usage (nibble away market share). I would determine what influences his behavior: reprints, speaker programs, peers, and formularies. I would use a combination of the appropriate tools to gain physician agreement on my drug’s effectiveness. After this, I would gain commitment from him to use the drug on a specific patient type. After the physician has tried my drug on this patient type, I would get him to notice the success on this patient when the patient comes back in for a follow up visit. When the physician admitted efficacy, I would then gain commitment for use in other patient types. This is comparable with my current business.

 Some Additional Questions:

  1. Why did you decide pharmaceutical sales would be the right career for you?

This is the most basic of questions, but you are almost certain to be asked this question. While people interviewing for other types of positions are asked why they decided on their career choice, it is very important that you answer this question correctly for a pharmaceutical sales interview.

First tell them that you love selling and site examples where you have done this even if you haven’t been employed as a salesperson. Mention instances where you persuaded someone to “buy in” to your ideas, etc. That is selling! Mention that you have always been highly motivated, energetic, and enthusiastic. Successful sales people have all of these qualities as well as being creative and resourceful. Be prepared to cite examples where you displayed these behavioral characteristics.

Next, expound upon why pharmaceutical sales would be right for you. This is a good time to pull out the information that you have collected during your research. You can explain how stable the industry is, how exciting it would be to be part of such a dynamic field, and one where the opportunity to help thousands of people is a reality. State that this would give you tremendous job satisfaction. Also let them know that you realize the opportunities for personal and professional growth are tremendous with pharmaceutical sales companies. You will thrive on the daily challenges of performing a pharmaceutical sales representatives job. (This would be a great time to mention the “field preceptorship” and how much you enjoyed your day in the representative’s territory!) The research you have done on their company and the industry, and the extra effort you have put forth to spend a day in the field to see for yourself what a pharmaceutical sales representative does will give you tremendous credibility. You will be viewed as a serious candidate!

  1. What is your current occupation?

Give an honest answer, but highlight any area of responsibility that you may have which would be seen as a benefit for someone in pharmaceutical sales. This would be a good time to show the “Career Comparison” information that you have placed in your Personal Presentation Binder. You will have already compared your job responsibilities to that of a pharmaceutical sales representative. Were you responsible for marketing a product or idea to others? Have you analyzed a “buyer” to determine that buyer’s potential? Do you have daily contact with physicians or other medical personnel in your day-to-day activities? These are excellent job responsibility areas to compare with pharmaceutical sales job responsibilities. Be careful not to make a negative statement. Always expect to be asked to prove any statement that you make!

  1. I see you have held several different positions over the last five years? Can you explain why?

The obvious objective in this question is to determine whether you are a “job-hopper.” Training and educating pharmaceutical sales representatives is very time-consuming and expensive. A bad choice would yield an ineffective pharmaceutical sales representative and one that would potentially leave the job “undone” because that person has again decided to do something else. The district manager will attempt to ascertain whether you are a dependable person and whether you do indeed really want a career that offers upward mobility. He must be convinced that you will stay and work smart. If you have changed positions in order to increase the challenge of your job and allow upward mobility, then that is an excellent reason for changing jobs. Career transitions or job transitions made to increase compensation for your work is another good reason.

  1. When did you decide to pursue a pharmaceutical sales career position?

You might reply that after your extensive research into this career field including actually going on a field preceptorship, that you believe this a perfect career for you. Then you must explain why it is perfect for you. It is perfect because you thrive on the type of challenges faced by pharmaceutical sales representatives! You want to make a difference at a job you are certain you will love. Pharmaceutical sales is a perfect match for your personality and work experience. Then supply proof for your statement.

  1. How long having you been seeking employment in the pharmaceutical sales industry?

Your answer here will be important. You have the opportunity to make yourself look good with the right answer. If you have been looking for a position for a long time, six months or more, then you need to present yourself as a tenacious person who never gives up because you are absolutely certain that you are the right person for the job. Whether you have been granted interviews will matter, because the district manager will wonder why you didn’t gain the position if you interviewed. On the other hand, if you didn’t gain an interview that means you failed the first sales test. Perhaps you turned a position down because of location. That’s a good reason to decline. If you’ve just started looking for a pharmaceutical sales position and you’ve already gained interviews, it’s because you are impressive, on paper and in person.

  1. How does your current or former job experience compare to pharmaceutical sales?
  2. What was your rating on your last Performance Management Review?
  3. How would you describe “selling?”
  4. Name five reasons why you believe you would be a good pharmaceutical sales representative.
  5. Have you interviewed with other companies?
  6. How do you feel about working on your own most of the time?
  7. Why should we hire you over other candidates?

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