6 Tips to Rewriting Your Resume for Pharmaceutical Sales

Pharmaceutical sales is an immensely popular industry in the U.S. and abroad, both because of the excellent earning potential and the fact that sales reps often have the opportunity to create their own schedule rather than being tied down nine-to-five in an office. There is also a lot of growth in the field, from sales representative to district manager to regional or territory manager and finally to corporate roles.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that hundreds, even thousands, of resumes are received each month by pharmaceutical recruiters and the HR offices of pharmaceutical companies.

So how is someone supposed to stand out?

Well, the first thing is experience. If you have a strong background in sales, especially pharmaceutical sales or medical sales, you’ve got an edge — maybe. Like everything else, there isn’t one hard rule on the ideal pharmaceutical sales candidate. For example, some companies prefer candidates without any industry experience — at least for those more entry-level positions — because they prefer new hires go through the company’s training program to learn their way.

But what about those job seekers who don’t come from one of the top two backgrounds? In those cases, it’s essential to highlight the pertinent, transferable skills you do have in such a way so that you attract the attention of hiring professionals. Let’s look at how you can do this.

1. What’s on The Pharmaceuticals’ Wish List? This step involves identifying what skills and backgrounds companies look for in potential pharmaceutical sales reps and determining which ones you have, so that you can highlight them in your resume. Examples might be previous sales experience, account management, event management, communications, psychology, and customer service. If you are a recent college graduate, finding your transferable skills might be harder, so look beyond the classroom. Were you involved in fundraising activities? Work a retail job in the summer? Complete advanced projects for a particular class?

You might be wondering how some of these things are related to sales, but if you think carefully, you’ll see that transferable skills are not always obvious but they are important. For instance, a background in psychology prepares a person for using subtle phrases and strategies to mold their opinion on something, such as a product, or to spot non-verbal clues to how a person is feeling about a product. Event management can be important because many pharmaceutical sales roles involve arranging meetings, lectures, and presentations with medical staff. Fund raising is a type of sales that is even harder to do than most – you’re trying to get people to give you money and get nothing in return!

2. Turning Your Experience into Keywords. Now that you’ve identified your skills, it’s time to craft the proper phrasing in the resume. It’s essential that you incorporate industry-specific keywords when you describe your experience and skills. What are some important keywords for pharmaceutical sales? Sales and Marketing, Account Management, Territory Management, Revenue Growth, Relationship Management, Customer Service, and Presentations, just to name a few. You can find plenty of the most common ones just by reading a handful of pharmaceutical sales rep job descriptions. But building keywords into your resume goes beyond the obvious. Sales is all about personality, so think about the attributes a good sales person has. They are aggressive without being obnoxious, they see ‘nos’ as opportunities, they are experts at the products they sell, and they are personable and friendly. While you don’t want to focus too much on personality in a resume, you can usually sneak in some ‘soft’ skills:

Aggressive but friendly Sales Professional with consistent history of penetrating and acquiring accounts.

Even if you don’t have pharmaceutical or medical sales experience, that is a sentence that will appeal to just about any hiring manager when they see it at the top of your resume.

3. Branding Statements & Taglines.  A one or two-line branding statement will do wonders for your resume, and can help set you apart from other candidates. A good branding statement can be crafted by taking your 15-second elevator pitch (you do have one for your interview, don’t you?) and reworking it so that it gives someone a great idea of who you are. Remember our sample keyword sentence from earlier?

Aggressive but friendly Sales Professional with consistent history of penetrating and acquiring accounts.

That’s an excellent branding statement for a sales professional.

Following the branding statement, it’s always a good idea to have a tag line. This is a related sentence or group of words that demonstrates the value you have to offer. Look at this example:

Award-winning Sales Representative – Top 5% Producer and consistent President’s Club Winner

The branding statement and tag line also serve as excellent segues into your career summary.

4. Include the Right Information.  This article isn’t about the specifics of resume format. If you are looking to shape a resume for the pharmaceutical sector, you should already have a good idea of the different parts of a resume – summary, experience, education, training, etc. What we want to do now is remind you to include special information that you might have normally left off your resume. Do you have any previous experience in the healthcare field? Maybe you took some medical coding courses-add them to your training section. Perhaps in high school or college you volunteered at a hospital – put it in community service. In college, did you take some biology classes? Mention those in your education section. Anything you can add that is relevant to the pharmaceutical industry is going to help you. The same goes for individuals who might be coming from a healthcare background but don’t have any sales experience. Did you take business courses in college or some sales training seminars earlier in your career? When appropriate, add them into the resume!

Another thing is to make sure you don’t take anything for granted. Too often I see people put this in their education section:

Biology, College Name

To a reader, that means nothing. Did you take one biology course? Do you have an Associate’s Degree? A Bachelor’s? The resume isn’t the place for hiding information or being vague. Here is how the education section should look:

Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, School XYZ


Course work in Biology, School XYZ, including Anatomy, Advanced Biology, and Biochemistry.

Most pharmaceutical companies want their candidates to hold at least a Bachelor’s; maybe others are not as strict. However, all of them value education and training, so be sure not to leave something off the resume that could help you.

5. Tell Your Story Correctly.  Pharmaceutical companies and recruiters prefer to see not only what you have done, but how you achieved it. Some people make the mistake of only including half the information in their job descriptions; either they omit their achievements or they fail to show how they achieved their results. When you’re writing your resume, be sure to use a Situation/Action/Result style to tell each story. This means describing the problem, showing the action you took, and listing the result.

In order to achieve sales growth for new product, developed multiple sales strategies that led to 18% market penetration six weeks ahead of projected timeline.

The situation was to grow the product, the action was to develop sales strategies, and the result was 18% market penetration. Pharmaceutical companies are very results-driven, so including as many quantifiable results as you can on the resume will be a big help in terms of getting you more interviews.

6. Review Your Resume.  This is critical. After the resume is written, do not send it out to anyone until you and at least two other people (preferably someone with superior grammar and spelling skills) has looked it over. Remember, you are up against a lot of competition. Even a couple of typos, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or punctuation mistakes can mean the difference between getting an interview or having your resume end up in the trash.

Also important is providing complete contact information (omitting your email address or phone number is a major red flag in HR offices).

With these tips in mind, rebuilding your resume for pharmaceutical sales positions will not only be possible, but also effective.

Good luck!

Teena Rose is the author of Cracking the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales.”

8 Things to Know When Targeting Pharmaceutical Sales

Pharmaceutical sales remains a popular and intriguing career that not only attracts people with sales and/or healthcare experience, but even people with no experience in either area. People are drawn to pharmaceutical sales for a variety of reasons – a good pay scale, opportunity for travel and promotion. Pharmaceutical sales roles attract folks from all walks of life. Thousands of people apply for pharmaceutical sales positions each week; at the same time, there are only limited jobs available. This means competition is tough – very tough! – for these roles, and companies are looking to hire only those applicants with the best possible credentials.

With this in mind, I have put together a list of 8 things to be aware of if you’re looking to obtain a position in pharmaceutical sales.

1. Keep Your Nose Clean.
Companies today regularly do background checks, and pharmaceutical firms are no exception. You can expect not only a review of your employment background, but also your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, your references, and even your driver’s license. Remember, things you do today can stick around in the Internet for years. Think ahead!

2. Sales Cycle Management. Pharmaceutical sales is very different than traditional product sales, because in many instances you are more focused on marketing products and educating physicians about products than you are on selling the actual product. You will often be required to bring the product to someone’s attention, set up conferences and seminars for doctors and their staff, and then convince the person to switch from whatever competitor product they are using to the one you are selling. This could take weeks or even months. In pharmaceutical sales, patience is a virtue, and the ability to build relationships, make friends, and put people at ease is as important as negotiation skills.

3. High Energy and Self-Motivation. Long hours, evening and weekend appointments, travel, meetings – it isn’t easy being a pharmaceutical rep. Companies are looking for individuals who can motivate themselves, especially in positions where nine-to-five is a schedule reserved for office staff only. Companies will expect you to hustle for new business while increasing prescriptions from existing accounts. If you’re the type of person who struggles to get to work on time, enjoys having a regular schedule, and does their best work when it is assigned rather than creating your own projects, pharmaceutical sales probably isn’t the best career path for you.

4. Education Is Essential. Pharmaceutical sales position consistently state that a Bachelor’s degree is required. Occasionally a company is willing to overlook a lack of degree when a person has years of experience in sales, but this is very rare. So if you are thinking of moving into the field of pharmaceutical or healthcare sales and you haven’t finished your undergraduate degree, it might make sense to complete the degree before you start applying for jobs.

5. Stable Employees Wanted. Pharmaceutical companies put a lot of effort and money into training their sales teams. The last thing they want is someone who works for a few months and then decides to switch companies or career paths, or decides it’s time to move again. So you can be sure that they’ll look at your previous work history to see if you are a ‘job hopper’ or if you have a history of staying with a company for several years.

6. Enjoy Being On The Move.
Many pharmaceutical positions require travel and/or relocation. A person who is readily available for travel or relocation definitely stands a better chance of being considered for positions.

7. Not All Sales Positions Are Created Equal. In pharmaceutical sales, there are different types of positions. Direct sales, where a person is promoting the products directly to a physician or group of physicians. This is often the entry level or basic position in the sales hierarchy, and frequently deals with popular, mass-market products. Then there are specialty sales, where a sales person is selling within a specific category, such as cardiac or antivirals, and will frequently target specialists within the healthcare sector, for example cardiac surgeons or internists. Finally, there are hospital sales, which is just what you might guess from the title. These representatives will often be targeting large medical departments and hospital pharmacies, promoting entire catalogs of products. On top of this, you have regional managers, district managers, trainers and training managers – with so many different levels of sales, it is important that a person applies for the correct position in order to be considered.

8. Understand The Bottom Line. Remember, when a company is looking to fill a position, they are not just looking to fill a position. They are looking for their next ‘Number One’ salesperson. Pharmaceutical companies want people who will consistently excel in their position; people with a drive to outdo the competition, build profitable relationships, and ideally break sales records. People who will do everything in their power to deliver sales. If you aren’t sure if you have that drive, then odds are you don’t, and pharmaceutical sales isn’t for you.

However, if you are a person who is focused on success and thrives in a position where stability, regular schedules, and low pressure situations are most definitely not the norm, then maybe it’s time to start getting your resume in order and start applying!

Teena Rose is the author of Cracking the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales.”