By William A. Soliman, PhD, BCMAS
Surprised that people are still interviewing for Medical Science Liaison (MSL) positions in the midst of a global pandemic? There are still lots of positions out there and if you’re reading this article, you probably know how competitive it is to get that next MSL dream job.
I receive lots of messages daily on LinkedIn asking me for career advice in pharma so I thought I would share with you what we have seen actually works. I mean literally works. Based on actual data from my company, the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs (ACMA) has collected from hiring managers and MSLs. So rather than waste time & money on MSL conferences, read this article (it’s free) where I share secrets that most insiders don’t want you to know…but then apply it to the actual interview (otherwise it’s like planning to workout and then not actually exercising). I promise it will increase your chances of landing you the role.
5 Concrete Things you Should Absolutely do before Every MSL interview.
- Ask this question when you start (but not in a confrontational way). “I’m excited to be here. I’m curious what was it about my background that made you agree to bring me in for the interview?” Studies have shown that this question statistically significantly increases your chances of actually getting the job. I won’t get into the psychology behind it. If you really want to know, private message me and I can share the study.
Practice the “Tell me about yourself” response out loud several times. This is probably the most important question for 2 reasons. One, it’s your first impression. Two, we know from data that people tend to make judgements about you in the first 7 seconds. This question is NOT intended for you to share your work history. It’s your chance to sell them on why they should pick YOU.
Research the company. Yeah I know that you’re probably thinking, ‘duh’ of course. But I’m not talking about going to the company’s website and looking at the mission & vision statement. I’m talking deep research. Here’s what we know works. Again, based on data. Once you’re at the company’s site, click on the ‘investors tab.’ Usually, the company will have press releases and investor webcasts posted on their site; usually for equity research analysts, investors, etc.. Click on the webcasts and listen to them. Listen to what leadership focuses on, how they pronounce the drug’s name (yes I’m serious) and pay attention to what questions are asked of them at the end. Chances are that you can steal those questions and use them yourself in your own interview. Next, look at the company’s pipeline of course, then google publications associated with that drug. Once you’ve done that, look up the authors from those publications. Those will most likely be the key opinion leaders (KOLs) (Nowadays, pharma calls them External Experts (EEs) or Key thought Leaders (KTLs). Find them online, usually on YouTube or they may have authored guidelines for that particular therapeutic area. Read those guidelines, listen to what they have to say. Now you’ll know the issues for that product, the disease state better, and you’ll know who the KOLs are and you can then name drop during the interview. Hiring managers like that.
Presentations. I would say 99% of MSL interviews require you to present (typically using ppt). You’ll either be asked to present a topic of your choice or you’ll be given a clinical paper they’ve published recently about the product and be asked to present it to the interviewers (usually in a group setting). If you did what I said in #3, you’ll be in great shape. Your ppt needs to be polished so look at how KOLs present. If you’re going to do it, go big or go home right? Use their style, template and sometimes you may get lucky and can even download the ppt itself and tweak it. Just be sure to practice out loud. You will be sure to wow them. Trust me it works. I’ve been told half a dozen times after I’ve presented that, “I was probably the most effective presenter they’ve seen interview.” Not bragging- just sharing it because I want people to say the same about you.
Money. Don’t bring up money unless you’re asked. Don’t bring up vacations unless you’re asked. Don’t bring up work-life balance. Just keeping it real here. Hiring managers don’t want people that are overly concerned with vacations and work-life balance. They want motivated, hard workers, who are hungry to help the team succeed. It’s that simple.
If you’ve read this and are wondering how to even get the interview, then you’ll want to consider becoming a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist. Ninety percent of physician thought leaders prefer a BCMAS candidate when looking to fill open roles. To check out the type of course work that you’ll need for this certification, sign up for a free demonstration course here.
There you have it. No need to buy books about breaking into the MSL role or attend MSL conferences. What about networking you ask? Stay tuned for my next article(s).
About William Soliman, PhD, BCMAS
Dr. Soliman is considered a pharma futurist. He is regularly featured on Fox Business News, Al Jazeera, Forbes, and other media outlets on topics & issues related to the pharma/biotech industry. Dr. Soliman has 20+ years experience in the biopharmaceutical industry and is currently the Chairman, CEO of the ACMA.