How to stand out from the crowd and get that pharma graduate job

As a graduate entering the pharma sales arena, how can you stand out to recruiters and hiring managers and get that pharma graduate job?

Let’s discuss how you can enhance your chances of standing out from the crowd.

We will discuss some personality traits that hiring managers look for, as well as how the extra-curricular activities you embark upon at university or hobbies you undertake can make a hiring manager interview you or consign your CV to the NO pile!

How can you be perceived as an ‘exceptional candidate’ as opposed to a ‘great candidate’?

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Create a great CV

In the current market place, it is imperative that you differentiate yourself from the crowd; the crowd being your competitors – other graduates applying for the same jobs.

Invariably when a hiring manager or recruiter is looking for this type of role to be filled, s/he will be inundated with CVs from aspiring graduates keen to make their presence known. Be mindful that they may have 100 CVs to read for one job, therefore it is essential that you have a well written resume and one which has a good ‘hard hitting’ profile at the top of it. Having many CVs to read, often hiring managers will scan the document’s first page rather than reading every word; this is why it is essential that your profile paragraph (maximum of two) captivates them; telling them who you are and what you can do for them.

5 hobbies you need on your CV

Should you include a photograph? My personal opinion is that, if it is a professional looking photograph, then it transforms the CV into a living document and makes it more inviting to read.

“Remember during any application or interview that you are selling yourself! Sales is, whatever title is given to it, based around features and benefits”

Do your research

Research the company you are applying to – find out what the company culture is; research the company’s website, note the terminology used.  Many pharmaceutical companies have their origins in the U.S. and many have a ‘company credo’ which is worth reading. Look at how many vacancies they currently have; are they routinely recruiting? Does this suggest that they don’t retain personnel? If so, why not? Try to network with another salesperson from within the company and ask them what it’s like working for the company?

What else have you got?

Because many graduates will not have had work experience of any longevity, the hiring manager will be interested in the degree subject and pass mark. They may also look at the extra-curricular activities you participated in while at university and/or the interests/hobbies you have. Securing the right person for the role is not just about ensuring that you have the correct skills or aptitude, it’s about ensuring that your personality will suit the company culture and vice versa. This is vital and helps the company to retain its employees; avoiding further unnecessary recruitment and the heartache you will experience if you join a company where you do not fit in.


There are many ways in which you can truly stand out and get that pharma graduate job:

  • Shadow a pharmaceutical sales representative: You may find shadowing a GP representative easier than a hospital representative. You may be asked to have some vaccinations or tests for MRSA and then be permitted to shadow in a hospital. This experience will demonstrate your interests in this career to a recruiter, while satisfying you that this is the career you would like to pursue.
  • The ABPI Medical Representatives Exam: Learn about the ABPI exam; you will have just two years whilst working as a sales representative to attain this qualification. Is there any way you can fund the exam and pass it before interviews? This will make you stand out from the crowd and also reassure the interviewer that you have the relevant and fundamental knowledge required to be a pharmaceutical sales representative.
    The company will not have to worry as to whether you will pass the examination, nor will they have to worry about paying for it because you will have it on entry – which is a huge advantage.
  • Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on your territory. I would recommend meeting with some GPs or going into some surgeries and asking the practice manager if they will help you with some questions. Try to spend some time with a pharmacist in a hospital. Or try to make an appointment with any supplies or procurement managers of hospitals? Keep a record of all your meetings with healthcare professionals and ask them to sign a statement confirming that they have met with you. Present these statements and your SWOT analysis at any interview and this will demonstrate drive, determination to succeed, keenness to acquire market knowledge and the ability to get a meeting with a decision maker.

Another essential to have is a full clean driving licence; this may sound obvious, however you would be surprised by the number of graduates I have screened for field selling roles who have yet to pass their driving test.

Tips for pharma sales graduate job success

  • Study an allied degree which relates to the industry.
  • Present a well written CV with a strong profile and always spell check – a hiring manager will not be impressed to see spelling or grammatical errors on your CV.
  • Do your research prior to sending your CV and, definitely, prior to attending any face-to-face interview.
  • Present yourself well. Dress smartly for the interview. Working as a pharmaceutical sales person will require you to be of smart appearance and able to communicate in writing and when speaking using the English language well. It is also vital that you are good at articulating yourself.
  • Ask OPEN questions – ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘why’ and ‘when’. Importantly, listen to the interviewer’s answers. Remember you have two ears and one mouth and when selling you should listen more than you speak.
  • If you have done your research you should have a good understanding of what the hiring manager is looking for, so make sure that you align your relevant skills and personality traits to his/her requirements.
  • Present yourself in a confident manner during your interview and be assertive without being arrogant.
  • Finally, the most important tip I can give to you is to remember during any application or interview that you are selling yourself! Sales is, whatever title is given to it, based around features and benefits.

It is common knowledge that while people may be good at selling products, they are invariably bad when selling themselves.

Don’t just tell the interviewer about your experiences or degree subject matter, tell them about how these features will add value to their organisation.

Too many people recite features during an interview and forget the most important benefits – how can your experience add value to the company?

How will the skills you have learnt during your extra-curricular activities benefit the company?

Get out there

The healthcare sales industry is a brilliant industry to work in; it will offer you challenges daily and no two days will be the same. You will also be contributing to the health of the nation and working with often innovative products that can improve peoples’ lives. A person working in this industry is a privileged one, and I wish you well with your endeavours.

This article was originally published in Pharmafield.