SEMbio Blog

Welcome to our first blog post! There will be more to come and we welcome any topics you would like to learn more about!


July 11, 2016

The Thank You note- Why this small detail could make or break your interview

by:  Katie Weissman  


We’ve been in the recruiting business for a combined 80 years, so we figured it was about time to start a blog and share some of our insights. Our blog will be updating you weekly on interviewing tips, pharmaceutical industry news, and what’s new here at SEMbio.

This week we’re talking thank you notes. The thank you note is surprisingly one of the small things that can make or break an interview for a candidate. We’ve seen hiring managers compare thank you notes with their colleagues. We’ve seen a candidate be axed from the process because they sent the same thank you note to all of the interviewers, which came across as lazy. We’ve seen gross grammatical errors that alerted the hiring manager about the candidate’s lack of attention to detail. We’ve also seen candidates use the thank you note to land the job when the decision was down to two candidates!

So, what can you do to ensure a dynamite thank you note that will help your candidacy?

1.       Thank the interviewer for their time, and state the specific position you are interviewing for. With the pharmaceutical industry rapidly expanding, it’s more than likely that the hiring manager is interviewing candidates for more than one position on the same day. Stating the specific position you are interviewing for will make the hiring manager’s life easier.

2.       State why you are interested in the position. Don’t play coy; showing interest is very important for the hiring manager! No one wants to hire someone that’s lukewarm about a position. Oftentimes new hires can bring new energy into the team, this is what the hiring manager is looking for!

3.       Let them know why you’re a good fit, and be specific. “I’ve worked in the cardiovascular field,” is not specific. Have you worked on publications, research projects, treated a patient population related to the product’s indication, worked under a mentor who is the company’s KOL? Let them know!

4.       Mention a topic or discussion that came up in the interview. You may not realize it, but thank you notes serve as a cliff note for hiring managers. What you put in this note makes you stand out from the rest of the candidate pool. This is also a great opportunity to follow up any questions the hiring manager had that you were unsure how to answer. Specifically in the MSL role, guessing an answer in the presentation portion of your interview is a huge red flag (more on that in future posts). You can use the thank you note as a forum to demonstrate your follow through. 

5.       Timing is everything! You want to send out your thank you note within 24 hours of the interview. I’ve seen some articles state that a written thank you note is best, but do you really want to take the chance of it the note getting to the hiring manager after she made her decision? Go ahead and email first, if you want to follow through with a hand written you can do so.


Oftentimes candidates don’t see the complete picture and strategy of interviewing. We hope you found this helpful, and we’ll see you next week!







Some of our favorite sites:

Biopharma Dive

Drug Information Association 

Clinical Trials, via The National Institutes of Health


Linked In



BioPharm Catalyst





Preparing for a Video Interview

by: Lawrence Beck, CPC


Video interviews are becoming more common as a means to select candidates for jobs these days - and why not? They’re an efficient and cost-effective way to judge a candidate’s communication skills, professional appearance, and even their tech savvy at the same time. But there’s no need to get nervous the next time you’re asked to do one just because it’s uncharted territory for you. Here are some tips to help yourself get comfortable and prepared for your next video interview.

Test your equipment beforehand.

Nothing would get your interview started off on the wrong foot quite like being unprepared by not having your equipment and internet connection ready at the time of your interview. Take time in advance to ensure that your camera is working properly, your internet connection is solid, and that you know how to operate the interview software, whether it’s Skype or some other program.  Once you get all of these components together, do a test run and make sure the operation is flawless on your side.

Check your background.

You’ll need to be aware of what’s behind you and within the camera shot. You wouldn’t want anything embarrassing to sneak its way behind you, such as a messy room that could imply that you are a disorganized person. Keep it clean, simple, and conservative behind you.

Dress appropriately.

Don’t let the casual feeling of doing a video interview from the comfort of your home fool you into dressing down. Dress just like you would for an in-person interview – and don’t try to get clever by only dressing up the top half of your body! Wear your full suit. You never know what kind of unforeseen event could cause you to need to stand up during the interview. Besides, being dressed up makes you feel better and perform better anyways.

Close off the room from outside distractions.

If you are conducting your video interview from a room, such as your home office, do your best to close yourself off from other distractions in the house. The doorbell could ring, your dog could start barking at the mailman outside, or your home phone could start ringing. Do whatever you can to minimize the risk of these distractions infiltrating your interview zone.

Turn off your cell phone.

Don’t make the mistake of leaving a silenced cell phone on your desk. The vibration will get picked up by the microphone and cause a distraction.

Close out other programs on the computer.

Minimize distractions by closing out the other programs you may have running. You don’t want any surprise windows or sounds popping up. Plus too many programs may cause your computer to stream the video slowly.  

Make eye contact.

It’s easy to get stuck looking at your computer screen instead of the camera itself. After all, it’s only natural to look at the face of the person you’re speaking with. But train yourself to look at the camera as much as possible. Providing your interviewer the chance to make virtual eye contact with you will establish a better connection between the two of you.

Don’t let your eyes wander to your notes too much.

One of the great advantages that you’ll lose when doing a video interview instead of a phone interview is the ability to “cheat” by having some notes in front of you. Now that your face will be on screen, you don’t want to get caught staring down at your pages. But hope is not completely lost. If there is something that you need particular help remembering, try sticking it to the side of your monitor or on the wall behind the camera, where it is less obvious if your eyes stray.

Video interviews are still pretty new to all candidates, so you shouldn’t feel like you’re behind the curve the first time you get asked to do one. But with a little practice and fine-tuning your video interview skills will help you separate yourself from the rest of the candidate pool!




Phone Interviewing-"No Duh" Tips

by Crecia Magee, CPC

As a Recruiter it’s my goal to help you in every way I can to get the job you want.  I 100% realize that you’re an awesome MSL with a strong scientific/clinical background and years of experience that I will never have.  I can’t and wouldn’t try to pretend to know how to explain the mechanism of action of a drug—that’s not my forte.  I can however, share some critical insight on the things I witness day-in and day-out in my profession.  As a Medical Science Liaison Recruiter I continually work with candidates that are doing phone interviews with Hiring Managers and HR professionals across the US.  I have a few tips that might seem like “no duh” type suggestions, but I promise that they are things that are CONSTANTLY ignored, and are main reasons why candidates get nixed from the process.  Sometimes, the small things can make a BIG difference.  The goal of the phone interview is to do well and get the face-to-face interview, as a candidate it’s important to view each step as a make or break scenario. 

Here’s my list of “NO DUH” tips to help you get this job:

·         Do your homework!  It sounds simple, but so many people forego this CRUCIAL step and end up wasting an opportunity. Take the time to read through the information your recruiter sends you, look at the website, approved products, pipeline, the territory (be familiar with institutions in the area), review the profiles for your interviewers, and have some well thought out questions prepared for your interviewer. 

·         CHEAT! The phone interview is your opportunity to refer to your notes (from all of the homework you’ve previously done) and use that as a resource during the call.  Have your resume in front of you.  That’s the document the interviewer is using, so you want to be on the same page (pun intended).  I always recommend my candidates list out a couple of bullet points in the margin that reflect their strengths and relevant experience for the job they’re interviewing for.  It’s a helpful took if the conversation gets off track; this allows you to easily get back on focus and ensure you get your key skills/experience communicated.

·         Get to a quiet place with phone reception where you can concentrate.  (No TV, kids, or pets in the background creating a distraction)

·         Relate your experience (therapeutic background, industry experience, etc.) to THIS job that you’re interviewing for, and demonstrate how you can immediately add value to the team.  As an MSL, you definitely know that each company is different, so don’t treat them all the same when you’re interviewing.  Your focus for a small company will be different than your focus for a large company—think about the things that each company is likely to value, and questions they’re likely going to ask, and be ready to wow them with your answer!

·         Now, the flipside here is that you have to be concise.  I understand the difficulty in what I’m asking you to do.  I realize it’s hard to sum up your years of experience and all of the things you’re going to contribute in a 20-30 minute call, but that’s why it’s critical to PREPARE.  The phone interview isn’t the time for longwinded back stories about the how and why of every move you’ve made in your career.  Focus on the most pertinent facts and elaborate on the how/why if asked. 

·         Don’t fluff and NEVER speak negatively about your current/previous employer.  Pretty obvious, I know—but I wouldn’t mention it if it weren’t a thing.  Don’t try to oversell your experience, be honest about the things you’ve done or haven’t done. If you’re not fulfilled in your current role or can’t stand your boss, don’t focus on those things.  If they ask “why are you looking?” make it about why THIS opportunity is interesting to you—not about why you’re so eager to leave your current role.

·         Let you personality show!  The disadvantage of a phone interview is that you only have your voice to work with; they can’t see your smile or the excitement in your face.  This is why your energy level and tone are so important for the call.  We have so many candidates that get passed on because the interviewer didn’t get the impression that the person was interested. 

·         Don’t let your enthusiasm wane if you’re not getting warm fuzzies from your interviewer.  It’s VERY common for them to schedule multiple back-to-back phone screens when trying to fill a vacancy, so you can imagine how monotonous and draining that can become.  I’m sure your days with tons of conference calls have you feeling a little exhausted from time to time.  Don’t take it personally!  If your interviewer happens to have a “checking the boxes” style, or is monotone and hard to read, let it slide.  Keep your energy level and enthusiasm up and stay upbeat and positive.  One of the hardest things for us to do is go back and convince the company you’re interested if your initial interview doesn’t convey that. 

·         Demonstrate your intangibles!  Most hiring managers value these MORE than they value KOL contacts or your years in industry.  Personality, energy, enthusiasm, interest level, attitude, ability to collaborate and adapt, etc… the list goes on.  It’s a MUST to bring these traits out.

·         Thank them for their time and LET THEM KNOW YOU ARE INTERESTED (if you are, of course).  Now is not the time to be coy.  Tell them you’re interested in moving forward, they shouldn’t have a question about your level of interest when they hang up the phone.

·         FOLLOW UP WITH A THANK YOU EMAIL.  Within 24 hours is what we suggest, the sooner the better.  Send it to your recruiter for suggestions before sending the final version to the HM.  Not that we don’t trust your ability to construct an email, but as I mentioned before—this is our area of expertise and it never hurts to have a second pair of eyes.  It’s my job to do whatever I can to help you get this job, so please let me help!




Five Ways to Botch a Phone Interview

Phone interviews are a fairly fundamental part of the job search process. Yet many candidates fail to progress beyond this stage in their pursuit of a particular job.

"Often, a candidate's failure occurs because he didn't treat the phone interview as seriously he would have a face-to-face meeting with a recruiter or potential employer," says Vicki Salemi, author of "Big Career in the Big City."

In her book, Salemi pinpoints several phone interview faux pas, which include the following:

Conducting the interview in your pajamas

Even though you're not meeting with someone face-to-face, you should still wear clothes that make you feel confident and put together, Salemi says. In addition, she recommends candidates wake up at least 30 minutes before the interview, comb their hair and brush their teeth. "I can't tell you how many times I've conducted phone interviews with people who literally just woke up. This created the visions in my head about their unbrushed teeth, uncombed hair and overall inability to focus," she explains.

Picking the wrong spot to talk

Whenever you're talking with a recruiter or potential employer on the phone, it's best to do so in a place that's peaceful and quiet. Outside noise and too many distractions around you can make it difficult to concentrate on what you're being asked during the interview. Salemi suggests staying at home for the phone interview and talking on a land line instead of a cell phone. "This way, it's likely you'll have clearer reception and you reduce any risk that you'll lose the call in the middle of a sentence."

Failing to take advantage of access to helpful resources right at your fingertips

According to Salemi, the main advantage to a phone interview is that you can refer to a handful of helpful resources during your interview. For example, you can glance at a list of talking points or you can pull up the company's website on your computer so that it's in front of you while you're interviewing.

Forgetting to let your smile shine

It may feel silly to smile when no one's around to see it, but odds are strong that the person interviewing you will notice how much more pleasant your voice sounds when you're doing so. Salemi also suggests standing up during the interview. "You'll be able to project your voice more and sound more confident if you're standing as opposed to sitting down. Celebrities do this all of the time during radio interviews, so why not channel your inner rock star?"

Neglecting to close on a strong note

It's very important to close the phone interview just as you would an office interview, Salemi says. "Ask the interviewer about the next steps in the interview process, when you should follow up, and where they are in the process. Then say your cordial good-byes, hang up and immediately send a thank-you note."