skip to Main Content

3 Takeaways: Zoom Hangout Session for Aspiring MSL Candidates

3 Takeaways from SEMbio’s Recruiter Hangout Session for Aspiring MSL Candidates

Leveraging our work-from-home opportunity and everyone’s growing video conference skills to provide ZOOM Recruiter Hangouts. SEMbio invites MSLs and MSL candidates to join us in a discussion about industry-related topics. We geared last week’s event specifically for aspiring MSL candidates trying to land their first MSL position. We were joined by long-time friends and industry colleagues Brant Jarrett, and Johanna Purcell. They offered insights from those who have been in the role in addition to our recruiter insights. Here are 3 Takeaways from Recruiter Zoom Hangout Session for Aspiring MSL Candidates.

Network, network, network

Seems like a no-brainer tip. But, what does networking mean to you? Is your plan to reach out to as many local MSLs as possible to offer them a cup of coffee for their insights? To send your resume to as many recruiters as possible? Well, Johanna shared her plan when she was first getting started. Attend as many career symposiums as possible. This helped her gather info on an MSL career, learn about other career paths just in case there was another that appealed to her more than being an MSL (they didn’t), helped her make connections with MSLs, and put her in touch with MSL recruiters.

Previously, it’s been highlighted that when you’re working in academia, career options in the pharma industry aren’t always made clear, and you may have to seek that information yourself.

Another tip from the panel is that while it might be tempting to show off your moxie by reaching out to hiring managers after applying for a position on their team, the consensus is this usually isn’t advisable. Hiring managers might get hit with too many emails to pay much attention to yours. Oftentimes, these attempts just don’t work out well. Alternatively, try reaching out to a couple of MSLs on the team to see if you can learn more about the position before interviewing.

Trying to become an MSL right after getting your degree could be challenging

Anyone who has tried to become an MSL without trying to take some sort of stepping stone role between getting their degree and applying for MSL positions has probably experienced this. Our panelists helped explain to us that hiring managers see getting your Ph.D. (and other terminal degrees) as a training step. You’ve gained good knowledge in the process, but you’re likely to not be seen as a top candidate without some real-world experience. Hiring managers in pharma will understand that if you’re coming from a postdoctoral fellowship or a clinical pharmacy role that this means you’ve had to design experiments, work tough hours, kept to deadlines, and you’ve likely simply grown more as a person.

Additional ways to boost your resume include getting publications under your belt, gaining clinical trial experience, and building relationships with potential KOLs in your area of expertise.

What it takes to “blow someone away”

Much of this session revolved around how to “blow away” decision-makers, neutralizing fears of hiring someone without MSL experience. So how exactly can you blow the interview panel away?

Well, in short, by preparing and not holding back your enthusiasm.

The most prepared candidates come ready with a 30-60-90-day plan. They have combed through the company’s website as much as possible. They’ve read through the job description. They know the mechanism of action of the product(s) they’ll be supporting. They’ve looked at the clinical trials for the drug(s). They may even already know the KOL landscape in this space. Basically, do everything within your power to have reviewed every piece of information you should have. No one is going to expect you to be an expert on the disease state or drug during the interview. They’ll take note of your preparation, which is something that will translate into success once you get the job.

And don’t forget to show them your enthusiasm! A refreshing aspect of interviewing someone without experience is the palpable excitement that aspiring MSLs exude while interviewing. It shows hiring managers that there’s no question about the motivation you’ll bring with you to the job.

We’ll do another recruiter hangout before long, so don’t miss out next time! If you’d like to receive a recording of last week’s hangout, email me or your go-to SEMbio recruiter and we can send it to you.

Questions or comments? Email me at

Author: Lawrence Beck, CPC

Lawrence joined SEMbio in 2011 and is a team leader in recruiting and business development. He attended Texas Tech University on a path that led him to obtain his Master’s degree in Sports Management. That experience provides Lawrence a unique perspective as a recruiter.