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What questions will they ask in a medical sales interview?

June 23, 2009

Typical interview questions and the kind of answers hiring managers are looking for are widely available online with just a little effort, even if you are interviewing for a sales job.  Medical sales interviews can involve more specialized questions than an average sales job, depending on the area you’re in (laboratory, clinical diagnostics, biotechnology, imaging, pathology, hospital equipment, surgical supplies, medical device, or pharmaceutical), but the sales process is generally the same—the difference is in the details.  And the details can be taken care of by careful research of the company and its products, goals, and culture.


1. Are you in the right location?  Will they have to relocate you?  Are you even willing to move?

2. Can you travel?  Most sales jobs require traveling to customers throughout your region, and medical sales are no exception.

3. Do you have the requirements?  What experience/training/education do you have that qualifies you for this job?

4. Do you have the BS degree? Is it in the life sciences?  A Life Science degree isn’t always necessary, but a background in chemistry or biology does help.  If you don’t have the degree: if you can show specific classes you took in those areas, it increases your chances because it demonstrates some knowledge in the medical arena.

5. What have you done to prepare for this type of opportunity?  Hint: Don’t say “nothing”….talk about the sales books you’ve read, the training you’ve taken, the ride-alongs you’ve done with reps in the field, and the information-gathering interviews you’ve done.

6. What are your strengths? Weaknesses?  Focus your “strengths” answer to those actual strengths you have that will be a benefit in this job.  Candidates usually answer the “weaknesses” question with something that isn’t, like “I just work too darn hard,” but you could go the refreshingly honest route of naming an actual weakness that you, naturally, have already taken steps to overcome.

7. Where do you want to be in 5 years?  What are you looking for long-term?

8. How do others describe you?  Before you get to the interview, ask a few friends that very question. It may surprise you, and it may give you a fantastic answer.  No matter what, though, have the presence of mind to limit your “description” to qualities that would be great in a medical sales rep: energetic, smart, ambitious, dependable, a team player, a leader, loves people, loves technology, fascinated by medical breakthroughs, likes helping others, competitive, loves to travel, etc.  They don’t need to know about how much you love your yoga classes, paintball weekends, or your staunch conservatism/liberalism.

9. Who would serve as your references?  Be very sure that you know what your references will say about you.  When you call to give them a heads up, take that opportunity to coach them on tailoring their answer to what will be the most effective for this particular job.

10. How do you handle conflict?  Here’s where you give an example from your past about something that happened with a co-worker or customer, and how you successfully negotiated an agreement that everyone was happy with.  Use the STAR approach to answering: State the Situation, the Task that was at hand, the Approach you took, and the Results you got.

11. What would you do…then they give you a tough sales scenario?  This is a classic behavioral interview question.  (Here’s a link to a video for how to handle them.) If you can, bring it around to something similar that did happen, and what you did about it.

12. How would you build your market?  This is an excellent opportunity to introduce your 30/60/90-day sales plan, which you create out of your research on the company and the position.  It’s your “to do” list for exactly what you will do during your first 3 months of employment to learn your job, learn your customers, and build your market to increase sales.  If you need help with this, get it.  It’s worth it.

For all these questions, the key is to listen, clarify, answer and then ask how they would answer that question.  You can learn a lot—which will either impress them with your initiative and willingness to learn, or give you something you can use for your next interview.


Written by Peggy McKee, PHC Consulting