The Recruiting Process in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Interview with Sylvain Larose of Probe Recrutement,
a life sciences recruiting and networking firm

What kinds of positions do you recruit for? 

Mainly marketing and sales jobs; I have a lot of pharmaceutical representatives, for example. My job is to propose a candidate who will perfectly match the client’s requirements and expectations, and whose personality will fit with the team’s. This latter point is very important, because there has to be a chemistry with future coworkers.

What’s the first thing you look for on a CV? 

I look first at the experience. For the positions I recruit for, sales experience is essential, regardless of whether it took place in the pharmaceutical industry. I can’t consider new graduates, however, no matter how much they assure me that sales is for them. I advise them to get 18 months of sales experience—hardly any time at all over a whole career—that they can then leverage with a recruiting firm and potential employers.

How do you analyze the true value of the candidate’s experience?

I focus on the person’s achievements, for two reasons: to get specific, accurate information and to analyze, via the candidate’s answers, his or her behaviour and character traits such as leadership and persuasiveness. For example, I will ask candidates about the number of sales reps in their current company, how they compare, and how they stand out from the other reps. It’s important for me to have specific, conclusive examples.

How can you tell if someone is being honest?

It’s all about credibility, just like when you buy a car: you either trust the salesperson or you don’t. In my job, it’s the same thing—I will tend to trust an appropriately attired candidate with a firm handshake who arrives ahead of time. Of course, I will then check out that person’s references from coworkers and also clients—often doctors—who often provide valuable observations.

What’s the minimum background you should have?

Clients require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree for sales representative positions. Without that, they won’t even want to meet the candidate.

What selling points should be highlighted? 

On the CV, I recommend that candidates list all extraprofessional experiences that could be relevant. I’m always amazed when I discover that the person I’m interviewing spent a few months in Africa on a humanitarian mission, or reached a high competitive level in a certain sport. Above and beyond professional qualifications, you want to know who you’re dealing with. Any experience that demonstrates value and leadership skills should be mentioned. These aptitudes often make all the difference: my long-term vision motivates me to present candidates with management potential, who will be able to move into a product or sales manager role.

What questions do you like candidates to ask? 

I like candidates who try to sell themselves, which is perfectly appropriate for pharmaceutical reps! So I’ll tend to click with a candidate who tries to convince me and then close the sale by asking whether I liked their offering, for example.

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