Man in scrubs speaking with a woman in a blazer
Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

Why this matters

Your next hire may be diving into new territory—and calling on healthcare providers and administrative staff that may differ from previous clientele. How will they build their new book of business? Will they knock on doors, make cold calls, work existing networks, utilize marketing, or maybe all of the above? Find out your candidate’s plan.

What to listen for

  • Answers should be rooted in past experience.
  • Confidence when answering this question is a plus.
  • Tried-and-true networking methods and a focus on growing relevant contacts.

Why this matters

The ideal sales candidate is goal-driven—and has a few tricks up their sleeve. Different candidates will approach quotas differently, which is why learning about this candidate’s past tactics will be illuminating. It can also provide a window into their previous successes.

What to listen for

  • Evidence of notable drive.
  • A diversity of tactics, which represent creativity and resourcefulness.
  • Stories about how they rescued quotas, even in the face of challenges.

Why this matters

Pharmaceutical sales reps are tasked with selling medications and medical devices to a large array of people, with varying degrees of knowledge about products and pharmacology overall. It’s important for candidates to be nimble, adjusting their approach depending on sophistication.

What to listen for

  • Evidence of a few different approaches.
  • It’s helpful to hear what cues the candidate listens for before determining which tactic to take.
  • A strong answer may include how the candidate creates their pitches, how they showcase key points, and what they do to practice.

Why this matters

Challenges are everywhere in this field. Maybe the rep has a great relationship with a provider—but the provider is firmly committed to a competitive product. Maybe perceived product value isn’t there. Successful candidates can demonstrate how they conquered specific difficulties.

What to listen for

  • An investigative approach—how did the candidate get to the bottom of the issue?
  • Creative solutions to the challenge.
  • Evidence of tenacity and grit.

Why this matters

For many sales reps in general, rejection is a way of life. In the relationship-driven world of pharma sales, it’s crucial to be both persistent and resilient—and to keep building relationships, even in the face of a “no.”

What to listen for

  • The ability to think on their feet, pivot tactics, or know when to step away.
  • Evidence of persistence and resilience.
  • Thick skin and the ability to bounce back quickly and not take rejection personally.

Why this matters

Pharma sales can be a solo endeavor. This question gives candidates an opportunity to highlight their teamwork—and to show you their ability to seize initiative. Leadership qualities are especially important as you look to an employee’s long-term trajectory at your organization.

What to listen for

  • Signs they have stepped up and led others.
  • Top answers will be anecdotal and specific.
  • Strong answers may also indicate that they are interested in progressing to management.

Why this matters

Taking pride in one’s work indicates passion, and passion indicates job engagement, satisfaction, and hard results. If you’re looking to hire an employee who will stay with your company long-term, measuring pride and passion is an important part of the interview. The right candidate will celebrate previous successes—and illustrate enthusiasm for their work.

What to listen for

  • Indications that a candidate values their work.
  • Signs that they find their work engaging, meaningful, and fulfilling.
  • Answers should emphasize the tangible result the candidate achieved.

Why this matters

Your target customer has a specific set of pharmaceutical needs—and in order for the relationship to be successful, your reps need to read between the lines so they can make recommendations. Be sure your candidate knows how to open up the lines of communication and deliver a personalized experience based on customer insights.

What to listen for

  • Good answers will emphasize actively listening to the customer’s needs and identifying key pain points to deliver a strong product recommendation.
  • The ability to read between the lines—and capture nuance.
  • A candidate who can ask thoughtful questions is a plus.

Why this matters

If your pharmaceutical sales team makes member performance transparent for all to see, the competitive spirit is likely alive and well at your company. But sometimes, competition can get personal. This question will tell you a lot about how the candidate handles internal tensions.

What to listen for

  • The candidate’s views on internal competition and ability to focus on their own goals, not those of others.
  • The candidate’s reaction to potential adversity.
  • How the candidate sets boundaries and calls others out in a respectful way.