If you are looking to build a career in medical devices, you are most likely going to start your journey with a job as a medical sales representative. Medical sales is a field-based, face-to-face job that is always in high demand. However, like any other entry-level job, competition here can be quite fierce. What makes the challenge even greater is also the fact that medtechs can be extremely picky about who they hire.
Why is medtech different from any other sales field?
The medical device industry sells items that can potentially kill people. That is why companies are so careful about who they choose to sell and distribute such products. Depending on the therapy area, and potentially varying from department to department, medical device businesses will look for candidates who can demonstrate that they have done research in person into what a medical sales rep’s work really involves. This is a process commonly known as shadowing. Medtech employers and recruiters alike really like candidates who have some shadowing experience as this demonstrates not just a responsible, proactive and positive attitude but also willingness to put in the time and effort the job itself demands.
The shadowing process explained
Shadowing is the process of gaining direct experience of a person’s job without actually doing the job itself. Within medical devices, shadowing effectively means spending some time with a medical sales representative. It involves following them around and observing them work, typically for a half or full day.
How to arrange it
Start off with your social networks – online as well as offline. Do you know anyone who is in the industry or might know someone they can connect you with? If there is no one within your immediate or extended social circles who can introduce you to a medtech sales representative, then try your luck on LinkedIn.
Do you have a LinkedIn profile? If no, then take the time and build one that reflects your interest in the sector. Once your profile is ready, perform a search for sales representatives or territory managers within your geographical area. Then try and connect with them. Explain that you are interested in a career in the industry and you are keen to gain some shadowing experience, and then ask if they or someone within their company would be willing to do that with you. A good strategy is to reach out to larger companies first – Stryker, J&J, Bard, and similar. You might have to send out 100 connection requests before you can actually get hold of someone, and prepare to see a lot of people declining your request. This is something you should not take personally, as sales representatives are busy people who not always have the time to help. Keep going and eventually you will find someone who will say yes.
What to expect on the day of shadowing
Medical device sales reps spend the majority of their time travelling around their designated field. Therefore, it is very likely that you will accompany them on trips to different clients, which are typically hospitals. You might not be admitted into all areas of the hospital or get to meet all contacts that the sales representative is meeting. If this happens indeed, they will tell you why, and where to wait.
Making the most out of it
To make the most out of your shadowing experience before, during and after, consider the following:
- Thoroughly read the LinkedIn profile of your chosen sales rep
- Research their company website, paying specific attention to different product lines
- Find out the therapy areas where the different products have their application
- Think of questions you would like to ask and put them down in writing
- Take notes
- Don’t be shy to ask about how this person got into the company they work for; what the company is looking for when evaluating candidates; what the job interview looks like, etc.
- Send a formal thank you note. This is not only polite but opening the door to a positive relationship with that person if your paths within the industry cross again some day!
- Repeat! The more shadowing experience you can obtain, the better picture you will develop of what it is to work within medical devices.
- Make sure you update your CV to reflect the experience you’ve gained.
- Write a report. Detail out what you have seen and done, as well as who you met and what you learned during your day of shadowing. You can then use this to present alongside your CV during interviews.
Can I get a medical sales job without this shadowing experience?
Everything is possible. However, as we already mentioned above, the world of medical devices is demanding and extremely competitive. If you have no industry experience whatsoever and you haven’t done any kind of prior research such as shadowing, there is little point in applying for medical device sales jobs and going to interviews. You will not shine your best light and companies will reject you not because you don’t have potential but because you haven’t done the research. If a career in medical devices is something you truly want to pursue, then get that research done!
With 20 years of experience, Guided Solutions is Europe’s largest search & selection consultancy recruiting exclusively within Medical Devices. Our dedicated international team comprising 6 nationalities and 11+ languages operate across different market segments, offering a full service approach and the ability to recruit across all functions and levels.
Contact us today if you are looking to make your next career move in medical devices or need top-tier industry talent for your business.