In PharmaFinder’s last quarterly webinar for our aspiring MSL friends, we had a lot of discussion and questions around resumes. We figured it couldn’t hurt to follow up with a quick recap for those who might’ve missed it!
Your resume is your introduction; It’s critical that it is accurately depicting how you want to be portrayed. If your resume is too wordy, full of typos, not specific to you, vague/bland, poorly formatted, and difficult to read, you are likely not getting an interview. Also, these are not the types of strong first impressions you want to make.
Instead, your resume should tell YOUR story in an easy-to-follow format that highlights YOUR specific achievements and most relevant skills for the job you’re looking to get hired for.
Let’s talk more about how to make that dream resume a reality!
You MUST know the job you’re applying for
How can you truly connect your experience for the role if you don’t know what the role entails? I would scour the internet and all the resources available to ensure you’ve got a solid grasp on what the functionality and focus will be for the role you’re applying to. This is your foundation to work off of when trying to connect those critical pieces of the puzzle on why they should consider you. If you’re just blindly guessing at what might be impactful for their job, it’s very likely you’ll miss the mark and get moved to the “no” pile. Do some homework and get into that “yes” stack!
The MSL role is very nuanced and can have different needs (even within the same team, different territories might require something a little unique). I highly recommend looking at the states included, the approved products and pipeline that a company has, thinking about the KOLs they might be targeting, and institutions in that geography that are likely to be major players… those are all forward-thinking questions that can demonstrate your understanding and allow you to make some solid connections.
Even if those nitty-gritty details aren’t available to you for each role, at the very least you need to have a strong MSL focused resume that’s highlighting the key components of the job.
To 2-page, or not to 2-page: That is the question!
I am a firm believer that it’s not the length of your resume, but the content that is what’s most important. I have seen 4-page resumes that are INCREDIBLE because they are packed with meaty, relevant information- but that’s the critical point. Four pages would be really bad if it’s very repetitive and not telling us anything. It’s VERY important to be mindful of brevity and the ability to concisely hit home key skills and experience. Don’t fluff or be wordy just to hit the 2-page mark, that will come across a lot worse than only having 1.5 pages of really solid content.
Don’t just copy/paste content from a job description
You absolutely want to include some of the essential keywords for the job you’re applying for, but you should not just copy and paste from a job description (JD). Remember, your resume is your opportunity to introduce yourself and tell your story, that isn’t going to be accomplished by plugging in vague information from a JD. Really think about what you’ve done that would be relevant for the role you’re applying for and draw out that experience. Examples for MSL roles might look like highlighting any KOL engagement you might’ve had the chance to participate in through conferences, meetings, etc.., experience presenting at specific conferences that might be relevant to the TA, or competitive products you might’ve had experience working with in the clinical setting.
Other general themes to think about when building your resume (or interviewing for MSL roles) are relationship building, education/teaching/mentoring, communication/presentation skills, time management, and teamwork, to name a few.
Comb your resume for errors and get a second pair of eyes on it.
As much as this is a broken record piece of advice, it is critical. If you’re sending out a sloppy version of your resume someone will notice, and it’s better if that someone is a friend. 🙂 During the interview process you’re expected to be at your BEST, so those little things can have a big impact on your overall consideration. It’s worth it to take the extra time and be diligent on this part.
Other points to keep in mind:
-If you’ve had a lot of job changes, see if there’s a way you can briefly describe those transitions (Ex: Contract ended, position was eliminated due to reorganization, left for a promotion opportunity). It could help explain some job hops and maybe get you over a hump someone might’ve seen as a red flag without any further information.
-Take the time to tailor your resume. If you’ve had exposure to a number of disease states and have some creative scientific connections you can make to the therapeutic area you’re applying for, take the time to highlight that in your resume. It’s one way for you to stand out!
– Also, if you’re going to include a “Summary”, please make sure it’s worth taking up space on the page. It should not just be fluff to fill a gap, it should be a true highlight and this is an easy place to tailor. Quantify your years of experience within a therapeutic area, mention that you’re applying for a Medical Science Liaison (MSL) role, etc. This is a spot where you can really grab someone’s attention if done well!
-Don’t include your references on your resume. You should have references handy and vetted, but they’ll ask for them if/when they want them.
-Review our free resume templates if you’d like a visual and some examples of ways to frame different experiences. We have versions for both aspiring and experienced MSLs on our PharmaFinders’ Resources page.
-Don’t be afraid to re-work it if you’re not seeing success. Sometimes it can take a couple of iterations to get it to the best spot and that’s ok. Ask for feedback and be open to helpful critiques!
There are so many variables in your job search and my advice is always to focus on what you CAN control. The effort you put into your resume is absolutely an area that is worth the energy! I hope this is useful in guiding you in the right direction. We’d love to hear your feedback or anything we might’ve missed!