Linda Hertz Group

My Medical Device Sales Career

I am 40 Years Old, Do I Break into Pharma Sales by Getting Certified?

Mrs Hertz

I have several of your replies to questions and truly value your opinion. I have had several interviews with Pharmaceutical companies and have moved into the final stage several times. I have tried and been trying to break into this field for sometime now. I just turned 40 and have nearly 15 years of sales experience from B2B and B2C.  I also have a BS degree. I was recently reached out by Lynx Pharmaceuticals. The recruiter said they require someone be certified.

Throughout my attempts, I have been advised for and against. The greatest advice against was the company will want to train me as they want me to sell. I am trying to determine if I should or shouldn't be certified. Can you advise me please?

Thank you

Brandon S


Hello Brandon,

Thank you for your readership and kind words. Your question is a tricky one, because everyone who is a recruiter, those who are independent recruiters as well as those who work directly for the hiring companies, want to issue the classically HR and legally (EEOC) correct answer of, "All qualified applicants will be considered regardless of age, sex and etc.,."  I start with this to answer your question, even though that is really not what you asked. I will share later with you on what is perhaps happening on your failed job search in the pharmaceutical industry and tie it into EEOC and reality.  You just wanted to know if you should pay for one of those pharma certification programs.  

The short answer on that is, "NO to Pharmaceutical Certification Programs"  

Perhaps there is a pharmaceutical company that requires a pharmaceutical certificate, but you should inquiry the company directly for that advice (if that was a Lynx Pharmaceutical recruiter that informed you, not an independent recruiter, than find out specifically which certification program they value and DO YOU MEET ALL the other requirements).

In addition, you should do a google search and a LinkedIn search (and frankly a google search will direct you to open LinkedIn profiles) and find another person associated with Lynx to find more of a 360 degree answer.  I happened to do an open google search (providing an example of how to do this with Lynx) and found they have someone working as a Senior VP, but he is doing so as a consultant under the umbrella of his own business. That would be a good person to reach out to on LinkedIn. I learned from his LinkedIn profile, that Lynx is a Contract Sales Organization, which may be why they value some sort of certification (perhaps their own training program is limited?). If you need help, just ask me via LinkedIn and I will provide his name to you.

You can do this type of employee search exercise for all open positions too and verify what a company may or may not require in the way of certifications (and other job requirements) and be mindful of ALL other minimum requirements of the job.  

Now back to the proverbial smoking gun or as some would say, "The elephant in the room"; I think a more meaningful question for you to ask yourself before you invest in or in most cases throw your money away on a possible meaningless certification programs would be:

Why is it taking so long for me to break into pharmaceutical sales and why do I make it to the final rounds so often, yet not offered the job?

Therein is the more important question.  All recruiters are trying to find the MOST qualified person for each opening and some openings, frankly, want earlier career people. Those would be the job posts that say recent college grads or no more than 3 to 4 years of B2B sales. Clearly you would not fit into that profile and is that age discrimination?  Perhaps, but these jobs don't usually pay as much either, they are usually early career, lower paying positions and probably well beneath what a successful 40 year old is currently making.  That said, a recent college graduate can also be someone like my mother who earned a degree at age 48.  Would she have been considered or even hired for a recent graduate sales position? Well, therein lies the interpretation and if compliant to EEOC rules, the  answer would be yes, "She should be granted an interview and candidates like her, who meet all other requirements, should be hired."  We know that may not be (and dare I say often) not the case in the real world and I understand the frustration.  Let's move onto the bigger barrier for most people who are mid-career in another industry.

This is the conundrum of your situation and for those 40 and over trying to break into the pharmaceutical industry, or for any industry where their long term employment experience is not FULLY aligned with the job requirements:

40 year old applicants, with little appropriate or related industry background, are competing with other 40 year old applicants who meet, if not exceed, ALL the minimum and preferred qualifications of the position posted.

You mentioned that you have made it to a number of final interviews Brandon, but you can't compete with what you don't have in the way of experience when you are up against a pool of pharmaceutical experienced sales candidates.  

You can get all the certifications in an industry that are offered, but when you have not built a career with years of real world experience in that type of job and industry you will more than likely be beat out every time by someone who does.  

Think about it within your own industry and with your current companies B2B sales openings and those people who are placed in those positions.  Are any of them pharmaceutical sales people with no B2B sales background or long ago B2B sales background?  Exactly.  Same is true on the other side of the coin.  There are others more qualified.

Are the cards stacked against you? I think so. Do you quit looking? I think not. Many jobs are still found through friends and family or acquaintance's in a particular industry while you continue your current job search techniques. See who you know in the pharmaceutical industry and start there. Find who you don't know, as I did in my Lynx example and make new connections. I wish you all the best and hopefully you will only pay for a pharmaceutical certification when you investigate the company and have ALL the other skill requirements as well. All the best to you in your job hunt!


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Tags: Ask Linda, Break Into Pharmaceutical Sales, Pharmaceutical Sales Certification, break into medical device sales, pharmaceutical sales


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Started by Devin Hanson in Ask Linda Jun 14, 2020. 0 Replies


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