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Why it's Hard to Land an Entry-Level Medical Device Sales Job

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

December 28, 2023

MDSI Article: 005

Medical Device sales training in the Operating Room
Hands-On Medical Device Sales Training

Breaking into medical device sales can be challenging due to a variety of reasons.

Whether you're looking to break into the industry or seeking innovative strategies for success, we've got you covered. Dive into our wealth of knowledge and let us guide you in breaking barriers and building your future.
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  1. Extensive Knowledge Demands: Medical device sales is a highly specialized field. You're selling complex products, often involving intricate technology, to highly educated and discerning customers such as doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators. This requires a deep understanding of medical terminologies, industry regulations, and the specific device you're selling. Example: A medical device sales rep might need to understand the complex functionality of a multi-level interbody fusion spine procedure, how it interacts with human physiology, how it complies with health and safety regulations, and how to communicate this information effectively to a busy Orthopedic Spine Surgeon. In a medical device sales role, this requires a combination of sales skills, medical knowledge, and the ability to build strong relationships, making it challenging for someone to break into the field.

  2. Technical Proficiency & Skill: Medical device sales representatives must not only be knowledgeable about human anatomy and the specific products they promote, but they also need to possess exceptional teaching abilities for demonstrating intricate procedures to an audience of highly qualified and experienced professionals. Instruction, at its purest form, is a skill!

  3. Regulatory Requirements: Medical device sales is heavily regulated. Medical device sales representatives must not only understand the technical aspects of the devices they sell, but also the legal and regulatory environment. This includes FDA regulations, privacy laws such as HIPAA, and any state-specific regulations.

  4. High Competition: Medical device sales is a lucrative field, hence, it attracts high competition. Many experienced medical device sales representatives from other fields are eager to break into this industry, making it tough for newcomers to make a mark.

  5. Extensive Training: Most companies prefer to hire medical device sales reps with previous medical sales experience because the cost and time of training new reps can be substantial. As a result, medical device sales managers are more inclined to hire a person with a solid track record in sales versus a recent college graduate or career transitioner with no prior sales experience. The same is true for persons with industry experience like nursing, surgical tech, or radiation tech - a candidate with prior sales experience is preferred. Prior sales, particularly medical device sales, experience gives hiring managers confidence that a candidate understands rejection and is resilient in their efforts to not let rejection undermine their efforts and reach goals.

  6. Building Relationships: Selling medical devices often requires building long-term relationships with medical professionals and hospitals. These relationships can take years to cultivate. Medical device sales professionals tend to be busy and hard to reach, and they often rely on reps they've known and trusted for years (or get a referral from someone they trust) rather than a new candidate.

  7. High Pressure and Expectations: Medical device sales are often high-stakes. The devices are expensive, and the clients expect high-quality service and support. This puts a great deal of pressure on sales reps to perform at a high level consistently.

  8. Fear of the Unknown: In the absence of prior sales experience, medical device sales managers are fearful of hiring someone that comes into job with unrealistic expectations about role and what it takes to succeed. It's one of the major reasons why the average medical sales tenure is 1-2 years*.

  9. No College Degree: There's no industry standard related to medical device sales hiring with no college degree, it varies by organization. You can break into medical device sales without a 4-year degree but the path to landing a job is tougher, especially when considering 94%** of medical sales reps have a bachelors degree or higher.

  10. Unprepared for Interview: Getting the interview alone for a medical device sales position is challenging but getting past a hiring screen or recruiter is often harder. You need to do your homework and be prepared - here are a few tips:

  • Do Your Research: Before applying for a medical device sales position, thoroughly research the Medical Device company to understand its mission, vision, and culture. This will demonstrate your interest and help you align your skills and experience with their needs.

  • Customize Your Resume and Cover Letter: Tailor your resume and cover letter to the medical device sales job description. Use keywords from the job posting to show the screener that your skills match what they're seeking in a medical device sales representative.

  • Strong Online Presence: A compelling online profile like LinkedIn can be a powerful tool. It should reflect your professional experiences (especially sales or healthcare background), skills, and endorsements. Example: Share medical device sales industry-related articles regularly, engage with other medical device sales professionals, and ask for recommendations to enhance your LinkedIn profile.

  • Networking: Connect with current or former employees at the medical device company or even the hiring manager if possible. This can help you gain insights about the medical device company and possibly a referral, which can hugely increase your chances of landing an interview. Example: Participate in online forums or groups, or use LinkedIn to network and establish connections with medical device sales associates and hiring managers.

  • Follow-Up: Send a professional, polite email to follow up to screening interview even if you haven't heard back within a week or two. This shows your eagerness and can keep you top-of-mind for the medical device sales role. Example: Thank the recruiter for their time in reviewing your application and express your continued interest in the medical device sales position.

  • Prepare for the Screening Call: The screening call is often the first direct contact with the medical device company or third-party intermediary (recruiter) hired to help find talent. Be prepared to discuss your skills and experience, why you're interested in medical device sales and the position, and have some thoughtful questions ready to ask the screener. Example: You could ask about the medical device company's work culture, expected challenges in the role, and next steps in the process.

  • Show Enthusiasm: Throughout the process

II. Hiring Manager Preferences:

(a) Medical Device Sales Knowledge & Skills:

  • Knowledge of Medical Terminology and Technically Proficient

  • High Emotional Quotient

  • Resilient - not afraid of "no" or rejection

  • Has tenacity, Grit, and Determination

  • Ability to Multitask in a Fast-Paced Environment

  • Customer Service Focused

  • Excellent communication skills, particularly listening, instructional, and negotiation

(b) Medical Device Sales (general) Requirements:

  • Proven Sales Experience and Track Record - any industry

  • Medical Sales Experience

  • Bachelor's Degree in a Relevant Field


**Medical Device Sales Rep Profile - MEDREPS-


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