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Consultant Questionnaire - Nick Langley, Advance

Posted on: 21 May 04


As the difficulty of the reps role increases, Pharmiweb talks to the people whose role it is to get the best people for the job. This week Nick Langley of Advance.

What is your background in the industry?

I have been in the medical sales recruitment industry for 11 years. After three successful years working in the sector, I decided that it was time to set up an agency with a difference.

What can your company do for candidates that others can't?

We are focussed on providing candidates with an honest and true service. It is difficult not to use clichés but the fact is that a huge percentage of our candidates come back to us when it is time to move their careers forward again. We also receive an incredible amount of recommendations and referrals from candidates who have been impressed by the service that they have received from Advance.

Our service is fast - we act on CVs immediately. Honesty – we will give an honest appraisal of career prospects. Proactivity – we can approach companies specifically on a candidate’s behalf. Advice – we help candidates to determine their career path. Creativity – we ensure that a CV sells the candidate to a client. Access – we have all the latest medical sales vacancies. Confidentiality – discretion is assured. Efficiency – WE DO THE SEARCHING SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO. Guidance – we share our knowledge of interview techniques and ensure that any candidate going for an interview is fully prepared beforehand. Finally, we ensure that all candidates are kept informed of  any development in the recruitment process.

What do you look for first in a candidate?

There are three categories of candidates. Firstly there are “good” candidates who have stable track records, high levels of achievement, are articulate and can demonstrate to potential employers the reasons why they should be employed by them. Secondly, there are candidates who can be made good with a little assistance from a professional recruitment company. These people may require help with interview technique or may need us to actively promote their strengths which could be overshadowed by, for example, an unstable track record. This category also includes trainees looking to break into the sector who display the appropriate levels of professionalism, enthusiasm, commercial acumen and intelligence. The final category are candidates who we just cannot work with. These people may have poor track records / records of achievement or who may not be prepared to work with us to help find them an appropriate role (perhaps by continuously failing to show up for interviews, or who never return telephone calls). Trainees who are just fed up with what they are doing now but show no real desire to break into medical sales specifically, or whose knowledge of the sector is lacking also come into this category.

What trends are you seeing in the positions you recruit for at the moment? 

We are finding that more and more candidates in the pharmaceutical sector want to come away from GP selling by becoming a Hospital Specialist or by moving into the medical product/devices sector.

How do you think the industry will change in the next five years?

Over the next five years the pharmaceutical industry will continue to shrink, in terms of numbers of companies/employers. There will always be a need for well trained, professional Sales Executives but in my opinion the number of salespeople will decrease as access to employers becomes harder and harder.

How can a recent graduate/undergraduate improve their chances of getting a position within the pharmaceutical industry?

This industry is becoming increasingly difficult to break into. Many graduates want to explore medical sales as a career but there are a limited number of positions available. Graduates must have genuine reasons for wanting to break in and they need to show flair and enthusiasm before the interview process starts! A graduate must thoroughly research the industry through both the internet and by shadowing existing representatives. Work shadowing is difficult to arrange because a lot of representatives are aware of the rules of the ABPI and say no to requests. However, this research is viewed as a test of initiative by companies and is therefore vital. Candidates must think of friends, friends of friends etc. Alternatively a visit to a family GP could lead to contacts being found. For the actual interview candidates have to make themselves stand out from the competition; “What have they achieved so far in life?”, “Why are they going to become a successful representative?” are examples of questions which require good, in-depth answers.

What are the most common mistakes that candidates make?

In interviews candidates of all levels of experience often forget that the recruitment process is when they must sell themselves. An interview is like any sales call, except that now the product being sold is the person being interviewed.

What is the single best piece of cv advice you would offer potential candidates?

As far as CVs are concerned candidates have to bear in mind that the average employer spends 30 seconds reading a CV. Therefore a maximum of two pages is required. All information has to be accurate, informative and concise. A CV is a sales document and must sell that candidate. It must leave the customer wanting to know more about the candidate. In other words, it must make the employer want to interview the candidate.

What is the single best piece of advice you have received in your career?

The best piece of advice I have received in my career is “do what you say you are going to do.” Don’t make false promises and don’t try to be something you are not. Make sure expectations are realistic and don’t leave people disappointed.

What websites do you recommend?

The best industry specific websites are and

What books or magazines do you recommend?

On target’ and ‘Pharmaceutical Field’ magazines are the best publications to subscribe to.

Telephone: 0161 969 9700. Email: Web: To view Advance's current jobs on pharmiweb please click here.

Mark Stacey

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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