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The typical second step in the interview process (after an initial phone screen with a recruiter or HR personnel) in becoming an MSL is the Telephone Interview.  A telephone interview is basically a screening tool favored by employers.  Telephone interviews will almost always take place with an MSL hiring manager to explore your experience as an MSL, how well your background matches their needs, your work history, abilities, and even evaluate the candidate’s enthusiasm and interest level before committing to a face-to-face meeting, thus saving companies time and money.        

At this stage, your mission is to sell yourself sufficiently to be invited in for a personal interview.  By following the guidelines below, you will learn how to create a proper first impression, thereby greatly increasing your chances of reaching your goal.

1) Schedule a specific time.

Arrange a specific time for the call to occur and take the time to prepare as much as possible by writing down specific questions and make your self as comfortable as possible.  Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted by possible disturbances (e.g., your boss, family members, friends, pets, TV sets, stereos, etc.). Locating a phone next to a desk or table will be most helpful since you will need several materials in front of you.  If you are participating in a phone interview at home, the kitchen is a preferred location – counter space for materials, minimal distractions, and room to walk around allowing you to release nervous energy.

2) Be prepared for a complete interview.

MSL candidates often make a big mistake: They treat their first telephone interview with a prospective employer as a minor formality.  Don’t make this same mistake.  Companies look for reasons not to bring people in for interviews.  If you want to succeed, you must prepare for the initial “phone interview or screen” as carefully as you will prepare later for the face-to-face interview.
In order to “sell” your skills and abilities effectively, you should keep the following items next to your phone:  your resume, a list of your accomplishments, probing questions about the company, a notepad, possible interview dates and times and a glass of water.

Be prepared (even rehearsed) to answer the following questions:

1. Why are you interested in a career change?
2. What are you looking for in your next position?
3. Why are you interested in this position?
4. What is your experience related to this position?
5. What are your short and long-term goals?
6. What can you tell me about our company?
7. Tell me about yourself.
Questions for the hiring manager could include the following:  

1. What are you looking for in the “ideal candidate?”
2. What are the critical factors for success on the job?
3. What are your short and long-term goals for the MSL team?
4. Why is the position open?
By asking questions during the interview, you subtly start taking control of the conversation. 
If you sense the interviewer relinquishing control, continue with your line of questions.  Interject short responses intermittently to acknowledge the interviewer’s comments (e.g., “That’s interesting,” “I see,” “Great idea,” etc.).  Conclude responses with “check-back” phrases such as, “Does that answer your question?” “Is that what you’re looking for?”
3) Project a winning image

In a face-to-face interview, your appearance and body language can help reinforce the impression you are trying to create.  Over the phone, however, their impression of you will be based on your voice and your answers.  Confidence and strong communication skills are a must and skills that every successful MSL must possess.  However, you do have an edge – you have your home field advantage, familiar surroundings with your notes in front of you.      
Listen to each question carefully and respond enthusiastically with concise, fact-filled sentences; responses should be limited to 90 seconds.  Describe your ability to impact the company by using specific dollar amounts and percentages to explain your past accomplishments.
4) Close for an interview

As you proceed, try to get a feel for the chemistry or rapport that has been established. If you feel the interviewer is impressed with you, and you are interested in pursuing the opportunity, do not hesitate to close the conversation by pushing for a face-to-face meeting:
“(Interviewer’s name), based on the information you have given me, I am very interested in pursuing this opportunity and would be very interested in moving forward in the interview process.
If the interviewer agrees that the process should continue but cannot commit to a specific schedule, suggest that both parties should coordinate their respective schedules thru the company’s search consultant.
If you are not interested in the position, don’t burn your bridges.  Your misconceptions may cause you to lose out on a great opportunity.  Express your concerns with the recruiter or whoever set this up for you – he or she may be able to clarify the information due to his or her intimate knowledge of the client.  

5) Follow up with a Thank You note

Make sure that you always follow up with a formal Thank You letter.  You can obtain the hiring managers details from the recruiter or HR personnel that set the interview up for you.  If you are not used to sending these types of letters, send it to the person you are working with first to review the letter and ask for any feedback.  Keep the letter brief 2-3 paragraphs and mention some specific details that you discussed during the interview. 


Copyright 2013-2018 The Medical Science Liaison Society. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authorization. The MSL Society is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization dedicated to advancing the global MSL career.


Dr. Samuel Dyer is the Chairman of the Board of the MSL Society and the author of “The Medical Science Liaison Career Guide: How to Break Into Your First Role“, the first step-by-step guide ever published on how to successfully land your first MSL role.