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What one MSL leader looks for in an MSL candidate?

by | Jan 11, 2018 | Expert Insights, Hiring MSLs, MSL Excellence, MSL Networking, The MSL Career

The MSL Society recently interviewed Dr. Arthur Chan, who is the Executive Director, Head of MSL Capabilities, Development and Training with Novartis. In this interview, Arthur discusses what he looks for in an MSL candidate, his inspiration to hire someone for a role in MSL management and Linkedin requests that he has declined and why. Take a look at his interview below!

What are do you look for when someone comes from a different therapeutic area or has little therapeutic area knowledge?

I look for genuine passion for the TA. You’re more likely to succeed as an MSL if you are absolutely passionate about your therapeutic area. I’ve coached team members to always remember it’s not just what kind of data you share with KOLs, but how you share it, how you say it, and a genuine interest to learn from your KOLs and collect insights. In order to do all that, you have to love your therapeutic area. For example: let’s say you’re interested in a position, but it relates to a completely different part of the body than you’re an expert in. First, your due diligence should involve determining who the KOLs are in that therapeutic area, look at conferences to see who the keynote speakers and chairs are. Second, look up literature and clinical trials by these KOLs using PubMed and, which are free and full of useful information. This is a good way to have an overview of who the main players are and what is currently of importance in this therapeutic area. Also, you should ask yourself, did the previous two steps fascinate you and could you wake up every morning living and breathing this stuff? If yes, then simply being able to verbalize this excitement and share it, despite having no experience in the therapeutic area, is paramount.

What would inspire me to hire someone as an MSL manager?

Not all the super MSLs out there make great managers. I think it’s important to recognize that the criteria for hiring someone who manages MSLs should be very different from MSLs themselves. First, a good manager needs to exhibit humility. I truly believe that if I’m not asking for help and learning something new from my team members every day, then I’m not maximizing my potential as a leader. What I learn from my team members can help me strengthen others, remove obstacles, and help develop people. A good MSL manager should also be willing to be out in the trenches with the MSLs. They should have good pull through on training, lead with integrity, be familiar with compliance and legal guidelines, and be willing to have the courage to provide constructive feedback. Effective MSL managers are also able to and willing to advocate for their teams. They need to exhibit confident presentation skills and be able to manage “up” as well. Most importantly, the best MSL managers have a lot of emotional intelligence. They’re able to adjust their management style to different personalities, be willing to hire people with diverse backgrounds from diverse cultures, and know how to maximize the output of each individual by truly connecting with team members.

What LinkedIn requests have you declined? Why?

This is a good one. I generally don’t accept invitations from people I haven’t met in person unless I’ve been formally introduced. There’s always those who think that just because I work for a company, I can recommend them for a job. As an ambassador for my company and looking out for the best interests of the organization, who I bring into the company affects my reputation as well. A job is like a long-term relationship. For example, would I say yes to a complete stranger wanting to date someone in my family? Probably not. There’s a lot of people who want to break into the MSL role and they will ask for advice or ask me to review their resume or qualifications. I always recommend that they use the resources within the society to seek such information. Then we have all the vendors that would love to work with us. Most large companies have a preferred vendor list that we use for various functions and features and if there is something that we don’t have a vendor for yet, we will search for them.


Copyright 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.