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10 Basic Questions That a Medical Science Liaison Candidate Should Ask During an Interview

Many MSL Candidates believe that the interview process is heavily one-sided with the employers asking the majority of the questions. However, interviewing is a mutual process and it is just as important that candidates prepare meaningful questions of their own. Failure to ask relevant questions can signify a lack of interest in the job. The key to creating effective questions is to research the company, the role, and current trends in the industry. It is advisable to prepare a list of questions before each stage of the interview process. The initial pre-screening interview may require only a few general questions such as job title, main responsibilities, schedule and travel requirements (if any), and hiring process. As candidates move further along in the hiring process, the questions will become more detailed in terms of key challenges of the role, reporting structure, performance evaluations, and company goals.  

What follows is a list of ten questions that candidates should be prepared to ask during first round in-person interviews along with suggested responses.  

  1. “Can you describe the ideal candidate for this position?”

This question allows you to probe the most important qualities that the employer is looking for. Respond by matching qualities that you share with what the interviewer has mentioned during the interview.

  1. “What is your management style?”

This is a helpful question to help you gain insight into whether the hiring manager’s management style is one in which you will be comfortable working. Relate their comments to what your style or experiences are.

  1. Can you tell me about specific projects I will be working on?”

This question will help to clarify the work you will be expected to perform and whether this fits in with your current career objective. If possible relate your experiences with those.

  1. “Who makes up the team for this therapeutic area? What are their roles?”

This question will help you to understand the key staff members that you will be working within each department and how your role would interact with each. Mention your experience working cross-functionally or with internal colleagues within Medical Affairs. Mention some relevant accomplishments from these interactions.

  1. “What do you like best about working for this company?”

This question can help you to gain some insight with regard to company culture. It will also send up a red flag should the interviewer not be able to come up with at least a few reasons. Mention some of the things that you have learned during your research on the company and what excites you about the company and the potential of working there.

  1. “Why is this position vacant?”

You need to find out if the organization growing or did the prior employee resign? Also, this will tell you if the company growing or is it a newly created role? Regardless of the answer relate your experiences to where the company is currently at with their MSL team(s). If it is a newly created role and you have years of experience, highlight this and mention how your experiences will help the company be successful in the new role. 

  1. “What are the expected outcomes for this position over the next 3 months, 6 months, and one year?”

This question can help you understand whether the performance expectations are realistic for the time frame provided. Similar questions include: “How will my performance be measured?” “How will you measure success?” Mention your successes in previous roles during these same periods and how you can deliver similar results.

  1. “What resources are available for this position?”

This question addresses technology, staff, and budget for the position. It will help you assess whether there are sufficient resources available to help you successfully perform in the role. Mention resources that you have used in the past and what successes you have had with them.  

  1. “Are there any other issues about my candidacy that I can address or clarify to help you with the decision-making process? 

This question shows that you are open to feedback and critique. Address any shortcoming mentioned by reiterating your relevant and transferable skills and knowledge, along with your ability to learn quickly. Mention any ways that you have done self-evaluations and have improved upon any needs for improvement.

  1. “What is the next step in the process?” “May I have your business card?”

This will help you to clarify how long it will take before a hiring decision is made. This can relieve some anxiety if you don’t hear back from the employer right away.

You will want to obtain business cards so that you can send thank-you/follow-up letters to each person who you interviewed with. Mention your desire to move forward in the process (only if this is really true) and look forward to the next opportunity to interact with those at the company. 


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.

5 Tips for the Medical Science Liaison phone interview

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.
The significance of delivering a successful presentation

The significance of delivering a successful presentation

Mike Abbadessa

Sr. Director US Medical Affairs – Takeda Pharmaceuticals


The MSL Society interviewed Mike Abbadessa, Sr. Director US Medical Affairs at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, to get his views on the significance of delivering a successful presentation in the MSL field. Take a look at his interview below!

In your opinion, what defines a successful presentation for an MSL candidate?

The presentation should be on scientific or clinical material to include some technical information and display skills such as:

 Concise delivery; ability to condense information into an understandable communication across a spectrum of audience types;

 Clear, direct, and confident – poised (not looking at the screen)

 Delivery should be factual and fair-balanced; provoke interest

 Ability to answer questions in a confident, informative manner; honesty is key.

▪ Enable trust through establishing credibility 

How much does the presentation weigh in on the hiring decision?

The presentation can be a deal breaker. If the presenter is bad, it will probably determine their fate with all things considered and assuming moderate competitiveness.

 Who would the MSL candidate most likely present to? If anyone outside of management, why?

The MSL candidate will most likely present to key management team members, including Senior managers, Medical directors, Managed Market Access partners – if HCEI is part of the role, and other staff to test candidate comfort with a moderate crowd (10 or so).

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.

MSLs and Emotional Intelligence

MSLs and Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is topic that is constantly discussed in the MSL profession. Brian Bischel, Senior Director, US Field Medical Affairs with Notal Vision, shared his views on Emotional Intelligence with the MSL Society. Take a look at his interview below!

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is a term that first gained popularity in 2012 when Daniel Goleman published his book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”. The phrase has many interpretations but is generally defined as the ability to be aware of how to handle interpersonal relationships with self-awareness and empathy. It measures how well an individual is able to regulate their own emotions and the consequent emotions of others.

 Why is it necessary for successful MSLs to have Emotional Intelligence?

It is not challenging to find very intelligent individuals for an MSL role. If someone has the discipline and intellect required to obtain a doctoral degree, they usually can master product information quickly, even if it is a new therapeutic area for them. The bigger challenge is finding MSLs who also have the proper levels of self-awareness so that they can read the personalities of those they are communicating with and adjust their levels of questioning or presenting appropriately.  

 What are some examples of questions you would ask an MSL candidate to assess their level of Emotional Intelligence?

A common question is “What is your proudest professional moment?” Someone with a heightened level of Emotional Intelligence will likely answer with a story about a team they were a part of that achieved a challenging goal by working together, as opposed to an example of individual accomplishment.

Another question to explore Emotional Intelligence levels is to ask the candidate to “Teach me something as if I’ve never heard of it before”. I like this question because often this is what MSLs are asked to do, and it gives me an impression of how they concisely explain potentially complex material. This question also gives me insight into their level of poise, as it is appropriate to pause and consider a response instead of just blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. And finally, I can see if they use check-in questions (“Does this make sense”?) in the course of their explanation, which I consider important for MSL presentations.

My last comment is not really a question, but a situation in which I like to interview. I prefer to do my interviews over lunch, brought into a conference room at my company. There are many reasons for this. First of all, many of our interactions with KOLs are over the meal setting, and I like to see how they handle the balance of talking and listening while also eating. Secondly, it sends the message that they can relax a little with me and that in turn really allows me to get to quality answers I need to hear in order to decide if they have the Emotional Intelligence I desire.

As an MSL Manager, what would inspire you to hire a certain MSL?

I certainly prefer therapeutic area fluency whenever possible. However, some of the most successful MSLs I’ve hired are young, hungry individuals without this experience, but have demonstrated that they put the work into preparing for the interview to improve their therapeutic area knowledge. These are people I know I can further mentor to consistently get better. 

In addition, I need someone who can work as a team. I realize this is a little cliché, but it is vitally important. I require my teams to work together on a multitude of projects, so no individual is overwhelmed. MSLs who seek only to elevate their personal brand, and not the group as a whole, do not have a place in my organization.

What skills should be improved often throughout the MSL career?

It really is a never-ending process of learning. I tell my teams that the physicians we call on may know more about the body than we do, but we must be seen as peers in terms of disease state knowledge, and have more knowledge than them when it comes to product knowledge. To that end, we have to stay current on publications and presentations.

Other skills depend upon what the MSL wants out of their career, which is something I ask all of my MSLs soon after they start in their role. Do they want to remain an MSL? Do they want to manage an MSL team? Do they want another role within Medical Affairs or some other department within the organization? Their answers tell me what I need to offer them to help them succeed, whether it’s leadership skills training or experience on internal teams such as Regulatory Affairs, Health Economics, Medical Information, Medical Communication, or others. I’m very proud of MSLs I’ve hired who have gone on to tremendous success in these different areas, perhaps due in some part to the experiences and training I provided.


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.

What to expect throughout your MSL career?

What to expect throughout your MSL career?

Have you ever wondered what one should expect throughout their MSL career or what steps to take to ensure you are prepared for this field? Well below is a brief interview with Cherie Hyder – Head of Medical Affairs at Alimera Sciences. She gives us a glimpse of the MSL career through her eyes.

How does MSL role change with the product lifecycle needs?

A product lifecycle may be defined by 3 main stages: 

Development through Pre-launch: 

MSLs are involved in many aspects including defining KOLs, disease state and therapeutic training, learning clinical data as it becomes available, potentially assisting with study design or additional assessments that will add value as the product prepares to launch, examining the competitive landscape and learning that data, patient perspectives, planning for launch, formulary presentations, and other things.  This is a hopeful and exciting time for a new product on the horizon and everyone waits with intense anticipation for the regulatory approval to allow the next stage to begin! 

Launch through Peri-launch:

The excitement mounts as a new product approval brings launch plans imminently!  MSLs will be laying out plans to support the launch meeting, educating the organization on disease and key data, how products should be used and approved label, plans for KOL engagement, and potentially hiring more MSLs to build out the team and assure adequate coverage. MSLs often assist with formulary presentations to increase access to a new product, educate KOLs / HCPs on the new product, label, and differentiation from competitors, answering many medical questions, attending medical conferences, and assisting with sales training, speaker training…..a flurry of activity!  Bring your running shoes! 

Post Launch / Mature Product through Patent expiry:

At this point, MSLs are a well-oiled machine with a ready answer to nearly any question about the product, label, and disease being treated; MSLs may be more active in further research with ISTs and sponsor trials, brand planning, competitor landscape monitoring and education internally, continued KOL development and partnership, looking for new ways to keep a mature product fresh and useful in clinicians’ armamentarium of treatments.  MSLs will need to be strategic and opportunistic to breathe new life into mature products and have something new to engage with their KOLs.  As patent expiry nears, MSLs may be transitioning to other products, teams or disease areas for the next chapter in a career. 

How does one prepare for a successful MSL interview?

Key Steps to Consider when Interviewing for an MSL position:

  • Read the job description carefully; MSL roles vary by company and product lifecycle stage
  • Consider tailoring your resume / CV to ideally match the job description with actual experience you have (don’t try to fake experience because you may or likely will be asked about it in interviews and lack of experience will show in the response; I have seen this happen when interviewing MSL candidates); get MSL / MSL leader in your network to review your resume / CV to offer advice
  • Listen carefully to the hiring manager/recruiter when they tell you how the interview process will happen, what you need to do to prepare and tips for success. 
  • Prepare fully for the interview in advance; read about the company, talk to colleagues at the company if you know them, try to do a field shadow day with MSL if you are new to the MSL profession and want to get a clear first-hand perspective of what MSLs do.  If you are asked to do a presentation during the interview, again listen carefully to what is asked of you; research your topic well, cite your references on each slide at bottom, bring a folder of key references with you in case someone asks about a particular reference you cite, understand the disease/condition, patient perspectives, treatment options and be prepared to answer questions.  If you don’t know an answer, have a professional way of responding and offer to look up the information with quick follow up to show you can handle this situation in a real MSL role. 
  • Before you go to the interview, look at MSL capabilities such as teamwork, leadership, decision making, strategic thinking, innovation, compliance (not a complete listing here) and develop a STAR format example or 2 for each of these capabilities where you explain a Situation or Task you faced as an MSL or in prior position, the Actions you took and Results you achieved. These are situational/behavioral based questions you are likely to encounter in an interview.  If you do this ahead of time, it’s easy to recall your examples and concisely reply to questions.   If asked a negative example, be sure to end on a positive note about what you learned or would do differently to achieve a positive result.  Also, know your personal strengths and weaknesses; have examples for both in case asked; for weakness, try to turn it into a strength such as being very detail oriented or wanting to be on time always. 
  • Make good eye contact, listen well, don’t talk over others, be well rested and professionally dressed, give a firm handshake and smile!  These are obvious things to do, but it’s surprising how often they are overlooked!
  • Enjoy your interview day and make the most of the time together as you are also interviewing the prospective company!  Come with a few questions you want to ask such as what MSL training and onboarding is offered, what development/mentorship is provided, ask about any special projects MSLs have been involved in, ask about current MSL goals and how many home office days vs field days per week are expected, how big is region, etc.  Don’t let the opportunity to ask a few questions pass by saying you have no questions.  Ask each interviewer for a business card. 
  • After the interview, send an email thanking the primary contacts you met with and stating your interest in joining the MSL team and citing something unique you learned in that particular discussion. 
  • Then wait….be patient….have faith that your strong skills will be needed and recognized by those who met with you and keep interviewing.  Don’t limit yourself to just 1 or 2 potential positions if you are sure the MSL role is where you want to be! 


Unique projects MSLs can get involved with to add value to their organization

The list can be quite long, but here are a few to consider:

If you love writing, ask to help write new SRLs (standard response letters), FAQs, abstracts, manuscripts, protocols, etc!

If you enjoy numbers, ask to participate in budget forecasting exercises, data analysis, managed markets/reimbursement projects to determine costs/value

MSLs also enjoy workgroups/task force committees internally where topics can range from competitor landscape to brand planning!

Updating slide decks and keeping slides fresh with new data is another great project! 

Actionable clinical insights from KOL meetings may evolve into new project opportunities


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

This person must have passion, high energy, and dedication to disease state, sense of purpose for why they want to be an MSL, skill sets that are transferable to MSL role such as clinical research, teaching, communication skills (written and verbal), and High EQ / Social skills. They also must be willing to go the extra mile to get a task completed, flexibility to adapt to changes, service-oriented, responsive to seek answers and info for follow up, detail oriented and organized,  and a self-driver! 


What have you done to achieve work-life balance in this profession?

Work will always be there. We have a duty to our organization to give all our effort each day.  Yet, it is critical to remember that the MSL role is a “marathon”, not a “race”.  Anyone can sprint for a while and then you need to settle into a pace for the long run.   Balance entails knowing you are human; you need reasonable rest, time to eat, be with family and friends and still fulfill your work duties.  Work takes up the majority of the time we are awake each day and we need to feel a sense of purpose with all we are doing, but, remember to disconnect outside of an emergency need to respond quickly.  Take time to enjoy the day.  Many MSLs are type A personalities, driven to succeed at all costs, but don’t let that trait cost you your health, family or friendships.  The MSL role offers unique flexibility with home office days where one can adjust family needs while getting work projects completed.  We are the ultimate multi-taskers!  For me, as an MSL with more than 15 years in the role, I learned to work smarter, not harder….meaning aim for the big wins….the high visibility, high impact activities that align with business needs rather than trying to run circles around yourself doing more and more, often repetitively doing little things that will never add up like the big ones!   Help your family understand the demands of a travel job; set up routine skype meetings with kids/spouse/friends and stay connected.  Find ways to make your travel time efficient by bundling KOL visits in a city or near each other.  Set goals for your next week in advance and allow extra time for the unexpected requests that always come!   Set up meetings with yourself to block calendar time to do reports and follow up work after KOL meetings.  Balance is ultimately about organizing yourself, aligning goals to maximize impact, orchestrating your field work and getting into a healthy rhythm.  Each person faces unique needs and situations regarding work-life balance.  Talk to fellow MSLs to get their advice and stop working too many long days, sacrificing valuable rest and relaxation time.  It’s okay to say NO or not now; if you delay fulfilling a non-urgent request, the may need to go away on its own!  


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.