Dear Pharma Colleagues! I and my long time friend Javed Akhtar have started writing a book about Pharmaceutical Sales Profession. It reads like a story and will take up all aspects of Pharma Sales. I and Javed started as Medical Rep in 1975 and went through various stages. Javed got assigned to training and left as Head of Training at GSK. I stayed in the line management and reached the top in various companies. This is not exactly our story but it is the story of all of us; the Pharma Salespeople. Reproduced below is ‘PART II’. Kindly read and give your reviews and comments here or at 


Chapter 4 – Interviews

Few days later, Anwar informed Jamil about a vacancy in ‘Ambria Pharma’. He asked Jamil to submit his application and CV to Mr. Nadeem Ahmad, Area Manager at the distributor address immediately. Jamil got the address, prepared his application documents and went to the distributor office in Shadman. The distributor office was quite big, and many people were going in and out. He asked about Mr. Nadeem Ahmad and left the envelope with a staff of the distributor. Jamil went home and told his mother about it. He asked her to pray for him. Jamil’s mother told his father when he returned home at night. He called Jamil and asked about the detail. Jamil told him all he knew. Father said, “I pray that Allah does the best for you”.

Two days later, Jamil got a call from Nadeem Ahmed. He asked him to come to distributor office at 3.00pm, same day. Jamil became very excited. He got into his best clothes and reached the distributor office around 2.30pm. Nadeem Ahmad came few minutes before 3.00pm and asked him to come in his office. It was a small office, one long table and chairs to seat eight people; not impressive. Nadeem was a rather young person, no more than five years older to Jamil. He introduced himself to Jamil and they both sat down. Nadeem looked tired, but he was polite and courteous. He took out Jamil’s CV and started talking. After preliminaries, he asked “What do you know about medical rep’s job?” “Very little Sir.” Jamil was truthful. “My class fellow works as medical rep. I discussed with him and he gave me some information”. With this, Jamil told Nadeem whatever little he knew. Nadeem was suitably impressed and said, “Your basic understanding of job is good”.

Nadeem then went on to ask several questions to evaluate his suitability. He started from education and asked questions about academic progress, achievements, subjects of interest. He particularly asked about participation in extracurricular activities and especially sports. He wanted to know if he had played any team sport. Then he took up Jamil’s interests, what he loved to do. He asked about his friends and their activities. Finally, Nadeem asked questions about family, about his father’s work and his siblings.

Then Nadeem offered to Jamil to ask any questions. Jamil said he didn’t have many questions and he wanted to know about Ambria Pharma. Nadeem gave him a brief on the company.

The first interview of Jamil’s life lasted a good thirty minutes. At the end Nadeem shook hands with him and asked him to wait for the next call.

Four days later, Nadeem asked Jamil to come in the afternoon for another interview. Jamil went and met Mr. Shahid Mahmood, Sales Manager. Shahid was slightly older to both of them but still quite young.

Shahid asked some questions which had already been done by Nadeem. Then he put Jamil in an interesting situation. He gave him his pen and asked him to think for two minutes and then try to sell the pen to him. Jamil was perplexed. He had never sold a thing in his life; he only knew how to buy something. He said the same to Shahid. He was very encouraging. He asked Jamil to think about reasons why he would buy this pen, and then use the same arguments to sell the pen to Shahid. Jamil found the way. He composed his thoughts and then tried to sell the pen to him. His effort wasn’t great but was not too bad either. Shahid appreciated Jamil on his effort. Jamil felt pleased.

“Jamil! You are clear for final interview. Our BUM is expected next week, he will do the final interview”. Shahid said. Jamil was very happy.

Jamil waited for next week with mixed emotions of anxiety and excitement. He had a brief meeting with Anwar in between and updated him about the progress so far. Anwar was happy for him that things were progressing.

Next week, Jamil received a call from Nadeem to come over to the hotel where the BUM was staying. Jamil went there on the appointed time and presented himself. Nadeem and Shahid were already there.

The BUM Irfan Ahmad was also young, may be in late thirties. He had a commanding style and both Nadeem and Shahid deferred to him in respect.

Irfan asked Jamil directly, “why do you want to become medical rep?”. Jamil fumbled a little at the sudden question. “Sir, I think I like this job. I am young, and I shall work hard to become successful.” Jamil came out with a short reply. Irfan did not look convinced. “Give me an example from your life where you took a challenge and achieved the goal”. He asked. Jamil thought a little and then said “Yes Sir. In the last year of my college, my class fellow Khalid had a big accident. He was in hospital and had lost lot of blood. The doctors said they would need at least ten bottles of blood for his operation. I took it up and went to all the classes and requested for blood donation. We got the blood and Khalid was saved. I felt very happy” Jamil was beaming. “That’s nice” Irfan said.

“Do you know how people become successful?” Irfan asked next. “I think they work hard” Jamil said.

“They work smart. And they work hard every day. They keep eyes on their target all the time and keep moving toward it.” Irfan commented. Jamil nodded his head.

“What do you want to become in life? What do you want to achieve?” Irfan asked.

“Sir! I used to think I would become accountant and work in some office all day and all life. But now that thinking does not make me happy. I want to achieve more. I want to earn more money and I want to support my family.” Jamil said thoughtfully.

“Good. You do appear to be a serious person. You will have to learn a lot and work very hard to become successful” Irfan said. He got up. “Congratulations. You are hired”

“Thank You Sir. Thank you very much.” Jamil was close to tears.

“You are welcome. Shahid and Nadeem will tell you detail about your joining, salary and other things. Please wait outside.”

“Yes Sir.” Jamil could hardly contain his excitement.

Key Learnings

For Candidates

  • Write your CV yourself. Do not ask someone to do it for you. Never present a CV if you do not know what is written in it.

  • Your CV is your first look. Make it clean, no spelling mistakes, no messy format

  • Prepare for interview properly. Make yourself look clean and fresh and energetic.

  • Show your best self and best manners

  • Think about possible questions and your replies. But when you are in the interview, concentrate on what is being asked and reply.

  • Do not rush to reply. Understand the question and then reply

  • Be truthful. Do not make up things. Never make false statements. If you do not know, say so. 

For Managers

  • First Interview must be structured and thorough. Discuss all heads; experience, if any, education, family, personal interests, hobbies, lifestyle etc. Ask as many questions as you may have to but get clear. Encourage the candidate to speak.

  • If you are a first line manager, do not copy the interview style of your seniors. Their style is based of years of experience and you may not know why they ask certain questions.

  • The interview must be given adequate time. If you are in a hurry, do not conduct interview. The candidate deserves fair assessment.

  • Interview environment should be relaxed. Do not push or bully the candidate

  • Do not rush to judgement. Hold your final evaluation till the completion of interview

  • Keep your biases away. If you do not like the color of his shirt, or his hair style, it is not enough reason to reject. Such things can be changed later.

  • Make a written evaluation to get the full picture and also to help the next interviewer to build on what you have already learnt.

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