Career change is a necessity for many people just now. But, before sending out your existing CV for vacancies in a different industry, ensure you’ve adapted it to suit first.
Incorporate keywords for the type of post you’re applying for and showcase your transferable skills, qualities and experience – this will give confidence that you will be able to transition smoothly and successfully into a new sector.
You may need to change the emphasis of job information from previous roles, or expand upon information which might have been readily understood in the same field, but now needs further explanation; skills you took for granted as they were ‘a given’ in one type of job may be a real asset in a new arena.
Being capable of doing the job is only half of the battle though – a hiring manager is more likely to select your application over others if you’ve made it clear why you wish to pursue that type of job and what you’ve done to gain a better understanding of it; so include this in your profile (this should be underneath your contact information toward the top of the 1st page of your CV).
If you are finding it tricky tailoring your CV for a different industry then we can help. We offer a CV writing service for a fixed cost of £50. Call 07815 846176 for more info, or email your existing CV to email@example.com (and if you don’t have a CV at all, don’t worry – we can write it for you completely from scratch).
As a job seeker looking for work as a Sales Representative in the UK pharmaceutical industry, you may have seen the phrase “must be ABPI qualified” mentioned in job adverts. But what is the ABPI qualification? Do you need to have the certificate before applying for vacancies? Can you pay to sit the exam yourself? Would having the exam give you access to more job opportunities? We’re often asked these kinds of questions, so we decided to answer some of the most frequent ones here.
There are 2 different ABPI qualifications:
the full ABPI Diploma (for sales representatives who call upon doctors, dentists, and other UK prescribers and/or promote medicines based on their therapeutic properties), and
the Level 3 Certificate available in the promotion of prescription medicines, which is taken by representatives who promote medicines primarily based on price, quality and availability to those who do not prescribe medicines (generic medicines).
For clarity, when the ABPI is mentioned from hereon in, it refers to the full ABPI Diploma.
What follows is based on our experience having recruited pharmaceutical sales representatives in the UK for many years; candidates wishing to secure their first role in the industry have asked us on numerous occasions whether self-funding the exam will help them find work, and our intention here is to provide information which may assist with your decision-making process if you are considering this. We are not advocating for, or against, self-funding the ABPI.
Do I need to pass the exam before I join the pharmaceutical industry?
No. Entry level candidates are not expected to have their ABPI qualification when applying for jobs in the industry. In fact, the majority of new starters have NOT self funded the ABPI exam – this applies to graduate trainees and applicants changing career direction to pursue a role in pharma.
Where ‘must already be ABPI qualified’ is mentioned in a job advert, it usually means the hiring manager is looking for someone who is already an experienced pharma rep, and that particular job is not aimed at trainee applicants.
Will self-funding the ABPI give me any advantages when applying for jobs?
Whilst self-funding the exam will show you are committed to becoming a pharma rep, there are many other ways of doing this which are less costly and just as effective (e.g. shadowing a pharma sales rep to observe the realities of the job first hand; learning about the NHS in your country; using online resources to read up on the job and industry), whilst also giving you more insight into the realities of the job.
If you already have a degree in a life science subject, then prospective employers will have no doubt that you will be able to assimilate the knowledge they will provide in order to sell their products effectively; if you have no life science background at all, it may be a concern whether you will struggle with learning the information required during the company’s initial training course, or indeed about your likelihood of passing the ABPI in future, so sitting the ABPI exam yourself may help to reassure them of your abilities.
Will self-funding the exam enable me to apply for job vacancies where the ABPI qualification is listed as a requirement?
As mentioned before, in many cases when a job advert includes the phrase “must be ABPI qualified”, it actually means ‘must already be employed as a pharmaceutical sales representative’ (i.e. this is not a position where the hiring manager is prepared to consider trainees / entry level applicants). Although having your ABPI demonstrates your commitment to joining the industry, it does not guarantee you will be a successful pharma sales rep, that you will enjoy the job, and does not give you the on-territory experience and customer contacts some managers may be looking for.
Why do Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives need the ABPI qualification?
The ABPI Medical Representatives Exam (equivalent to an ‘A’ level qualification) is taken by representatives who call upon doctors, dentists and other UK prescribers and/or promote medicines on the basis of their therapeutic properties. It must be taken by all medical reps working for companies who have agreed to abide by the ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry; this includes approximately 80% of pharma companies operating in the UK.
If the company that employs you is an ABPI member, they will pay for the materials you require when they feel you are ready to combine your job responsibilities with the study needed to prepare for the exam; they’ll give you time to revise and pay for you to sit the exam – taking the exam is part of your job, and your continued employment in the industry depends upon you passing it.
Representatives who are ABPI qualified understand the ABPI code of practice and will conduct themselves in an ethical way, have a sound knowledge of the NHS in their locality (the information on the NHS will vary according to where in the UK you are – the structure of the NHS is different in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), have a good understanding of human anatomy and physiology, systems of the body, and more specialist knowledge of certain disease areas; they will also have studied drug research, development and manufacture.
What is the pass mark and what happens if I don’t pass?
You must achieve at least 60% in each unit. The exam must be taken within one year of joining
the industry and prior to passing the exam, individuals cannot be engaged in
this type of employment for more than two years.
If you fail any of the units, you can re-sit the one/s you failed (there is no need to redo those you have already passed) if you are still within your time limit to pass the exam, at the same cost as your original booking, .
If you do not successfully pass all of the units within the 2 year time frame, unfortunately you cannot continue promoting medicines on the basis of their therapeutic properties.
What does the exam include?
The exam is made up of two main sections – a morning session which is obligatory to all participants, and an afternoon session where you select a certain number of disease specific units (once you are employed by a company, they will guide you as to which units they want you to choose, usually in line with the therapy areas you are selling in on their behalf).
You may take the exam as separate modules individually, although some companies prefer you to sit it all in one day.
How much will self-funding the ABPI exam cost and how long will it take?
Funding the full ABPI Diploma yourself is expensive – the total cost of ordering learning materials and exam fees for both mandatory and optional units is £974.40 (information correct as of November 2020).
It requires a considerable commitment of time for study too; if you have no prior knowledge of human biology or any of the topics, you may need to study for 300 hours for the four mandatory units, and for 150 hours for the disease area specific units.
Here’s a quick round up of what self-funding the ABPI could realistically do for you, and what it won’t:
What self-funding the ABPIwill do:
💊 Give a greater understanding of the NHS, pharma industry, drug research & development, human anatomy & physiology
💊 Reassure a hiring manager/company of your scientific capability if you do not have a life science degree or A level science / biology
💊 Demonstrate your genuine commitment and desire to joining the industry (but remember, there are other ways of doing this too)
Things to bear in mind:
💊 Self-funding requires a significant commitment of money – almost £1,000 – for materials and exam entrance fees (do you have this amount to spare?)
💊 Many hours of study time are needed to learn the syllabus and prepare for the exam (given your current circumstances, can you fit this in this alongside existing work, family, and other commitments?)
💊 Having the ABPI qualification does not guarantee you a job (are you still prepared to invest the requisite time and money considering this?)
💊 Being ABPI qualified does not mean you can now apply for vacancies where the hiring manager will only consider experienced reps (“must be ABPI qualified”)
💊 Passing the exam will not help you understand the realities of the job and therefore whether pharma sales is the right career for you. Many trainees have huge misconceptions about what being a pharma sales rep involves, and hiring managers will still want to be sure you are fully aware of “what you’re letting yourself in for”
💊 Having the ABPI will not give you the skills needed to be a successful pharmaceutical sales specialist.
If you would like further information or clarification then please comment below or get in touch with us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org ) or telephone (07815 846176 / 0161 2986448).
💡On Wednesday 6th January, due to planned maintenance on local power lines, we will be without electricity until around 4.30pm. Thank you in advance for your patience – we will respond to messages, emails and job applications as soon as possible⚡.
I’m back at my desk today (with a spot of home schooling thrown in for good measure) – here’s hoping you all had an enjoyable Christmas break. Wishing you, your families and friends a very happy, healthy 2021 🥂🎉.
🎄 We will be taking a break for the holidays from the close of business today, Wednesday 23rd December, reopening on Monday 4th January 2021.
All vacancies advertised on our website – www.saplingrecruitment.co.uk – are live, and will be kept up to date throughout the shutdown period. You can of course still send us messages, emails and apply for jobs during this time, but please be aware you may not receive an immediate response.
Wishing you a very healthy, happy Christmas and all the best for 2021🎉.
Create your CV using a universally accessible document package such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Open Office or a PDF if you’d prefer. If you’d like to use MS Word but don’t have a copy, you can use it online for free here https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/microsoft-365/free-office-online-for-the-web . When using Word, save as .docx format (rather than .rtf or .doc to preserve your intended layout and formatting).
Save your CV in the cloud – writing a CV from scratch can be time consuming, so in addition to saving it on your current computer or tablet, also back it up in the cloud for future use; as some people only look for new employment every few years I often hear ‘it’s on my old computer’ – save yourself the future time and trouble and save it in DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive or similar.
Make sure it’s actually your CV you’re labelling as ‘My CV’ – I realise this sounds completely obvious, but in the last 2 weeks I’ve received a letter to a solicitor and a personal training workout plan instead of a CV when someone has applied to a vacancy online (both were called ‘Latest CV’ or similar). This is particularly true if you intend to upload your details to an online job portal (Totaljobs, Reed, Indeed etc.) so you can quickly and easily apply for positions with one click.
Unless you work in a particularly creative industry where your CV offers an opportunity to showcase your talent for design, keep to a plain white background using black text – no graphics, background images, coloured panels, clip art or borders; the content should make the impact for you.
Do not use headers/footers or include text in boxes – the reason for this is the content does not always ‘travel’ well, and information can go missing if you’re uploading a CV to an online job board or company application portal; as a recruiter, it’s not uncommon to receive CV’s with no contact details on as they were in the header and have vanished en route.
Use a professional looking font (i.e. Calibri, Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet – Times New Roman is considered somewhat outdated) and ensure the layout you chose is congruent throughout – spacing, text size, indents, whether headings are underlined and in bold etc. Seemingly small details, but it’s not visually pleasing to read a CV which as a whole does not appear unified (this is very common when an existing CV has more recent positions simply added on in a hurry, without checking if it matches the existing content).
Spelling – often overlooked (particularly when adding to an existing CV and presuming the content was correct). Your CV creates the first impression of you with a prospective employer, so it is vital that it does not suggest you don’t pay attention to detail or have a sloppy approach to tasks (which is unfortunately what spelling and common grammatical errors do). As you will undoubtedly have a spellchecker built into your word processing software, use it – check the language setting first though as many are set by default to US English. Spell checkers do not however pick up words written entirely in BLOCK CAPITALS so either avoid using these (a good idea anyway, they can come across as a bit shouty) or triple check them yourself if you wish them to remain. Similarly, company and proprietary product names will probably not be recognised, so you should verify the spelling from a reliable source (the company website for example) and then add the words to the dictionary; it is incredibly poor form to incorrectly spell the name of a previous employer or products you have sold and again, infers a general lack of care.