MSL Interview Questions (With Example Answers and Tips)

Updated 30 September 2022

A medical science liaison (MSL) is a professional who promotes the use of effective medical products. They're often concerned with a specific area such as cardiology, oncology or infectious diseases. If you're looking to become an MSL, knowing some potential interview questions and how to answer them can help you succeed during your next interview. In this article, we give you some example interview questions along with sample answers and some additional tips for answering interview questions.

General MSL interview questions

An interviewer may start with some more general interview questions. These are often less directly related to the role itself and more about helping the interviewer get to know you. Some examples of this include:

  • What would you say your strengths and weaknesses are?

  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

  • Would you say you manage your time effectively? How?

  • Can you tell me about a time you had a conflict in the workplace?

  • Can you tell me about a time when you overcame a challenge at work?

  • How do you establish and maintain work relationships?

  • How do you determine if you're doing well in your job?

  • Can you tell me about a time when you had competing priorities and tight deadlines?

  • Have you ever encountered a difficult customer or client? How did you handle the situation?

  • Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?

Some of these questions ask you to recount a situation from your past experience. A good approach for this is to use the STAR method. If they ask you about an instance of something happening, it's important to give some detail about how you handled the situation. For this reason, it's also a good idea to choose an example where you did a good job of this.

Related: Top 16 Interview Questions and Answers

Experience-based questions

Once the interviewer has asked some general questions and started the conversation, they may move on to questions about your work experience. These questions are going to be a lot more relevant to the role itself, in addition to your academic qualifications. Some examples of experience-based questions include:

  • Could you briefly share your postgraduate work experience?

  • Have you ever been in charge of an entire project? How did you handle it?

  • What made you want to make a career shift?

  • Why do you want to become an MSL? Have you always wanted to do this?

  • Have you ever been in a leadership position? How did you handle that?

  • Can you tell me about any relevant clinical experience that you have? How do you think this is going to help in the role?

  • Do you try to stay up to date on clinical research? How do you do this?

  • Why are you leaving your current job?

  • Do you have any experience liaising with multiple stakeholders?

  • How would you evaluate a clinical trial paper?

  • What aspect of your work experience do you think is going to be most helpful for this job?

One of the best ways of preparing for these questions is to go through your resume. This is because an interviewer may base a lot of their questions on the information in it, so it's a good idea to read through it and try to recall your past experiences. This can also be an opportunity to update or amend your resume if you see something missing. If the interviewer asks you to recount a situation from the past, you can also use the STAR method to structure your answers.

Related: How to Use the STAR Interview Response Technique

Technical questions

Interviewers often like to ask a few technical questions to evaluate your competency regarding certain tasks. These questions often relate to how you'd perform certain tasks, why you'd make a particular decision or test your knowledge of the field. Some examples include the following:

  • Could you explain why you're interested in this particular disease area?

  • Have you ever presented clinical research or trial papers before? How comfortable are you doing this?

  • Have you ever convinced a doctor to choose a particular product? How did you persuade them?

  • Have you ever given a presentation about a product before? How would you change it to suit the audience?

  • How would you work with important opinion leaders?

  • What do you know about our products? What's your opinion of them?

  • How would you improve our product?

  • Can you tell me about a study you read and how you would've improved its efficacy?

  • What do you know about the drug compounds we use?

A lot of these technical questions could be quite relevant to the role in question. This means it's usually a good idea to research your potential employer in advance. Consider researching the products they sell, their services and long-term vision. This can both help you to answer specific questions and demonstrates your diligence and seriousness about getting the role.

Related: Interview Practice Questions (With Examples and Tips)

3 questions with example answers

Below are some interview questions with explanations and example answers to help you prepare:

1. How would you describe the role of an MSL?

There are two purposes to a question like this, depending on your experience. If you've previously worked as an MSL, the interviewer can hear about your experience, as this would typically inform your answer. If you're applying to become an MSL for the first time, this can show how serious you are about transitioning into this role because an accurate answer demonstrates that you've done your research. It's usually best to avoid giving a memorised answer but instead describe the role and consider adding an example.

Example: 'A medical science liaison is someone who builds good working relationships with opinion leaders in a given therapeutic area. They focus on developing collaboration with the aim of expanding the brand they work for. In the case of your company, an MSL would focus on products for cardiologists, contact and collaborate with working cardiologists, review clinical research and advise their employer on how best to proceed.'

2. Can you tell me about a time you managed to persuade someone?

Being able to influence or persuade key individuals is an important aspect of the role of an MSL. An interviewer is likely to ask this question because they want to see how good you are at this. Although it's preferable to give an example from your work experience, you can use other examples if you lack a work-based one. Try to remember that it's best to focus on positive persuasion.

Example: 'In a previous role, there was an issue regarding shift assignment. Our supervisor had received a request to change one person's shift for personal reasons and ended up changing everyone's weekly schedule to accommodate this. Many colleagues complained, but my supervisor was unreceptive. I asked each of my colleagues what shifts they'd prefer and wrote it down before approaching our supervisor.

I asked if he'd be willing to talk about it and explained that he'd appear much fairer if he made some concessions. I offered to act as an intermediary between him and my colleagues and we found a schedule that satisfied everyone.'

Related: 5 Situational Interview Questions with Example Answers

3. Why did you decide to transition to an MSL role?

Since many candidates move to MSL from other roles, an interviewer may be curious as to why you made this decision. To answer this question, try to think about the things you felt you lacked in your previous positions. You can then explain why MSL work can address this.

Example: 'I previously worked in research, mainly because I loved discussing science-based matters. The one thing it lacked was diversity regarding the people I spoke to and teamwork. I usually interacted with people from the same background and rarely worked with marketers, regulators and others. I love communicating and learning about other people's work to broaden my mind, which is why I chose MSL work.'

Tips for answering interview questions

Here are some additional tips that can help you give effective answers during your MSL interview:

  • Practise: Before your interview, consider taking the time to practise answering interview questions. You can do this by asking a friend or colleague to hold a mock interview with you.

  • Give examples: It can be a good idea to support your answers with examples. Wherever possible, try to use real examples from your previous work experience.

  • Ask questions: In many instances, asking your own questions can help you give better answers. These could be to clarify a certain point or for specific information, as this is preferable to making assumptions.

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