Domains Assessed in MSL Interviews

Medical science liaison job interviews often rely on interview templates that rate specific domains of competency. I discuss 8 of these domains below.

First you’ll notice that scientific expertise, while important, is weighed a lot less than you may think.

“Technical skills” is only 1 of several domains assessed in MSL job interviews. Other domains include “soft skills” such as teamwork, communication skills, and leadership.

“Communication skills” and “Teamwork” are distinct but interrelated domains. If you’re field-based and in charge of your geography, then working in a team environment will occur mostly by remote, whether this is via email or teleconferences.

The more remote the communication, the better you have to be at mastering this communication modality because the greater the likelihood of misinterpretation and misunderstanding. People won’t have the benefit of seeing your body language and your face as part of your communicated message.

Flexibility, and specifically the capacity for performing under pressure, warrants its own assessment.

You can be subject to moving project targets as well as not seeing the immediate outcomes of your effort. Thus you need to be someone who can stay motivated and retain a positive attitude even if you aren’t getting instant feedback or instant gratification for your work. Many candidates, especially those who come from a purely scientific or academic professional background, fail to realize how important “flexibility” is to the trait of a successful MSL. Flexibility is one of the big “emotional intelligence” factors that hiring managers look for!

“Planning/Organizing” and “Judgment” are also interrelated. You need to know how to prioritize in order to make good decisions. Being able to prioritize requires that you decide which of the multiple tasks is more important, and in what order of importance.

“Proactiveness” also means you’re not waiting for your boss to tell you every single thing you need to be doing, and that you will seize opportunities to contribute your expertise to the company and the team.

“Initiative” and “Leadership” can also be paired up. If you’re taking an initiative, sometimes you may be the first person to try something from your team, and you will have to figure your way around without guidance from someone who has done it before at your company. This requires you to be resourceful, and take a lead in the effort.

Part of being a leader requires you to help people meet their goals so that they can support your goals and effort, and coaching skills (or mentoring skills) become an important attribute of leadership.

As you study the criteria in these domains, ask yourself what you have done so far in your professional career that may provide evidence in your competence in each of these domains.

You may find that one particular story from your experience can satisfy several of these domains. These are the types of stories that are especially useful for you to draw upon as examples when interviewing.