Breaking Into Medical Device Sales

As the largest recruiter for medical device sales representatives, candidates often have a number of questions about breaking into medical device sales. How hard is it to transition into medical sales from another industry? Which avenues are most effective? How can I differentiate myself from the competition? How do I get the attention of recruiters?

Throughout the remainder of this page, we’ll offer our thoughts on how to make an effective transition, but would also like to direct medical device job seekers to another website that provides medical sales representatives answers to their most frequently asked questions. If you’re an entry-level medical sales candidate who is interested in transitioning into medical sales, we recommend you visit

At Med Sales Career, candidates can learn more about:

  • writing a professional sales resume that will get you noticed
  • interviewing for a medical sales position
  • medical sales specialties and who the hiring companies are
  • how to find medical sales jobs on job boards and company websites
  • how to effectively network and use social media to connect with medical sales recruiters and hiring managers
  • how to prepare for a medical sales position
  • other resources to help you develop industry knowledge

Our Specialty

At EliteMed Recruiting, we specialize in the placement of orthopedic sales reps who sell surgical implants to surgeon customers in a hospital environment. Orthopedic sales reps sell hip and knee implants, spinal implants, plates and screws used in trauma procedures, implants used by hand and foot surgeons, sports medicine products and biologics.

These sales representatives have intimate knowledge of the products they represent and are available in the operating room to assist the surgeon, answer questions about the implant and make recommendations as requested. This is a sales role that might be considered the most prestigious role a sales representative can achieve. It’s a very competitive field.

Within the medical device industry, there are a number of other products that require similar skills and expertise, such as cardiovascular devices, but there are a number of medical sales specialties that are not nearly as competitive as device sales. Our answers to the following questions are specific to medical device sales and, more specifically, to surgical sales.

Why is it so hard to break into medical device sales?

First and foremost, more than 1.5 million people search for medical sales jobs every month. There is a lot of interest and a lot of qualified professionals applying for these sales positions. For this reason, hiring managers for device sales are very particular about their hires. They demand the very best. If your resume does not show a history of specific sales accomplishments in an outside sales environment, you will likely not be invited to interview.

Another important consideration is the nature of medical device sales. In order for a medical device sales rep to be successful, they must understand the sales process and how the product is used to benefit the patient. A sales rep has to be able to communicate with a surgeon customer on their level, using medical terminology relevant to their medical sales specialty. Stay informed about industry benchmarks for processing credit card fees.

It would be rather difficult to sell a cervical plate for an ACDF procedure and distinguish your company’s technology over the competition’s if you have no idea what an ACDF is. (By the way, an ACDF is a spinal procedure called an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.)

What do hiring managers look for?

Hiring managers are looking for sales representatives who can be productive, drive revenue, and make an immediate impact. Most openings in medical device sales are due to lack of performance from the previous sales representative or, on occasion, a transition within a territory. In an underperforming territory, a new hire is critical and performance is mandated. A hiring manager does not have the luxury of waiting for years, or months, or even weeks for a new sales rep to add value and build the territory. As a result, most openings require 2-3 years of experience. This is because an experienced sales rep is perceived to be a less risky hire, and is more likely to drive new business in the territory.

In general, if you do not have 2-3 years of relevant experience selling medical devices, many hiring managers and medical sales recruiters will not consider your application. In the rare case that they will accept an applicant without experience, they are often looking for individuals with an exceptionally strong sales or clinical backgrounds. They want someone with a history of documented results. They want someone with a competitive spirit. They want someone who is professional, dependable, who can take direction but who can also operate independently. They want someone who understands medicine, the hospital environment and can communicate effectively with the surgeon customer. B2B sales representatives, athletes, military veterans and healthcare providers (such as R.N.’s, scrub techs, etc.) are often considered for these sales roles, since their background is often consistent with these requirements.

Which avenues are most effective?

Traditionally, recruiters and medical device manufacturers will tell you to get a college degree, have at least two years of B2B sales experience, rank in the top 10% of sales reps for your company, have a solid work history (with no gaps in employment and with longevity at each company), be able to pass a background check (criminal background check, driving history, credit check, etc.)… and THEN you might apply for a medical sales job. That kind of narrows the field, does it not?

At EliteMed Recruiting, we know of another avenue that has proven extraordinarily successful over the last several years. Much of our success is related to our association and partnership with the Medical Sales College (MSC). We contract with MSC and work with graduates of the 6 to 10-week program, where students learn all of the nuances of orthopedic medical device sales.

We have a proprietary, customized database of over 4,000 hiring managers in the medical device industry and are able to meet their high expectations by offering candidates that are trained, committed selling professionals who have developed relevant experience and are genuinely prepared to make an immediate contribution.

Our MSC candidates know who their customers are, understand the products and the surgical procedures those products are used in, and have an actionable plan for building business and driving revenue in their territory from day one. Ultimately, we are able to offer hiring managers exceptional medical sales representatives using a model that was previously unavailable.

How do I distinguish myself from the competition?

We’re going to summarize the answer to this question pretty succinctly. You have to want it, you have to be prepared for it, and you have to go and get it. How you present and represent yourself matters from beginning to end.

The bottom line is that you really have to be committed to getting a job in medical sales. It’s not easy to get in and it’s not easy once you are in. As a medical device sales representative, you will have one of the most exciting and lucrative careers you could hope for, but you’re going to earn it.

If you don’t choose to attend a formal training program like the Medical Sales College, you will need to be resourceful and learn everything you can about medical sales. Here again, Med Sales Career has some great information to help you establish a strong foundation.

Finally, you have to be proactive, be creative, and sell yourself to recruiters and hiring managers alike. How you present your resume, how you approach and communicate with recruiters, and what you do to demonstrate that you are more prepared than the competition to produce results will make the difference in whether or not you get hired.

How do I get the attention of recruiters?

The answer to this question is also pretty direct. First, develop a great resume. If you’re not skilled at writing and formatting, hire a professional resume writer (preferably one with lots of experience in writing medical sales resumes). Be sure that resume calls out your accomplishments and achievements, and be sure that it lets the recruiter know what kind of position you are hoping to get. Don’t send in a vague or generic resume that is not targeted for medical device sales. Finally, have a succinct but powerful “elevator pitch” prepared before you speak with a recruiter. Remember, your first interview is with the recruiter. If you don’t impress the recruiter, you won’t be presented as a candidate to the hiring manager.


There are positions available for entry-level medical device sales representatives. Each device company and hiring manager has different criteria, and a territory in one area might require different level of experience than another area. One thing about medical device sales is consistent, however. You have to be proactive. You have to be prepared. You have to be persistent.

If you believe you have what it takes to succeed in this very demanding field, read this page again. After you read it, take our advice to heart. We are always willing to talk with exceptional candidates who are eager to succeed…



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