By Janne Backman

CEO and Founder, J.F.B Consulting


I believe my own experience as a sales rep demonstrates that when hiring, life sciences companies can benefit from focusing on a candidate’s ability to communicate effectively and think critically, instead of focusing on years of experience in a specific therapeutic area as the sole criteria. In 2008, I had the chance to work for a small pharma company just starting up its new business in Sweden when it needed a sales rep to cover the entire country. The targeted area was within the percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) field. Just 27 years old, I had no experience in the PCI field, not much in cardiology, and had been selling in the general practitioner space only a few years. Nevertheless, when the company had difficulty finding an experienced sales rep willing to cover such a large geographical area, they took a chance on me.

It’s important to note that energy and drive are no substitute for product and therapy area knowledge. Far from it! But, in my experience, learning fueled by enthusiasm for the training content can often be the most effective. In less than two years, I managed to launch their product to all PCI hospitals in Sweden and create the highest market share in the world for it.

Unfortunately, resistance to hiring someone without significant experience in the industry and, more specifically, therapeutic area, has resulted in the recruitment process often taking much longer than it should. Due to retirements, career changes, and the recent trends focusing on orphan disease areas, the pool of talent with specialized experience becomes smaller for each position. Even when experienced candidates can be found, their previous work often has not adequately prepared them for the current marketplace. As the industry shifts from blockbuster drugs to more specialty-focused products, sales reps must adapt to the marketplace, be enthusiastic about new trainings, and continually redefine their roles.

Both those with less experience and those with a diverse therapeutic background who demonstrate a great deal of enthusiasm and strong communication skills may be well suited to taking on the role today’s life sciences companies need. The fact is, while product and therapeutic area knowledge can be learned through training, energy and personal drive are innate.

I truly believe that unless the life sciences industry adapts to the new marketplace, the talent pool will continue to shrink and hiring will become more and more challenging. The idea of development within a disease area and company will be very appealing to many potential applicants and will assist in attracting a diverse talent pool. More than ever, the time is right for the life sciences industry to begin “taking chances” when hiring. I am confident that recruiting and educating a diverse talent pool can bring in new energy, ideas, and approaches for problem-solving in the industry.

Janne Backman is the CEO and founder of J.F.B Consulting. He has more than 15 years of international marketing and sales experience in global pharmaceutical companies and has led multiple launches of pharmaceuticals and devices both in the EU and US. In 2016, he founded J.F.B Consulting with the goal of finding a smarter and more cost-efficient way for pharmaceutical and biotech companies to launch their innovations in the EU, as well as in the North American and South American markets. Since then, J.F.B Consulting has helped several companies achieve this goal by guiding their partners in developing and executing strategies that achieve launch readiness and bring their innovations to healthcare professionals in a more cost-efficient manner.