NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -
Drug companies are reportedly turning to the ranks of college cheerleading squads to recruit their sales representatives, according to a published report.
A New York Times article on Monday included interviews with many former and current cheerleaders who were being recruited to pitch prescription drugs to physicians. One, Cassie Napier, who the paper reported had been a star cheerleader on the national-champion University of Kentucky squad, said her cheerleading experience was valuable in her job selling the antacid Prevacid for TAP Pharmaceutical Products.
"I would think, essentially, that cheerleaders make good sales people," she told the paper.
The Times reported that while there are no statistics on how many of the nation's 90,000 drug representatives are former or current cheerleaders, demand for them led to the formation of an employment firm, Spirited Sales Leaders, in Memphis, that pairs the drug companies with a database of thousands of potential candidates.
"The cheerleaders now are the top people in universities; these are really capable and high-profile people," Gregory Webb, who started that firm, told the paper. He is also a principal in a company that runs cheerleading camps. "I've had people who are going right out, maybe they've been out of school for a year, and get a car and make up to $50,000, $60,000 with bonuses, if they do well."
One doctor who has sought to limit drug representatives' access to other physicians at his hospital, questioned the drug companies' hiring priorities.
"There's a saying that you'll never meet an ugly drug rep," Dr. Thomas Carli of the University of Michigan told the paper. But he predicted to the paper that the drug industry, whose image has suffered from safety problems and aggressive marketing tactics, will soon come to realize that "the days of this sexual marketing are really quite limited."
The paper said that the drugmakers deny that sex appeal has any bearing on hiring.
"Obviously, people hired for the work have to be extroverts, a good conversationalist, a pleasant person to talk to; but that has nothing to do with looks, it's the personality," Lamberto Andreotti, the president of worldwide pharmaceuticals for Bristol-Myers Squibb, told the paper.
For a look at what doctors say they're looking for in drug sales reps, click here.