Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.
Many residency positions draw hundreds of applicants for a single opening.
Given that residency directors typically interview only a small percentage of applicants, it takes a tremendous amount of preparation to craft a resume and a cover letter that distinguish you from the rest of the pack.
It would be tragic, then, to land an interview and then miss out on a position because you weren’t prepared.
Residency directors report that many candidates make common mistakes in interviews, and those mistakes can keep you from landing the residency you’re after, even if you’re perfectly qualified.
Avoid making these mistakes during your next residency interview:
1. Showing up unprepared
I don’t know of a single residency director who seeks candidates that must be spoonfed information.
You must demonstrate to the decision-makers that you are motivated to fill this position and that you’ve invested your own time to learn more about the company and its mission.
This part of the interview begins long before the appointed face-to-face meeting. It can include reading the company’s blogs, checking its social media to determine its values and focus, and connecting with other people who previously worked for the company or who work there now.
It can also include researching the company’s ongoing projects and its past endeavors.
The goal is to find out as much as you can about the position so you can provide thoughtful, relevant answers during the interview.
Be mindful, too, that as you’re researching the prospective company, it’s likely doing the same to you. Check your own social media to make sure that you’re effectively promoting your own personal brand.
2. Trying to ad lib
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld, in his series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, shares that he and his peers craft every word in their routines. They labor over the writing, the delivery, and the timing of each word. They practice and improve so that they get maximum effect from every single word.
You can take a page from that playbook without worrying about sounding scripted or overly rehearsed.
In fact, rehearsing certain answers will help you overcome the initial nervousness inherent in any interview, because you won’t be creating answers from scratch. Since you’ll have a good idea of what you want to say, you’ll already have a handle on body language, delivery, and tone of voice.
Practice your answers until they sound like one natural part of a conversation. Share your answers as though you’re sharing a story.
3. Forgetting about body language
The very best hiring managers understand your body language, even if you don’t. They have conducted so many interviews that they recognize when you’re distracted or disinterested in the conversation.
The difficulty of body language is that stressful situations impact it and may cause us to do things we aren’t aware of.
Be aware of your eye contact. Focus on the interviewer and avoid the temptation to look down or look away repeatedly. Avoid staring. Lean slightly forward if you’re comfortable doing so because it communicates interest. Do not, however, invade the interviewer’s personal space.
Avoid fidgeting, even when you’re nervous. If you fear losing awareness of your hands, either keep them on your knees or hold a pen in your hand if a “prop” will help you function better.
Slow your heart rate. Force yourself to breathe deeply prior to the interview, and once the interview has started. Job interviews create the equivalent of stage fright for participants, but there are many steps you can take to combat nervousness.
Choose clothes that you feel confident wearing because they will improve your confidence levels before the interview even starts.
4. Missing a chance to end well
Most interviews end the same way: the interviewer invites candidates to ask any final questions of their own.
It isn’t hard to understand why you should answer this question. Think of it this way: do you really want the final moments of the interview to end with the phrase, “I don’t really have any questions”?
Even if the interviewer doesn’t read this as disinterest (and she might), you will have missed a chance to truly shine.
End well by explaining why you’re a perfect fit for the position. Include phrases you discussed during the course of the interview to demonstrate that you were listening and that you’re specifically suited for the position.
Summarize your strengths and passions, and truly sell yourself to the interviewer.
So few people know how to effectively sell themselves that this capability alone could land you the job.
5. Failing to connect after the interview
Once the interview is over, you have a great opportunity to reconnect with everyone who invested their time to make it happen.
Write a note to the secretary who scheduled your interview as well as to all the participants. Thank them for their efforts, and mention specifics from the interview if you can.
Send hand-written notes rather than emails, and remind each person of your availability and willingness to continue the conversation.
Avoiding Interview Mistakes
My online Interview Mastery class offers everything you need to conduct an unforgettable interview and to position yourself as the perfect candidate for the residency. The course addresses anxiety, wardrobe, preparation, follow-up, body language, and first impressions, among other topics.
The Interview Mastery course provides lifetime access to the course materials. That means that even after your residency when you’re applying for your first pharmacy position, you can return to the course materials to refresh your skills.
You can access the course, plus a mock interview to help you hone your skills before the interview process begins if you need more help preparing.
Of all the things you’ll spend money on during pharmacy school, investing in your career will likely be the best decision you’ll ever make. Your residency placement can impact the entire trajectory of your career and can lead to follow-on employment right after graduation.
It could also buy you peace of mind knowing that you’ll match with a program instead of having to wait another year for your chance.