Landing a Retail Pharmacist Position: Background and Resume Writing

APRIL 23, 2018
You’re about to graduate pharmacy school after 6 long years, and now you’re ready to land a job in retail pharmacy. Or you are between retail pharmacy jobs, and are struggling to find that perfect fit.

Many of you have seen this hilarious YouTube video called “Millennial Interview.” Hopefully by the end of this 2-part series, if you are anything like Amy, you will come out like Eric Kinney, current PharmD student, and give well thought out, intelligent answers.

The pharmacy job market is tough right now—I am hearing that the market in many areas is saturated, and finding a retail pharmacy job is very difficult. It has been reported for several years (https://newrepublic.com/article/119634/pharmacy-school-crisis-why-good-jobs-are-drying) that the pharmacist supply exceeds the demand.1  The number of pharmacy schools has increased2 (http://www.pharmacytimes.com/contributor/alex-barker-pharmd/2015/05/the-pharmacy-job-crisis-blame-the-pharmacy-school-bubble) over the years from 72 in 1987 to 138 as of January 2018.3 (https://www.aacp.org/article/academic-pharmacys-vital-statistics)

I have talked to many pharmacists/new graduates that are having a very difficult time finding a job. One pharmacist, BR, worked throughout school as a pharmacy technician and later as an intern; however, there was no room for her to continue with the company as a grad intern. The day she graduated from pharmacy school, she was no longer allowed to work shifts in the pharmacy because of her official change from pre-grad intern to grad intern. She sat down with her husband and studied a population density map of the eastern United States, looking at number of job postings in relation to population, and they settled on Ohio. A few months later she accepted a staff pharmacist position at a large chain in Ohio.

Another pharmacist, Lori (whose name was changed at her request), did not have much luck with websites, such as Indeed, Monster, or Glassdoor; and she found many of the postings to be outdated. She checked websites of the large chains faithfully every day for months. Eventually, Lori widened her search area, and applied directly to the companies she was interested in and was happy to be hired with a national chain.

Jenny is a pharmacist who has been out of school for 20 years and has worked as PIC for several chains. She reports sending in almost 100 applications and getting 3 interviews. She is currently still looking for a job, and considering pursuing another career path such as nursing, by enrolling in an accelerated nursing program.

Angelica (whose name was changed at her request) had a more ideal experience—she was able to score a full-time floater position after working for her chain for 8 years as a tech, and intern. However, some of her classmates, especially those who did not work throughout pharmacy school, are still looking for jobs, and are anxiously awaiting callbacks.

What can pharmacists do in this situation?

We are going to talk about creating the perfect resume in part 1. In part 2, we are going to convey important interview tips from actual district/regional leaders and recruiters from large chains, so you get the inside scoop on how to make a lasting impression that will get you the job.

Starting with the perfect resume: If finances allow, make the investment and hire a professional resume writer. Ashley Gulyas, PharmD, creator and owner of Academy & Apothecary explained that many pharmacists do not have the time to properly create an effective resume, which can take hours from start to finish. Professional resume writers such as Dr Gulyas ensure there are absolutely no mistakes and that all achievements are appropriately highlighted. Resume writers develop a crisp, easy to follow, well-organized, and effectively written product that many pharmacists cannot do on their own. Writers also are very good at ensuring your resume will get through the Applicant Tracking System, or ATS, and into someone’s hands.

If this route is too costly, consider these tips below from Ashlee Klevens Hayes, PharmD, also known as Rx Ashlee, a pharmacist and  motivational career coach:
  • Communicate how you stand out among the rest of the applicants, and how you will add value to a company.
  • Many new grads give up their volunteer projects or other leadership roles after graduation, but this is not the time to do this—In a saturated job market, you need to differentiate yourself.
  • Think about the networking you are participating in. In addition to applying online, take some time to strategize, and network.
Here are some great tips from Dr. Hayes regarding your resume:
  • Know your pitch. If there is a gap in employment, be ready to explain why.
  • Be sure your LinkedIn profile is reflective of your resume.
  • Use keyword optimization, which will help route your resume to an actual person.
  • On average, your resume may only get 6-30 seconds of attention—be sure the first page speaks directly to the position you are seeking.
  • There is no need to list;“references available upon request.'
  • If you are working toward a certification, such as BCPS, include a phrase such as 'pursuing BCPS' and the date it will be completed.
  • If you include a website, be sure to go back and change the color of the link to black.
  • No abbreviations!
  • Numbers speak louder than words—use them to communicate your goals you have met.
  • Do not use personal pronouns (I, me, you, they).
  • For each job, list the company title, your position, city (store number), where the company is located, and your direct supervisor.
  • Individualize your resume for the job. Do not copy and paste.
  • List any relevant information that will make you stand out—are you fluent in another language? Received awards? List them.
  • Contact email should be your personal (not your current work) account, and should be simple, and professional.
  • Save your resume as a PDF, so formatting does not get lost (this may happen in a Word document).
  • Spell check ... twice! Also, check over your resume several times for words that spell check will not catch (for example, lead instead of led).
Some additional resume tips from Dr. Gulyas:
  • Use reverse chronological order.
  • Use a bulleted list—do not write in full sentences.
  • Highlight accomplishments over responsibilities.
  • Use numbers, KPI’s, or metrics when possible.
  • Always use a cover letter.
  • Use carefully chosen, powerful active words—achieved, accomplished, designed, established, inspired, motivated, etc. (Avoid supportive words such as assisted, helped, organized). A list of 185 powerful verbs can help.
Here are some resume mistakes from Dr. Gulyas:
  • Too busy with different fonts, colors, and blocking—classic is best.
  • Missing locations of workplaces.
  • Too much space or emphasis on rotations if you are post 5 years graduation.
  • Incorrect or outdated contact information.
  • Don’t copy and paste—don’t use the same resume for all job postings.
Ok, so you wrote (or hired a professional to write) the perfect resume, and you are called in for an interview. Now what? Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon, where I have compiled amazing advice from pharmacy hiring insiders. Combining a flawless resume with the interview tips to come will be very helpful in your job search.

References
  1. Zavadski K. The pharmacy school bubble is about to burst. New Republic website. newrepublic.com/article/119634/pharmacy-school-crisis-why-good-jobs-are-drying. Published September 29, 2014. Accessed April 23, 2018.
  2. Barker A. The pharmacy job crisis: blame the pharmacy school bubble. Pharmacy Times website. www.pharmacytimes.com/contributor/alex-barker-pharmd/2015/05/the-pharmacy-job-crisis-blame-the-pharmacy-school-bubble. Published May 26, 2015. Accessed April 23, 2018.
  3. American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Academic pharmacy's vital statistics. AACP website. www.aacp.org/article/academic-pharmacys-vital-statistics. Accessed April 23, 2018.


Karen Berger, PharmD
Karen Berger, PharmD
Karen Berger, PharmD, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 2001. She has worked in community pharmacies for over 16 years as a Pharmacist in Charge, staff, and floater pharmacist for a large chain. Currently, she is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in Northern NJ. She can be reached at karenmichelleberger@gmail.com
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