6 Pharmacist Phone Interview Tips


The phone interview may not win you the job, but it can often lose you the job.

The pharmacy job market is increasingly competitive, so it’s not unusual for a single opening to have dozens if not hundreds of applicants.

If your resume is really impressive, you might just earn yourself an initial phone interview. Many employers use the phone interview as an additional tool to weed out unimpressive candidates. In other words, the phone interview may not win you the job, but it can often lose you the job.

The key to acing your phone interview is preparation. I have conducted many phone interviews and found that those who properly prepare for such interviews are much more likely to move to the next step of an in-person interview.

As Coach Joe Paterno famously put it, “The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.”

Here are my tips to get yourself ready for a stellar pharmacist phone interview.

1. Pretend it’s an in-person interview.

How you perceive this interview will come through subtly in your tone and concentration. If you mentally treat this interview as unimportant, it will often be obvious to the interviewer. He or she can’t see what you’re wearing or what you’re doing, but believe me, it comes through.

I remember trying to do a phone interview with a candidate who had a barking dog in the background. Would she have brought that dog with her to the in-person interview? I doubt it, but I never got to find out, because she never got further than the phone interview.

During a phone interview, dress at least in casual work attire. Think about the place you will sit and what kind of background noise will be heard. Show respect for the time you’re given by treating this interview just as importantly as an in-person interview.

The best way to get your head in the game is to imagine that the interviewer is sitting right across from you at the table.

2. Learn everything you can about the pharmacy ahead of time.

The interview process isn’t just to learn about you. It’s just as much to learn about your interest in the job and the company.

Use available online resources to do your homework on the company. Do you know where its headquarters are? Do you know where the local branches are? Do you understand the company’s big goals? Do you know the names of some of its leadership? Can you explain how you would be a good fit with the goals and culture?

Sending LinkedIn requests to those who will be interviewing you is a bad idea, but knowing a few facts about the company and/or the area where the job is being offered is a good one.

If you’re interviewing for a hospital job, do you know if it’s for-profit or non-profit? Do you know the ownership structure? How many beds does the hospital have?

If you’re interviewing for a community pharmacy job, do you know anything about the culture of that area, the number of stores in that state, or how the company is doing financially? Who are its competitors?

If you’re interviewing for a pharmacy benefit manager job, do you know any of its major insurance clients?

3. Use exceptional phone etiquette.

Answer the phone in a normal speaking tone (don’t shout) and state your name clearly. Never eat or drink while talking, and avoid chewing gum or sucking on cough drops.

Listen carefully and make sure that you know the name of the person you are speaking to and how to address him or her. Don’t dominate the discussion or talk for too long.

Frankly, some individuals lack the normal triggers that tell them when they’re beginning to exasperate the other person. If you think you might have that tendency, write a sign that says “Stop Talking” to remind yourself of that point.

If you have a tendency to speak quickly, slow down! If your voice is ordinarily low and hard to hear, speak up! Your volume should be that of a normal speaking voice.

Most importantly, listen! Because the person can’t see you, phone conversations can lend to distractions. Pay very close attention to what you’re being asked.

For the most part, pharmacy is a profession that relies heavily on communication. I have been known to recruit employees by nothing more than the phone etiquette they displayed when I happened to encounter them on the phone by chance.

They say “talk is cheap,” but they’re wrong. Your talk might just make or break your whole career opportunity, so don’t blow it.

4. Prepare for the “ordinary” questions.

If you’re a pharmacist, be prepared to talk about why you went into pharmacy and the types of jobs you have held in pharmacy thus far. Be prepared to talk about your strengths and any weaknesses, but beware of talking poorly about your previous employers, as this is almost always a bad idea.

I recommend having a standard “elevator pitch” ready to describe who you are and what you’re looking to do with your career. The employer wants to know what you’re like as a person, so if you have some great personality traits (being punctual, paying attention to detail, managing stress well), be sure to work those in. Also be ready to give a few examples of situations from your work history that demonstrate those attributes.

If at all possible, let a little humor through. If you can get the interviewer to laugh a little, your odds have gone up remarkably. You don’t need to try and put on a comedy show, but a little humor here or there goes a long way.

5. Take notes and prepare to ask questions.

Have a pen or pencil and a pad of paper handy. When something is said that might make for a good question later on, jot it down while continuing to listen.

When asked if you have any questions, be prepared with at least 1 or 2 follow ups. They can be generic like “Who is the ideal candidate for this job?” or more specific like “How many jobs is the company planning on adding over the next year?”

Some other great questions to ask the interviewer are:

· How long have you worked for the company and what do you like most about it?

· Is there a specific challenge the company is facing right now and will the person in this position be able to help solve it?

· What can you tell me about the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?

· How soon are you looking to fill this position?

One question not to ask is “How much will this job pay?” A phone interview is not the appropriate time or place for financial compensation questions.

In fact, if the interviewer asks you a question about your financial expectations, my personal advice is to try and deflect the question for now and focus on whether you’re a good match for the job. Express appreciation for the interviewer’s concern with your financial needs, but keep the conversation on their needs and your skills.

6. Follow up appropriately.

Always follow up a phone interview with some expression of thanks for taking the time to speak with you. Ideally, send a thank you card, but if that isn’t possible, at least follow up with an e-mail.

Even if the position doesn’t end up working out for you, the expression of gratitude and extra time you took will make an impression that will not be soon forgotten.

The whole process of looking for and finding a great pharmacy job can be frustrating. The phone interview is a great sign that you have made it through the first level of cuts, but now your competition will be tough. Hopefully, these tips will help set you apart and get you to the in-person interview that ultimately lands you the job!

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