7 Job Search Tips for New Pharmacy School Graduates

Graduating from pharmacy school or finishing a pharmacy residency starts the pressure to a find a full-time job.

Graduating from pharmacy school or finishing a pharmacy residency starts the pressure to a find a full-time job.

In the early 2000s, the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Association of Colleges of Pharmacy anticipated a future shortage of pharmacists. At the time, it was fairly easy to get multiple offers for pharmacy jobs, with many employers offering sign-on bonuses or other employment incentives.

The job market for pharmacists has dramatically changed since then. A number of new pharmacy schools have opened across the country, which has tightened the market for pharmacists. In late 2015, the Pharmacy Workforce Center released data indicating the pharmacy job market may have seen its steepest drop in the last decade.

Still, there are jobs out there for new graduates. It’s just a highly competitive field requiring more effort when applying.

Whether you’re a new graduate or about to complete a residency, these 7 tips will help enhance your job search and increase your odds of landing your dream job.

1. Enhance Your Résumé

Before you begin applying to jobs, it’s critical to master your résumé.

Résumés are often considered the heart of an application, with recruiters sometimes spending just seconds on a résumé before deciding whether a candidate’s a good fit.

You’ll often be competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of other applicants. Your résumé will be the first impression you make, so there’s no room for error.

As a general rule of thumb, your résumé shouldn’t exceed 2 pages and should be thorough yet concise. Use bullet points to showcase your relevant work experience, areas of expertise, and value you can provide to the prospective company. Be truthful in your résumé, but don’t be modest. State exactly what your job responsibilities were with any relevant accomplishments.

The appearance and formatting is equally important as the content. A cluttered or poorly formatted résumé can quickly result in your candidacy being passed over. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all format, a number of websites have templates that can guide you in the right direction. Find a visually-appealing template you’re comfortable, and be sure to use black text with a font that’s easy to read and isn’t distracting.

Make sure to proofread your résumé to fix any typos or grammatical errors, which can give the reader the impression that you aren’t careful or serious about the position. When looking for a pharmacist position after my residency, I spent several days mastering my résumé with input from coworkers, friends, and family.

2. Monitor Multiple Online Job Boards

Once you’re ready to begin your job search, monitoring job boards is the logical first step.

A number of online job boards can be invaluable for pharmacists. Although the features of each individual site will vary, they all offer the ability to search for jobs using specific keywords in geographical areas of interest, sign up for new job alerts, and post your résumé for employers to view. Some of the sites will allow applicants to apply to certain positions with just a few clicks, while others will take you an external application page.

There are 3 important points to consider when using job boards.

First, you may see duplicate postings from one job board to another, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, a position will only be posted on a specific job board, which emphasizes the importance of using more than one site at a time.

Second, you may not have the required work experience for many positions, but that shouldn’t necessarily stop you from applying. Many “entry-level” positions require 2 to 3 years of experience, which most new graduates lack. When applying to these positions, try to draw from different work experiences from your rotations or internships to help bolster your application. Employers may be willing to make an exception if they feel you’re otherwise a highly-qualified applicant.

Third, keep in mind the success rate for job boards is very low, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back about the majority of the positions you apply for.

As my residency started to wind down, I bookmarked Indeed, Career Builder, Monster, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn, and then visited most of them on a daily basis. This yielded several interviews for positions I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. However, I never heard back about the majority of positions I applied for.

3. Research the Company

When you find a job you want to apply for, it’s important to adequately research the company and then customize your résumé and cover letter accordingly.

The first piece of information you want to include is based on the job description for the position. Look for key words and specific requirements the position entails to guide how you word your résumé. If you’re applying for pharmacy positions in multiple fields (eg, retail, hospital, industry), it may be beneficial to use slightly different résumé templates to highlight your skills and experiences most applicable to each.

You may also consider checking LinkedIn to see if you’re connected to anyone who has worked or currently works at the company. If you are, reach out to them and ask questions about the company and position.

4. Network

Building and utilizing your network is the perfect opportunity to enhance your job search. In fact, studies have shown that almost half of all jobs are acquired though networking.

If you didn’t network as a student, it’s never too late to join professional pharmacy organizations, and it’s never too early to join your college’s alumni network, which can be a great resource to connect with those who have experience in the field you’re pursuing.

Keep an eye out for career fairs, alumni network events, or local pharmacy meetings to network with as many individuals as possible. Don’t discredit anyone at these events, as you never know where the conversation may go or what opportunity may arise.

Also, try connecting with past preceptors or faculty. This can be beneficial if you’re seeking specific career advice, need help mastering your résumé or interviewing skills, or seeing if they’re aware of any job openings in your area.

I visited my IPPE preceptor after I graduated from pharmacy school, and because of my past experience at his pharmacy, he offered me a per-diem pharmacist position throughout my residency.

5. Practice Interviewing

Nearly half of all employers know within the first 5 minutes of an interview whether a candidate is a good fit for the position.

Interviewing for a pharmacy job can be daunting, but it’s important to continually practice to improve your technique. Mock interviews can be a great resource in preparing you for a real-life situation.

Before every interview, spend time fully researching all aspects of the company. Having background information about the organization is important to make a good impression and show you’re serious about the position. Read the job description, the “About Us” section of the company’s website, end-of-year company summary reports, and any recent news reports on the company. Ultimately, you want to relate what you know about the company to show you’re the perfect fit for the position.

When practicing, try anticipating questions you may be asked during the actual interview. Almost every interviewer I’ve encountered has asked why I’m applying for that specific position and what makes me qualified for it.

Keep in mind the different mediums you may be asked to interview in. Surprisingly to me, the vast majority of my interviews for pharmacist positions were either over the phone or through video-based platforms.

6. Optimize Your Social Media Presence

A whopping 60% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates.

“Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a résumé or cover letter,” noted Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s chief human resources officer.

But, that doesn’t mean you should immediately delete all social media accounts. In fact, 41% of employers said they’re less likely to interview job candidates if they’re unable to find information about them online.

As you’re applying to jobs, it’s important to look over your social media accounts and assess areas for improvement. Delete any photos that could be perceived as provocative or inappropriate. Refrain from making any discriminatory comments or taking heavy political stances.

If you have a LinkedIn account, make sure to update your page to supplement your résumé. Choose a professional photo and show you’re interested in the profession by following different pharmacy organizations in the field where you hope to work.

7. Use Your Resources

Many new graduates don’t realize the value their college career office can provide for their job search. For instance, a career office can help students with writing résumé and cover letters, interviewing, networking, and finding career fairs.

If you aren’t having any success with finding a job and are getting frustrated, ask your school’s career office if you can schedule a 1-on-1 appointment. This can help identify any areas of weakness that may be holding you back.

Finally, there are hundreds of online message boards that can help strengthen your résumé, enhance your interview skills, and teach you best practices.

Share your job search tips with me on Twitter @toshea125.