Interview Tips to Land Your First Pharmacy Job

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers Fall 2015

Keep calm and carry on in your pharmacy job interviews.

The good news: the job is available, the employer is hiring, and the company selected your résumé. The not-so-good news: you still have to make a great impression in the interview to get the position. Here are a few tips on how to win over an interviewer so that you can land your first job in pharmacy.

Follow Researchers’ Advice

Recent research offers some guidance on how to have a successful interview.

In one recent study, researchers suggested that interviewees give themselves a figurative pat on the back before heading into a meeting.1 Taking even a few minutes to write down best traits and skills can help put interviewees in the right mindset.

Through several experiments, the researchers found that self-affirmation is a powerful tool. The subjects who spent 5 minutes before an interview writing about their most important negotiating skill performed better than those who wrote for the same time period about their least important negotiating skill.

In contrast, interviewees who set themselves up for disappointment might sink to these low expectations, the researchers concluded.

If new graduates feel anxious being in a real interview setting for the first time, there are ways to hide those nerves. Another recent study maintained that assertiveness, warmth, and a natural pace of talking can disguise anxiety.2 In 125 mock interviews, both the interviewers and interviewees noted that slow speech suggested the interviewee was nervous.

“Overall, the results indicated that interviewees should focus less on their nervous tics and more on the broader impressions that they convey,” the researchers concluded.

Other common ways to overcome interview jitters include exercising, getting a good night’s sleep, avoiding too much coffee the day of the interview, meditation, and breathing exercises.

Do Your Own Research

Having knowledge of the company and its mission will be helpful in both impressing the employer and in answering the question, “Why do you want to work here?”

If the company is on the larger side, Google Alerts can help keep you on track of what the company is up to. If the company is smaller, it could be helpful to read about its history and to visit, if possible, to see how it operates.

Also, it may be helpful to try to anticipate what the interviewers will ask. Therefore, prepare for questions about strengths and interests. If the interviewer asks about weaknesses, have an answer ready that is honest but also optimistic and forward-thinking. In addition, have questions ready for the interviewer that do not have to do with compensation or vacation. Stuck? It is always safe to ask the person what made him or her interested in working for the company.

One more tip: do not forget to drop a thank-you note in the mail for the interviewer and to thank those who provided a good reference.

Avoid These Mistakes

A 2014 CareerBuilder survey3 found that 49% of employers know whether or not the interviewee was a good candidate for the job within the first 5 minutes, and 87% of employers said they could tell within the first 15 minutes.

The survey, which involved more than 2000 hiring managers, found a few common interviewee mistakes, including appearing disinterested, not wearing appropriate clothing, showing arrogance, and speaking poorly about a current or present employer. Rounding out the top 5 mistakes, according to the hiring managers, was texting or answering a call during the interview.

In terms of body language, the hiring managers’ responses suggested eye contact was the most important behavior. Lack of eye contact, failure to smile, bad posture, fidgeting, and playing with an object on the table were the most common mistakes, according to the survey.

In an open-ended section of the survey, employers gave a few examples of interviews gone wrong. One interviewee admitted to taking too much Valium before the interview and another performed as a Star Trek character. One person allegedly showed up in exercise gear because he wanted to take a run after the interview. Another interviewee who was hoping to get a job at a newspaper allegedly set a copy of the paper on fire when the interviewee said, “Impress me.”

Listen to Those Who Have Been in Your Shoes

On Facebook, some Pharmacy Times readers shared their experiences landing their first job. One reader said she signed up for a mentorship class in high school and shadowed staff at a local Walgreens. The district manager recommended she get a job as a cashier, and when she became old enough she could transfer to the pharmacy as an uncertified technician. Within a year, she passed the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board exam; she is now on her way to becoming a pharmacist.

“My tips for students would be to work hard, be open to suggestions, and learn as much as you can,” the reader wrote. “Also, be flexible and network in your local community.”

Another reader said she got her start as a candy striper on Saturday mornings in a local hospital pharmacy. Through community college, she worked every other weekend and when other staff went on vacation at the hospital, and then transferred to retail.

Jim Cox, RPh, director of pharmacy at Coborn’s, told Pharmacy Careers that he looks for an outgoing person who is good at communicating both verbally and nonverbally. A passion for pharmacy and patients is a plus, as well as an appreciation for the importance of meeting the needs of the business. Cox also said respect for the changing world of pharmacy and health care is a desirable asset in an interviewee.

“Be flexible, patient, and willing to continue learning throughout your career,” Cox advised.

Guy A. DiPasqua, RPh, corporate senior vice president of pharmacy at Haggen Inc, told Pharmacy Careers that he continues to be amazed at the quality of pharmacy students graduating from school.

In the 35-plus years since he graduated, DiPasqua said he has seen many “seasons” with a surplus or a shortage of qualified candidates. He maintained that the right person, right place, and right time were essential.

One of the most important assets to have, according to DiPasqua, is knowledge of how to treat a patient well; the way pharmacists treat customers has a direct correlation on how well the pharmacy performs.

“It’s not often the focus of the new graduate, as they arrive in their new world a bit starry-eyed and idealistic in their approach to pharmaceutical care,” he said. “The reality of sales and payroll and profit budgets often becomes their first dose of reality.”

DiPasqua added that more and more is expected of pharmacists. In addition to filling prescriptions, they should be engaging with patients, providing counseling and immunizations, performing medication therapy management, and interacting on the sales floor.

Candidates should also demonstrate leadership skills, resiliency, and flexibility. Potential employees should know that they will be expected to thrive in a team environment.

“It’s no longer about the individual and studying for an exam, passing exams, winning awards as an individual,” DiPasqua said. “Rather, it becomes about the team they will work alongside. Presenting themselves as one who communicates effectively, relates well to others, and is collaborative is so important to me.”

A positive attitude toward partners and the organization as a whole will take the candidate far.

“Employing a pharmacist who connects the dots, understands the ‘formula,’ and goes out of their way to deliver great care while managing the business is truly a win-win,” DiPasqua


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