Nail your pharmacy residency interview

If you want to land a PGY1 or PGY2 pharmacy residency, attending the ASHP Midyear meeting can certainly help. Despite its name, this meeting, which occurs annually in December is smack in the middle of most residency calendars. This meeting is also one of the largest gatherings of pharmacists in the United States. But more importantly, it is the epicenter of residency recruiting. In this article, I’m going to spell out how to nail your pharmacy residency interview and increase your chances of getting an onsite interview.

Aside from The Showcase for residency recruiting, PPS (personal placement service) is the one-on-one interview sessions that many residencies conduct onsite. These 30-minute interviews are a residency candidates’ chance to get to know a program, but more importantly, for these candidates to have a chance at proving they’re a standout candidate. But in order to crush this interview, it’s useful to know what generally goes on behind the curtain.

“Tell me a little about yourself”

Think of speed dating, but for jobs. That’s pretty much what’s going on. While 30 minutes may seem like a lot of time, there is a ton of information that has to be crammed into this session. The best way to prepare is to have a general idea of how to answer common questions that come up in the interview. Luckily, a paper in AJHP from a decade ago lists a number of common interview questions like:

  1. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  2. What attracts you to this organization/setting/position?
  3. Where do you see yourself in 5–10 years?
  4. What do you think makes you best qualified for the position?
  5. What do you think you can contribute to this position/organization/department/staff?
  6. Tell me about a project that you handled well and one in which you were not successful.
  7. What did you learn from each one?
  8. What do you want to get out of a residency?
  9. Would you describe a clinical intervention that you have made?
  10. How much hospital experience have you had?

For each of these questions, write down a response that you’d like to give. It’s essential to practice in front of other people like friends who are also interviewing. Find a mentor or preceptor to bounce ideas off of. The idea here is to have a response, but for it NOT to sound like you’ve got a canned answer. This takes time, skill, and PRACTICE.

The first question that generally comes up is “Tell me a little about yourself.” This is your chance to show your experience, talents and skills and why you are the best candidate in the world. Since this is the first question that is often asked, you’ve really got to nail it. A great response can set up for the next 20-25 minutes. Is it going to turn into a wonderful conversation? Or are the interviewer’s going to be flipping through your CV trying to find something to talk about?

You must as GOOD questions

“I think you answered all my questions.” Don’t lead with that. You can do better.

Just like preparing your answers to questions, you’ve got to come up with good, thoughtful questions about the program. Do not, whatsoever, ask what a typical day for a resident is like. While this information is useful, it’s a lazy question. Yes, it is important to have an idea of what is required of residents, but there are other ways of asking that question. For example: 

“During my rotations/job/PGY1, I attended medication safety committee meetings where we helped establish new projects and initiatives for the hospital. I’d like to build on these experiences in other committee settings. Can you comment on resident involvement in hospital committees?”

This question is better since it a) gives an example of your experience, b) demonstrates initiative to improve, c) gives insight into the workload of a resident.

Thank you notes

While some have downplayed the significance of thank you notes nowadays, it gives you the opportunity for another “touchpoint” with the program. It also gives the program an idea of whether you’re truly interested in the program. This will weigh into your chances of getting an onsite interview or not. In my opinion, you must write a thank you note. It’s also just polite.

We can also debate wither a handwritten or typed note is reasonable. Again, my opinion is that a well-written hand note is preferred. Anyone can send an email, and a typed note just seems canned. Take literally 5 minutes and say “thank you for the opportunity,” and one thing that stuck with you from the interview. 

The ASHP Midyear meeting is upon us and hopeful pharmacy residency candidates are getting ready for one of the most important weeks of their lives. I hope you’ll find these few tips helpful and increase your chances of landing that onsite interview.

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