5 things to know before going into a PGY2 interview

Midway through you’re PGY1 year and you’re in it to win it. That’s right, you’re going for a PGY2. It’s not so much that you’re a glutton for punishment, but you know a PGY2 will increase your chances of getting the job you want. Particularly knowing that the job market for pharmacists is already competitive, this next-level training will help you emerge from the crowd. Now that you’ve nailed down which specialty you’re going to dedicate the next year of your life to, let’s get you prepared to nail the PGY2 interview process starting at the ASHP Midyear meeting.

You’ve got to know your “Why”

Going from 10 different specialties down to one takes considerable thought. The sheer diversity of rotations in PGY1 residencies is meant to be an amuse-bouche to those practice areas. A little more independent from your APPEs, but not a representation of daily life. So you saw an intubation, cool. Had an Onc intervention that saved $10K. Neat. Why do you really want to be here? Good RPDs can sniff it out real quick.

So how do you gain the confidence to back up your “why”? In a word: experience. While yes, your rotational experience counts, PGY2 RPDs want to see how far above the bar you’ve gone to immerse yourself in the subject. Where are the projects related to the field? How often do you stay late/come in early to get more time in the department?  Who can vouch for your genuine interest and passion? If you can’t answer these questions, consider how many other candidates will.

Start thinking about PGY2 research now

The research component to PGY2 programs is one of the bigger step-ups from your PGY1 year. Primarily due to the higher degree of independence, but also the fact that you will likely have more than one research project. In fact, this is a hallmark of a good program: how many research projects can residents take on. 

The importance of this research undertaking at the PGY2 level is consistent with the early career path many graduates take on: academia. One of the first lessons I learned was that great (not just good) faculty don’t just have one or two research projects at any one time. They have numerous. Some target 15-20 ongoing research endeavors at any given time. Consider PGY2 as a litmus test for your future success in an academic setting.

Choosing the program is choosing a partner

PGY2 RPDs are (generally) much more directly involved in your daily life. With fewer preceptors and more one-on-one time, you have to ensure you and the RPD are a good match. I mean that both personally and professionally. It’s no fun to go to work with people you may not get along with. I’m not implying you should be BFFs by the end of the year, but it doesn’t hurt being able to hold a conversation outside of the confines of the residency manual.

Aside from day to day banter, having an idea of the RPDs research interests, practice habits, and committee involvement can give you an idea of what the daily life of the resident will likely be. Furthermore, it will give you an idea of whether the program will achieve the necessary goals you have for yourself. If your RPD has never published a paper, it may be a challenge to do the same within the year. 

Didn’t get a “big name” PGY1 – Don’t sweat it

If you haven’t already gathered, PGY2s are different than PGY1s. This trend continues with respect to recruitment and applicant screening practices. While the reputation of the pharmacy school you attended weighs on a ranking for PGY1 positions, your current PGY1 reputation is less important. Primarily because of the lack of conscious selection via the Match.

While your current PGY1 predicament may not be the flair on top of your CV you were hoping for, all you need is a foot in the door. Provided you’ve done steps 1-3 above well enough, your chances of landing the PGY2 position are still very good.

Avoid scarlet letters

The wonderful letter your faculty mentor wrote for you in support of your PGY1 applications is no longer useful. In fact, it can put up some red flags that you weren’t able to expand your Tribe of Mentors in the first 6 months of the residency year. Your old boss, APPE preceptors, and the like are all out. For PGY2 there are somewhat different expectations.

Your goal should be to secure 5 letters of recommendation. Why more than 3? Because it depends on the type of program you’re applying to. For academic programs, writers who can comment on your research abilities (IRB chair, Department Chair, Research Coordinator, widely published PGY1 preceptor). Conversely, for programs based out of non-academic community medical centers, a letter demonstrating your organizational aptitude is wise (Director of Pharmacy, Medication safety officer, CMO/CNO). Having a portfolio of letters to carefully select from can boost your application.

5 things to know before going into a PGY2 interview is just the tip of the iceberg

While these 5 tips can help you with your career pursuits, remember this is just a fraction of what goes into landing a PGY2. The year can be long, but the efforts you put into your candidacy will pay dividends in your immediate next year and beyond.


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