Pharmacy Residency Questions You Should Ask

The pharmacy residency interview season is upon us. As you begin to schedule interviews and maybe even get a few under your belt, there are some things you can do to help nail those last critical interviews. One key performance element of an interview is how well you ask questions of the program. While it can be hard to know what a good question is, the best rule of thumb is to be genuinely interested in the program, the preceptors, and former residents. But what are good examples of questions you should ask in an interview?

Align your goals and interests

As odd as it may sound, when reviewing candidates, as programs we are often looking much further down the road in your career than you are. What type of example of this program will you be in 5-10 years? How will you positively impact the profession? Those are just a few considerations that play into resident selection. So by demonstrating your ability to think in the long term as well can help paint that picture.

More importantly, however, it can cement your fit (or lack thereof) into the program. If you have a desire to be a tenure-track faculty member in oncology, a program at a rural community hospital with no oncology preceptor might wonder why you are interested in their program. Likewise, if the country life is for you and a rural critical access hospital is your desired practice setting, a big name academic program is not an ideal structure for you.

If you are similar to many others (including me at the time) who are undecided in their future practice setting, that’s not something to shy away from. By being forthcoming with that, you can craft questions to the program personnel to help identify if they can help you find your niche. Something along the lines of:

“I’ve had incredibly positive experiences with oncology and infectious disease where I feel a strong connection and could see myself pursuing additional PGY2 training. While there’s some overlap between the two specialties when I feel pulled in one direction or another, how can the program adapt to my needs in order to help me gain the necessary experience?”

Be a forward thinker

Similar to knowing and expressing your future interests, you can also get the sense of where the previous graduates move on to. While this can be tricky if there has been turnover in the program leadership, it can nevertheless give you a sense of what type of pharmacist is produced by the residency: academic vs clinical vs staff vs industry.

Simply asking for contact information from former graduates can provide you with several valuable pieces of information. Reaching out to these former graduates can a) provide you with a historical picture of the program (how things have changed for good or otherwise), and b) provide you a potential future professional contact for jobs, research, collaboration in other capacities. Furthermore, if a program is reluctant to give you contacts with less than a few years’ experiences, or all together – well, that’s a red flag too.

Turn the tables

Those situational questions are truly annoying. But you can also play that game. It’s also an opportunity to learn how the program personnel reacts to unconventional responses/situations. Such exposure may give you a more realistic impression of what it’s really like to be a resident at that program.

“Can you tell me about a time when a resident was not successful in meeting research outcomes, and what the program has done to mitigate future resident-research shortcomings?”

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