What are the most important things I should know about job interviews? How do they differ from residency interviews?
The interview process for new pharmacists can be intimidating, even if they have gone through it several times already. There was an interview for pharmacy school, an interview for a PGY1 residency, and (for some) an interview for a PGY2 residency or fellowship. Now, the interview is for a job; both the employer and the new pharmacist are approaching the interview from a different perspective than in previous interview situations.
The rules of an interview still apply: be well dressed and groomed; be on time, polite, and courteous to the people you meet; maintain a professional demeanor; be prepared with questions for your interviewer or interview team; and don’t ask about money during the first interview. Additional details to better prepare for an interview and potential job are as follows.
- Tailor your questions to address what you can provide for them (the employer), not how they will provide for you. In pharmacy school and residency interviews, your questions likely focused on the resources and support provided by the school or residency program. They were about patient contact hours, research opportunities, and opportunities for different rotation experiences. In a job interview, employers are interested in how you will help achieve the department’s or hospital’s goals. Employee satisfaction is still important to evaluate, but consider asking the interviewer, “What are some work goals that you have for the person you hire for this position?” Learn about your potential places for employment and ask how you might support or create new services. Consider questions such as “Do you (the employer) see the person in this position as playing a role in any special services within the hospital or college/university?” and “What are some things that do not yet exist here that you would like the person in this position to potentially establish?” Questions like these will show employers you are willing to invest in them so that they invest in you.
- Be honest and demonstrate self-reflection. When asked about what you see as your greatest opportunity to improve or where you think you will need the most development, be candid with your interviewers and show them you have engaged in self-reflection. If your greatest weakness is that you work too hard or are a perfectionist, it’s a pretty good sign you are engaging in self-preservation instead of self-reflection. Employers know you have some limitations. What they want to know is what you will do to improve and overcome these limitations. It shows you have a growth mindset, emotional intelligence, and a self-awareness of who you are as a person and professional. Employers will feel more connected with you and want you to be part of their team. They know you have flaws. Show them you know it, too, and are taking action to work through them.
- Be flexible, but don’t surrender your beliefs, style, or personality. Your first “real job” may not be ideal, but you should still be aware of what will make your job satisfying and rewarding. For some, it is just being gainfully employed. For others, it may be the opportunity to grow in the position and possibly advance to other positions (either internal or external). And for still others, it may be finding a good cohort of colleagues to work with. Regardless of your benchmark for a good job, make sure you feel engaged by the organization. Evaluate whether the limitations of the potential work environment are manageable or deal-breakers. Are these limitations outweighed by the benefits of the environment? Ask employers about these limitations and learn more about the situation. Chances are, they already know about them and have things in place (or are putting things in place) to mitigate the situation. Knowing the background may bring clarity to the situation and make it less of a limitation.
As intimidating as interviewing for a job may seem, residency program preceptors and directors have been hard at work preparing you for the job market. Graduating residents and new practitioners have a good breadth of experience to draw on and develop in any work environment. The challenge in transitioning from a residency interview to a job interview is that interviewers are now looking to add to their permanent staff, not hire a temporary trainee. Your marketability will be accentuated if you are aware of what the employer needs, express interest in helping the employer achieve that goal, and are willing to work with the employer to create a mutually beneficial work environment.
Daniel Longyhore, Pharm.D., M.S., BCACP
System Director, Knowledge Management