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Pharmacy Residency Podcast: Residency Interviews and Advice

Aug 15, 2018

Kelly Haws is the National Business Development Manager at CareerStaff Rx and an expert on finding pharmacy jobs for pharmacists. In this four-part series, we cover:

1. Interview basics 

2. Mock Interview - Answering Questions about Culture

3. Mock Interview - Answering Questions about Work Experience

4. Mock Interview - Answering Questions that are Pharmacy Specific

You can look for jobs or connect with them here:

Full transcript:

Welcome to the Pharmacy Leaders Podcast
with your host Tony Guerra the Pharmacy
Leaders Podcast is a member of the
pharmacy podcast network with interviews
and advice on building your professional
network brand and a purposeful second
income from students residents and
innovative professionals let's do some
mock interviews so we're gonna do three
mock interviews one about culture one
about work experience and career and
then a third about pharmacist specific
questions so let's get started we're
talking about questions that establish
your your how you fit into the culture
and not only you know a little bit about
your personality but how that
personality would fit so we want to make
sure that that it is a good fit because
it's it's certainly something that's so
important to being happy within the job
but it's also one of the toughest things
to explain could you maybe explain what
culture and fit means from the employer
side of things this is something I'm
very passionate about because I am lucky
enough to work within a company that has
an amazing work culture so having a
strong work culture means that the
company prides themselves in the way
that they treat their employees and as
well as the way that employees interact
with each other if you've ever you know
been in a awkward office or maybe a
classroom we're not all that students
get along together or maybe a study
group where you know half of you get
along the other half of you don't it can
just be such a burden and it's not as
productive as a as an environment where
everybody gets along the company
respects the employees and the employees
respect the company there has to be a
belief in both your employees and your
employees of the company as well you
know for me for instance you know I do
sales we have a great culture I love the
office that I work in I don't have those
days where I just dread coming to work
because I know everybody that I work
with respects me and I respect them
and we have a very productive team but
also I'm able to do my job well because
I believe in what I'm doing
I believe in the company that I'm
representing and so companies are really
focusing on this as a huge part of what
they're looking for and they're people
they're interviewing you know they've
worked hard for employee retention they
don't want to have the turnover training
is very expensive for companies and so
they want to make sure that you're going
to be a good fit before they invest all
that time and money into your
employment so if you know you're working
somewhere and it just doesn't seem like
you're gonna get along with the
ancillary staff or you're not gonna be a
good fit for the patient clientele
that's in that area companies are gonna
look for that especially with the large
volume of pharmacists applicants that
they get on a daily basis you know they
want to make sure you're gonna fit in
you're gonna invest your time within
them and they'll do the same for you
okay well create well let's start this
mock interview and and what we're gonna
do is we're gonna have you act as the
interviewee so let's give you some
characteristics first of all so your
pharmacy said should we make you a 4th
year pharmacy student or maybe a new
graduate that has been out a year what
do you think I would say a new graduate
that's that's been out a year I think
that would be most ok ok so we you
you've graduated a year ago did you do
residency or have you been working in a
community pharmacy for a year yeah let's
do community pharmacy maybe working as
an intern through part of rotations
through school ok so you you've worked
through rotations you were an intern so
you have experience as a technician
but you have no experience as a
pharmacist that's done right ok all
right great so let's let's start with
the first question and just for everyone
this is how we're gonna do it I'm gonna
ask you the question you're going to act
as if you're the applicant and then
we're gonna have a little chat about the
difficulties with the question
challenges and certainly the traps that
some of these questions have been them
and they're not necessarily trying to
trap you to be mean there
just trying to make sure that your your
being honest with not only them but all
just with yourself about about what you
want so you've just graduated pharmacy
school Kelly you passed your boards
you passed the very difficult California
pharmacy jurisprudence exam which is
almost like the board's also and here
you are and and maybe you didn't see a
job that you liked while you were in
pharmacy school you just wanted to take
a little time to think about it but now
here you are in an interview ready to to
start your career and the first question
out of the gate tell me a little bit
about yourself so recent pharmacy grad I
love working with people so I'm really
looking for a role where I can be
patient facing and work on work with
customer service within a community
pharmacy I did do some internships
through my rotations and I really
enjoyed working with the public doing
more of a retail setting so now I'm
looking for a role that will allow me
some growth may be to become a pharmacy
manager and lead a team of staff at a
local community pharmacy okay so tell us
a little bit about what you want to make
sure is in that answer tell me a little
bit about yourself and you literally
kept it to under a minute and I feel
like that would be a very easy place to
ramble so tell me a little bit about
what you were thinking is I asked that
question and how you put your answer
together so when you're talking about
I don't necessarily think people are
looking for your whole life story that's
something that can come later in more
detailed interviews but you also don't
want to lose your interviewee either you
want to make sure they understand what
you're looking for so right off the bat
they know if you're it's gonna match
what they're looking for and if you do
have any goals to grow within a company
if you want to move up as a manager or
in some type of leadership role I would
say it as soon as possible if they're
just looking for somebody to float
around you know from location to
you know they're gonna be honest with
you and let you know that you know this
time there might not be as much growth
opportunity for you but they know what
you're looking for and so they can
easily match it with what they're
looking for
no that makes a lot of sense okay well
let's go on to the next question that I
expect that they would ask and really
they've got this they've got some things
on the CV so I just want to make sure
that we're clear to the listeners that
you don't tell them what's on your CV
but here's the question
so Kelly what made you decide to become
a pharmacist you know early on I was
always very fascinated with medications
and how they worked I had a lot of
family members that were on you know
multiple medications and it always just
it interested me so much I wanted to you
know work within that field I was very
interested in a medical profession but
didn't necessarily want to be a
physician treating the patient
I would rather you know work with the
patient make sure they're taking the
correct medications and as I continued
through school it just continued to be a
really good fit for you know what I was
looking for again you had a very
concise answer but it was full of
content it said that you're genuinely
interested in becoming a pharmacist
rather than a physician but in you still
want that face-to-face contact you still
want to work with the patients just in a
little bit of a different way what
things do you make sure they're in the
answer to that question I think it's
important to establish that you are
passionate about what you're what you're
doing you know what your career is so
and ever you know not not everybody's
gonna have a story where you know
they've been dreaming of being a
pharmacist since they are you know five
years old a lot of times it's you know a
family trade or you know they finished
school didn't necessarily want to go on
to a separate medical school to become a
physician so it's important to you know
even if you don't have a cute little
story to talk about talk about why you
are at least passionate about
craft why what interests you about being
a pharmacist because most employers want
to make sure you're passionate about the
work that they do they want to make
sure you're going to continue to have
interest in your profession and so I
think it's important to at least have
some sort of idea of what makes you
happy to be a pharmacist or what
attracted to you to the field at some
point okay well this next one it's very
uncomfortable for pharmacists to talk
about themselves in a positive way so
hopefully you'll be able to kind of
navigate that but Kelly tell me a little
bit about your strengths I would say my
number one strengths that I have is
customer service
I do love working with patients I love
dealing with people it's an Achilles
you know odd jobs through my different
education levels and it's what attracted
me the most during my rotations I would
also say that problem-solving is one of
my better skills as well it's important
to be able to break down situations and
not get overheated or take things
personal to look at what the issue is be
objective and find a solution to the
problem I'm also very big on you know
being timely and sticking to a task as
well as being a team player I think
those are things that are really
important to me so I work hard to make
them my strengths as well okay well I
think they would ask follow-up questions
certainly but tell me a little bit about
what made you know put that answer
together you've you've kind of checked
off all the boxes that as an employer I
would want this is going to be
somebody's working with our customers
well wants to be in a service role
definitely is thinking about the
consumer first also is a team player
what put did you put into that answer
what did you think about as you're
answering it definitely want you I mean
if it's gonna depend on what setting
you're applying yourself to if you're
going to be working
say a closed-door pharmacy and you have
awesome customer service skills you know
it might not be relevant to the role
that you're talking about so look at
yourself know what you your strengths
are just pick a couple of them and pick
the ones that are gonna merge together
for the role that you're applying
yourself to I personally do love
customer service that's one of my
favorite things it was easy for me to
talk about customer service and I
wouldn't apply to a closed-door setting
because it just it wouldn't be Who I am
I couldn't sit behind a desk and not
talk to anybody all day this drives me
crazy so picked you know pick your
attributes that are most positive that
you truly believe in and match it to the
role that you're applying to so for me
there's customer service and also
teamwork because any customer service
oriented role you know there's gonna be
some frustrating times with unhappy
patients it gets very stressful you feel
overworked and so making sure that
you've established that you can also be
a team player and have a good rapport
with your coworkers is very important as
well okay this next question is an
absolute trap I'm telling you ahead of
time but tell me about your weaknesses I
would say my biggest weakness is that I
talk a lot
I do love dealing with people and I you
know will get consumed in a conversation
with a patient because I just enjoy
talking to people I let customers ask me
if any questions as they want to you and
I let myself get completely wrapped up
in them so it's not that it's completely
bad weakness to have but you know once
in a while can be an issue when we're
busy but it is something that's
important to me you know to make sure I
have a good rapport with our customers
that's a very honest answer and I would
hire you just for your honesty with that
one Roberts are from Australia he has a
podcast out there and and he talked
about how they did some consulting and
there was a group of the pharmacy staff
was all talkers
one pharmacy and they were all kind of
the you know people that just wanted to
grind the stuff out and do the work but
didn't want to talk to anyone at a
different pharmacy and the solution was
actually to start trading and to put
them together because it didn't work to
have just one or the other um tell me
about how you just you know basically
turned a weakness into a strength by
saying look this is what I do but
sometimes I may you know talk too much
you know which would be worse than that
which is not as bad as maybe saying well
I just really don't talk to the customer
but tell me a little bit about how
you kind of turn that weakness into
really a reflection of genuine honesty
and just knowing who you are yeah you
know you have to this is one of the most
important questions because it is
absolutely a trap and I would say this
is one of those questions you need to be
prepared to answer we all have
you know I'm I'm not gonna tell a future
employer that you know once in a while I
have bad time management skills or I'm
not I may not be the most organized you
know you don't want to give answers
about your weaknesses
that you can't draw a positive item from
because I do have a lot of experience
and customer service I do know myself
pretty well you know I have worked in
pharmacy so I I know that what my
favorite patients roll around it's gonna
take forever for me to get away from
them and get me back but you know if
you're applying for a role in kind of a
community setting future employers are
looking for people that are able to
build relationships and having the
ability to you know to talk to people
continue that conversation I mean
they're always gonna you know give you a
side eye and you know try to rush you
along to get you back to to the task
that you were trying to complete but
it's not as bad as you know saying oh
I'm always late or you know you know
just you know you what you don't want to
give an answer that they can't
a positive reaction from so you know
look at who you are if you know if
you're somebody that really doesn't like
to talk to people you could say you know
one of my weaknesses that can also be
seen as a strength I mean you can always
pair those up together as well is that I
am very motivated to stay on task and
you know I will stop to answer a
customer's question or I will stop to
make sure that this patient's getting an
appropriate consultation however you
know I I discontinue the conversation in
a timely manner so that I can get back
to cueing the rest of these
prescriptions I need to keep my
attention on so whatever your weakness
is make sure you can flip it to a
positive reaction that's that's just
definitely ok well it's um they also
want to know that you're in you have
accomplishments or awards and and I
think people are always worried about
that you know they didn't get the super
Student Award they didn't get the award
for being president of a group so let's
ask the next question and and see how
you go with it so Kelly tell me maybe
about an accomplishment that you're
really proud of I'm most proud of
finishing our Missy school on that you
know within the time span that I told
myself I was going to you taking it
accelerated plan of three years was very
difficult I wasn't able to you know hang
out with my friends as much and do all
the fun things that they were doing
since they already graduated from their
four-year university so I'm proud that I
was able to dedicate myself to the
school to my passion and pharmacy and to
finish it take the exams and get my
license within a timely matter okay
and that's that's really a genuine very
quick hit you know I can do something
quickly I can make sacrifices and I'm
what I'm hearing as an employer is I'm
talking to someone that's willing to
make sacrifices to my company because
she's also made sacrifices for herself
so can you talk
a little bit more about your answer to
that one absolutely I mean it's always
great to talk about those awards if
you've gotten them you know if you were
able to get into a specific program or
you know maybe even talk about the
residency that you were able to get into
you I would just say don't don't gloat
too much about all the different awards
you want to pick one maybe two things
that shows that you have drys that
you're able to stay on task and to
continue with your goals having
employees that come in and aren't able
to make you know those sacrifices of you
know it's a really busy day can you stay
over maybe like ten more minutes just so
we can you know finish up with these
charts or you know whatever the task is
they want to make sure you're able to
dive into the role and continue with
what you said you were going to I think
that's really important you know anybody
joining whether it's your school or you
know a new role with a new company they
want to make sure you have that
longevity and they want to make sure
you're going to do your best make those
sacrifices and that you're in it for the
long run you know even if you don't want
to be a manager you just want to be a
long-standing staff pharmacist that's
okay to you but that you're in it for
the long run I think is the biggest
point they're awesome
okay well let's let's ask another
question that we usually hear so Kelly I
just actually finished running the
American cities or America's Finest City
half marathon down in San Diego I just
love running what are some things you
like to do outside of pharmacy outside
of pharmacy I am a jiu-jitsu
practitioner I've been training for
about two years and I found that being
able to you know get on the mats and get
some of that energy out some of that
frustration from constantly studying you
know just being a part of another
another team it's like a family has been
very beneficial to me keeping sane
during my sure sure
and just to speak to your your answer
I've actually found that this question I
interviewed hundreds and hundreds of
pharmacy students in the time that I was
a student and then after and I always
found that just the way the brain works
they're trying to anchor to something
that they can make you unique and
honestly I could see you being in the
you know applicant pool as the jiu-jitsu
person because that's so unique and so
tell me a little bit about your answer
and how you came up with it well I
actually do trained jiu-jitsu so that is
something that you know I I talk about
because it has helped me but I think
more than that everybody has something
that they're into that's a little bit
different than their friends you know
there's always something that makes you
stand out in your friends group in your
family so choose something that you know
like you said will make you stand out in
the applicant pool but also talk about
what it does for you because we all
don't have hobbies just to kill time you
know obviously there's something in
within that hobby that we do that makes
us feel better as a person and if you
can show that you do have an outlet you
have something that you're just as
passionate about as the pharmacy field
it just shows employers that you're a
more well-rounded person and that you
you know you do notice that from time to
time you need a little stress relief so
that you know when they're overworking
you know 13 hour days and a couple
months they know you're gonna be okay
well you know let's what's um before we
get to the last question would you maybe
if even though they didn't ask you
exactly what would you maybe put that in
the first answer where he say tell me a
little bit about yourself so you
maybe talk you know 4/5 professional and
then just put a fifth like and by the
way I also do jujitsu and just to kind
of make yourself personable would that
be something somebody could do
you can I found in a lot of the
interviews that our candidates have been
on is they always ask those two
so the
matter is going to come up but it's not a
bad idea just to kind of trace upon it a
little bit I wouldn't go into too much
detail in it within the first question
especially if you know you're
anticipating they're going to go back to
another question similar to that later
on within the interview but you can
definitely mix in a little personal with
your professional I think those first
initial questions are just too honestly
to see how you're going to come out you
know to them like your initial
appearance your initial response they're
going to yell comfortable and you are
talking to them it's kind of an
icebreaker to a little bit you're always
really nervous you know when you go on
these interviews so turning it around to
ask you a couple things about yourself
can sometimes break the ice make you
feel a little more comfortable okay and
then a last question for a fit and you
know personality so you've certainly
dealt with difficult situations Kelly
can you tell me a time where you've had
a difficult or challenging situation and
what did you do
to work through that I you know have
been a part of quite a few difficult /
frustrating situations you know within
working through community pharmacy I
think one of the biggest issues I faced
and during my time as an intern was a
patient came in when we had a floating
pharmacist there's brand-new pharmacists
they've never worked in our store they
didn't really know our patients and they
flat out refused to fill one of our
patients prescriptions the patient came
back to us and was very upset because
the pharmacist wouldn't fill it and you
know as an intern you just feel like
you're a little stuck in the situation
because physically you can't fill it
yourself you know you have to work with
your other pharmacist at that time to
you know see if it's appropriate to fill
so what I ended up doing was addressing
the patient because they were very upset
so I talked to the patient and then I
let them know that I would give them a
call back and kind of look into the
situation for them just to provide you
know some
additional clarity I ended up talking to
the pharmacist that was on duty at that
time and they knew about the situation
and said that the patient actually
wasn't due for their refill and you know
it was a narcotic so it was a very
time-sensitive issue so I think the
biggest pull from that was that you know
when you're when you're dealing with
both staff and patient you have to make
sure that you're gonna you know address
the patient in a respectful manner so I
made sure to follow up with them and let
them know that it just wasn't ready to
be filled yet and you know you could
pick it up in three days that's when
your prescription is due but also I
wanted to make sure that the staff
pharmacists had the respect of you know
filling that prescription with his own
license obviously there's a reason he
wasn't gonna fill it and so I think just
kind of you know being stuck in the
middle was not fun but being able to
work through both sides and stay
respectful of the patient's situation as
well as the pharmacist situations helped
me through it and you know helped me
keep their respect as well as a
supervisor I would be saying this is
wonderful I'm not going to get a call
every time this person is in the field
because what you're doing is you're
proving that you can do what what needs
to be done as a pharmacist even though
at the time you're a technician and as a
soup future as a supervisor I would be
like okay I can trust that this person's
gonna at least be a first-line take care
of all the problems that shouldn't be
escalated to me and then maybe if they
do need me though they'll really you
know it'll be something that you know
it's really needs my attention what were
you thinking when you were answering
that question
well I'm you know if you've had any time
like through your rotation things like
this come up I mean patients narcotic
refills probably caused the most issues
within any community pharmacy outpatient
pharmacy even you know closed door mail
order that's something that's gonna
happen all the time but it is important
to know your future employer that you
number one you respect their patients
patient care is
you know the forefront of their business
regardless of what setting you're in
those patients have to be taken care of
and they have to feel like they're
respected so that they'll continue
coming back but you're you know fellow
pharmacists that you're working with
also need the respect of the benefit of
the doubt and you know you worked so
hard to get that license if there was a
reason they didn't feel comfortable
filling it you have to respect that
because at that time it was their
license on the line you know not yours
so as a tech as an intern I did deal
with that quite a bit just kind of being
in the middle between pharmacists and
the patient's so I would say find a
situation that you've been in where
you've had to kind of not play both
sides but you've had to see the big
picture and look for a solution with
them where you want your employer's to
see that you are able to you know not
get frustrated not take that upset
patients and their attitudes personal
and you know ask both sides see what's
going on it just it makes you look more
well-rounded and they are able to solve
difficult problems that come up all the
time in any pharmacy okay well I've
asked seven of the very tough questions
that you'll get with culture and fit is
there anything else that you wanted to
add before we move on to the next
section no I would just think you know
for those definitely find solutions and
find positivity in the answers that
you're giving because employers do
notice that if you're able to solve
problems or have a positive outlook on
difficult situations they'll definitely
help you throughout the process awesome
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