Raymond C. Love, PharmD, BCPP, FASHP
Professor and Vice Chair
School of Pharmacy, University of Maryland
Megan Maroney, PharmD, BCPP
Clinical Assistant Professor
Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Psychiatric Clinical Pharmacist
Monmouth Medical Center
Jonathon P. Lacro, PharmD, BCPS, BCPP
Director, Pharmacy Education & Training
Residency Program Director, PGY1 Pharmacy & PGY2 Psychiatric Pharmacy
Clinical Pharmacy Specialist in Psychiatry
VA San Diego Healthcare System
Interviewing for jobs may be an art, but preparation and psychology play a vital role in a successful interview. Being prepared includes doing research so you understand the organization to which you are applying, thinking about how you would fit into this organization, and coming up with substantive, thoughtful, and relevant questions to ask during the interview. In this article, three seasoned interviewers share their time tested tips for interviewing.
Demonstrate your Knowledge of the Organization and Potential Colleagues
With your research, you can demonstrate your knowledge of the organization and your ability to prepare for a task. It is also flattering to interviewers when you enumerate their accomplishments or strengths and how your skills complement theirs as a member of an effective team.
Prepare Your Questions Carefully
The chance to ask questions is the only opportunity that you will have to control anything during the interview. Use this opportunity to your advantage. Ask questions that give you a chance to demonstrate your interest and skills. Ask questions that help you understand how you will function and fit in with the team. If this is a recently vacated position, try to determine why the previous occupant left. Caution, do not take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions by having an endless list of questions or meaningless questions. Select them carefully. Never start off asking about salary and benefits and rather than taking up time asking about salary and benefits, look these up online if possible or ask if there is someone in human resources who can cover these issues.
Getting to Know You
Finally, interviewers want to know about your skills, your drive and initiative, whether you will fit in, if you will work well with the supervisor, and if your accomplishments match the needs of the organization. Frame your answers to address these issues in complete organized sentences with relevant examples. If there is something that makes you stand out in an interesting way, make sure to weave it into the conversation. That tactic can help the interviewer remember you.
Prepare your answers so that you are not talking for more than two or three minutes at a time. It is not necessary to talk excessively to communicate a point; long answers can be boring or appear narcissistic. Rehearsing is good, but you never want to sound too rehearsed. You may come off as disingenuous if your answer to an interview question is overly prepared. It is often useful to prepare with a friend, mentor or colleague. Practice, critique your performance, refine it, and practice some more!
Most employers want to be sure that you will stay with their organization for an extended period of time. If you ask questions about the area or indicate that you have ties to the location and that you are prepared to lay down roots, they will be more likely to seriously consider you as a candidate. If you are unfamiliar with the area and time allows, consider arriving a day early to explore. Incorporate this experience in the interview to further demonstrate your interest in the position.
Many potential employers will require you to present a seminar to demonstrate your teaching style. Be sure to ask who the intended audience is ahead of time. Some employers may want to see a presentation that is intended for a student audience, others may want to see a more advanced presentation tailored to a clinician or expert. Incorporating your own research findings or patient interactions into the discussion is a great way to highlight your experience. Be sure to include interactive components into the lecture to engage your audience.
Competency Based Interviews
In addition to general questions about your background and interests, most interviews for clinical positions use performance based interviewing to select and promote qualified staff. This method is also referred to as competency-based or behavioral interviewing and is based on the premise that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Hence, you should strive to describe what you have done in situations common in the clinical environment. Be prepared to answer questions on how you resolved a past conflict, managed a busy day, prioritized work and managed stress. You may also experience a few clinical questions. There is no way to fully prepare for all possible clinical questions, so be honest in your responses. If you don’t know an answer, describe the process you would use to look up and find the answer.
Demonstrating Customer Service Skills
In its simplest form, a clinical pharmacist is largely a customer service position. Clinical pharmacists meet, talk to, interact with, and help others such as their patients, families and caregivers, and other healthcare providers. Interviewers know it and they will observe a lot of things while talking to you. Are you a good communicator? Are you a good listener? Do you have a right personality for this job? Are you a good fit with their environment? Often, you will be competing against others for clinical positions. During the interview you need to present yourself as a motivated clinician who strives to provide the best possible customer service in every moment.