By: Neal Shah
As the year comes to a close, many pharmacy students are turning their sights onto the process of residency interviews. Residencies provide a competitive edge and an educational fulfillment to future pharmacists who wish to engage in clinical practice. On October 26th, Rho Chi held its first Mock Residency Interviews, open to all pharmacy students. In total, 56 students were divided into eight rounds, and they were interviewed individually by a Clinical Pharmacy Practice pharmacist for roughly ten minutes. The interviewers included Dr. Ezzo, Dr. Hughes, Dr. Jodlowski (in lieu of Dr. Conry), Dr. Kanmaz, Dr. Maidhof, Dr. Patel, and Dr. Shafeeq (in lieu of Dr. Arya). Each interviewer has many years of experience in the clinical setting, and provided excellent feedback to students to improve their interviews.
The interviews resembled typical employment interviews – once the pharmacy student introduced his or herself and presented the curriculum vitae (CV), the pharmacist would look over the document and ask questions. These questions varied from “why are you pursuing a residency?” to “what role does the staff pharmacist play in patient care?” It was interesting to note that not all questions dealt with the workplace or items listed on the CV. Dr. Jodlowski mentioned in the post-interview comments that he was asked, “what three items would you bring to a deserted island?” during his residency interview. Hence, students should prepare for some out-of-the-ordinary questions. Dr. Patel reminded students that “fluff” or add extraneous detail on a CV may be put into a detrimental situation – anything mentioned on the CV may be questioned. She recommended a two-to-three line description on paper and a short explanatory summary for listed items.
A brief perusal of an institution‘s residency program may allow you to better answer why you chose that institution and to see if that institution would make a good fit with your own goals. Mission statements and program outlines are commonly posted on websites. Answering questions with mentions of these elements is beneficial and shows that you are prepared for employment with the institution. Follow-up questions at the end of the interview are also encouraged and again reflect interest in the program. A great question to ask is for a small description of day-to-day activities of all pharmacy staff members. This may allow the interviewer to focus on areas vital to daily operations.
It goes without saying that professionalism during an interview must be upheld. However, many interviewers stated that students seemed monotonous and wished that the interview was more like a conversation. In your answers, employers want to see your professional behavior and your “human side.” Light-hearted humor may work for some interviewers, but it should be used with discretion as it may portray you as an unsuitable candidate for the work
environment. How you interact with the person also reflects how you will carry yourself with other healthcare professionals.
Another important point Dr. Patel mentioned is to never call community pharmacies “retail” pharmacies, and never bash community pharmacy, as it represents the “bread and butter” of our profession. Language is extremely important and as all the interviewers said, using “like” or “um” excessively is unprofessional and gives a sense of unpreparedness. Above all else, remember that you are selling yourself in a short period of time; so, the first impression is the most important.
Other advice given by the interviewers is listed below:
- Shortly before the interview, take a deep breath, relax, and smile. Your thoughts and answers will be better portrayed if you are calm.
- Have time management skills: be able to explain situations where you demonstrated heavy workload and resolution by balancing priorities adequately.
- Make appropriate eye contact and use professional language. Avoid excessive casual fillers such as “like” or “um.” Allow a second to collect your thoughts and succinctly relay them.
- Research the residency program: inform the interviewer why you are interested in their specific rotation compared to other rotations. Let them know you fit what they are looking for.
- If asked about your weaknesses, state ones that are easily turned into positives. Always add what you have done to improve on them. For example, if you had to work to support yourself during school, you can add that you learned how to efficiently balance studying, rotations, projects, and work.
- At the end of the interview, ask questions about the residency program. Asking what daily activities residents and staff pharmacists do will also influence your decision on pursuing a residency at that location.
During an interview, our resume or CV defines who we are. Of course, not everything we have ever done goes on a CV; so, it is beneficial to know what activities to include and how to phrase them.
On November 17th at 6 PM in the Drug Information Laboratory, Dr. Patel is holding a CV workshop for 6th year students, and there are only 30 spots available for this event. So, RSVP today by emailing [email protected]!