How to shine when it’s interview time

Cover Story

Congratulations! You have obtained an interview for a new position. Interviewing, whether it is for an internship, residency, fellowship, or a position as a pharmacist, can be intimidating. Now that you have been invited, let’s look at what you can do to sell yourself during the interview.


Comprehensive interview preparation is your key to success. Don’t be afraid to start preparing for your interview 2 to 3 weeks before your actual interview date. Consider the following items in the weeks before your interview. 

Finalize your CV. Review your CV to make sure it is up-to-date, free from errors, and accurately reflects all of your achievements. This should include presentations, awards, and volunteer experience. An interviewer may ask about activities listed on your CV so make sure that you can speak to each item. Print two or three copies of your CV on résumé paper (not multipurpose paper) to bring to your interview.

Prepare references. Make a list of three to five professional references that are printed on the same résumé paper as your CV. You may also wish to use the same heading (name, address, information) as your CV for uniformity. 

Create a portfolio. A portfolio of recent work (projects, papers, presentations) will set you apart from other candidates, especially if you are applying for a residency, fellowship, or position as a pharmacist. Choose five to eight pieces of work that are relevant to the position you are applying for. Place them in a neatly bound portfolio with a copy of your CV. 

Research the position. Review the company/program’s website to see what their mission and values are. Know what pharmacy services they offer (and don’t offer). You may also want to review the profile on Glass Door () to obtain more information. Incorporate your findings into a few interview responses or questions. 

Most interviews will use performance-based interviewing. Although you may be asked general questions about your background and interests, the majority of questions will be centered on your previous experiences. Make sure you have thought about your answers to the following questions.

What are your short- and long- term career goals? You should ensure that your answer is honest, but also aligns with what the site can offer or what they desire. Include career goals, as well as goals pertaining to professional development and association membership.

What are your weaknesses? Always be honest. If you are not comfortable making quick decisions, or counseling patients, explain this. Provide a weakness that is realistic but will not contradict the position you are applying for. Explain how you plan to improve your weaknesses. 

What are your strengths? Avoid the common answers such as honest, hard-working, and reliable. I’m sure these got you through pharmacy school, but now it’s time to expand your vocabulary. Not sure what your strengths are? Try using StrengthsFinder to learn more about yourself. 

How did you resolve a past conflict? Answer this question and every situational question using the STAR (Situation-Task-Action-Result) or SHARE (Situation-Hindrances-Action-Result-Evaluation) method to ensure completeness. Make sure to practice this question with a friend. Your response shouldn’t portray your image as a bully, but not as a mouse either.

Describe how you manage a busy day. The interviewer is interested to see how you prioritize work and manage stress. This is important for a residency or fellowship position. 

Clinical questions. Although most interviewers want to see if you are a good fit for their practice, you may experience a few clinical questions. There is no way to prepare for these questions, so be honest in your responses. If you don’t know an answer, state where you would look up and find the answer.

Formulate questions to ask. Be prepared to ask each interviewer one to two questions. If there are multiple interview panels, don’t be afraid to ask the same question twice in order to receive different views. Ask about when they plan to make their decision.
 If you are fully prepared, then the actual day of your interview shouldn’t be too stressful. Keep the following tips in mind for a great interview experience.

Dress professionally. Wear a dark-colored suit with appropriate accessories. Ladies, avoid low-cut blouses, high heels, perfume, and too much make-up. Wear simple jewelry. Men should wear a tie and dress shoes. 

Arrive early. Plan to arrive 15 to 20 minutes early. Review directions on where to park, where to meet, and the campus map the night before. If you arrive earlier than expected, you can always practice interview questions before entering the facility.

Leave your phone behind. Either turn your phone off or leave it in your car or at home. 
 Smile and don’t chew gum! Make eye , smile, shake hands, and be considerate to not only those interviewing you, but to everyone you meet. Word will travel if you are courteous and professional. If you need to freshen your breath, use a mint so that you don’t forget to discard the gum! 
 Be mindful of nonverbal gestures. Any nonverbal gestures should have been evident during your practice interview. Don’t play with your hair, tap your foot, click your pen, or sway in your chair. Don’t frown or sigh if a different panel asks you the same question. Each panel is trying to get to know you, not test your memory on how you answered the question previously.

Use good listening skills. Seek clarification if you need more information about a question—it is better than not answering the intended question. If a question has multiple parts, don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat it. You may even consider writing down notes so that you don’t leave anything out. 
Then, write thank-you letters on a blank card and mail them no more than 48 hours following your interview. You may wish to write them to the main interviewer and all of the interview participants. If the panel is making their decision within the next 5 business days, provide a more prompt message. Consider sending an e-mail or leaving an after-hours voicemail.

Non-traditional interviews

Some initial interviews are being conducted via telephone or webcam prior to an on-site interview. You should still prepare for your interview, but instead of having physical copies of your CV, references, and portfolio, I suggest you prepare digital PDF copies. You may wish to e-mail your digital portfolio to your interviewer prior to the interview so that he or she may review it. Test any needed technology to ensure that it is functioning properly. Make sure that your telephone or Internet connection is adequate. 

By being yourself and keeping these tips in mind, you will be on your way to a good employer matched for your personality and skill set. Good luck!