In this article a clinical pharmacist provides virtual pharmacy residency interview tips, including a subtle theater theme for fun.
Authored By: Meagan Adamsick, PharmD, BCIDP
Posted 28 January 2021
January marks a busy time for pharmacy residency candidates – full of final application submissions, interview offers, and preparation to ensure a flawless interview day. 2021 is no exception, but this year’s residency application process has been like none other and resident candidates are trudging through new waters, virtually. The virtual interview is a new experience for most candidates and interviewers but will soon be common place for resident hopefuls and programs this February.
Traditional interview advice still applies to this interview format, but new challenges arise when interviewers are meeting you on conferencing software often thousands of miles away. As you prepare for this new interview style, consider these tips for a star performance when it’s time for lights, camera, action!!!
1. Practice Your Lines and Rehearse
The preparation for a virtual interview doesn’t stray much from that of an in-person interview – do your research on the program, know your CV backwards and forwards, and prepare answers to many common interview questions.
A bonus of a virtual interview is that your interviewer is likely not able to see any notes out in front of you. Feel free to have a printed copy of your itinerary, any interview question preparation documents, a copy of your CV, and any conducted research on the program in front of you, but out of view of your camera. Your interviewers will notice if you are constantly looking down and avoiding eye contact with the camera, but they likely will not notice or think poorly if you refer to papers or to prepared notes sparingly.
Practice your interview responses with a friend or family member. Saying responses out loud will allow you to hear where you stumble, minimize use of filler words, and help you fine tune your answers. It’s important not to sound like a recording, but it is also important to be prepared to speak.
Also, do not forget to triple check time zones. In a normal interview environment, 8:00 am is the same for everyone. During virtual interviews, invitations may not include the time zone, so confirm the start time AND time zone for each interview ahead of time. Interviewers are often scheduled with many candidates in a row, so arriving an hour or two off can be very challenging for coordinators to fit you back into the schedule!
2. Set the Stage
This is where a virtual environment differs more drastically from in-person. Depending on where you are during your interview, there is a higher likelihood of distractions or unwanted disturbances, including roommates, pets, and other unplanned noise intrusions or internet glitches. Do your best to limit these as much as possible, but if this is proving to be a challenge, consider reserving a conference room on your schools’ campus, asking a friend if they have an empty room to loan for the day, or exploring public libraries or other spaces that may have conference rooms available for use.
Do not forget to check your internet connection. If your Wi-Fi is intermittently choppy, consider using wired internet access or relocate to one of the options above, if needed. Interviewers will certainly understand if you have technological challenges but do your homework ahead of time to limit the chances of this happening during your interview day.
Confirm that your space is well-lit and glare-free. To ensure this, try out a video call during the hours of your interview a few days prior to confirm that everyone will be able to see your face, free of dim lights or harsh glares. We wish we could be meeting you in person, but since we cannot, a well-lit face is the next best thing. Purchasing an expensive ring light from Amazon is likely not necessary (although some are just around $25) – consider flipping to the other side of the room or bringing a spare lamp over to your interview space for the day to increase the light. Also consider what will be visible to your interviewers in the background when choosing your interview location and if needed, remove any potentially distracting posters, pictures, or stray piles of laundry from view.
Ensure your microphone is functioning well. Wired headphones, bluetooth headphones, or your computer audio are all fine options, just make sure the sound is up to par and your device is well charged prior to the day.
3. Don’t Forget Your Costume
Just because you may be interviewing from your living room, does not mean the formality of the day is any less. Continue to consider your interview a business professional day and wear a suit. All genders should plan to wear a business suit from head to toe. If you must stand up on camera to run to the bathroom or grab some water, you do not want a potential preceptor taking note of your pajama pants or leggings beneath your suit jacket. Dressing to impress can also help remind you to sit up straight and keep it professional throughout the day.
4. Break a Leg
More than ever before, facial expressions will be crucial for the interviewer to assess interest in the program, engagement in the interview, and overall assessment of you as a candidate. Body language will be harder to evaluate from a computer screen, so your facial expressions will need to convey your passion for the position on behalf of your whole body.
Remember that you have worked incredibly hard to reach this point and deserve to be proud of yourself! Most programs receive very large numbers of applications and usually limit interview invitations to 10-20% of applicants, so making it to the interview is a great accomplishment!! Being asked to interview for a program is often proof that you are qualified for the position and the interview itself it to assess your fit with the program. Interviewers are wanting to get to know you because they saw something impressive in your application. Don’t forget this, and good luck!
5. The Encore
As with in-person interviews, it is good etiquette to thank your interviewers for their time throughout your day in the form of a thank you note. Traditional practice has recommended a mailed letter to anyone that you met with during your day, but more recently candidates have converted to email thank you notes. There are lots of perspectives on this, but emailed thank you notes have a few benefits to consider, including:
- Allowing for you to ask any remaining questions, in addition to a thank you. You can also expect a timely response back if you include questions
- Increasing your confidence of it arriving in the right hands. Hospital mail rooms are a busy place and with current shipping delays, you want to be confident your note reaches your interviewers in a timely manner
- Emails are germ free. As we work through the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing any risk of exposure to the virus is often preferred and an email ensures a clean, virus-free sentiment.
Good luck throughout your residency application, interview, and matching process. Every residents’ story to residency is complete with unforeseen turns and disappointments along the way, so stay confident in yourself and I’m sure you will be cast in your dream role!
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Disclosures: The author reports no conflicts or disclosures.
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