Solving the pharmacy hiring drought, Part 1

Gone are the days where your next hire would walk in, shake your hand and a conversation led to finding your next all-star. The fact that this may have even worked in the past is mind-blowing. To find more résumés, we need to plant seeds, but not just when we need to actively grow something.

Examining a better system for hiring in a new world of work.

In concept, hiring is simple: walk into a shoe store, review the options in front of you, select one or two to try on, then pick one, pay up and walk out happy.

Based on the number of open postings on pharmacy job boards, why are so many pharmacies desperate for people? Why are pharmacies posting signs reducing their hours due to staffing shortages? Since people are much more complex than shoes, we need an answer for today’s seemingly pharmacy staffing drought.

“Can I drop off a résumé?”

These words are not uttered as frequently that they used to be. Like many industries, hiring has changed and it has become an epic challenge to find the right people. In my practice, compared to the decade prior, it seems like the quality of candidates is much drier and that there are fewer résumés worth spending time on.

The first part of finding a solution in a hiring drought is to develop systems that find more candidates. Module 2 of the Labcoat to Leader accelerator course speaks to this in detail. It breaks down the perfect storm that includes the lack of a work-from-home option, people having higher wage expectations and also having less tolerance to start at the bottom of the skill ladder. The course goes on to propose a new model for hiring with strategies for drawing in more résumés and distills a system to automate the screening of candidates. It then goes on to propose a polishing of the step where the pharmacy manager is most obviously needed: the interview itself.

Part one of this article addresses the rate-limiting step bottlenecking the entire equation from getting started by suggesting ways pharmacists can draw in higher numbers of résumés, paired with an automated way to find the hidden quality within. Part two will isolate the next step in the hiring equation, which is under the pharmacist’s direct control: the interview itself.

In the anecdotal poling of my colleagues at a few pharmacy conferences in 2022 and 2023, the themed response from the question "why are we so desperate for staff" is that there is no one out there to hire. I often hear pharmacists say things like: “I have to settle,” “there are just no good ones anymore,” and “no ones wants to work.” Pharmacy is struggling with the first step of the hiring equation in that there is a scarcity of résumés to review.  

So how do we get more résumés on our desks?

Gone are the days where your next hire would walk in, shake your hand and a conversation led to finding your next all-star. The fact that this may have even worked in the past is mind-blowing. To find more résumés, we need to plant seeds, but not just when we need to actively grow something. We need to constantly be recruiting instead of waiting for a workforce gap to happen. We cannot afford to start from scratch each time we have a new problem. We need a process of developing a candidate pipeline, so that when someone quits or breaks a leg, we have a solution. We need to get ahead of a hiring crisis so we are not settling on desperate hires and control the dangerous scenario of operating short.

We can start today, by posting an ad on our websites, with a link to an online screening form whereby candidates answer a few essential questions and attach their résumé.  See an example here, where the applicant comments on their one- and five-year goals, why they are considering pharmacy and their biggest life challenge. Since we can tell plenty about a person by their writing, we can pre-screen the incoming résumés by having an application form that is simple yet requires some commitment on their part. As a side-effect the process provides us with an organic filter. Those who cannot navigate the process of filling out a simple form, saving their résumé to their computer and attaching it may have trouble preparing prescriptions, billing drug plans or communicating co-pays and deductible to patients. This link can be posted on social media and on job boards as well are shared with local colleges, universities and employment offices. To be most inclusive, have a few paper copies of your application form and allow candidates to email their responses.

Having a referral to this link as part of a poster makes it visually apparent that we are hiring. Post this poster in the pharmacy entrance, use a half-page version of it as a pharmacy bag-stuffer and post it in approved public places. Since we are always accepting résumés, this poster and link will always be in-date even if all we are doing is building a portfolio of future candidates for the unpredictable needs ahead.

Transparently explain the philosophy to your staff to prevent worry. We are not actively replacing anyone, but we are always meeting and networking. For the sake of the staff, our patients and our business, they want their leader operating preventively.

What if: tomorrow someone quits, breaks a leg, is offered another job, needs to move away or wins the lottery! Now imagine if you had two people you have already vetted in an interview. Two people you can offer a job to and be ready to step in. What if you had just one or two people with 95% of the work done when the uncontrollable happened?

Deeper insight into screening systems, finding quantity then quality résumés and my top interview questions are all part of the Labocat to Leader Acceleratorhere. Or check out the interview kit as part of RxMind.


More Blog Posts In This Series

  • Hiring pharmacy staff without actual experience

    Like many pharmacy manager-owners, I have conducted a few interviews in my time. Some were highly collaborative and resulted in all-stars still working strongly with us today. Other résumés turned into napkins or scrap paper.
  • Are you a jaded pharmacist?

    The problem with pharmacy is that it is all practice. It is training without race day. The daily grind offers much of the same training as it did the day before. After a short time, we become jaded.
  • Negotiating 101 for pharmacists

    Important negotiations are about relationships, something pharmacists know a ton about. Each day we make friends with strangers needing health advice and tools to pair them with.
    thick skin