Solving the pharmacy hiring drought, Part 2

People are any workplace’s most valuable asset. They are what make it all tick. To run a great pharmacy, we need great people. To find great people, we need to interview like a champion.

The precious interview questions that reveal your next hire

What is the best gift you could give a pharmacist? No, not a sign with flashing lights showing people where the Q-tips are. As relevant as that would be, this gift would not be something materialistic. It would however solve a burning problem and offer years of tangible purpose.

The gift: a person.

People are any workplace’s most valuable asset. They are what make it all tick. To run a great pharmacy, we need great people. To find great people, we need to interview like a champion. Knowing that executing a great interview is a skill and hiring the right person is essential, it is worth time analyzing what interview questions pull out the most value in the least amount of time and what red flags we cannot afford to miss.

First, what are the golden questions that give us tremendous insight into turning a stranger into someone we can read? I first like to start with a broad question that anyone without pharmacy experience can fake if they have a little imagination, “Why pharmacy?”

This question shows you what they already know about pharmacy as proof that they put thought into consciously applying here instead of a restaurant or in other industry. Next, I then make my way to a question that tells me about term. We need to know that they will stick around or if there is potential for us investing six months and having to restart: “Where do you see yourself in two years and five years?

With the basics out for the way and a simple relationship established, the conversation is ready for a few heavy-hitters. These give us insight into personality and overall attitude. Since these qualities are not coachable, they carry significant weight.

Something like, “Tell me about a significant life challenge” or “Tell me about a book on your nightstand or a podcast you subscribe to.” These tell about their story, offer key insight into their background and force them to elaborate. Often, these two questions allow them to tell us a story with a few different chapters, answering more questions we no longer need to ask. For a complete list of golden questions, check out the interview kit found inside the RxMIND bundle here.

Second, what red flags allow us to cross a candidate off our list and move on? The obvious observations of course include a candidate being late or having a dishevelled or inappropriate wardrobe. We triangulate the style, clarity, font and grammar on their résumé and application form to match with the person in front of us.

In my experience, there is a subtle element that I now note as a red flag during the conversation: pace. First, if I have to point to them when it is their time to talk, it is not a good fit. If it feels like hard work for them to enunciate and elaborate, pharmacy will be hard for them in most of the front-facing, public areas of what we do. They should be able to hold a conversation instead of simply provide one-word or one-sentence responses, without you forcing it. It demonstrates their compatibility with you and hints at how they will converse with co-workers and customers.  

On this same wavelength of pace, pay attention to interruptions. I have found that if I accidentally and repeatedly interrupt the candidate in conversation, it may be because they are processing my words very slowly. It hints at the potential that a fast-paced pharmacy may move too quickly for them and it is worth probing more to tweeze this out.

There's no magic formula!

While your golden questions assess what fits, they also call out what does not. Paired with the observations of red flags, we must go with our gut. Being friendly, honest and non-intimidating will get us the most accurate information. The overarching goal of the interview is to have a collaborative conversation where both sides can participate, take turns and find alignment of some basic philosophies. By being laser-focused on the information coming our way from our golden questions and not seeing the glaring red flags, we can find confidence that they are worth hiring. There is always a risk of missing elements we could not have seen, but not hiring also brings a risk. With a 90-day probationary period built into our employment agreements, we do have a trial period to double check our work. 

A complete list of my top interview questions, along with a screening form and pharmacy assistant assessment is part of an interview kit within my RxMIND bundle available here.


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