A pharmacist interprets physician’s orders, dispenses prescription medications, and develops staff understanding of pharmacological knowledge. In addition, they advise patients on drug dosages and chemical reactions caused by their prescription, and they counsel patients about drug therapies.
Pharmacist positions are a unique blend of education, administration, and healthcare. They are in an important important position of dispensing medication and should demonstrate expert knowledge within their field as well as a keen eye for inconsistencies within prescriptions.
Pharmacist responsibilities may include:
- Compounding, labeling, and packaging pharmaceuticals
- Organizing and directing technician work flow
- Ensuring compliance with state and federal drug laws
- Providing staff training in regards to pharmacological knowledge
- Providing patient instruction on the correct administration of prescriptions
The smallest mistake in a pharmaceutical dose or prescription can lead to serious illness or worse. In order to safely administer medication, a skilled pharmacist will:
- Have a keen eye for inconsistencies within prescriptions
- Communicate clearly with staff
- Possess superior organizational and recordkeeping skills
- Demonstrate leadership ability in order to best direct technicians
- Stay up to date on industry standards and practices
If you’re getting ready to interview for a position as a pharmacist, you can prepare by researching the company as much as possible. Learn about the 9 things you should research before an interview.
Salaries for pharmacists range between $127K to $161K with the median being $143K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a pharmacist include:
- Degrees (bachelor's, Master of Science, PhD)
- Years of experience
- Reporting structure (seniority of the manager you report to, number of direct reports)
- Level of performance - exceeding expectations
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Pharmacist Interview Questions
Question: A couple of your pharmacy technicians aren't getting along, and it’s becoming obvious to the customers. How would you handle the situation?
Explanation: Most pharmacists are also the managers of the pharmacy in which they work. The interviewer is seeking to understand your ability to manage your staff, the scope of your interpersonal skills, and how you address conflict resolution. While these are not technical skills, they are important abilities of any pharmacist.
Example: “I’ve been in situations where there is a conflict between team members. What I found to be effective is to meet with the staff outside of business hours and ask each of them to describe why there is conflict and what they feel a solution could be. I’d then use their suggestions to propose a resolution for the issue. Once we’ve agreed on the solution, I would ask each of them for their commitment to making it work. I then keep an eye on them to make sure the conflict has been resolved and they are working well together.”
Question: A customer asks about an over-the-counter medication with which you are not familiar. How would you handle this situation?
Explanation: This is an operational question which the interviewer is using to test your problem-solving skills. Specifically, they’re looking for your ability to perform research as well as the extent of your customer service skills. The key to answering this question is to walk the interviewer through the process you’d use to research the medication and communicate the information to the customer in a timely fashion.
Example: “First, I’d acknowledge I was unfamiliar with the medication. Then I’d either read the label on the package or look up the medication in the Pharmacy Reference Guide. Once I had more information, I’d have a conversation with the customer regarding other medications they were currently taking and possible interactions between this medication and those. Finally, I’d ask the customer why they feel they need this medication and, if appropriate, suggest alternatives or recommend a consultation with their physician.”
Question: How would you address the issue of a customer returning to the pharmacy with a partially used prescription stating it wasn’t working?
Explanation: This is another operational question which is meant to learn more about your interpersonal skills and your ability to communicate with patients. It may also be used to understand your level of integrity. Make sure you respond to this question in compliance with generally accepted pharmaceutical practices as well as your willingness to assist the customer.
Example: “My initial response to the patient would be to ask them why they felt the medication was not working and try to resolve their issue. Understanding this, I’d then explain that many medications require you to complete the full regimen before they are effective. If the patient still wanted to return the medication and the pharmacy policy allowed for it, I’d process the refund and recommend that the patient contact their physician to discuss the issue and get an alternative prescription.”
Question: The pharmacy is out of stock of a medication for an extremely difficult customer. How would you deal with this?
Explanation: Much of a pharmacist’s role involves customer service as well as working with the entire medical team to address a patient’s medical issues. Sometimes, they are asked to balance these tasks, driving customer satisfaction while ensuring their health care needs are met. The interviewer is seeking to understand that you are aware of this and get an example of your skills in this area.
Example: “I feel the best way to deal with this situation is to be proactive. Once the pharmacy receives the prescription, I would have one of my technicians contact the patient to let them know we were out of stock of the medication and provide an estimate as to when we would have it again. If the patient were insistent and felt they couldn’t wait, I’d contact the prescribing physician and suggest they submit the prescription to another pharmacy, preferably one which we were affiliated with.”
Question: In your opinion, what is the most important business aspect of which a pharmacist needs to be aware?
Explanation: While being a pharmacist is a technical profession, at the end of the day, it is a business. The interviewer wants to make sure you are aware of this and learn more about your business acumen. Keep in mind that they are hiring you to help them make money. Your answer should address how you would generate revenue and save costs for the organization.
Example: “I believe the most important business aspect of being a pharmacist is providing great customer service and patient care. Doing that will ensure the pharmacy retains its existing customers and acquires new ones through patient and physician referrals. I would also be keenly aware of the pharmacy’s cost structure and do what I could to minimize expenses without compromising customer experience.”
Question: How would you react if a physician didn’t want to change a medication you believe is not appropriate for a patient?
Explanation: This can be considered a behavioral question in which the interviewer is describing a scenario that requires you to make a judgment call. The best way to answer behavioral questions is by using the STAR framework. This stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Results. By organizing your question this way, you can walk the interviewer through the situation, providing the information they are looking for and the rationale behind your answer.
Example: “I encountered that situation in one of my previous positions. I was familiar with the patient’s medical history and recognized the medication the physician had prescribed would have a negative interaction with other drugs the patient was currently taking. I assumed the patient had not provided the physician with a complete list of their medications. Rather than fill the prescription, I took the initiative to contact the physician and inform him of the possible drug interaction. He was grateful I took the initiative and complimented me on my professionalism. The physician prescribed an alternative medication that would not harm the patient. Everyone involved was happy about the outcome.”
Question: Can you tell me about a time when something went wrong within the pharmacy despite your best efforts to keep the operation running smoothly?
Explanation: This is a standard competency-based interview question where you are expected to give a real-life example from personal experience that shows how you dealt with an unexpected situation that was no fault of your own. Everyone has probably encountered this during their career. You can use the STAR framework to respond to it with the result being either a positive outcome or a lesson you learned.
Example: “I have learned that when working at a pharmacy, just about anything can happen. At one of my previous positions, a technician was handling two containers of different medications that had similar appearances. Unfortunately, she dropped both containers, and the pills got mixed up. Although this represented a significant financial impact on the pharmacy, I knew we had no choice but to discard the medication due to the possibility of them being mixed up and given to a patient incorrectly. I recognized the technician had not done this on purpose, so I used it as a teaching opportunity and made sure the staff only handled one container of medication at a time. The situation never recurred during my time with that pharmacy.”
Question: What is the impact of the Francis Report on the pharmaceutical industry?
Explanation: The purpose of this question is to determine if the candidate reads papers relevant to a pharmacy and has made some effort to understand the wider healthcare environment. It is a common question for pharmacy candidates, and you should have knowledge of the report and some insight into its relevance. You can expect many technical questions of this type during an interview.
Example: “The Francis Report addresses concerns about the pharmacist’s role within the entire healthcare environment and how pharmacists are as responsible as other healthcare professionals when it comes to patient care. It also discusses the public’s perception of this and details several case studies that demonstrate and illustrate the responsibility pharmacists have in patient safety and outcomes.”
Question: If you were a drug, what type of drug would you be, and why?
Explanation: This may seem like an odd question or one that has no basis in reality. However, interviewers will ask this type of question for two reasons. The first reason is to see how well you think on your feet when faced with a situation you did not anticipate. The second reason is they are less interested in the answer than your rationale behind it. This question provides you the opportunity to demonstrate spontaneity and thoughtfulness.
Example: “That’s a very interesting question, and one I did not expect. If I were a drug, I think I’d want to be aspirin. The reason for this is that it’s one of the most basic medications which can be used to address a wide variety of symptoms and illnesses. Additionally, regular small doses of aspirin will keep the heart-healthy. Since the heart is probably the most important organ and interacts with virtually every other part of the body, it is both a leader and a team player which is what I strive to be as a pharmacist.”
Question: What subjects did you find most interesting when you were studying for your pharmacist’s degree?
Explanation: The interviewer will frequently ask this type of question early in the interview to gain an understanding of your personality as well as your communication skills. There is really no wrong answer to this question, but it does allow you to provide the interviewer with some insight as well as move the interview in a direction with which you are comfortable.
Example: ”By far, my favorite subject in college was chemistry. I loved learning about the interaction between various compounds and that I could produce significantly different results from the same components by varying the quantities and the order they were combined. I felt this was as close as a man could get to having the same powers found in nature.”
Additional Pharmacist Interview Questions
A pharmacist’s work-life could get monotonous. What would you do to stay motivated?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What would you do if a general practitioner would not change a prescription you believe is inappropriate for a patient?
A patient is picking up two different prescription drugs that may cause negative reactions when taken at the same time. What do you do?
Can you tell me about a time things did not go according to plan? How did you react?
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