Pharmacist Interview Questions & Answers – Learn how to get the job

It takes a lot of effort, and five to eight years of difficult studies, just to become a qualified pharmacist. When people finally graduate, they often face a big debt, and they cannot get a job. How can it happen? Isn’t a pharmacy on every corner?

While statistics show that the number of pharmacies has been growing in the last ten years, they also show that the pharmacy school graduates still outnumber the new job openings each year. Recent statistics actually showed that retail stores and hospitals interviewed more than ten candidates for every single pharmacist job opening, in the monitored period. One job, ten candidates. Will it be YOU who gets the job?

Welcome to My name is Anita Stosur, I have been working in recruitment for the past eleven years, and I will try to help you to prepare for your job interview, and to get a job of a pharmacist.

interview in the pharmacy, female interviewer is shaking hands with the job applicant. We can see a pharmacy manager in the picture as well

Questions they will ask

An experienced pharmacy manager, or a skilled HR person, will lead an interview with you. They will use a mix of  personal, behavioral and technical questions, trying to understand your abilities, attitudes, and your readiness for the job. Let’s have a look at the questions you can expect to hear in your interview (click a question to see an in-depth analysis and sample answers to the particular question):

Why do you want to become a pharmacist?

Clean working environment, smart colleagues, and exceptional salary–these are the typical reasons why people decide to pursue career in pharmacy. Or they may just pursue the dreams of their parents, which is a sad case (but a common one).

In a job interview, however, you should refer to different reasons. Talk about your interest for diseases, drugs, healthcare, medical equipment. You can also say that you believe to have the right personality for the job, and can bring value to the team of pharmacists… (click the heading to see more info and sample answers – the same applies to every question below)


What study subject did you like the most? What subjects did you struggle with?

Your answer to this question helps us to understand your attitude to work and to pharmacy. I suggest you to speak about practical subjects. Emphasize that you enjoyed your practice, and that the experience has helped you to confirm your career choice.

On the other hand, each of us struggled with a subject or two. Be honest, tell us that you struggled, but ensure the interviewers that you did your very best to eventually pass the exams, because you understood the importance of each single subject at pharmacy school. 


What problematic situations can occur in a pharmacy?

A pharmacist deals with all kinds of problems. Angry customers, a prescription they can not read, lack of medication, conflicts with colleagues. Show us that you see your job realistically, that you count with the difficulties, that you are ready to face them with smile and dignity.

Once you list the problems, interviewers may give you additional questions. They may ask you about one of the problems, for example they may inquire how you would spot a drug seeking behavior. And if they do not ask about it, you can go ahead and talk about the way you plan to address particular problems

Retail pharmacy manager talks to a new job applicant. They are both women, and they both wear white shirts. We can see a panorama of a city behind the windows.


What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Pharmacists do not have to possess excellent leadership or management skills. They will do fine with average computer skills, and they do not have to be in an excellent physical condition.

What I try to suggest is that every job is different, and what matters for one role is irrelevant (or at least not essential) for another one.

Try to speak about strengths that are relevant for a pharmacist, such as communication skills, attention to detail, sales skills, ability to understand the needs of the others, strong knowledge of drugs and their interactions, etc. And pick a weakness that is not crucial for the job–management skills (lack of them), leadership, computer skills, …


Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Most pharmacists keep their job for many years (sometimes for a lifetime), but you can have different plans. Perhaps you want to open your own pharmacy in five years? Perhaps you plan to travel, or move to another part of the world?

Regardless of your actual plans, you should always try to convince your interviewers that you will be happy to have the same job in five years time. Tell them that they can count with you in a long run.

Needless to say, you do not have to keep to the promises you made in job interviews. You can leave them in three years, or even in three weeks, regardless of what you said on the big day. Life is a change and nobody will blame you for making a career change…


Describe a situation when you went above and beyond of what was expected.

At the end of the day, pharmacy is a business. What is more, the competition is enormous, and you will find a pharmacy on every corner. A good pharmacist understands an importance of customer service, and they try to exceed (or at least meet) the expectations of every single customer.

Your attitude matters, not the particular situation you narrate. First job? No big deal–you can talk about a situation from the college, a time when you did something exceptional for one of your schoolmates, teachers, friends.

Show them that you always try your best, that you care, that you do not belong to those lazy employees who never do anything outside of their basic duties. Life is an exciting adventure and you are here to enjoy it, and to help the others to enjoy it…


Imagine an angry customer, and a stupid customer. How would you deal with them?

Another question that targets your customer service skills. Angry people, sad people, simple people who will not understand even the most basic instructions you provide–you will meet all of them in your job.

They key is to talk about each customer with love, to show the interviewers that you will try your best to satisfy each customer, and that you count with the diversity this job presents. 


How do you keep your knowledge up to date with current pharmacy practice, new drugs and trends in the industry?

Accredited continuing education classes are mandatory, and you will not impress us with saying that you attend them (you can mention them though).

Try to focus on something you do in your free time, for example reading journals, studying new drugs on the internet, talking with your colleagues, going to conferences, participating in forums for pharmacists. Show us that you like pharmacy, and that you do your best to stay on the top of the game.


Other questions (answers only in the eBook)

  • This job is repetitive. What would motivate you to do it well every day?
  • What characterize a great pharmacist from your point of view?
  • Give an example of a time when you were overwhelmed with work. How did you handle the situation?
  • Here is a case describing a common drug interaction. How would you resolve it?
  • How would you spot drug seeking behavior? What would you do if you spotted it?
  • You cannot read the prescription. What would you do?
  • How would you ensure that different treatments are compatible?
  • What things do you need to assure yourself about before dispensing prescription medicines to a customer?
  • Do you have any questions?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • ….

Pharmancist is talking to two seniors, explaining them the dosage and frequency of their medications. He is smiling, wearing a white shirt

Success or failure does not depend only on your answers to interview questions

Job of a pharmacist is not primarily a healthcare role (especially a job of a community pharmacist). It is a customer service position. You will meet people, you will talk to people, you will try to help people.

We will observe a lot of things while interviewing you for a job. Do you smile? Do you talk to the point? Are you a good listener? Do you keep attention to detail? Do you have the right personality for a job of a pharmacist? Do you really want to work as a pharmacist, or do you apply just because you invested loads of time and money into this career?

We observe (nearly) everything. You need to show motivation, and convince us that you strive to provide the best possible customer service in every moment. There really is a pharmacy on every corner. If clients are not perfectly satisfied with the behavior and professionalism of the employees in one pharmacy, they will simply go and spend their money in the next retail store…. Unless you demonstrate great customer service skills in an interview, we will not hire you.
Sorry to tell you that, buy I want to be honest with you and tell you the truth of interviewing for this job.


References and recommendations

Some people believe it is impossible to get a job in a pharmacy without having a connection with one of the pharmacy managers. A good connection can certainly help you, especially if an opportunity to replace someone presents itself, and the manager calls you to come and talk, before they organize official interviews and advertise the vacancy.

Polish your old address books, give a call to a few people (former classmates), and see whether they can hand you a helping hand. If they can help you, great for you! And if they can not, you can still succeed and get a job–you just need to prepare for your interview, and do it in a right way.

Read the answers to the common questions, practice them (alone or with a friend), try to learn how to make a good impression on your interviewers, and try to get rid of stress. Many pharmacy graduates are unemployed, true. But many other get the job–and you can be one of them. I believe you will be one of them.


Prepare with ease, and ace your interview – eBook

For those who take their interview preparation seriously, I wrote an eBook called Pharmacist Interview Guide.

If you want to see great answers to all difficult pharmacist interview questions, learn the winning interview strategies, and understand how to outclass other job applicants who will compete with you in an interview, please check the eBook here: Pharmacist Interview Guide. Thank you, I wish you good luck!

Anita Stosur, Your Personal Interview Coach, author of the website