Interview like a pro
Our best interview tips!
I am asked daily for interview tips and techniques while on the phone with my clients discussing their resumes. It’s the nature of resume consultation I suppose. I am not classically or formally trained in interview coaching, but I am incredibly good at it by nature. I am going to share my personal tips for you, and at the end, I will tell you about the most incredible interview coach I know.
Once you receive the notification that you have been invited to an interview, it can be exciting and overwhelming to say the least. There are some definite rules to follow and some very successful strategies to use. There are a ton of sub topics here that we could really get in deep with, but I am going to limit it to the most practical and useful items.
This always is asked and is a great concern for people. There is not always a great answer for this. Dress like the best version of yourself. You will want to have confidence, so wear what makes you feel powerful, comfortable, attractive, and happy. I am not happy in a suit, so I wear dress pants, a blouse, and a dark cardigan and dress flats. For men, I would say the same. Traditional is a suit, but if that doesn’t make you feel comfortable, and you will be self-conscious, then wear dress pants, shirt, tie, and maybe a sweater over it. One rule of thumb I use is to dress like what your future boss will potentially wear; that way, you aren’t over or under dressed. The most important thing is being your authentic self, and that needs to be incredibly obvious in body language and actions.
Behavioral questions are all the rage and they have been around for years, and it doesn’t look that model will be changing anytime soon. There are a ton of easy resources for examples all over the internet, and I highly recommend you looking through some of them so you can get familiar with what to expect. Trust me, it will help you with the next tip significantly.
Here is my best tip for this. Sit down when it’s quiet and you have time to really give this some thought. Reflect back over all your experiences and positions. We have all been faced with challenges or projects, but it’s hard to remember off the top of your head. Write down the challenges you had at each position. Brainstorm. List them all. Now narrow it down to a few really good examples, maybe 4-5 that when you think of them, brings you right back to that moment like it was yesterday. Get a new sheet of paper and start using the STAR method to recap those challenges and situations, and write them down concisely. I will briefly describe this method below. This is for you to jog your memory so it doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed. In fact, don’t write sentences because it could be distracting later. Now, recite them over and over again to yourself or to someone else until you are really good at telling the stories. PRO TIP: Label your stories for easy reference using universal labels like “coworker conflict,” “project management,” “successful implementation,” or “conflict resolution”.
During a phone interview, keep this paper in front of you to use to refer back to examples. Don’t read it verbatim, but use it as a guide. Now you are ready for any behavioral question because almost any of your examples will be able to be used for multiple versions of the questions.
During an in-person interview, you should arrive 5-10 minutes early, but not earlier than that. My recommendation is to arrive 15 minutes early and sit in the parking lot reviewing your piece of paper until 5 minutes before you should walk in the door. Don’t play on your phone or do anything else not pertaining to the position you are interviewing. You need to be getting in the zone. Go over that paper with your examples over and over and over again while sitting in the car. This will refresh your memory and you‘ll be able to recite it without hesitation like a pro when asked. Just don’t take the paper with you!
As referenced earlier, I am a huge fan of the STAR method of answering the behavioral type questions. There are tons of resources available for this as well, but in general, here it is:
S - Situation. Describe the situation including who was involved, the setting, and enough details to explain the problem.
T - Task. Explain the significance of the problem or challenge. Why was this such an issue?
A - Actions. Describe the actions that YOU took to work on the issue or challenge. Go into detail on how you decided to take the action and what tools you used in the process.
R - Results. Finally, what resulted from the situation’s resolution? Were there accomplishments? Recognition? Savings to the company? Quantifying this is a huge bonus.
How to answer the questions:
Listen to the question carefully. Behavioral interview questions can be long-winded and may sound vague so use active listening skills to really be able to understand what is being asked. When you are nervous and adrenaline is pumping, it can be hard to really concentrate.
Make sure you understand the question before you start to answer. You may paraphrase the question and ask the interviewer if you understand it correctly by repeating it back to them. Which is another strategy to give you a moment to get your thoughts together. You can also ask the interviewer to repeat the question, just don’t ask them to repeat every question.
Organize your answer. Allow yourself five to eight seconds to collect your thoughts and structure your response. You can say something like, “Great question, give me a moment to think about that” or “being in community pharmacy, that has come up quite a bit, let me think of a really good example.” Interviewers appreciate this break as long as it is brief and could use the time to drink some water, review their notes, or rest their hands from note taking. Remember the STAR method and formulate your answer in that way.
State your answer. Try to limit your answer to about three minutes. Three minutes is long enough to relate a story completely and short enough to hold the interviewer’s attention.
Do not stray from your plan. Resist the temptation to think of new or unnecessary details as you answer. By sticking to your plan, you can provide a consistent, concise, and well-reasoned answer. I personally like to follow up with “I hope that answers your question” with a smile at the end.
Answer follow-up questions. In response to your three-minute answer, the interviewer may pose additional questions. These questions may require simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers or a brief response.
Be yourself. Don’t give them the answer they want to hear, and don’t make up a story on the spot because you don’t have a good example. The interview is a time to get to know you and see if you are a good fit for the company and the team you could be working with. If you are not your authentic self, you may end up in a poorly matched job position which might result in landing you right back into the job search that you began with. Especially as a pharmacist and an educator, the way you treat people is incredibly important, if not the most important aspect of the job. Being yourself is the best way to have confidence and show your sincerity and passion for the profession.
These are my best tips. They are not a secret; I tell everyone who asks, so it was time to really share with everyone.
One more comment. If you are interviewing for your dream job, and you are nervous or don’t have a lot of interviewing experience, I HIGHLY recommend an interview coach. What they do is way beyond any of the generic tips anyone could ever share. It’s individual, 1:1 coaching specifically for the job position. I happen to be good friends and colleagues with Ashlee Hayes of RxAshlee.com. What she does is nothing short of amazing and the best investment you can make for yourself and career. If someone asked you if you would pay a few hundred dollars to land your dream job, it’s a no-brainer isn’t it?
And if you are not making it to the interview step, is your resume holding you back? We have a myriad of resume services to optimize keywords to navigate through the ATS system to give you the best chance possible at an interview. We are here to help.
Ashley Gulyas, PharmD
Owner and Pharmacy Editor
Academy & Apothecary