How to Interview Like a Boss
This article surrounding 10 top tips on how to interview like a boss was written by Nicholas Colwyn Parry, a locum pharmacist working across the UK, and a subscriber to the My Locum Choice Software.
Okay, so after hours and hours of scrolling through job applications, you found the right job, you submitted your CV and you’ve been invited for an interview! A bittersweet moment for many as this final hurdle can separate you between achieving one of your goals or remaining in the same repetitive life you currently endure. This blog will hopefully teach you everything I know about nailing an interview, and every major technique I’ve used in the past. It’s kind of geared more toward community pharmacy than anything, but many of these tips and tricks will secure any job. My tried and tested method has got me every job interview I’ve ever gone to apart from one, and what I learned from that, but more on that later.
Before you get into the interview
1. Get your references in order
Firstly, most interview candidates in the pharmacy world have already got a good chance of getting the job. Most of us have the relevant qualifications (this is usually an interview pre-requisite), some of us have experience (sometimes necessary) and almost all of us have good references to back us up (you won’t get a job without contactable references). Every person I’ve ever interviewed, I was doing the same as the person who interviewed me. They were seeing if I was a normal person who would fit in with their regular team.
2. Research the company beforehand
Your interview process starts outside the interview room, in fact it doesn’t even start anyway near the place of work. You guessed it, I’m talking about prior knowledge. This should be a continuation from your application research and should consist of knowing every factor that may help or hinder you in that place of work. The same can be said for any job so even if you’re not pharmacy orientated, this blog may help you too. You can collate data from old colleagues, work experience, volunteering, local knowledge, google searches the list is endless. Data obtained can include the number of team members, qualifications of the team, services the workplace provides, areas you could personally support, locally agreed services, items they sell, you literally need to know as much information about that place as you can get your hands on.
3. Mystery shop the team in advance
So, once you’ve collated all your research and you know it like the back of your hand, you’re ready to step into the building, but you best be ready to walk into that building NOT wearing a freshly bought suit. Confused? Let me explain, I feel sad revealing this one as it is probably my signature move prior to an interview. But, as I intend to never work for anyone again, I am more than happy to share this tip with you. Now although I’ll never make it to Hollywood, I’d make a damn good mystery shopper. Yep, that’s right, you’re going to meet your new team before you’ve even got the job. Sounds crazy right? It’s actually the final safety measure you can take yourself before you step into a job. If you walk in and ask for a pack of Nurofen plus and don’t get asked a single question, you might want to rethink your offer. I tend to ring first and check something over the phone and judge the service I get before going in, but make sure you go in with a plan.
When you go in the pharmacy you want to ask something that requires a level of knowledge rather than the straight forward dose of paracetamol. Try something like “what size tubular bandage do I need?” or try asking for something that isn’t on the shelf. I use these techniques to see how far a member of staff is willing to help a total stranger. Unless you’re going to be the second pharmacist there isn’t any need in asking them, as you’re going to take that role. Seriously, after reading this, that job is in the bag.
How to Interview Like a Boss
4. Pay attention to your presentation
Next, the interview, this is possibly my favourite part as I like to see who is going to be my potential employer. Interviews are just as important to you as they are to them, and it’s your chance to see if you will be able to manage a positive working relationship with that person, or not. At this point you should have transitioned from classic civilian, to proud pharmacist. I’m talking 3-piece suit, polished shoes, no gum, brushed teeth, no cup of coffee, good aftershave/perfume and certainly don’t walk in with a scrunched-up Gregg’s bag complemented by the remnants of a steak bake down your blazer. Steak bakes are the one though, but save it for after. You shouldn’t smell of smoke, you most definitely shouldn’t reek of alcohol and the worst thing you can do to a busy person you’ve never met is make them wait. Seriously, I bang on about this but it’s the easiest way to make a bad impression, be early but for god’s sake DO NOT BE LATE.
5. Make sure you conduct yourself well
Manners go a long way in life, and the best thing is they don’t cost anything. Even if you can’t get the best 3-piece suit money can buy, not holding a door for the interviewer, or sitting down before they have asked you to can ruin your chances before you’ve even opened your mouth. You should behave as professionally as you can to prove you’re not there to mess around. You don’t need to start “I am a punctual, professional individual who…blah blah blah” the way you conduct yourself should prove that without having to say a word. I shouldn’t have to say this one, but make sure you go to the toilet before the interview. I’ve had 2-hour interviews and I’ve had 10-minute interviews; you don’t want to break the conversation by saying you need to go to the toilet.
6. Give yourself an edge for group interviews
If it’s a group interview then suss out your competition before you go in, try and ask them why they want the role and hear everyone else’s answers to get your mindset into interview mode. This is actually a major bluff tactic I have used a couple of times in the past and it’s always gone in my favour. I remember for one of my university interviews I asked “why does everyone wanted to study pharmacy?”. I then compiled an answer combining all of the information that we had in common and made sure I had the best chance of being the first candidate; sitting next to the interviewer. My answer left the group speechless and it puts everyone else’s mind off course. Life is competitive, you just have to know how to give yourself an edge.
During group interviews it also helps to employ a bit of psychology such as the serial position effect. Seriously look it up, it’s a genuine thing! Basically, when humans are given a list of information, we are most likely to remember the first or last pieces, the middle bit is often forgotten. It’s why you should always summarise a consultation at the end so the patient remembers the information that you have just explained. If you’re confident enough, answer first because answering last can leave you without much to say, or it can leave you saying the one thing no one else has thought of. Play this to your advantage!
7. Remember to be yourself
I personally prefer a one-to-one interview as I have more experience and I am a lot more relaxed in them. I particularly like to find out who will be interviewing me and do my research on them. I guarantee your future employer will have done this before you’ve entered the room, it’s only fair you do it back. Check LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram etc and try to find out if you have any common interests. You want to try and turn the interview into a normal conversation to prove you are a human, and not some robot with prepared answers for every competence-based question in the book. Being yourself sounds so cliché, but I guarantee you will come unstuck if you take a job and don’t maintain the same impression you gave off in the interview. One of the best interviews I ever had, we spoke for an hour about the 6 nations and not very much about pharmacy, and I got the job.
8. Stand out with your answers & skills
s for competence-based questions, these are openly designed questions for you to give as much information to the interviewer about something you’ve personally done. It doesn’t have to be work related but it helps if you can associate it with the same skills. For example, If they ask “tell me a time when you managed a project” choose a time that was memorable for you, and emphasise the skills used within that.
Take a look at the following projects…
Project A: The time you organised a group holiday for 10 people.
Project B: The time you organised a lab project in uni.
Both of these projects helped: upskill your people management, budget control, time effectiveness, communication through multiple media forms, organisational skills and many more! You should always state what you would have done differently next time to show you have reflected on this. Sometimes relating a project to something you would do in the role, to show you already have plans for your soon to be new position.
As you can see all of these skills are transferrable to pharmacy, think back on all your life choices and not just this one time in a pharmacy. I’d personally much rather hear about (and I’d much more likely remember) the time someone got lost in Budapest with 9 other people who couldn’t speak the native language and had no phone signal compared to that time 6 people watched a litmus paper turn blue. Remember shy babies don’t get sweets, so make sure your answers stand out.
At the end of the interview
9. Ask questions & define your salary
At the end of the interview, you should definitely ask questions, but most importantly let’s address the elephant in the room. HOW MUCH ARE YOU GOING TO GET PAID?!. Now I’m not saying you should say “how much are you going to pay me?” but you should always ask something like “what’s the salary bracket for the role I am applying for” if it’s not already previously stated in the application. There is NOTHING wrong with this, and I am a huge believer no one should have to waste their time on an application to find out it pays them less than they are currently being paid. That is unless there are guaranteed benefits like progression, extra holiday pay or a funded qualification etc.
After the interview
10. Always ask for feedback
I mentioned the one time I didn’t get the job even though I thought I had performed well, well let’s see what went wrong. An important factor of the interview process regardless of whether or not you get the job is to ask for feedback. This is extremely important so you can see what you may need to change or keep the same for next time. Unfortunately, there can be some factors you cannot control, and there isn’t much you can do to prevent them. My feedback from the interviewer was although I came across with expert knowledge in pharmacy, I was overfamiliar and I may be suited to a better team elsewhere. This saddened me as I thought being nice would have been a positive, but obviously the interviewer didn’t believe in a team that was very engaging. I also later found out the person who got the job was the child of the chief pharmacist, like I said, there are some factors you cannot control.
I’m not bitter about it, I brought my best to the table that day and I try to never worry about factors that I cannot change. Besides, if I got that job I could have been stuck on a hospital ward hating my life. Sometimes you need rejection to point you back in the right direction. I know I wouldn’t be writing blogs like these to try and help as many professionals as I can because my alternative life path would have not allowed me to make certain connections. You may not see it initially, but I promise there is a positive out of every negative.
I really hope this helps some of you in your next adventure, these tricks have almost certainly helped me. This blog is relevant to anyone who’s applying for a job so even if it doesn’t help you, try sending it to one of your friends who may benefit. If anyone else has any sneaky interview tips they would like to share then get in touch, I’d love to hear them! Just remember if there is something you can do to better your chances in an interview, you should always do it.
P.S. This blog is for you K.
If you found these top 10 tips on how to interview like a boss useful, you can read more on my journey as a Locum Pharmacist on the My Locum Choice Blog.