Written by 2:55 pm Pharmacy Careers

10 Retail Pharmacist INTERVIEW Questions

In a previous post I explored the challenges that are facing an employer while looking for a good pharmacist to fill a position.  Pharmacists who have never been on that side of the hiring table may not fully appreciate the difficulty (and risks) that an employer faces when searching for great candidates.  This is true whether the person searching is an independent pharmacy owner, or a hiring manager for a large retail chain. 

But what about INTERVIEWING potential pharmacists for a retail job?  What types of questions should you ask?

Personally I think the standard interviewing questions are close to worthless.  You know the ones that I mean.  What are your strengths?  What are your weaknesses?  Why do you want to work for ABC pharmacy?  Tell me about a time when….

The reason these questions are, in my opinion, a waste of time is that most candidates expect these questions and have prepared an answer.  Not only that, but we human beings are notoriously bad at evaluating our own strengths and weaknesses. 

I personally recommend asking questions that are much more practical and realistic to the working environment of a retail pharmacy.  NOTE:  The point of these questions is not necessarily to get the right answer (often, there is no one “right” answer).  The point of these questions is to observe the communication skills of the candidate; their ability to answer questions which they would have some familiarity with from their work experience. 

These are not CLINICAL questions.  That does NOT mean I think that retail pharmacists don’t need clinical knowledge.  They do.  But anyone who has worked ANY amount of time in a busy retail/community pharmacy knows that the skills needed to succeed go well beyond what they can teach you in pharmacology class. 

Try asking some of the following questions on your next interview.  How does the candidate respond?  Are they uncomfortable?  Confident?  Do they have a sense of humor (more important than you might think!)?  Personally I use a simple scale of 1 to 10 to subjectively document my impression of their answer.  Yes, it is subjective.  But I keep in mind things like eye contact, body language, facial expressions, confidence, quality of the answer and appropriate length. 

10 Interview Questions:

1)  Two technicians have obviously not been getting along.  The atmosphere and lack of communication is beginning to impact the business.  How do you respond?

2)  A customer asks about a new OTC medication they heard about on the radio.  You have never heard of it before.  How do you handle this?

3)  The company orders new smocks for everyone, and as with virtually any change, it generates a lot of complaints from the staff.  How do you respond as a leader?

4)  A customer returns to the pharmacy with a half-used bottle of prescription medication.  He says it just didn’t work and wants a refund.  How do you handle this?

5)  In the middle of a busy day the printer stops working.  What do you do?

6)  Both a technician and a cashier call out sick on a day you expect to be pretty busy.  How do you respond?

7)  You are out of stock on a medication for a patient who is known to be very challenging.  How would you handle this patient and explain this situation?

8)  A new customer shows up at the pharmacy and doesn’t have their insurance card.  They tell you it is “on file” even though you have never seen it.  How do you manage this person?

9)  An opportunity for a promotion comes up, and you apply for it, but don’t get it.  How would you handle that situation?

10)  A patient is given a new prescription that turns out to require prior authorization.  How do you explain this to an ordinary patient without any medical background?

11)  BONUS QUESTION:  Retail pharmacy is a profession, but it also needs to be a profitable business to survive.  What are ways you think a pharmacist can help a pharmacy run more profitably? 

So, throw out the boring “Please tell me something about yourself” questions and try something real.  If your candidate is fresh out of college, they may not have great answers to all these questions.  That is okay.  As I mentioned, the point is not to get the “right” answer (there isn’t one) but to see how candidates respond and manage real-life questions from situations that are not unusual in a retail pharmacy. 

©Jason Poquette and The Honest Apothecary.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jason Poquette and The Honest Apothecary with appropriate and specific links to the original content. 

Last modified: April 17, 2023