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Pharmacist Interview Questions: What to Know

Published on: Nov 6, 2022
By: Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS
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How to Prepare for a Pharmacist Interview

Although you may still be exploring pharmacy as the right life decision, you should start thinking about the pharmacist interview. 

First, know that an in-person or virtual interview will most likely be required for admission into PharmD Programs.  If you’re familiar with common interview questions for pharmacist positions, it will help prepare you for the college of pharmacy interview.   Once you’re accepted into pharmacy school, you will most likely pursue a pharmacy job while attending classes, especially in the summers between the spring and fall academic sessions. 

A pharmacy student employed by a pharmacy while still in school is a pharmacy intern.  All pharmacy intern jobs will require an interview, which is similar to an interview for a pharmacist position. 

Many pharmacies will pull questions from pharmacist interviews when interviewing a potential pharmacy intern, so if you’re familiar with these questions, you’ll be ahead of the competition.

Treat the interview like a test

How do you prepare for a test? 

Preparation differs for each type of learner.  On one extreme, you can just ‘wing it’ and rely on your natural intelligence and test-taking skills and hope for the best.  Conversely, you can prepare by listening and re-listening to lectures, taking copious notes, and focusing on the most relevant material.  Most successful students do the latter.  You should prepare for an interview in the same fashion. 

Even if you’re engaging and charismatic, this isn’t an interview you can get by on personality. Lack of preparation will come out in a job interview and may make the difference between getting that desired pharmacy intern position and not.  A quality pharmacy intern position can establish a job history in the pharmacy profession. It can separate you from other candidates when it comes time to apply for a pharmacist job.  Also, many pharmacists are hired internally from graduating pharmacy interns within that company’s program.  The employer is familiar with the work ethic and knowledge base of their pharmacy interns, so they're low-risk in the eyes of the employer.  

Considering the salary pharmacists can command, familiarity with talent is a relief for hiring managers. The average starting salary of a pharmacist is well over $100,000 per year, so an employer is more likely to invest in someone with a proven track record within the company.  Nailing the pharmacy intern interview can set you on a completely different trajectory than someone who didn’t take it seriously, didn’t prepare, and underperformed.

Prepare, Practice, Perform

Whether applying for a pharmacist job or a pharmacy intern position, the first step is the same as with other professions: focusing on the job description.  Pay close attention to the skills and responsibilities.  For each skill or responsibility, think of one or two examples where you have demonstrated that skill or responsibility.  That won't disqualify you if you don’t have much real-world pharmacy experience. Relate the skill or responsibility to a moment in your professional life where you needed to deliver.  The key is framing your skill and telling a story in a way that fosters trust in your ability to perform.   

Do you excel in an area that would drive value for a pharmacy?  Have you overcome a workplace challenge that could otherwise be applied as a pharmacy intern?  When did you perform well under pressure where mistakes you caught could have been costly?  Sharing these experiences should flow as naturally as you experienced them.  

The key is to relate these talents and experiences to the job description.  If you can do that, chances are you’ve improved your chances.  A convincing, well-prepared, and well-thought-out interview can compensate for a lower GPA.  Pharmacists and pharmacy interns spend much time communicating with the community, counseling, recommending, and displaying compassion.  A strong interview will give the employer the confidence that you will be able to excel in those areas. 

A pharmacist or pharmacy intern is also expected to be a leader.  As the main facilitator of the pharmacy, a pharmacist is responsible for managing the pharmacy technician group and the ancillary pharmacy staff.  

Pharmacist Interview Questions - The Process

Your interview questions may vary depending on the position and setting, but they will have similar themes.  The interview will seek to determine if you will provide quality customer service, communicate with the patient clearly and effectively, bring out the best in a pharmacy technician, and possess drug therapy knowledge. 

As a candidate, your goal should be to determine the ultimate answer behind the question and craft an answer that fulfills this answer with a personal and memorable touch.  Your answer should demonstrate your expertise in medication advice, patient care, and drug therapy competency. 

Throughout pharmacy school, you will build a strong foundation in the mechanism of action, dosing, adverse effects, and medication indications, but the employer will want to know how you will package this knowledge and relay it to the patient clearly and concisely.  A pharmacy program will prepare you to be a medication expert, but the interview will allow you to project your passion for patient care.  

10 Common Pharmacist Interview Questions

Below are some common questions you may encounter during the interview process.

1) You discover that your pharmacy technician made an error entering a prescription.  How will you handle this situation?  

The interviewer is looking to assess your ability to problem-solve quickly, remedy mistakes in real time, manage interpersonal communication while maintaining morale and a high level of competency, and uphold high ethical standards.

2) Describe how you would explain a new medication with a complicated titration to a patient?

The interview question seeks to assess your communication skills and counseling ability.

3) Explain how you plan to stay aware of new treatment guidelines?

This question assesses your ability to access resources and publications and your desire to participate in professional organizations.  A pharmacist is a lifelong learner; learning does not stop when the PharmD degree is handed to you.  Answering this question appropriately will show your employer that you are passionate about the profession and will continue to commit to staying up-to-date with therapeutic advances.

4) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This question seeks to assess your commitment as well as your desire to grow professionally and seek new roles and challenges.  Are you satisfied with the basic responsibilities of an entry-level pharmacist, or do you want to use that experience to progress into a leadership or supervisory role within the organization?  The employer may be looking for the former or the latter, and your answer (your professional goals) should mirror the employer's expectations.

5) You are handed a prescription for a controlled substance and you suspect that it is fake.  How do you handle this situation?

Again, this question tests your ethics, professionalism, confidence, communication, and critical decision-making under duress.

6) What most intimidates you about this position?

This question addresses that as a pharmacy technician or a pharmacy intern, there was always someone you could look up to to resolve difficult situations or disgruntled patients, customers, or co-workers.  As the pharmacist, you are typically the point person expected to resolve these issues.  How can you handle such a transition?

7) Describe some personality traits and skills that would enable you to be effective in this role?

This question is a typical ‘how do your strengths translate to this position’ type.  It assesses what you consider to be the most important attributes of a pharmacist and how you possess those attributes.

8) You are working in a retail pharmacy and a pharmacy technician calls off work 30 minutes before his shift starts.  Five minutes later your printer stops working.  What do you do next?

This question looks to see how you can triage difficult situations and take steps to remedy them. Which is worse, the personnel shortage or the technology failure, and why?

9) A patient’s co-pay for her seizure medication is $500 and she states that she can’t afford it, what do you do?

This tests your compassion and your problem-solving skills.  Do you tell them to talk to their neurologist and move on to the next patient?  It's time to let your customer service skills shine.  Do you check to see if you have the correct insurance for this patient? Does she have secondary insurance that hasn’t been accounted for? Are there co-pay assistance programs available for this medication?  Are there any other patient assistance programs available for her specific indication?

10) Describe a time when you have a difficult, unruly, or rude customer or patient.  How did you handle this situation?

This is a classic job interview question assessing your customer service skills.  Be ready for it.  Expect to get a few behavioral interview questions.

Other Frequently Asked Interview Questions

  • A patient expresses concerns about the side effects of medication, and he indicates that he may not take it.  What would you do?

  • You have a child that seems anxious to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  How do you handle this situation?

  • Upon conducting the daily inventory of controlled substances, you determine a discrepancy.  What do you do next?

  • You are tasked with hiring the next pharmacy technician.  What qualities would you look for in a pharmacy tech?

  • A patient is at the pickup window, and it becomes apparent that English is not her primary language, and she struggles to understand you.  She is starting on a new injectable medication for her chronic migraines.  What do you do?

  • Why did you choose to pursue a career as a pharmacist?

  • What about this position and organization appeals to you?


These acronyms help navigate those difficult behavioral-style interview questions. 

  • STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. 

  • SBAR stands for Situation, Background, Action, and Result. 

Both can be helpful recipes for describing your success stories in addressing topics such as teamwork, leadership, conflict resolution, and navigating stressful situations.

The Rare Pharmacy Interview Questions

If you were a drug, what drug would you be?

It is a very silly question, yet it tests your ability to think quickly and critically.  Undoubtedly, you will be blindsided by odd questions or requests, and you need to show that you can control your emotions, stay composed, and still utilize your knowledge.

You’re going to spend a year on a deserted island and can only take 3 medications.  Which drugs do you take?

Same concept.  Consider an antibiotic for infections, epinephrine for anaphylaxis, or a pain medication.  There are plenty of other reasonable options; make sure to back them up with a solid rationale.  This is once you can get creative and have fun with it if you’d like to display your personality.

How many tablets does our pharmacy dispense on an average Tuesday afternoon?

This question is similar to the ‘How many M&Ms does it take to fill up a Honda Civic’ question.  It questions your ability to break an abstract and foreign concept into small chunks of tangible data.  Is this a high-volume or low-volume store?  How many scripts are typically filled in a day?  Would you expect more or fewer scrips filled in an afternoon? On a Tuesday vs. any other day?  Are most scripts 30-day supplies, 90-day supplies, or short-term prescriptions?  What percentage of scripts are tablets vs. capsules vs. liquids, etc? 

This process is what this question is analyzing.  The worst thing you can do is throw out a number without a rationale and hope the next question will be easier.  With an answer like that, it won’t be.

The Best Pharmacy Interview Questions: Yours

As the interview ends, the most important pharmacy interview questions are often the ones you ask.  This is your opportunity to demonstrate your passion for the position, your knowledge of the organization, and your chance to separate yourself as a candidate from the competition.  Don’t waste it.

The Virtual Pharmacist Interview

The COVID-19 pandemic over the past several years has resulted in a sharp increase in virtual interviews.  While more employers are converting back to in-person interviews, surges are likely to persist, and some employers can and still utilize virtual interviews, especially first-round interviews.  These interviews require a few additional preparation steps. 

Below are some tricks to help you prepare for the virtual pharmacist interview:

Before Your Interview

  • Ensure that you have a reliable wi-fi connection and that your software is up to date

  • Conduct mock interview sessions using the same software before your interview to become comfortable with how to share your screen, how to chat, and how to navigate the video conferencing options and settings

  • Find a quiet location free of distractions and loud noises (e.g., barking dog, crying baby).

  • Find a clean, well-lit room and consider your background and what is behind you.  Utilize a virtual background template if possible

  • Get a solid night’s sleep

  • Dress like you would for an in-person interview

  • Ensure you have the correct time zone for your virtual interview

  • Have a technology back-up plan in case you have technical issues

  • Sit up straight and consider proper body language and positioning

  • Be in front of your computer and log in 10-15 minutes before your scheduled interview time

  • Silence your cell phone and watch

During Your Interview

  • Maintain positive body positioning, your posture, and make sure that you are in the frame of the video

  • Try to place your webcam at eye level and make eye contact with the webcam as if you were looking at a live audience

  • Monitor the chat for questions

After Your Interview

  • Stop presenting and sign out of the video conferencing platform

  • Send a thank you email that addresses any follow-up answers

portrait of Jim Herbst PharmD

Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS is an advanced patient care pharmacist at a nationally ranked pediatric acute care teaching hospital.  Dr Herbst received his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Ohio State University in 2012.  He started his clinical career as an inpatient patient care pharmacist covering the neurology and complex care services, before transitioning to a pediatric neurology ambulatory care clinic in 2019. 

Dr Herbst's areas of interest in pediatric neurology include treatment-resistant pediatric epilepsy, infantile spasms, the ketogenic diet, and neuroimmunology.  He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed pharmacy and neurology journals, including Neurology, Epilepsia, and the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.  Dr Herbst is board certified as a pediatric pharmacy specialist.

Opinions and information published by the author here on PharmDDegree.com are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer.

Education: Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), The Ohio State University
Knowledge: Advanced Patient Care Pharmacy, Neurology, Epilepsia