Preparation for interviews requires attention to detail, interview practice and research specific to the roles or hospitals to which you are applying. It is important to scrutinise the job specification before the interview, because this will form the basis of some interview questions.
An example of an excerpt from a job specification for an NHS Agenda for Change band 6 pharmacist post is: “… provide day-to-day support to pre-registration pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy support staff.” It is no surprise, therefore, that a common question in pharmacy interviews is: “How can you support the pharmacy team? Give an example of a time when you have done so.”
In short, the specification will give candidates an insight into areas of possible questioning and help them to prepare possible ‘template’ responses. Careful prior preparation helps ensure that these responses are structured and appropriately specific.
Candidates should also examine the person specification, which sets out the skills, attributes and characteristics the employer has identified as important in the role. This is an excerpt from a person specification for a NHS Agenda for Change Band 6 hospital pharmacy role: “… an ability to work independently and as part of a team”. Again, this can be assessed through questions such as: “Tell me a time when you worked independently and how this differs from teamwork.”
As with the job specification, reflection on the person specification will help ensure that candidates are adequately prepared for a range of likely questions and will be able to draw on their clinical knowledge and examples from their previous experience to demonstrate their capabilities and attributes.
Furthermore, employers will expect you to understand the skills that working band 6 pharmacists require, for example, communication and working efficiently. Good communication skills, whether oral or written, lead to good continuity of high quality patient care moving from one ward to another.
Candidates often overlook information specific to the hospital or trust in which they are applying when preparing for job interviews. Each hospital or trust will have drawn up a mission statement outlining its broad priorities and the values and culture it seeks to promote in its daily operations. Reading this document will give would-be employees an insight into the prevailing culture and core values of the organisation they seek to join.
It is not unusual to be asked questions relating to issues such as recent legislative changes or new drugs. Being aware of recent pharmacy news will be useful in an interview situation, allowing you to demonstrate your ongoing interest in keeping your knowledge current. In addition, it is normal for the applicant to be given the chance to ask questions of the panel in an interview. Knowledge of recent developments offers an opportunity for you to pose an appropriate question if new legislation has been passed or new guidelines implemented — for example, “have you seen any direct impact on patient care in relation to new legislation?”
Try to appear confident but not overly so. Engage with each member of the panel and, if in doubt about issues raised in a question, have the confidence to seek clarification.
Remember the panel is anxious to give you the opportunity to showcase your knowledge — while it may not appear so, interviews are not designed to trap you into making errors.
The panel has to make a detailed record of the issues raised and the responses made, so do not be surprised if members appear to be writing furiously rather than listening. As a professional it is important that you take the time to thank the panel for the opportunity to present yourself for consideration.