A Perspective Inside the P4 COPH Career Fair Day & Interviews

For the majority of our class, the P4 annual career fair was our very first opportunity to introduce ourselves to potential employers.  The light at the end of the metaphoric tunnel appeared more realistic and convincing than ever before.

The event fell short of my expectations, nonetheless, my experience has been a positive one.  I must confess my admiration towards the Office of Career Services for a splendid job of organizing the event.  Students were given opportunities to select three companies of their choice (primarily consisting of retail pharmacy chains) from a list of nine potential employers.   Some companies scheduled interviews for specific students they wanted to interview.  My three selections were Walmart, H.E.B, and Walgreens Pharmacy–with each sessions to last approximately 20 minutes.

Employers will give you a quick infomercial about their respective company and will generally ask you behavior or situational-based interview questions.  Some may ask you to counsel on a drug extemporaneously to measure your clinical knowledge and gauge your communication proficiencies (some examples are ciprofloxacin, Bactrim DS, metformin, and atorvastatin).  It is not unusual for the recruiters to start with the familiar question of–are you interested in re-locating?  Your response to this question, will determine the course of your interview for the next 19 minutes.  Unless you agree on relocating, have a marvelous resume, or possess remarkable interviewing skills, a job offer will most likely not be included on your day’s itinerary. Ideally, try to leave a lasting impression with the recruiters, and procure contact information to re-connect once you are closer to the procurement of your license.

To be blunt, my interviews were non-conforming, and rather more consistent with an informational or a meet and greet event.  Most employers already have their in-house interns to promote, and are not probable of bringing new faces on board this stage in the game.  The majority of my colleagues–who are currently interns at the bigger retail chains–have already received or is awaiting expected offers.

Based on my three interviews–roughly an hour or so worth of verbal exchange–I have concluded that the glorious days of retail-pharmacy are quickly waning.   Circa 2006 era, retail pharmacists were “hot commodities” and if you were willing to relocate, employers might even throw in a BMW to compensate for the inconvenience.  Nowadays, straight out of pharmacy school graduates may have to give up their locale, move away from their families and friends–for a 32 hours/week job somewhere in West Texas.  The celebrated days of hiring P4s graduates in the cities without experience are pretty close to extinction.

When I asked, “How can a candidate differentiate himself/herself from the crowd in your company’s selection process?” I was told all applications tentatively appeared the same in the applicant pool and suggested the most efficient way to get ahead is to get yourself with a company early on in the game.  As harsh as it may sound, there are actual truth to that.  To differentiate yourself–start early–and get your foot inside the doors of your pharmacy chain of choice.  The sooner the better! (I am looking at you-P1s, P2s, P3s, and undergraduates!) Work hard, familiarize/introduce yourself to upper management, network extensively– and with any luck, you’ll get ahead.

For those who were offered employment at the career fair this year, big congratulations to you all because you unquestionably deserve it.   Just keep in mind that offers are not contractual–which means it can be altered at anytime.  Be careful, for it can work out to be in your favor or against you.  Ensure that all the fine prints are read and completely understood before signing away any documents or contracts!  On the bright side, pharmacists are still ranked among the top 10 best jobs in health care in 2015 by Forbes Magazine with a median salary of $116,670 and projected growth of 14% by 2022.

Feature photo credits: http://www.forbes.com/pictures/mkl45ehjij/pharmacist/

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