Relief or permanent pharmacist position?
In the past twenty four months, there has been a dramatic change in pharmacy manpower needs. If you have been in the same job throughout, you may have only noticed these changes in a cursory fashion but if you work in recruiting or have been changing jobs, you will have noticed that there have definitely been some rather acute decreases in the demand for the average pharmacist. There are numerous reasons for this apparent abundance of pharmacists and some of them are regional, micro-economic factors such as local costs of living and the presence of certain local pharmacy chains. In the macro economy, the recession has squeezed cash-flow from many employers, pharmacy schools have produced more pharmacists, some say, “Over-produced”, and many retirees have come back in to the workplace to build up their 401k plans.
I have spent the last 15 years looking at resumes. Initially, I worked in sales for various medical companies and for the past ten years, I have been responsible for recruiting relief pharmacists from all disciplines for positions all over the United States. I have interviewed hundreds of pharmacists and seen thousands of resumes. With this in mind, I decided to write an article to remind us all that finding a new position of value requires a level of understanding, a little hard work, a positive attitude and, yes, a little luck.
Many of us who have been in the same pharmacy position for a long time often think that the process starts with opening a newspaper or getting online to search for jobs. It does not. Finding a satisfying position starts in an armchair with ones eyes closed. It requires a deep level of introspection. Too frequently, we are unsatisfied with our current situation and wish to just escape. However, starting a new job is extremely stressful and unless it is the culmination of a lot of thought and careful analysis, it will usually end in disaster.
The next thing to do is to make some notes. I know it sounds silly but human beings are so fickle and we change our minds so frequently. Writing thoughts down reminds us of what we were thinking at a certain time. The list that you write might start with what your hours would ideally be, especially if you have a family. The next might be geographical limits, including realistic and sustainable driving time. These three things would be generically practical. The next items might be to do with the work environment. Do we want somewhere with a lot of staff or somewhere a little smaller? Do we want to change practice settings from retail to mail order or LTC or hospital.?
There are an infinite number of things to consider, but we need to accurately assess what will make us comfortable in the end.
The next item on the list is one of the simplest and also one of the worst traps in finding a job – The Resume or CV (Curriculum Vitae). I have seen thousand of resumes over the years and have come to appreciate the inherent flaws in this short document from both sides of the table. On one hand, you have the recipient who wishes to be able to read your whole life’s work in about a minute and then move to the next guy and, on the other, you have the author who wishes to inundate the recipient with so much brilliant information so as to leave no doubt that they are the best candidate. Resolving this conflict requires skill and a little information.
A resume should indeed be short and concise; one page is best, but occasionally two pages are required. First, give a generically acceptable but tailored mission statement for the position you are applying for. For example, if you are interviewing for a PIC position in retail, you should mention “Management”, in your mission statement. If you are applying for a directorship in a hospital, you might include the word “Clinical Coordinator or “Project Management”. If it is a staff retail position, you might mention “Customer service or interaction”.
The next section is often employment history. This should not include every job since graduation unless the list is short. It does not need to include temporary assignments of a month or less unless they are salient to the prospective employer. Resumes with a lot of short assignments can give the impression of unreliability.
When detailing the job descriptions, place the most emphasis on the positions and skills that are important to the employer. If you have a resume with 8 years retail experience and 2 years hospital experience, highlight your clinical skills in the hospital section more if you are applying for a hospital job. Under the retail section, highlight any nursing home accounts, DUR programs or vaccination clinics. In other words, bring out the more clinical aspects of your retail work.
If applying for a job as a clinical liaison or consultant, use the employment sections to highlight your experience with clinical information and DUR’s.
In the end, you may have more than one resume and that is the point. However, I am reminded of the candidate that e-mailed me a resume in a word file. The file was named “Retail resume”. Remember, we all have to play the game, but we don’t need to advertise it!
A very important area is that of awards, recognitions and publications. Some of us have many of these to call on and some of us don’t. If you are a little short, you might include theses from University. If not, employee of the month, any certifications that you have, even if they are “In-house”, or live CE courses can be added.
The best resume can be read in two minutes and leaves the reader wanting more.
So now you have your resume templates and need to start the campaign. Depending on your level of computer expertise, this will be a varied approach. In the past two years, there has been a massive increase in the use of social media websites for recruiting purposes. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are some examples. Here, you can connect to a large number of groups and interact with other pharmacists and recruiters all over the USA. This is an excellent way to find out about local needs that are upcoming and perhaps not posted yet. One word of advice when dealing with on-line websites for job postings is to make sure you know who you are sending your information to. Many recruiters and employers will post on-going advertisements in areas that they need pharmacists even if there is not a specific position at that time. These are still useful, but must be distinguished from a direct advertisement from a pharmacy department.
So all goes well and the day of your interview arrives. Having done hundreds of these for pharmacists, I could dedicate an article on what not to do but I will try and focus on things that you can. Firstly, be prepared early so that you are on-time. If that means being early, then arrive early, but do not announce yourself unless you are within 10 minutes of your scheduled time. Dress professionally! I have had pharmacists turn up in flip-flops and T-shirts. Bring two copies of your resume. When you first sit down, pull out your cell phone, if you have it, and turn it off in front of the interviewer. This demonstrates your dedication of time to the process.
During the interview, be enthusiastic. I am guilty of being able to fall in to a joint commiseration of the state of pharmacy practice and the “Good Old Days”, whenever they were, but don’t! Even I find it much more attractive to uncover a non-jaded, enthusiastic pharmacist who hasn’t hated every moment of their job. If you are switching practice settings, also be careful of conveying your dislikes about previous roles. Instead, try and indicate the things that you liked and the things that would stand you in good stead for the new role. Communication skills, DUR’s and team-building are all generic attributes.
Lastly, in any department, the biggest risk that a new employer faces with you is that you are not going to be easy to work with. This can be a subjective thing but indicating that you will miss your previous colleagues is not necessarily a bad thing. Smaller pharmacies especially find it hard to absorb someone that is bad-tempered, authoritative or moody, even if we can all be that way occasionally. Portray yourself as knowledgeable, dependable and pleasant to be around.
Many of you having read this might think that my specialist area of knowledge is “The statement of the obvious”. The ironic thing is that even though many of these things are obvious, they are often over-looked. If we actively manage obvious things, then we will be doing our due diligence. Pharmacists who are used to interviewing as a formality to fill a need that is desperately needed are finding some changes have occurred.
To balance this out, you must still be very specific about what your needs and desires are both financially and practically. You can preface any requests by letting the interviewer know that you want a long term commitment and that you want to make sure everyone is comfortable so that there are no surprises in the future. Be willing to negotiate sign-on bonuses and be flexible on their terms. Be honest about your vacation needs. Ask how they will cover your vacations and personal days.
If you are entering a new practice setting, for example retail to hospital, be prepared to offset your inexperience with a period of training at a reduced rate. If you do, be prepared to submit a written plan or skill checklist.
Lastly, if you are still sitting in your armchair wondering what it would be like to pack your surfboard and reciprocate to Hawaii or buy a ranch in Kentucky, consider some temporary assignments through a reputable agency. Agency work is a very good way to experience a large variety of people and work settings. It can also give you time to think about what you want to do.
Darius Randeria R.Ph