Pharmacy School Interview Questions and Answers

Pharmacy Application & Interview Preparation Specialists

Interviews for Pharmacy school can require a breadth of knowledge and attributes. Here, we present 10 high yield questions and answer suitable for candidates to Pharmacy schools in the US.

Understanding of and Motivation for Pharmacy

What makes a good pharmacist?

I will choose to focus on three core attributes here, in order to provide a rounded picture of a good pharmacist.

The first attribute that a good pharmacist needs is empathy. Empathy allows any healthcare worker to understand the patient, and of course for the patient to thus feel that they are understood – this creates trust, and improves the relationship between the pharmacist and patient. Additionally, it allows for better team-working, strengthening interdisciplinary working.

The second attribute that a good pharmacist needs is resilience. Working as a pharmacist poses numerous challenges – be they logistical, like long hours or combining work and studying, or emotional – like dealing with the death of a patient that we have grown to care about. In order to face these challenges and come through them, a pharmacist must be resilient. Lastly, I would focus on clinical knowledge. Whilst it may seem obvious, a pharmacist’s ability to correctly advise a patient, or other healthcare professionals, is based on their knowledge. This knowledge clearly helps patients to trust them and to feel confident and comfortable in their care.

How are you different from the other candidates?

I acknowledge that there are many other highly-qualified candidates – therefore to state that I am different from them all would be unrealistic. However, I do believe that I stand out from the vast majority, and am exceptional through the following qualities: my adaptability and resilience, which has seen me overcome everything from the divorce of my parents to a broken leg during my final year of school and yet still secure some of the highest marks in my class; my drive to research and learn, which has seen me published in a student journal; my true desire to help others, which has seen me raise more than $10,000 through running an ultramarathon on behalf of those with spinal injuries. 

Is it more important to be competent or compassionate as a pharmacist?

One must be both. A pharmacist who was compassionate but lacked competency would be dangerous – whilst their intentions would be good, and their desire to help patients would be commendable, their actions would put patients at risk. On the other hand, the competent doctor who entirely lacked compassion would likely not be motivated by helping patients, but rather by their own success or by financial gain. They would therefore perhaps cut corners or make decisions that were in their own interests, rather than those of the patients.

Ultimately though, if one had to choose, then, logically, the competent pharmacist would be a safer decision than the compassionate pharmacist. We ought to prioritise patient safety above all else if a binary decision like this must be made.

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A member of your family decides to depend solely on alternative medicine for the treatment of his or her significant illness. What action would you take, if any?

Your main concern must be your relative’s health. First of all, begin a dialogue to better understand their position and their motivations. We don’t know to what extent they have discussed traditional medical therapies with their doctor, and why they currently aren’t pursuing them.

One should suggest that they speak to their doctor about the alternative treatments they are using, as these could interact with traditional medicine if they are to take it.

When trying to understand why they are not using traditional medicine, gently probe the reasons – it may be a distrust of evidence-based medicine. If this is the case, you should respectfully offer your opinion, adding that you are only doing so as you really believe it to be in their best interest. Perhaps seeing a different healthcare professional would be helpful to them – they may have a poor relationship with their current doctor. Clearly, someone who has an open mind and is willing to listen to their beliefs is needed.

The core pillar here is autonomy – a patient has the right to refuse treatment. As such, if someone has turned down medical treatment, and they are competent to do so, it is their decision.

To summarise, in a situation like this one should ensure the patient has as much information as possible to make an informed decision – as you care about their wellbeing – have a respectful conversation exploring their motivations, and ultimately respect their autonomy.


Should patients with a terminal illness be able to use an experimental drug, even if it has not yet been rigorously tested?

This depends on the phase that the trial has reached. If the drug is in phase I, then its safety profile will not yet be understood, and more importantly its effectiveness will be totally unknown. As such, the patient would be signing up to take a drug that could theoretically cause them devastating side effects, on top of their existing condition – and not provide any benefit. More than 90% of drugs that enter phase I trials will be found to be unacceptable from a safety standpoint. Potentially, allowing patients to use drugs that are at an early stage would provide them with false hope, and also distract from their other, more proven, treatment possibilities.

On the other hand, if the patient is well-informed, aware of the risks, and living under the shadow of a condition that is debilitating and likely to soon kill them, then we can understand that they would want to try everything in their power to improve their outcomes. Given that some people will take part in the Phase 1 of a clinical trial – and that these people are typically healthy, given that phase 1 tests only side effects – then why should those people not contain among their number some patients who might actually benefit from the drug?

Overall, from a human perspective I cannot even begin to understand the frustration that a patient would feel on being told that they cannot even test a drug which is their last recourse. I do not believe that we ought to be able to reject people from having the option of taking a drug in its early stage of development if they have gone through sufficient counselling on the issue, shown that they are aware of the process and its dangers, and discussed their care with the medical team and found that there are truly no other options available to them.

What do you think of assisted suicide?

Assisted suicide differs from euthanasia in that the physician does not perform the act of administering to the patient the cocktail of medications – instead the patient is provided with the medications and must take them themselves. Essentially, the debate is much the same; a physician is still allowing someone to take their own life. The criticisms will remain the same – that it is a doctor’s due to not harm a patient (non-maleficence), that it is their duty to help patients (beneficence) and that allowing something of this nature could create a slippery slope in which ill patients are increasingly expected to take their own lives rather than burden others, or in which patients feel that this is an expectation. We might also consider that whilst autonomy allows patients to refuse treatments, it does not allow them to demand treatments of healthcare professionals – and the drugs required for euthanasia may be seen as a treatment of sorts. On the other hand, the potential benefits remain much the same – patients whose suffering is too terrible to comprehend are provided with a way out that they can take with some dignity remaining, and without having to face trying to take their life alone using methods that might go wrong.

A fantastic quote on the subject from the Baroness Butler-Sloss is:

‘‘Laws, like nation states, are more secure when their boundaries rest on natural frontiers. The law that we have rests on just such a frontier. It rests on the principle that we do not involve ourselves in deliberately bringing about the deaths of others. Once we start making exceptions based on arbitrary criteria such as terminal illness, the frontier becomes just a line in the sand, easily crossed and hard to defend.’

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Situational Judgement and Working with Others

If you were asked to fill a dose for a baby that is 100x its regular dose and the fellow has proof that it’s okay, would you do it?

I would need to better understand what ‘proof’ here means. The proof could be inaccurate, and yet they think that it is proof. Equally, it could be that, for this particular instance, the medication is used for a different indication and is therefore needed at a much higher dose. However, this is a huge irregularity, and one that I would not feel comfortable with dealing with alone. I would therefore consult my preceptor for advice, no matter how convincing the proof seemed – simply as I would put patient safety ahead of my own convenience. 

You are with a nurse who takes blood and makes a labelling mistake on a patient who has needle phobia. What do you do? What do you say to the patient and what do you say to the nurse?

In this situation, we are to assume that blood will need to be taken again. I would therefore calmly and kindly explain to the nurse that they have made a mistake. I would seek to do this in a manner which allowed them to reflect on the mistake and learn from it. I would then ask how apparent the patient’s needle phobia was when the blood was first taken.

It is possible, of course, that the patient was cannulated in order for the blood to be taken and as such no new needle needs to be inserted – in which case I would simply ask the nurse to get another blood sample. If this were not the case, then I would speak to the patient and inform them that a mistake was made with the labelling of their sample. I would explain that I am very sorry for the mistake, and that it does mean that a new sample will need to be taken. I would ask open questions, like, ‘is this OK with you?’ or ‘is that an issue for you?’ This would allow them to express their concerns. I would empathetically deal with their concerns and work with them to find a solution.

What would you do if your team did not accept your recommendation? If it was a life threatening situation, and you did your research, and they still don’t accept it – what then?

I could understand a team mate not accepting my recommendation in some situations, of course – they might think that they have better advice from elsewhere, and we cannot all always agree. However, in a life threatening situation I would feel that it’s vital that the correct recommendation is followed as quickly and efficiently as possible. I would therefore urge them, politely and professionally, to heed my advice, as a member of the same interdisciplinary team as them. If they still failed to, I would ask a senior pharmacist to speak on my behalf, and then speak to the other team member in private and explain my concerns around their behaviour, and request that they undertook training or reading around the roles in an interdisciplinary team, and how we all must combine for patient safety and optimal care. 

How would you handle a situation where a team member is not communicating effectively or is not responsive to your requests for information or feedback?

In a situation where a team member is not communicating effectively or is unresponsive to requests for information or feedback, I would first attempt to understand the underlying cause. I would approach the individual privately, expressing my concerns in a respectful and non-confrontational manner, while seeking to establish open communication. By actively listening and empathising with their perspective, I may uncover any challenges or issues they may be facing, such as workload, stress, or personal matters. Once the root cause is identified, I would work collaboratively with the team member to find solutions that address the issue and improve communication. This could involve clarifying expectations, offering support, or suggesting resources for personal or professional development. In instances where the problem persists, I would consider discussing the matter with a supervisor or manager to seek further guidance and ensure the team’s overall effectiveness and patient care are not compromised.

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