Finding the right pharmacist for the right pharmacy position isn’t easy, but it’s crucially important.
Lester Nathan, known as the Pharmacy Sage, understands the importance of the interview process because he has spent years helping pharmacists on both sides of the table: those who are hiring people and those who are seeking to be hired.
Lester also provides business and leadership training to independent pharmacy owners, as well as individualized consulting and marketing training. He refers to it as positioning themselves to call their own shots.
Most importantly, he helps guide both groups of pharmacists in a challenging job market.
“If you have to find good pharmacists, or any other person worthy of hiring and retaining, then you have to answer the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’ from their perspective,” he said. “The hiring person has to provide a basic and fundamental place where people enjoy working and where they see that there is a future.”
Identifying a good workplace
Lester, who founded the company RX Profits Now, said that because the pharmacy job market isn’t the same as a few years ago, it’s important for pharmacies to identify what employees are looking for a in a workplace.
In his mind, it boils down to three things.
1. Good pharmacy working conditions.
Establishing a place where people enjoy coming to work, with a workflow that is systematic and easy. Employees should be challenged in their work in a way that is fulfilling.
2. Good rewards.
Creating rewards beyond the paycheck that inspire your employees to do better. Employees should know that their work will be acknowledged, and they will be appreciated.
3. Promising future.
Spell out future opportunities so that your employees will see your pharmacy as a place they want to spend the rest of their careers. Even if upward mobility is limited to titles only, employees should see that they are able to advance.
“People want to find meaning in their work, and those who are really driven and who are going to be superstars on your A-team want to be acknowledged,” Lester said. “They want to know that their work is meaningful. They need a feedback system that acknowledges their work and rewards them for making improvements.”
Finding the right candidate
When it’s time to hire pharmacists, Lester looks for three key characteristics in his applicants, but experience is not among them.
1. Drive and determination to succeed. He suggests asking candidates questions about their most challenging task or project at their previous jobs.
2. Desire to learn new ways of doing old things. If they don’t exhibit this tendency, they probably won’t be flexible enough to learn your way of operating.
3. Ability to learn. This one is less important, because anyone who has graduated from pharmacy school has the native ability to learn.
Pharmacies that experience rapid turnover usually lack challenges and rewards for their employees.
On the other hand, if you’re a pharmacist seeking an engaging job, how can you demonstrate to the decision makers that you’re the right person for the job?
Lester suggests researching the pharmacist you’re interested in. Check out the website to see what sets this pharmacy apart from others like it.
Visit the pharmacy during slower hours and talk to the staff members about their workplace and the leadership of the pharmacy.
Conducting the interview
Lester has refined his interview process to a system he calls “hiring people for your A team.”
Begin by asking for resumes, and then review them with the intention of eliminating any that aren’t attractive to you for one reason or another.
Next, call the remaining candidates for a 2-5-minute phone interview. Ask how qualified they are for this opening and have 8-10 prepared questions, so you can control the direction of the interview. Don’t get bogged down with lengthy discussions at this point.
Lester suggests recording their answers on a separate sheet of paper, so you can score each one on a scale from 1-10 as you proceed. At the end of the process, you should easily be able to determine the top 3 or 4 candidates that you’ll invite to interview in person. In-person interviews will be lengthy because they should help you identify which candidate is the most outstanding.
Finally, Lester said, you must call the last two or three employers to get references about the candidates you’re considering. Speak to the direct supervisor who will be able to give feedback about the candidate’s past work.
Prepare 10-12 questions, and begin the conversation with non-threatening questions that confirm what the candidate has shared with you: dates of employment, positions held, etc.
Before you end the call, ask the former employers whether they would rehire this person.
“It’s a moment-of-truth question,” Lester said. “Their answer will tell you how valuable this person will be for your opening and for the future of your pharmacy.”
Lester’s experience indicates that the large retail chains have about a 50-percent success rate at hiring: one out of every two hires succeeds. With his own approach, the success rate is about 95 percent.
He recalls a client who hired a new employee 6 weeks ago but who has been disappointed to find that the new employee wasn’t working out. When he asked if she called the employees’ references, his client said she hadn’t.
“Most people don’t want to get into a confrontational conversation with someone they don’t know,” Lester said. “They may even be a little reticent, but reference checks must be done.”
Attracting great people
Lester believes that driven, passionate people want to be in environments where they are able to make a difference.
As you search for candidates, don’t rule out those people who are already working but who aren’t as happy as they should be in their existing jobs. Reach out to the labor pool as well as to those who might consider leaving their current position if they found something that was a better fit.
If you’re the one looking for a job, consider whether your previous boss would rehire you. If he wouldn’t, why would you expect someone else to hire you?
If you’re looking to improve your own interview skills, The Happy PharmD Interview Mastery course teaches you how to ace your interview and increase the odds you’ll land the position you’re seeking. The course addresses how to answer questions, how to prepare, what to wear, and how to conquer anxiety.
Interview Mastery includes a 30-day money-back guarantee that removes all the risk from signing up. If, at the end of 30 days, you don’t feel like you’ve gained 10 times the value from the material, I’ll refund your money.
Those looking to improve their hiring skills or start their own independent pharmacy can connect with Lester Nathan at (518) 346-7021, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hire with great excellence. Your pharmacy’s success depends on it.