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My Interview to Match Blueprint | #THE LAB

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

I matched during Phase I, twice - here's how


Nothing is guaranteed, obviously. Every opportunity is a matter of putting yourself in a position to maximize success. Let’s get started with what you came here for.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started…” — Mark Twain


My first pharmacy school interview; Midwestern University — Glendale 2013

Basics principles that apply to any interview Come prepared and EARLY. Avoid wearing ANYTHING that draws unnecessary attention, be an adult (mute tech, wear appropriate shoes/dresses/ties, etc). Know “why” you are interviewing.

Planning before the interview takes time You should have a general idea of what the program offers, right? That is assuming you’ve completed a quality letter of intent (LOI) for the program. If you are interested in me destroying my own LOI for your benefit, let me know here. Spend some time to write down your story. Literally, just write one liner sentences of your personal experiences. A time you made a good intervention. An opportunity that showed your growth. Write down those experiences that show your qualities. The general idea includes your “purpose”, what your goals are, what the program offers that aligns with those goals, and personal examples that support your character within that program. Sounds like a match.

Example — “At the completion of residency, I want to be competent in both emergency medicine and critical care so that I can be a competitive candidate in the job market” Program offers the following (in addition to the best PGY2 EM program/preceptors/collaborative healthcare team, imo)

  • Every other weekend staffing (we’re here to learn, right?)

  • Required two Shock-Trauma ICU rotations (medicine, trauma)

  • Two ICU electives in my biggest weaknesses at the time (Neuro ICU, Cardiac ICU)

  • Primary transfer referral center with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) services

  • Complete two seminars within EM/CC (Esmolol for refractory vf/vtach, insulin 5 vs 10 units in hyperK)

  • Personable, PGY2 EM/CC trained, and OG, seasoned-veteran preceptors

  • Consistent flow of learners

The best part of my learning experience during residency was learning from baller pharmacists.


Last PGY1 interview season selfie; 13,690 miles across the US later (Salisbury, MD)

Your paper application means nothing now; let’s see if WE are a fit

Say hi to everyone you meet and be the first to extend your hand. This does several things: you are representing yourself in a professional manner, the pre-interview jitters go away, and it shows you are personable.

Awesome, we know you can talk to people. Check.

Answer every question with an example Interviews are intended to evaluate for that personality and professional fit; you passed the general “exclusion” phase. You are going to get the cookie-cutter questions. “Tell me about one of your strengths”, “When was a time you had a difficult interaction, “Why us?”. Generally, candidates will start with similar answers. How you answer is going to determine that fit.

“One of my strengths is being a good communicator. I was responsible for…” “I had a difficult time transitioning from retail to inpatient. During school, …” “My goal is to become an emergency medicine pharmacist. Coming from a level III trauma center, I never knew what happened to my sickest patients. That continuity of care is what I was missing. If someone is on the verge of death and you’re the closest ED, they’re coming to you. The hospital is a prominent referral center for five states. This is an opportunity for me to continue developing my practice into treating higher acuity patients from start to finish. I am prepared because …”

This should be the easiest part of the interview.

Remember that curriculum vitae (CV)? The interview is really having a casual conversation about your personal experiences. Yes, you are being evaluated and there is going to be that tension. Don’t you feel most yourself talking about things… you did? If there is a must, you HAVE to know why the program aligns with your career goals. We are interviewing to see how they will take your practice to the next level.

My three preferences included: being a tertiary Emergency Medicine Program (more focused learning on me), exposure to different emergency practices (alternative level 1 trauma site, poison control center, pediatric emergency medicine), and competence in both emergency/critical care (more job opportunities).


The interview isn’t done until you close the loop

Patient case and/or presentation follow up questions. If you say you’re going to get back to someone, you must. Simple emails are fine. You can also send thank you messages via email, if that’s your thing. Not sending a message is better than non-genuine message. My brown-nosing method was handwriting a letter to each interviewer and thanked them for the answer they gave to my personal question. It works if you’re consistent with all programs. People talk.

This might not be the checklist you are looking for. Although, what I can guarantee is putting yourself in a position to express your qualities authentically, while giving both parties an opportunity to personally sense that “fit”.

Let’s get our learnin’ going.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article,

Mark Nguyen, PharmD


If you would like me to cover a specific topic and/or medication, please let me know in the comments or send a DM on all social media platforms @pharmwyze.


I do not have any relationships to report. This is for educational purposes only. This is not medical advice. As always, patient-centered care relies on your clinical judgement. Refer to institutional policies, guidelines, and standard operating manuals to abide by employer requirements. Emergency medicine pharmacist responsibilities referenced are within the context of writer’s practicing state; practice according to your state law. The content of this article are based on my views and personal experiences, and are not representative of any affiliation I am associated with.

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