Recruit Top Talent to Your Pharmacy Staff


Lure great employees with a proactive hiring plan, revealing interview questions, and more

As you already know, your staff can greatly impact the overall success of your pharmacy. Knowledgeable and caring employees give your pharmacy a competitive edge and differentiate your business. Yet given the importance of having a great staff, few community pharmacies develop a hiring plan and a system to ensure having a great staff in place.

The Demand and Supply of Staffing

Pharmacy recruiting “has its ebbs and flows as far as demand, and it’s going to be changing [with the higher demands in healthcare],” observed Laurie Burden, president of, who has 23 years of experience in the field. One of the hardest positions she has filled recently was for a pharmacist to work in a rural area.

Several factors are likely to affect pharmacy hiring in the coming years:

  • Demand: The demand for pharmacists and technicians may rise due to an improved economy, expansion of health insurance coverage, retirement of older pharmacists, and greater roles for pharmacists in areas such as immunizations and managing chronic conditions.1
  • Supply: Nationally, the number of pharmacy school graduates is increasing dramatically, though local factors are most important when hiring. The candidate pool for a pharmacy in a city with two colleges graduating new pharmacists and technicians will be much larger than for a rural pharmacy.

Key Elements of a Hiring Plan

No matter what your pharmacy’s situation, the following five practices will give you greater access to the best employees.

1. Start Looking Now

Don’t wait until you need to fill a position.

      • Always be recruiting. That can reduce the time and cost to fill a position when you have an opening.2 Identify the types of people you want to hire, and connect with people who have those attributes. For example, if a server in a restaurant has the sunny, caring attitude you want working the counter in your pharmacy, compliment the person and introduce yourself. Many business owners also have special cards printed that invite people to contact them if they ever want to change jobs.
      • Build a referral network. If you had an opening today, whom would you tell? Spend time meeting people at business and industry events, serving on committees, and engaging in networking that will connect you with potential job candidates, as well as people who are likely to know those candidates.
      • Tap into the pharmacy school pool. Mentoring and serving as a preceptor for pharmacy students introduces you to future job candidates and allows you to observe them at work. Plus, it builds relationships with faculty members, who may refer graduates to you. (Learn more in “Grooming the Next Generation of Community Pharmacists.”)

2. Craft a Compelling Pitch

Before advertising a job, define the duties and necessary skills, experience and training. Also understand the attitudes, behaviors or personalities to succeed in that job. “There’s more to a job than just the job description,” Burden said.

While it’s vital to know what you want in an employee, it’s also critical to know what potential employees want and use that information to attract top candidates. According to Burden, right now, beyond salary, pharmacists are looking for quality of life and a good work schedule.

If you can design a job that suits you and your employee, that’s ideal. Some employers are offering innovative schedules, such as four 10-hour days or three 12-hour days followed by three or four days off. Or, some employees may want to work only weekends.

      • Emphasize what you can offer. Think about what differentiates your pharmacy from other employment opportunities a candidate may have. For example, a pharmacist may want more time to interact with customers. (Read “The Hiring Advantages of Community Pharmacies” for more ideas.)
      • Write for a candidate’s perspective. Instead of issuing a list of your many employment demands, highlight what you are offering to candidates. For example, a headline of “Weekdays 9-5! No weekends!” may grab the attention of a pharmacist seeking a better schedule.

3. Streamline the Process

To limit the time and money you spend filling a position, focus your search.

      • Target advertising. Think about where to reach ideal employees. The best employees may already have good jobs and therefore aren’t likely to be trolling job ads.3 That’s one reason a strong network is so important, to reach “passive” job candidates who aren’t actively looking for a new job but might be open to the right opportunity. You might want to hire a recruiter. Or, you might find the right person by posting the opening through social media, such as your pharmacy’s Facebook page and spreading the word to your contacts. Encourage current employees to also reach out to their contacts about the opening. They can be great spokespeople for why your pharmacy is a great place to work.
      • Prescreen to save time. Once applications and resumes start rolling in, develop a process to sort them quickly. Set aside applicants who don’t meet the job’s minimum requirements. Then you can further narrow the field with brief phone interviews before setting up face-to-face meetings. In prescreening candidates for her clients, Burden will ask about the person’s experience, current and expected salary, shift preferences, and availability for further interviews.
      • Check for red flags. Early in the process, Burden will ask whether a pharmacist has ever had a license suspended or revoked. If the person says, “Yes,” she will ask, “Why?” and check further. While that may not prevent a pharmacy from hiring someone, it is best to address that early in the process, she said.

4. Ask Revealing Questions

To ensure that interviews are time well spent and that you gather the types of information you need to make a decision, prepare for the interview process.

      • Plan the interview. Develop questions designed to reveal exactly what you need to know. Include open-ended questions, which require more than a “Yes” or “No” answer, to encourage the candidates to reveal more about themselves. For example, “Tell me about why you chose to become a pharmacist.” You also may want to involve other employees in an interview, to gain their perspectives. Make sure that everyone involved in the hiring process is briefed on what questions to ask.
      • Check for attitude. To determine whether candidates have the focus, work ethic and attitude you want in your pharmacy, ask questions such as, “In what type of work environment do you work best?”
      • Ask situational questions. To assess how the candidate would handle likely scenarios on the job, ask hypothetical questions. For example, “How would you handle this situation?” or “What steps would you take if the following happened?” You could even role-play scenarios with the candidate; for example, with you acting the part of an irate customer.

Examples of Revealing Interview Questions

Learn more about job candidates with questions like these:

  • “What do you know about this pharmacy?” The answer will reveal whether the candidate took the initiative to learn about your business and how the person sees your pharmacy.
  • “Why do you want to work here?” Look for the candidate who is passionate about the work he or she will do in your business.
  • “What are your weaknesses?” Beware of candidates who won’t admit any. Instead, look for candidates who have thought about areas for improvement and are taking action to correct them.
  • “What gives you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the work day?” Or “Tell me about your greatest accomplishment.” Learn what motivates the worker to determine whether your workplace will provide that type of experience.
  • “What are your career goals?” Seek candidates who plan and whose goals will align with your goals for the business.
  • “If you could have changed one thing about a place in which you have worked, what would it be?” That can show what frustrates the person and whether he or she takes action to resolve issues.
  • “How would you handle this situation . . . ?” Or, “Tell me about a time when you . . . ” Ask how the person responds to the typical demands of that particular job.
  • “What makes you the best person for this job?” Give candidates an opportunity to talk about experience or skills that haven’t come out in the rest of the interview.
  • “Do you have any questions for me?” The answer will reveal how well the person prepared for the interview and what is important to the candidate.

While some employers ask odd questions as a way to test how candidates think or respond under pressure, those questions may not be an accurate gauge of performance on the job.4 Before you ask a candidate a question, think about what you expect to gain from the answer.

5. Wrap Up the Process

Finally, don’t rely on a candidate’s resume and interview alone to make a decision. One study found that more than 40% of people lied about their work histories on resumes, and more than 20% listed false credentials and licenses.5

    • Listen to references. When you call to check references, listen carefully to the person’s tone and what they don’t say. If someone worked for a previous employer for six years and all that company will do is verify the dates of employment, Burden said, “That’s not a very strong reference.”
      • Also, be sure to verify that a potential candidate does not show up on the OIG Exception List.
    • Act quickly. Don’t let the ideal candidate slip away because you take too long making a decision. “The most important thing is a sense of urgency,” Burden said. “Don’t let the good ones sit there,” or they will lose interest.

Those who have built effective teams know that hiring is an ongoing process that takes considerable attention. But putting a good staff in place will satisfy customers, improve operations and make you happier by benefitting your bottom line.

Find more hiring advice in “Avoid Costly Hiring Mistakes” and “Tips for Building a Winning Team.”

1 “Doomsday for PharmD Grads or Alarmist Over-Reaction?” George Ochoa, Pharmacy Practice News, , and “Healthcare Staffing: How Healthcare Reform Will Likely Impact Hiring,” John Rossheim,
2 “4 Recruiting Behaviors That Limit the Quality of Who You Hire,” Brent Rasmussen,” TLNT, October 10, 2013.
3 “2014, The Year of the ‘Passive’ Job Hunter,” Anne Fisher, CNNMoney, January 9, 2014.
4 “The Weirdest Interview Questions Hiring Managers Ask,” Alice Truong, Fast Company, January 17, 2014.
5 “Spotting Lies,” Pamela Babcock, HR Magazine, Oct. 1, 2003.