The “tell me about yourself” pharmacy school interview question is one of the first you will be asked. Maybe you have already written a pharmacy school personal statement, which is good practice for this everyday interview question. In theory, it should be one of the easiest questions to answer because nobody could answer it better than you. However, it could also be the most daunting question due to its abstract nature. It is intentionally supposed to be open-ended so that interviewers can assess what direction you take to answer it. Thankfully, this article will break down a few key steps and strategies to coming up with the best answer to this extremely common interview question.
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Why Interviewers Ask This Question
Self-reflection is a crucial part of any application process. In a competitive environment, it is important to know who you are and why you are applying to a particular program. The answer to this question shows the admissions committee how you see yourself and the passion that you will bring to their institution.
It is easy to list off various CV highlights or achievements when faced with this question, but that is either information they already know, or they would have asked about in further detail if they needed to. Your grades and test scores got you in the door for the interview, but now is the time to show your personality beyond your accomplishments on paper. What the admissions committee really wants to know about are your values, your story, how you approach situations, how you motivate yourself, and how you will serve your community as a pharmacist. This question is a little more general than the why do you want to be a pharmacist question, though your response could lean into that as well.
All of this is not to say that your professional or academic background should not be mentioned at all, but the balance between your personal interests or motivations and your studies or job experience is what is important. There is more to being a pharmacist than simply your performance in school; therefore, your answer should reflect the many sides of you.
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Why This Question Benefits You
While the “tell me about yourself” question may make some applicants nervous due to its open-ended nature and lack of a correct answer, it is actually the best opportunity to take control of the conversation during the interview. There are definitely some cons to the question, but that is because so much of the interview depends on it, and that could be a positive, rather than a negative. It is true that there is no right or wrong answer, but you are deciding what you and the interviewer talk about in that moment. If you think of the interview as a roadmap, this question is the starting point that branches out to every different path. Many of the pharmacy school interview questions that follow will depend on this answer, so that is why it is so important to think about it prior to walking in the room.
What’s also great about the “tell me about yourself” question is that only you know the most about yourself. Due to the question having no right answer, there is no heavy expectation set for what you should say. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put any thought into it, but you decide what is brought up about you in the conversation. You also should be aware of what information interviewers may already know from your application so that you can speak about something fresh to stand out in comparison to other applicants. Strategizing what topics to discuss will only be of service to your ability to impress an admission committee. With a prepared response, you can partially anticipate the rest of the interview and truly demonstrate why you will be a great fit not only as a student with that school, but as a pharmacist in the field.
Strategy and Prep
A good way to start is to brainstorm a few aspects of yourself that you want the interviewers to know about you using point form or bullets. Writing these in full sentences may inadvertently cause the answer to feel scripted and rehearsed, which is not the goal. Instead, the goal is to have an answer that comes off naturally but is simply mapped out to hit a few different points. Having too much of a script can actually detract from the authenticity of the response and may reflect in your body language as well. Practice does make perfect, and it is crucial to workshop your answer with others. It’s okay if the answer comes out slightly different each time because it is not meant to be a line reading. Timing the answer is also important, because, for any question during the interview, you do not want to go on for too long. Approximately two minutes is a standard benchmark you should try for this type of question because it gives you enough time to add in detail without going overboard with description.
4-Step Guide to Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”
Step 1: What is your background?
It is important to remember that you are crafting a story, and most narratives start back at the beginning. Think hard about events or experiences that you find unique or interesting about yourself. Perhaps they are from your childhood or teenage years. Where were you born? How did you grow up? What is your family like? Have your parents influenced you in any way? What was your school life like?
There are usually a few things from this part of your life that heavily influence who you are today, whether they are positive or negative and whether they led to your interest in pharmacy school or not. Everyone has years of life experience under their belt, so this question is one of the best opportunities to show that.
It may seem rather banal to speak about these experiences, but this information is extremely familiar to you because you lived it. It may not be as uninteresting to the person interviewing you because they do not know you. They are also looking at it from a different perspective when assessing your qualities for pharmacy school.
Step 2: Passion Projects
When brainstorming, note things that are important to you. You may not think that personal interests or fun hobbies are relevant, but these are the qualities that will differentiate you from others and make you stand out. Everyone applying to pharmacy school may have similar academic credentials, but these passions are what may vary from one applicant to another. One person may be involved in competitive martial arts, while another may have a funny story about making a movie with friends. In the minds of the interviewers, these details and the performance in the interview portion are what will make a subtle difference in who they take into consideration.
There are certainly activities that you enjoy outside of your school and work, so make sure to narrow down some hobbies. Any personal experiences, volunteering, and participation in the best extracurriculars for pharmacy school can also fit into this narrative. Creating a list of all of these will be beneficial when it comes to structuring your eventual answer.
Step 3: Structuring Your Answer
When you have written down your most pertinent interests and experiences, it is time to place them all in a logical order and structure your response, effectively telling potential interviewers all about yourself. Remember that you are not producing a script per se, but a sequence of events that can realistically transition into one another. It does not have to start off that way, but it is important to think about what order to place each point. Here is a quick example:
- Something from your background: place of birth
- Notable childhood/teenage event: grandfather’s influence and illness
- Passions: superheroes, comics, art
- Life event that led to pharmacy school directly: news of mistreatment in senior residence homes
- Experience that convinced you that it was the right path: global pandemic
Try to show and not tell as much as possible when describing your events, rather than simply relaying them. You are setting the scene for why you eventually ended up in the interview room that day. Not everything you mention will necessarily be relevant to pharmacology, but you should eventually connect it to your desire to get into pharmacy school. The other hobbies and passions you bring up should show that you are a good match for this field.
Think about how each piece of your answer fits into the larger puzzle. When you are telling your story, imagine interesting ways you would want a story told to you. If you want to start with the beginning, it would be best not to simply say:
“I was born in Rochester, New York, and I’ve wanted to be a pharmacist for as long as I could remember.”
That sounds a little trite and simple. It won’t necessarily reflect your story in detail. Instead, starting off with an experience and an event that shaped you will be more engaging as an entry point. It will also allow for more opportunities to continue your response as well as discussion. For example:
“I was born in Rochester, New York. My grandparents on my father’s side actually moved there 50 years ago with three small children and almost no money. To this day, I still don’t know how they did it. I was always inspired by the tenacity of my grandfather, who wanted to keep working, even during his illness. I still remember being shocked by all the bottles of pills in his medicine cabinet as a kid. That was probably my first exposure to pharmacology.”
This introduction is much more vivid and memorable. It is just one example of how to answer “tell me about yourself,” but this structured format sets the scene for the narrative to come, regardless of its content. While it is informative, this response adds layers to the facts of this person’s origin story and offers a glimpse into their personality. In addition, there are many more directions that the response could take stemming from this example. It could lead to another sensory instance when pharmaceuticals were important to the applicant’s story or connect to a personal interest from later in their adolescence. Your answer should have options as you move from one event or interest to the next.
Step 4: Conclusion
The other most memorable part of your response should be the conclusion. It will likely tie everything together with a nice bow and show the admissions committee why you were worth speaking with. The ending of this answer should allow for the other interview questions that will be coming your way that will specifically concern pharmaceuticals and your application to their school. The goal is to leave a lasting impression on those interviewing you, so that your story stands out from the crowd.
“I spent most of my childhood living in a really small apartment in the heart of Toronto with my parents. I was an only child and was really close with my parents as a result, but in addition to that, I was always playing with the other kids in our building. One game we would play all the time was when we would pretend to be superheroes. We would take turns being the kid in distress, and one of us would put on this cape we made out of a towel and come in to save the day. I remember being impatient to wait my turn and be the hero.
My obsession with superheroes did not stop when I got older, though. I collected comics and watched the animated shows that played even throughout high school, which confused some of the people around me. I didn’t really care that much what those people thought of me because that is what made me happy. Nowadays, those characters that I spend so much time watching influence my life on a daily basis.
There is a moment I am very proud of, when I witnessed another kid being bullied in high school. I stood up for him and got the bully to stop picking on him. That was one of the first times I felt like a real superhero. My parents, who were my personal heroes, always taught me to be the good in someone’s day, and I really feel like I was honoring them in that moment.
Over the years, watching the news, I came face-to-face with the reality outside of my little apartment and learned that people were suffering every day. When I truly understood what that meant, it was my wake-up call. I knew I wanted to be involved with relieving that suffering. That, along with science being my favorite subject in school forever, was the primary motivation for wanting to work in the health care field. I am forever intrigued by innovation and what is going to make our lives better, which is my reasoning for studying pharmacology. Thinking back on all those memories, my empathetic nature, my passion for people, and my persistent interest in pharmaceuticals, I know this is the next step for me, and I am really excited to be interviewing for your program.”
This response is a great example because it contains striking visuals that are memorable and highlights qualities important for pharmacy school, such as drive, strong ethical principles, altruism, and leadership capabilities, all while incorporating specific personal anecdotes.
It may seem like a lot of effort to put into your answer to the “tell me about yourself” question, but it is effort that will be rewarded tenfold when it comes time for the interview. Try to workshop your response in the mirror or with someone you trust. The way to get it to sound as natural as possible is to practice speaking about yourself. There is no need for exact word-by-word memorization. Understand that it will not come out the same way every time, and that is perfectly fine for this type of question. In fact, it’s recommended.
1. What is the ideal format for answering the “tell me about yourself” question?
Picking out the 2 or 3 most key experiences throughout your life will determine what goes into the plan of your response. Make sure these are notable events or parts of your story that helped shape who you are. It feels the most natural and makes the most logical sense to tell a linear story in chronological order.
These experiences should be easy to follow and have at least slight connections to skills necessary for your future in pharmacy school without necessarily listing all your academic or professional achievements.
2. How long should my response be?
It’s definitely more important to have quality over quantity, but that does not mean your response needs to be extremely short. Avoid one- or two-sentence responses when telling an interviewer about your story.
For most open-ended interview questions such as this one, 1–3 minutes is the ideal length. If you go over, you may start to lose the interviewer’s attention.
3. What is the most common mistake people make when answering this question?
Solely reciting information that is already present in their CV or application. The “tell me about yourself” question is more about discovering the parts of you that are not as obvious from reading your resume. While some of your responses may tie back to this, it’s crucial and more interesting to the interviewers if you open up.
4. How do I overcome my fear of interviews?
Remember that the person who is interviewing you is human as well. That definitely helps. They are likely someone who enjoys lively conversation and likes to laugh. In the case of pharmacy school interviews, they are simply trying to assess who has the necessary skills to succeed in their specific program and become a pharmacist in the field. If you require additional pharmacy school application help, academic consultants can guide you through every step of the application and interview process to build your confidence and maximize your chances of success.
5. How do I make my answer sound less robotic?
The “tell me about yourself” question is one that you can anticipate, but having it sound rehearsed takes away any sense of authenticity and can detract from showing your individuality.
Base your answer off of an outline of bullet points, rather than a script. It is better that it comes out naturally and imperfectly while keeping the goalposts in view.
6. What kind of experiences should I bring up?
There is no limitation on the types of experiences you can include in your response. It’s about what stands out to you and what is the most relevant to your growth as a human. If you had to make a mood board that represented your life, what would be there? What are the parts of your story you feel are the most necessary? The rest could be saved for another question or omitted entirely.
7. Can I talk about more than 3 experiences?
Having too many specific experiences will mean you likely cannot go over them in detail, which may prevent the interviewer from following or connecting with your story.
In general, having 2 or 3 highly detailed experiences at most will keep your answer the most concise and tight it could be.
8. How would I go about incorporating some of my pharmacy-related or academic experience into my answer?
While, as stated previously, you should not list off your CV, there is definitely a place to mention a few of your academic or professional achievements in your response.
When you are planning, if your mind naturally goes to these accomplishments, that is perfectly fine. They are probably a large part of your story, after all. It is important to not feel like you are restricting yourself, especially when brainstorming. The point of not solely talking about them is to provide some new information and to make yourself stand out. Including personal narratives within your response could then organically lead to those achievements if that is the direction you want to take.
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