In pharmacy school interviews, what are your strengths and weaknesses is an important question, and your answers can be illuminating for school decision makers. If you’re curious about how to approach this question or what to include among your strengths and weaknesses during a pharmacy school interview, you’ve come to the right place.
Whether you’re applying to or , we’ll go over what personal qualities pharmacy schools seek in their students, how to convey your responses to interview questions, tailor your answers to reflect a school’s values and mission statement, and practice your delivery.
If you’ve reached the stage of the pharmacy school interview, congratulations! You’re almost there. However, be warned that pharmacy school interview questions are notoriously challenging. To get an idea of what to expect, it may be helpful to read expert responses to some of the hardest . If you would rather watch a video, this one discusses some of the most difficult pharmacy school interview questions and answers:
Now that you have an overview of the pharmacy interview, let’s look more closely at the question of “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
Why should a pharmacy school be interested in your strengths and weaknesses; shouldn’t your academic success and educational history reign supreme in admission criteria? While your studies and grades do matter, there are other factors that help admissions committees and interviewers evaluate the cream of the applicant crop. Below, we list some elements of the mindset you will want to adopt when readying yourself for your pharmacy interview. Bearing these qualities in mind as part of your overall approach to pharmacy school interviews will ensure you put a confident foot forward and shine in your interview.
The Importance of Confidence and Humility During Your Pharmacy School Interview
To answer any question pertaining to one’s own excellence or shortcomings necessitates a lot of personal introspection and skill. It makes the interviewers’ jobs simpler when you can succinctly explain your competencies, motivations, and the goals you wish to achieve upon entering pharmacy school or your career as a pharmacist. Having the ability to wade through past mistakes and achievements, acknowledge them, and then relay your self-analysis in a clear and honest way is a testament to your self-awareness – but it is not easy. Reviewing pharmacy school interview questions can give you a good idea of what to expect, but you might also want to seek professional help from an admissions consultant if you struggle to clearly express .
Remember that the interviewers are not your enemies; they’re hoping to witness your exemplary qualities first-hand and validate the claims you made in your application. The interview is merely an opportunity for you to demonstrate what you already know to be true.
That being said, if you simply spend all of your time highlighting your strengths and self-applauding, the interviewers may interpret this as lack of self-reflection. What is intended to express confidence and capability will appear as arrogance and a lack of preparation. Expounding on your weaknesses does not have to be demeaning or self-sabotaging; indeed, everyone has made mistakes or failed at some point. The idea is to convey how you overcome and learn from setbacks. A refined response detailing areas that need improvement can imply a sense of humility, duty, and strong analytical skills. Explaining what your strengths and weaknesses are in a pharmacy interview is an avenue for showing who you are in great detail.
Why Researching the Pharmacy School is Key to Your Interview
While self-knowledge and honesty are paramount in an interviewee, it is just as important for you to investigate the history, program, mission statement, and approach of your target school. Doing adequate research and being able to articulate not only the contents of programs, but why they resonate with you and your future aspirations will ring positively with your interviewers. However, if you provide generic answers devoid of any depth, personal context, passion, or history, the interviewers may not take you seriously as a positive future representative of their institution. Taking the time to diligently research, integrate, and contemplate what a school represents exemplifies care, passion, conscientiousness, and a potential foreshadowing of dedication to your studies.
Showing Your Personality and Your Ability to Be Personable in Your Interview
Determining whether you are the right fit for a program goes beyond academic history. While GPA and PCAT scores are integral, a candidate needs to have intangible skills in addition to pre-requisites such as biology, chemistry, and physics. Schools seek out students who display characteristics like empathy, compassion, open-mindedness, and a reluctance to being judgmental.
Being a pharmacist often involves cultivating life-long connections with people and acting as an intermediary between physicians and their patients. Adhering to a community-minded, long-term approach combined with apt social skills will prove to be a great strength during your pharmacy interview. After all, there is stress involved in the face of suffering and an empathetic, caring demeanor will do more to foster a trusting and deep rapport with patients.
While schools do prioritize major research projects and quality hands-on experience in their program structure, they will also want to instill culturally sensitive approaches and patient-centered care. Each patient is unique and needs to be treated as such. Being able to adapt and accommodate different people and demographics is a key characteristic of a successful and attentive pharmacist. For example, if a program gears itself toward underprivileged groups to promote inclusivity, you might relay how your experience serving diverse patients during your fourth-year volunteer work prepared you to accommodate people in different socioeconomic groups.
Listen More to Stay in the Know
Another aspect of the world of pharmacy that requires open-mindedness and respectful articulation is debate and controversy. Interviewers value candidates who keep up to date with the conversations and innovations of the pharmacy world. A definitive strength during a pharmacy interview is a willingness to deliberate and contemplate industry controversies from a non-judgmental perspective. This does not mean that you need to be indifferent or neutral toward hot topics, but that there is often much more substance to heated debates than a surface glimpse would indicate.
Interviewers will see great worth in a candidate who can entertain multiple viewpoints and consider their validity. As such, aggressive, dismissive, or condescending reactions to opinions that differ from your own will certainly qualify as weaknesses.
Write down different qualities about yourself that you consider to be positive and helpful, with a particular emphasis on recent history. Even if it seems small or insignificant, jot it down. Maybe your hobbies or activities are some of the . For Canadian students, it will be helpful to cite relevant and true examples that coincide with the competencies and your own values. Critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving, mentoring, leadership, communications, quality control, and athletic skills are all valid examples.
Now that you’ve got your list, try to associate each quality with a memory or an experience that demonstrates it. This way, you’ll have evidence to support your claim and won’t have a problem providing an example to your interviewers: “show, don’t tell” is always your best approach, whether you are responding to an interview question or writing your .
2. Shrink Your Focus
Now, try to prioritize examples from your academic career (including internships and volunteering). If you can contextualize your strengths to a learning environment, they should be more easily translatable to your efforts in pharmacy school. This includes hands-on experience shadowing mentors and facetime with patients. A well-rounded candidate with theoretical and practical know-how is highly sought after. As you begin to implement criteria to evaluate your strengths, you’ll naturally relegate some of your examples. Maybe your multi-sport success and athletic ability don’t carry as much weight here, so setting them aside will be prudent.
3. Create a Narrative
As you begin to home in on more relevant skills and strengths, it will be tempting to advertise yourself in a report card fashion. Be mindful: reciting high grades, test scores, and CV accomplishments is NOT your best strategy. Interviewers already have access to all of the above via your application. This is your chance to shine like the inimitable individual that you are: what you have to offer can’t be confined to a few numbers and records.
Rather, you want to focus on telling a story. Remember: “show, don’t tell.” Instead of simply stating that you’re a talented problem-solver, regale your interviewers with a short tale about the time you alone solved the extra-credit calculus question in your third year. Keep these anecdotes brief, but pithy and substantial. Note that as you reveal each strength with a quick story and example, you’re simultaneously proving another — your communicative prowess. This engaging double-dose technique will be far more effective than a bullet-point approach.
Your answer shouldn’t exceed about 3 minutes, as you risk rambling and losing the audience’s attention. Providing too comprehensive an answer can veer into the autobiographical. Stories are preferable to data points, but you don’t want to get so abstract that you miss the point entirely: to show that you are a competitive candidate and a great fit for your preferred pharmacy school.
4. Customize Your Stories
As we have mentioned, each school will have a distinct mission statement and website, and you will want to tailor your answer to suit – even if you are only discussing your strengths and weaknesses! While many schools will have similar and overlapping missions, they can be distinguished by their curricula and approaches. Showing that their program will enhance your strengths or be the perfect venue for correcting a weakness is an effective way to make a connection between you and the school.
There is no doubt that preparing an answer for the question of what your strengths and weaknesses are is advisable, but do resist the impulse to memorize a script, which you will either forget or which will come across as stiff and rehearsed. Worse, you may receive a slightly modified version of this question, for example, “tell us about a time that you failed,” and you won’t know what to say.
If there is one thing about your delivery to remember, it’s this. Your response is not meant to be conveyed word for word in a mechanical way that will be perceived as insincere and diffident. Much like how a strict recitation of your grades, scores, and CV accomplishments can be redundant and boring, scripts come across as unnatural and non-conversational. That does not mean, though, that we advocate “winging it.” There exists a middle ground between canned speeches and improvisation.
An effective method includes writing down something resembling a point-form list and using the bullets as prompts to jog your memory and keep your answer on track. The list functions as a guide, helping you recollect key data and keeping your story honest and fluent. You can also tell your story chronologically; when you use your own examples, it’s easy to remember the sequence of events and transmit them to the listener. Chronological narratives are also more memorable for interviewers. With strengths and weaknesses, however, you might instead make your response theme based. For example, rather than discussing an event, you might describe a feeling or a problem at the center of your story.
With enough practice and revision, you can edit the list to include more or fewer points to adjust for time. The sweet spot of 3–4 minutes keeps things original, captivating, and relevant.
If you already feel confident in your ability to convey your answer, so much the better; that is a positive sign, as it signifies familiarity and sincerity within your response. Yet practice does indeed make perfect. Simply finding a mirror and practicing giving your answer can loosen you up. You can also consider videorecording yourself as you answer. However, to supplement your self-observation, performing mock interviews is the most beneficial preparation method. Mock interviewers can help to assess your body language, verbal slips, areas that could use expansion, and ones that are too comprehensive. Getting multiple opinions and analyses can help you best prepare for and anticipate any criticisms an actual interviewer might propose.
Interview prep can be invaluable during the application process, and as such it’s a good time to seek out assistance. Here at BeMo, we offer a student-specific, multi-staff approach to help you create authentic and personal solutions. If you’re wondering , consider reaching out for a with this team of uniquely gifted, passionate specialists ready to help you achieve your goals.
Mutatis mutandis, you can use the same approach for your weaknesses as you use for your strengths. While people often do dread such a question, there is a positive way to frame your answer. We all possess flaws but identifying them and how you intend to/are already working on reducing them is key.
Denying possession of any weaknesses is definitely to be avoided in your pharmacy school interview. Claiming to be a perfectionist or working too hard is not a sincere self-criticism. Once again, you want to demonstrate to your interviewers that you are self-aware, honest, and realistic.
That said, there is no reason to overemphasize your shortcomings to the point where you destroy your credibility. For example, if you have trouble trusting teammates in a group project, you don’t have to describe yourself as a controlling and insensitive autocrat. You can instead explain how you have difficulty assigning tasks to team members during groupwork due to your own excessively high standards. Express that you’re working on trying to confide in others, entertain different perspectives, and acknowledge that there’s more than one valid way to complete a task. Additionally, including commentary from former or current team members about the weaknesses in your performance is a positive. You’ll show that you’re a skilled listener who’s devoted to making improvements and favoring group welfare over self-centered goals.
I’ve always seen myself as having an inquisitive and receptive mind. From a young age, I never shied away from asking questions and attentively listening to whatever insight or information I could receive. I used to follow my dad around the house whenever he would perform home maintenance or upgrades on the weekends. He was my first shadowing experience! Physical labor and working with my hands didn’t resonate with me at first, but I grew to see its value and learned a lot. I made sure to keep that open-minded and non-judgmental spirit with me as I got older.
During my second year, I volunteered to shadow a pharmacist in an underserved neighborhood and monitored his attitude in difficult situations. Exposing myself to real-world, complex, and sensitive scenarios from an early point in my education taught me to be simultaneously resilient and compassionate. Pharmacists forge deep, meaningful, and long-lasting relationships with patients who confide in them during times of suffering and despair. My volunteer experience coupled with my academic training has made me confident and ready to face the challenges that come with pharmacy school and the intangible elements of the profession.
I’m trying to improve my public speaking skills. I’m a rather shy and reserved person, so exposing myself to groups of people can sometimes make me feel vulnerable or judged. I’m the youngest sibling, so my brothers and sisters were always protective and more outspoken. I learned to listen to my elders and prioritize listening as opposed to vocalizing my thoughts.
This past semester, a few group members mentioned that they noticed my lack of willingness to speak up during a presentation. I did contribute to the project but left it to my teammates to articulate our work, an additional responsibility they shouldn’t have had to take on.
I recognized that my inability to vocalize at key points would be devastating to my career and that immediate action needed to be taken. As such, I decided to brush up on my Spanish-speaking skills and practice interacting with fellow students in an online course. My hope is to gain more confidence with people who are at the same skill level as me, making me less uneasy about opening up. I’m confident that my emerging public speaking abilities, dedication to self-improvement and self-awareness, and care for patients will prove me not only to be an exemplary pharmacy school candidate but a valuable industry professional.
Try to see this question as an opportunity and a privilege, rather than as a stressor. Use this window that the interviewers have provided for you to display your communicative, social, academic, and empathetic skills. Expand on the unique creature that is you, open up, and honestly express where you excel and where there is room for improvement.
The interviewers are on your side, as they contacted you to learn more than your application could express. If you maintain a succinct and engaging answer, the tips above will help you to stand out and reach the next step in your pharmaceutical career.
1. Why do interviewers ask what my strengths and weaknesses are?
Interviewers want to see who you really are beyond what’s on paper. They’re looking to learn more about you and see whether your social and communicative skills are up to par for a patient-focused profession. They’re interested in learning about who you are in a larger context.
2. Should I focus on my grades and scores during an interview?
Emphasizing numbers and records exclusively during an interview is not a sound strategy, as the interviewers already have access to that information. While it is fine to discuss academics, make sure to contextualize them in a way that conveys more than your application does.
3. Can I use the same response for every school interview?
While there are similarities among schools in terms of their approaches and educational goals, it’s advisable to tweak your answer to suit the values and priorities of each school during your interview. This indicates that you’ve done the necessary research and care about standing out as an applicant.
4. Where can I look to learn how to customize my answers?
Visiting a school’s website and reviewing its mission statement and vision will provide you with more information about a school’s program, values, and emphases. For example, some institutions prioritize research projects, while others are more patient-centered in their philosophy.
5. How long should my answer be?
An ideal answer is about 3–4 minutes in duration. Anything less may leave your interviewers wanting more, while anything exceeding that time may cause them to lose interest and disengage from your answer.
6. Can I reframe one of my strengths as a weakness?
No. Relying on clichés like “being a perfectionist” will not resonate well with interviewers. This is an opportunity to demonstrate an honest, self-aware, and lucid understanding of yourself. The interviewers know you’re not perfect, so providing a deep and sincere reply will demonstrate integrity and an ability to acknowledge faults.
7. What’s the best way to remember my answer?
List bullet points and use them as references to guide and remind you. There’s less to think about and a more natural, conversational tone will arise. Your goal is to tell a compelling story and not to recite a dry list.
8. Why shouldn’t I memorize my answer literally?
Verbatim, script-like answers tend to come across as insincere and uncomfortable. Rehearsing a speech to the point of total memorization will take you out of the conversation and leave you struggling to recall every last word you wanted to say. That energy could be better spent interacting with your interviewers and maintaining a healthy flow in the dialogue.