Job tips for pharmacy grads, 2015


Looking for that first pharmacy job? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Chris JonassenThousands of students with pharmacy degrees will graduate in 2015, and now they’re taking their first steps into the workplace, at a time when the expansion of patient-focused healthcare services presents new and exciting opportunities that will shape our profession in coming decades.

The aging of the U.S. population influences our roles and the services we deliver. The “baby boomers” affect the workforce, as well, as a generation of pharmacists continues to retire and create employment opportunities.

What do you want?

If you’re a new graduate or an undergraduate looking down the road, now is the time to view the job landscape and assess your own talents and interests. Ask yourself, “Which pharmacy setting appeals to me most? Is my personality a good fit for that sector? What are my short- and long-term goals? How will my first employer support my advancement?”

A “know thyself” self-audit before you embark on job hunt is a valuable exercise and sets the stage for success. Equally important, you need to educate yourself in advance about the company or organization you’re considering, and use the interview process to learn more about the company’s corporate culture, growth opportunities, and professional development programs.

What do employers want?

For today’s retail pharmacist candidate, technical knowledge is only one attribute that potential employers consider. A positive attitude and the ability to deliver outstanding customer service are other key qualities.

Though some companies rely heavily on phone interviews, at Bartell we insist on conducting interviews only in person, because we place great emphasis on personality/attitude and how a candidate would fit into our company culture. “Hire the attitude, train the skills” aptly describes our priorities. And to be successful with us, you must have a passion to serve customers and patients.

Store settings

As mentioned above, candidates should use the in-person interview as an opportunity to learn more about the employer. Consider another step in the interview process, as well: On your own, get out and speak with pharmacy staffs at several stores.

During interviews, we provide candidates with a map of the locations of all of our stores. We encourage them to visit two or three locations and to talk to the pharmacy staffs, in order to learn at first-hand about both the opportunities and the challenges of working in a retail pharmacy setting.


New services

Retail pharmacists are on the front line of patient-focused care, a setting that appeals to a significant proportion of pharmacy graduates. One of the questions they ask us most frequently is “What clinical services do you see your company adding in the next few years?”

To meet the needs of patients and enhance revenue streams, retail pharmacies have expanded their offerings of clinical services, and we expect continued rapid growth. Bartell pharmacies currently offer more than a dozen immunization and screening services, consultations for travelers, and prescription compliance services.

Career development

Career development, important to many grad interns, receives greatly varying emphasis among chains and other organizations. At our company, for those who demonstrate aptitude for leadership, professional growth opportunities are provided through a program designed to teach “real world” skills, including how to manage and motivate staffs, understand the financials of the pharmacy, and, if necessary, learn to develop the confidence to be a leader.

The Affordable Care Act has expanded access to healthcare services for many Americans. Increasingly, pharmacists will provide services as part of a team, using their medication management skills to improve patient care and co-managing the patient’s needs with primary providers. Opportunities to engage in preventative services and managed care for those with chronic conditions will increase.

The retail/community pharmacy setting is blazing new trails in innovative clinical services. It is an exciting time to join the ranks of retail pharmacists shaping our profession and the future of patient-focused care.

Chris Jonassen is manager of talent development for Bartell Drugs (, which serves the Puget Sound area with 63 locations. Celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2015, it is the nation’s oldest and largest family-owned drugstore chain.

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