Author: Sarah Cook, PharmD (Clinical Pharmacist at SSM Health St. Joseph’s Hospital – St. Charles)
On the path to obtaining a residency, candidates are invariably faced with constructing a CV, writing letters of intent, and interviewing with programs. To help you succeed in your pursuit, several Residency Program Directors from programs across Missouri have generously offered their advice! (For those reading who are not pursuing residency, many of these tips easily transfer to obtaining your ideal job as well.) Below are some tips for putting your best foot forward:
Crafting your CV:Remove items from your CV that you cannot speak to.It is important that the content of your CV highlights your achievements and involvement, and you should be able to speak to what is on it in a meaningful way. If you have a journal club or presentation listed, you should be able to highlight the take-home points. If you cannot, remove it. The content of your CV should show your interests, strengths, and uniqueness – the quality of the content is more important than the quantity. In fact, having too much “fluff” can distract from what you want to showcase about yourself, rather than impressing programs with the amount that you have done. For more information on crafting a CV (for residency and throughout your career), go to: https://www.ashp.org/pharmacy-student/pharmacy-student-forum/career-development/cv-development.
Formatting tip: Use tables in Microsoft Word when formatting your CV and then hide the gridlines.
This will allow you to have a neat, organized CV with multiple columns without having to waste time tabbing and spacing to try to get everything aligned just right. It also will save you from the struggle of having to realign text when you make edits to CV throughout your career.
Have as many people as possible peer-review your CV.Seek out mentors, peers, and/or ASHP reviewing systems to look over your CV. This will reduce the chance for errors within your CV and will give you the chance to get feedback on its organization, readability, and content.
Writing Letters of Intent:Make your letters of intent as specific to each program as possible.Prior to interviews, programs must rely primarily on the content of the application packet to decide who to invite for interviews. When writing your letters of intent, showcase your interests and skills and how they align with that specific program. Also, include how the program aligns with your short and long-term goals. Furthermore, some programs have specific guidance on what they desire to see in your letter or have additional materials which they want you to submit. Be sure to submit what each program asks for, as not doing so will indicate that you likely did not fully research the program.
Showcasing yourself during interviews:Wear a suit!Although interview attire may be changing in certain occupations, wearing a suit to residency program interviews is still standard practice.
Research interview questions and practice prior to interview day.Your interview should feel natural and non-rehearsed. However, it is also important to highlight your uniqueness and set yourself apart from other candidates. Practicing interviewing and researching interview questions allows you to think about your experiences and strengths so that you will be able to give specific, meaningful examples come interview day rather than generic, forgettable answers. Additionally, having an in-person practice interview with a mentor or other experienced individual will give you an opportunity to get feedback on how you convey yourself – including potentially distracting mannerisms, overuse of filler words like “um”, etc.
Be professional and respectful.Even if you are interviewing at a place you are very familiar with or are currently employed at, showing professionalism and respect throughout the day is important and expected.
Ask meaningful questions!It is not only important that interviewers get a good feel for how you will fit in with their program but also that you can assess if the program is a good fit for you. Asking questions that are specific to the program will also show that you have done your research on the program and that you have a genuine interest in the residency.
For additional preparation for residency interviews, consider reading the following article detailing a Residency Program Director’s perspective on the ideal resident, which was published in an issue of Hospital Pharmacy: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3859286/pdf/hpj4810-825.pdf .
Special thanks to the Residency Program Directors who contributed to this article: Nicole Gattas, Tony Huke, Allison King, Stephanie Lager, and Chelsea Landgraf.
Finally, if you have a best practice which you feel others in the state would benefit from reading about, please contact me – Sarah Cook, Vice Chair of the MSHP Newsletter Committee – at Sarah.Cook@ssmhealth.com.