How to stand out in intern interviews

What makes a good intern, and how can students get noticed? asks Shefali Parekh

A graduate pharmacist’s internship can be an extremely enriching experience not only for that intern, but for all members of the pharmacy team they work with.

But with an oversupply of pharmacists, particularly in metropolitan areas, how can a student stand out from the rest?

From a student perspective, from feedback we’re given and from talking to friends and acquaintances doing their internships, there are two key qualities a student needs to be a good intern.

The first is industry experience. Pharmacy is a relatively small sector, and once you have experience, you have those connections already that will help you into the future.

I think it helps being involved with NAPSA, because these people are already steering in that direction: they’re attending conferences and seeking networking opportunities.

Somebody who has work experience in a community pharmacy or a hospital is not completely new to the whole intern working space, and can get off to a running start.

For some, this can mean working as a pharmacy assistant. We have quite a few students who have started off this way, and it’s really valuable: you learn a different side of pharmacy.

It’s not necessarily the clinical side, but the front of shop experience can be incredibly useful. You learn how to manage retail, which is a huge side of community pharmacy, and you do get that clinical interaction when you help people who are buying over-the-counter medicines, so it’s a great starting point in terms of working in a pharmacy environment.

The second quality is passion. Even if you don’t have work experience, someone who can show passion for pharmacy is a good choice. Show that being a pharmacist is something you really want to do; show that you’re confident and can talk to a range of patients.

Because Australia is so multicultural, the ability to adapt and build a rapport with just about anyone and help them be comfortable talking about their health is so important.

The stereotype of pharmacists being introverts is changing as the profession changes. But introverted students have other ways of communicating, too: in pharmacy a lot of the communication is verbal, but if you’re comfortable writing instructions down, or going through a CMI or a self care card with a patient, that’s also a valuable way to utilise your own, different way of communicating.

To both employers and prospective interns, it’s important to look for someone who shares your values. Often the pharmacy team is small, so if you’re going to be working with that intern every day, you want them to integrate with your work culture.

A good intern is someone who believes in community pharmacy itself, but also in the values of the specific pharmacy’s banner group or chain. If you’d recommend that pharmacy group to your friends, or you’d go there yourself, that pharmacy brand would probably be a good fit.

When I talk to intern friends and ask how they’re going, they tell me they feel their work is really being valued. They feel that they bring a new perspective that’s often overlooked by older pharmacists – and that happens in all settings, whether community pharmacy or in hospitals.

A good intern can really motivate an existing pharmacy team. They’re young, they’re excited about their careers starting, they bring enthusiasm and fresh perspectives, and as pharmacy changes and adapts into the future, they will help transform it.

Shefali Parekh is the National President of the National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association.

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