If you’re hoping to build a career in the world of pharmaceuticals, a job as a pharmacy technician could be a great point of entry. It’s a hands-on opportunity to learn more about day-to-day life in a pharmacy, as well as a chance to put your knowledge of medications to the test. Plus, you’ll be working in a role that has a direct impact on people’s daily lives – supplying customers with the medications they need can be incredibly rewarding work.
But pharmacy technician jobs can be competitive. Most jobs higher on the pharmaceutical career ladder require some prior experience of pharmacy-based work – and working as a pharmacy technician is the most straightforward way to build that experience. As a result, anyone who wants to work as a pharmacist in the future will be gunning for these coveted roles.
Fortunately, we’re here to help. With this helpful guide to interviewing for pharmacy technician roles, we’ll give you the advantage you need to stand out among your competition. We’ll give you the insight you need into the questions you could face at a pharmacy technician interview, as well as some advice on how to give the answers your interviewers will want.
In this article, we’ll cover the following points:
Pharmacy technicians support pharmacists in keeping a pharmacy operational and efficient. This means that the day-to-day work you do as a pharmacy technician can vary according to the needs of your workplace – so you’ll never get too bored! As with any customer-facing role, you will spend a large portion of your time at work responding to customer queries, whether in person, via email, or over the phone.
But customer service is just the beginning – pharmacy technicians are also responsible for more behind-the-scenes tasks, including preparing prescriptions as they come in and maintaining the inventory of the pharmacy. You may need to check patients’ insurance information when they collect their prescriptions, so you’ll learn a lot about medical record-keeping and billing in the process. And of course, you’ll have to maintain strict confidentiality when it comes to patients’ sensitive medical information.
The work can be rigorous, which is why a certification is a huge advantage. While pharmacy technician roles don’t strictly require education beyond a high school diploma, participating in a pharmacy technician certificate program can give you a serious advantage when you start applying for jobs. If you don’t have that certification, you will probably need to complete some on-the-job training when you start your new job.
Interviews for pharmacy technician roles tend to be fairly straightforward. You will likely be asked a mixture of behavioral and situational questions to assess your fitness for the role. You may also have to take a short test or perform a short exercise – for example, prioritizing a list of tasks – which will then form part of your interview conversation.
If you’re nervous about the questions you might face during your interview, don’t be! Most of them will ask you to draw on past experiences to demonstrate that you meet the requirements of the role. Make sure you reread the job description before you attend your interview, and think about times when you’ve demonstrated the skills or qualities listed there.
To help you prepare, we’ve put together a list of some common interview questions for pharmacy technician roles. We’ve even included some example answers, so you can draw on them as you think about your own experiences. Read on, and you’ll be ready for your interview in no time!
If you’ve ever stood in line at a pharmacy, you’ll know that it can be a stressful environment for customers and staff alike. Customers are understandably concerned about the possibility of not receiving their medication on time – and with their health at stake, it’s easy for tempers to flare. This can present pharmacy staff with some serious challenges if they aren’t prepared to manage the situation.
This question asks you to provide a direct experience of delivering great customer service under difficult circumstances. This can be a tricky line to walk! On one hand, it’s important to show that you have that experience under your belt – but on the other hand, it’s just as important to show that you respect your customers, even when they aren’t behaving well.
Look for an example that shows you in your best light: confident and interpersonally capable, but still compassionate enough to sympathize with the customer. After all, as a pharmacy tech, you will need to deliver the best service you can to people in need of your help. Compassion is as big a part of that as assertiveness and boundary-setting.
Example answer: “In my previous role as a retail associate, I once had to deal with a customer who jumped the line and angrily requested a refund on a product. This was during peak trading in the run-up to the holiday season, so the store was very busy. However, I understood that she was probably very stressed by the demands of holiday shopping, and that her frustration wasn’t personal. I asked a temporary colleague to cover the cash registers while I processed her refund, after which she was visibly relieved and thankful for the assistance.”
Pharmacies have to work to a never-ending series of small deadlines. Customers expect to be able to collect their prescriptions promptly. This means that pharmacies need to be as punctual as possible in receiving, processing and filling those prescriptions.
This requires dedication and careful planning on the part of pharmacy staff. In order to stand the best chance of being hired as a pharmacy technician, you need to show that you have the personal organization and the efficiency needed to keep the pharmacy on top of its obligations.
Even if you’ve never worked in a pharmacy before, you can still answer this question with some previous experience! You could refer to past occasions when your job has required you to work quickly without compromising on accuracy or attention to detail. If you’ve never had any work experience at all, you could talk about staying on top of your studies instead.
Example answer: “I have experience of working quickly and efficiently thanks to my time working on a customer support team, when I had to prioritize cases according to both their urgency and the time since the query was first raised. In a pharmacy setting, I would apply that experience to sort through each day’s list of pending prescriptions according to their scheduled pick-up times. I would then liaise with other pharmacy staff to identify any particularly urgent orders, so those could be addressed as quickly as possible.”
There’s no way around it: everyone makes the occasional mistake at work. But in a pharmacy setting, with customers relying on you to process and deliver their medications, mistakes can have serious human consequences. Hiring managers will want to be confident that you are capable of owning, addressing and rectifying your mistakes before they take a chance on you.
This can be an awkward question to answer – after all, nobody likes admitting to their mistakes! But being able to acknowledge a mistake is the first step to resolving it, so you will need to be prepared with a story about an error you have made.
Remember to make sure it’s a story in which you resolve the mistake to the best of your ability, too. As a pharmacy technician, your customers will depend on you to rectify any errors quickly, so they can receive their medications in a reasonable time frame. Prove to your interviewer that you are capable of acting quickly and decisively to make things right when they go wrong.
Example answer: “While working as a retail associate, I once set aside the wrong item for a customer, who then came into collect it and was upset to find that we didn’t stock the item he had wanted. I was embarrassed, but I knew the item was meant to be a birthday gift, so I wanted to set the situation right. I called another branch of the store in the next town over, and was able to arrange for my colleague in that store to mail the item to the customer’s home address. It arrived in time for his daughter’s birthday, and he wrote to my manager to thank me for going the extra mile to help him!”
Pharmacy staff at all levels need to know how to handle medications responsibly. It’s important for a pharmacy technician to be aware of any regulatory or safety standards applicable to medication storage, so they can keep the pharmacy compliant with those standards from day to day.
This isn’t a behavioral question, so you don’t need to call back to your previous experience here. Instead, this question is designed to test your understanding of the basic standards of medication storage. You don’t need to have previous experience working in a pharmacy to answer it, however – you just need to make sure you do some research ahead of your interview.
When answering this question, you can also consider how medications should be stored to maximize efficiency and make life easier for your colleagues. Think about how you would organize medications before storing them, or whether you would need to pay attention to any special storage instructions for certain medications. It may seem like common sense, but common sense is a valuable commodity in a high-pressure work environment!
Example answer: “I know that medications need to be stored in cool, dry places away from direct light, so I would always take care to avoid hot, wet or humid storage conditions. I’d also make sure to consult the pharmacy’s databases when storing medications, so that if any substances needed to be stored under particular conditions, I would be aware ahead of time. Lastly, I would make it a priority to store medications within the system established at the pharmacy, so my colleagues and I could all find what we needed easily during the workday.”
Between delivering great customer services, handling controlled substances, and dealing with prescriptions received from doctors, pharmacy staff are usually under plenty of pressure! Hiring managers want to be confident that they are hiring staff who can handle that stress. After all, a pharmacy technician who can’t cope under pressure is more likely to make mistakes – creating even more pressure for everyone on the team.
This is another behavioral question, so you will need to come prepared with an experience of dealing with workplace pressure. When and how were you able to succeed despite the stresses of your work environment? Don’t be afraid to get into the specifics of what you did and how you coped; it’s all relevant information for your interviewer.
When answering questions like this, it’s important to remember that you should try to speak favorably about your previous work experience wherever you can. Talking down a previous employer is a bad look, as far as interviewers are concerned – it will leave them worried that you will take a negative attitude to your new workplace, too. Keep in mind that you will find yourself under pressure as a pharmacy technician, too, and try to focus on how pressure might have brought out the best in you in the past.
Example answer: “As a retail associate, my colleagues and I were always under a lot of pressure during peak holiday trading – but we tried to see it as an opportunity to achieve some of our best sales figures of the year. Last year, I encouraged my team to lean into the pressure and hand-sell the store’s priority products, rather than being put off from delivering personalized customer service by high customer numbers. It worked really well, and we hit a regional record for sales figures in December!”