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University of Illinois Chicago College of Pharmacy
A Virtual World: Mock Interviews in Pharmacy

College Connection

by Tara Tanriverdi, P3, Student Chapter President, Chicago Campus; University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy

This past year provided many new experiences for our student body. For many students, it was their first time learning in a virtual environment. Our student body’s transition into virtual learning started off great. Still, when residency application deadlines approached, our student chapter realized this would be the first time many students would be interviewing in a virtual setting. Our chapter decided to help students conquer the virtual interviews and teach them how they could stand out on screen. We created our professional development series called the Virtual Mock Interview Series, which we carried out this past academic year to help prepare students for virtual interviews. 

Our first two events were called the “Virtual Interview Do’s and Don’ts.” We knew that being confined to a computer camera could be challenging. For the first panel, we had three residency program directors discuss their thoughts on virtual interviewing. After answering five pre-prepared questions about their views on interviewing for residency programs, we opened the floor to questions from the over 70 students in attendance. Knowing where to look, using body language, and other nonverbal cues were discussed concerning virtual interviews. The following week we held a similar event with current residents. The residents provided a fresh perspective and shared their insight on starting residency during a pandemic and virtual interviewing for PGY2 residencies. 

The final event for our Virtual Mock Interview Series was virtual mock interviews. We held interviews in January for fourth-year students interested in applying for residencies. Each interview was 20 minutes long, with 15 minutes for the interview and 5 minutes for feedback.  To provide guidance and structure for the interviews, we created a faculty-reviewed situation, task, action, result (STAR) interview method rubric and compiled a list of over 30 pharmacy residency interview questions primarily based on the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Student Residency Guide. Interviews took place using Zoom with interviewers and interviewees within individual breakout rooms. Our fourth-year students were interviewed by current residents from UI Health, Northwestern Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, and Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center. We paired up interviewers and interviewees who did not know each other. This helped maintain the integrity and realness of the interviews. Overall, we had 14 students participate, and seven residents conduct the interviews. 

After the success of our virtual mock interviews, we decided to share the opportunity with more students. We offered mock interviews for first-year students interested in internships offered at UI Health, Rush University Medical Center, Northwestern Medicine, and more during the spring. The interviews were conducted using the same rubric and most of the same interview questions as before. This time, instead of having residents interview the students, we decided to have UIC faculty conduct them. This provided students an opportunity to meet faculty outside the virtual classroom. We had seven students and three faculty participate in the interviews. 

Overall, our virtual mock interview series was a great success! In November, we had two successful speaker events regarding what to expect during a virtual interview, 14 interviews for fourth-year students, and seven interviews for first-year students. In the future, we hope to offer more interviews now that we have a better handle on the events. Our Virtual Mock Interview Series was coordinated by Kevin Johns, our Vice President for the 2020-2021 academic year, and myself. We are grateful for all the students, residents, faculty, and advisors who helped our students reach their interviewing potential! 

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