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How to ensure you do well at a hospital preregistration placement interview

Congratulations, you have got an interview for hospital preregistration training. Now, you just need to make a good impression at the interview. Helen Middleton, Helen Badham and Janet Whittam show you how to prepare for your interview and enable you to show a potential employer you are the right person for the job

By Helen Middleton, Helen Badham and Janet Whittam

Congratulations, you have got an interview for hospital preregistration training. Now, you just need to make a good impression at the interview. Helen Middleton, Helen Badham and Janet Whittam show you how to prepare for your interview and enable you to show a potential employer you are the right person for the job


Imagine it is early September, you have applied for hospital pharmacy preregistration training in England or Wales* and have just found out that you have been offered an interview. Congratulations. This means your chosen hospital(s) like what they see on paper and want to meet you to find out more. If you want tips and advice on how to do well at the interview, read on …

Preparing for your interview

A good understanding of the interview process and structure will help you to prepare. Hospital pharmacy preregistration interviews in England and Wales may be conducted by a panel of interviewers from one hospital or by regional panels made up of interviewers from hospitals in a particular geographical area.

Make sure you know which type of interview you will be attending. If you are interviewed by a regional panel, some of the interviewers may not be from a hospital that you have applied to.

Most preregistration interviews are relatively short so you will need to be prepared so that you can sell yourself to the prospective employer. Remember, the more prepared you are, the more confident you should feel on the day, which could increase your chances of getting the job.

At the interview you will need to:

  • Explain clearly why you want that particular post
  • Persuade the interview panel that you have the skills and qualities for the position
  • Demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of the job role and sector

Part of your preparation should be to ensure you are knowledgeable about the job and the required qualifications, skills, qualities and attributes. You can find this information in the job description and person specification, which can be obtained from or from the hospital.

You also need to consider that you will be competing with students with the same level of qualification and experience as you. How do you ensure you stand out from the crowd? You should review your application form and think about how you can demonstrate to a potential employer you are the right person for the job.

At the interview

Now it is a few weeks later and it is the day of your interview. Make sure you know how to get to the interview venue and allow plenty of time for your journey.

If you are travelling by public transport, ensure you have enough money to pay for a cab in case there are delays. If you are driving, check the availability of parking. Always have contact numbers of the department or the person in charge of the interviews with you in case you are unavoidably delayed.

You will need to make a good impression even before you step into the interview room. Make sure your appearance is neat and professional because first impressions always count. Remember the “3 Ps”: professional, polite and punctual.

Additionally, try to relax and show your real personality. Everyone gets nervous and the interviewers are sympathetic to this. You will come across well if you appear calm despite your nerves.

Interview questions are prepared in advance and designed to enable the interviewers to compare you with other candidates. The interviewers must assess all candidates fairly and consistently so they ask all candidates the same questions, although the wording may differ slightly. See Panel 1 for common topics for interview questions.

Panel 1: Common topics for interview questions

Here are examples of questions that might be asked during the interview

  • Examples of how you have worked in a team and the skills learnt (eg, during work experience, at university or during extra curricular activities)
  • A recent pharmacy news item that has caught your attention
  • Recent pharmacy policies and guidance (eg, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines)
  • New drugs that you might have read about
  • Current issues in the NHS or in pharmacy
  • Your motivations for choosing a career in hospital pharmacy
  • Your reasons for applying to this particular hospital
  • Any work experience that you may have had and what you learnt from it; this includes pharmacy and non-pharmacy work experience
  • Accomplishments and successes that you are proud of
  • How you deal with problems. Sometimes scenarios are used for these questions (eg, a scenario of a problem or ethical dilemma and how you might deal with it)

Do not be put off if you see the panel members rapidly writing things down during the interview. The panel has to make records of the interview to ensure fairness and justify any decisions made in offering a post.

Some interviewers start by going through your application form so it is important that you remember what you wrote, especially if you wrote a different application for each hospital.

If asked about your apparent strengths and weaknesses, be honest but also market your skills. Tell the interviewers about recent successes and areas that you have improved on and how. Be enthusiastic about what you have done in the past or what you would do in this job if you were offered it.

As with an examination, answer the question you are asked. A common failing is to give a rehearsed answer without listening to the question and not actually answer the question that was asked.

If you do not understand a question, tell the interviewer or ask for clarification. It is not seen as a failure to do this and the panel can help by rewording questions. It is also acceptable to pause to think through what you want to say before answering. When you do not know the answer to a question, say so.

Keep your answers concise and to the point. It is unlikely your answers will ever need to be longer than two minutes. Also, structuring your answers with three or four main points will make life easier for the interviewing panel.

An interviewer may ask you if you are applying for other jobs. There is no need to pretend that you are not. You can say that you want to have as many options open as possible. If you like the sound of the job, certainly emphasise this.

You will usually be asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview. This is not the time to ask for information about the hospital or training programme because you should have sourced this information before your application (see Panel 2 for common interview mistakes).

Panel 2: Common interview mistakes

Be sure to avoid the following mistakes if you want to do well at the interview:

  • Unprofessional appearance or conduct
  • Unexplained lateness
  • Not asking any questions, asking inappropriate questions or interrupting the interview to ask questions
  • Lack of interest or enthusiasm
  • Lack of familiarity with what was written in the application form
  • Poor eye contact, fidgeting, fiddling with hair and clothing, etc
  • Not smiling
  • Asking for holidays before being offered the job
  • Telling the interviewers too forcibly what an asset you will be or, conversely, not showing what you can offer the employer

Further tips

Remember that employers are looking for someone who is enthusiastic about working in hospital, able to communicate well, a team player who can fit well into the department, able to prioritise tasks effectively and recognise his or her own limitations, and eager to learn, who adapts well to new situations and shows initiative.

Not all candidates will be successful at their first interview, but do not despair. Use it as a learning opportunity to develop and ask the panel for feedback on your interview.

The key to giving a good interview is to sell yourself and to show why you are right for the job. But try to show the “real you” if you can, not just someone who can learn answers to interview questions in a parrot-fashion. Whether you get the job will be as much down to your personality and enthusiasm as it will be to your skills, experience and the answers you give. Good luck!

*Applications for hospital pharmacy preregistration training in England and Wales close in late August and interviews take place in September. There is a second round in October/November to fill any remaining vacancies. More information is available from

Applications in Scotland close in early June and interviews take place in September. More information is available from

For information on preregistration training in Northern Ireland, visit

Further reading and resources

1.  The NHS Jobs website has useful information on preparing for an interview and interview technique:

2.  More detailed information on interviews and interview preparation is available on the Pharmalife website 

Helen Middleton is lead for the National Recruitment Scheme for NHS preregistration trainee pharmacists (England and Wales)

Helen Badham is senior pharmacist, preregistration pharmacist lead for the South West Region

Janet Whittam is preregistration manager at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and preregistration training facilitator for North West Region

Citation: Tomorrow's Pharmacist URI: 11020285

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  • Interview panel

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