Episode 49

PGP Fundamentals: Being a Standout Candidate Part 1

This episode is all about becoming a standout candidate for pharmacy residency. Joining us is Dr. Elizabeth Hearn, assistant professor and creator/host of the "Pharm5 Podcast." We'll explore essential strategies to set you apart in the competitive world of post-graduate training.

Questions we discuss:

  • Key factors that make a candidate stand out.
  • The role of grades in residency applications.
  • Importance of leadership experiences and approaching them strategically.
  • Maximizing the value of work experiences.
  • Significance of research experience for residency applicants.
  • Leveraging extracurricular activities to enhance your profile.
  • Balancing aspects within and beyond a candidate's control.
  • Selecting recommenders who can provide valuable insights.
  • Maintaining professionalism and effective communication.
  • The power of networking and building connections.
  • Authentic ways to stand out in your applications.
  • Final thoughts and advice for aspiring residency candidates.

This episode's take-aways:

  • Aim for a competitive GPA (around 2.75 to 3.0), balancing grades with other experiences.
  • Prioritize quality leadership roles over quantity.
  • Part-time work and small-scale research projects can make a difference.
  • Authenticity matters; be yourself and use social media professionally.
  • Building connections and networking can open unexpected opportunities.
  • Resilience and determination are as important as a perfect application.

What should you do now?

  • Reflect on your experiences and consider areas where you can grow.
  • Start building connections with mentors, peers, and colleagues.
  • Embrace authenticity and showcase your personality on professional platforms.

What should you do later?

  • Gradually build your application, focusing on clear organization and proofreading.
  • Carefully select recommenders who can provide specific insights.
  • Use social media for networking and stay informed about programs.

Check out our website and sign-up to join the SASO (separate and stand out) squad. Check out our blog. If you like the show, support us by telling your friends or colleagues about it. You can also support us by clicking the coffee button on the website and buying us a cup of coffee or getting yourself some of our premium merch.

Follow us on twitter @PGPharmacist or on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn @ThePostGraduatePharmacist. What questions did we not answer? What did you think of the show?

Music | "Sweet" by LiQWYD

Watch: https://youtu.be/eIYlaVPdNYM

License: https://www.liqwydmusic.com/how-to-use

Download/Stream: https://hypeddit.com/link/un7fp7


So you might think about it, and it's a lot different than just being simply qualified for postgraduate training. Since it's such an important topic, we're gonna break it down into two separate episodes. So I'm excited that we get to bring a special guest for both of those episodes to help talk about this today.

ce Center at Fort Worth, and [:

Elizabeth, tell us about your postgraduate journey that kind of brought you here today. And more importantly, tell us all about your podcast. Well, sure. I am a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy. I also completed PGY one Community and PGY two ambulatory care training there. So Ole Miss, they couldn't get rid of me.

Uh, but that's where I really discovered my love for ambulatory care and teaching. So now I'm an assistant professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. Um, here at H SC I practice in outpatient clinic, mainly serving uninsured low-income patients. But one of my favorite hobbies is that they've, let me start my own podcast, like you said.

So it's a once weekly [:

You see what I did there, but everybody just make sure to check out the Pharm five podcast. It's a great, just quick, informative podcast. We'll link it in the show notes below. Um, and it's available on all major podcasting apps. So, being a standout residency candidate in this first episode of the series, I kind of wanna focus on everything leading up to.

raduate training. So what do [:

You know, I think first off, it is important to just consider residency in general. 'cause it, it's such an opportunity to continue learning and growing and once you've made up your mind to do that now, how do we make you stand out? Well, you know, remember, residency programs get anywhere from a couple dozen to a few hundred applicants, so that's why we need to talk about how to stand out from the crowd.

And so once you've. Picked out the programs that you're applying to. You know, what they have to offer, what makes them enticing, why they're a good fit for you. Um, and now you need to show off the same thing to them like they know nothing about you. What do you have to offer? What makes you an enticing applicant and why are you a good fit for them?

top choices. So it's always [:

Yeah. Some of the, some of the larger programs that are more popular, if you will, are still getting the same number of applications, so, It's important to be thinking about if that's a place that you want to go to. I definitely agree. But what do you think it means to stand out? What does that entail? Well, you know, standing out has lots of different facets.

I do a lot of mentorship here at the University of North Texas, and I kind of tell my same, the same spiel to all my mentors. So I wanna share it with y'all. Uh, I think there are really five key areas to consider as an applicant. First, your grades. Second, your leadership experience. Third, your work experience, then your research experience and your extracurricular experience.

n all of those categories. I [:

It's not expected that you have a 4.0 g p a and it's really not even commonplace to have a 4.0 g p a. Um, so that's really where grades gets you. Next is leadership. You know, I really. Challenge students, uh, to, to not take on more than maybe three leadership positions at a time. You don't wanna spread yourself too thin.

You don't wanna appear uncertain in what you're interested in. So you don't necessarily have to have a presidency, a presidency or a extreme leadership position within that organization. But even just chairing a committee or something kind of lower stress would still be impressive. Um, so grades and then leadership.

I think is impressive. On my [:

But full-time work is not expected. Research experience doesn't have to be extensive. Even just a quality improvement project is gonna look great on an application. And then extracurriculars, just join a few clubs, make a few friends, volunteer a little bit here and there. Um, it doesn't even have to be pharmacy related.

I think that's where applicants get kind of hung up. You know, it could be involved in your community. You could be in a rec league sports team. You could volunteer at your church. Um, so trying to be kind of well-rounded and not spreading yourself too thin. Is my main recommendation there. Yeah, you just gave us so many nuggets.

hat there, there probably is [:

Nationally known mega pharmacists out there. Sometimes they're just in a single organization and they've dedicated like the majority of their service to a single organization. Like they're not in 20 different organizations and all these leadership roles, they're just, they're keyed in and focused. So it's not a bad thing to just focus on one or focus on two and to really apply yourself to that versus spreading yourself too thin like you were saying.

to some extent. I mean, you [:

Absolutely. So, kind of moving on, thinking about some of these different factors, what are, what things would you say are in, um, the candidate's control and what things are out of the candidate's control? What things should they be thinking about that they can control? Well, you know, those five kind of areas we just talked about are certainly in control of the candidate, especially those who just started pharmacy school.

your control is how neat and [:

Having it turned in on time. That's really important. You know, please, for all those good, all those holy, please have multiple people proofread everything that you're gonna upload. Um, consider your rec letter writers. Even like an informal mentor or a friend, just to proofread those things. So triple checking, all the spelling, formatting, um, that's a simple way that you can kind of control how you're gonna be perceived online.

Your rec letter writers are also in your control somewhat. Now, you really can't control what they're gonna say, but, uh, be sure you're asking someone who knows you well to write your rec letter. I mean, having the highest ranking leader write you a letter may not be in your favor the way that you think it is.

g ago, and it really kind of [:

Um, this survey was published in 2020. It said that over 90% of RPDs. Won't concrete specific details of the student's experience in the rec letter, but said that they're only included in about half of the rec letters they receive. So only someone who knows you well will be able to provide that level of detail that RPDs are actually looking for in a rec letter.

So that's in your control. Choose someone who knows you well Now things that are out of your control. Um, There are gonna be things that you can't control. You can't control what's been done in the past. You may look back at your CV and regret, you know, not working enough or making a C in one course. You can beat yourself up all day and worry yourself to death, but we can't change it.

metimes you truly may do all [:

I think you and Taylor would be best friends. Proofread, proofread, proofread. It makes such a difference. Like you, you wouldn't even realize how many times just a spelling error can look. You look past it, you know, you've read it a hundred million times and right there is a spelling error that you didn't notice, so anybody can pick that up.

I think another thing you can't control if you run for an office and don't get elected, you know, that's obviously outta your control. Thinking about other opportunities that might come available, like you mentioned earlier, serving on a committee and volunteering for those, I think that's gonna give you just as much leadership experience compared to.

s that you originally sought [:

If you do try something and don't, it doesn't work out the way you wanted it to. Showing that perseverance of, well, I'm gonna stay in this organization, I'm just gonna find a committee to join, or, um, another leadership position. It really shows resilience that residency programs are looking for in candidates.

I'm not saying we need to like, Change cvs, but it makes me want to add something to a CV that's like learning experiences because we should be capturing those moments where you applied. For the presidency or vice president or a chair position, you went through the process. You, you know, was voted on and you didn't get it.

g. I'm not saying we need to [:

Yeah. And it could be something that you capture like in a letter of intent or in a cover letter. Yeah. Um, so there, I think there could be opportunity to bring that up on your application without, you know, even if you can't put it on your resume. Yeah, that's what I was thinking of, how to, how to wordsmith it in there.

Uh, that might be good, especially if you were successful later on, you could say, you know, I don't give up. I think that's a common misconception I've seen with a lot of the students I've been mentoring through residency is that letter of intent. You know, you are writing to express your intent in the program.

overcame a challenge, that's [:

So what are the low hanging fruit or just like the easy, easy fixes? Easy changes versus the more labor intensive areas that candidates can work on. Well, sure. I think a low hanging fruit, uh, I've kind of touched on it already, is to be really professional in your communication when you're reaching out to programs, even residents, you should address your emails with formal greetings, formal salutations always address people by their formal titles like doctor and use an email signature.

I mean, these are just small details that really make you appear polished and put together, and it's a sign of respect to whomever you're working with too. Another low hanging fruit to me is really building connections. You know, if you're at work or in school, especially while you're on rotation, you need to take some time to get to know the people around you.

that you can get along with [:

You may end up in an elevator with someone at a pharmacy conference and it could turn out to be a residency program director. So just that small talk is really great, um, for low hanging fruit Now. It is pretty labor intensive to get the experience, um, that I recommended earlier, like good grades work experience.

So that's why starting early would reduce kind of that pressure and it is labor intensive to narrow down which programs you wanna apply to. The residency program directory that's available online is a great way to start kind of narrowing down those programs. And I really think you shouldn't be afraid to follow programs on social media when you have that possibility.

in. Labor intensive would be [:

'cause it can take a little bit more time than you expect. I think you, like, you hit the nail on the head when you said start early. With all these things, if you can have kind of a plan of attack with all of the different areas, you could potentially bolster your application in multiple areas, not just, you know, one or, or or so.

ar or during, uh, your a p p [:

So being intentional and kind of having a plan in place if you start early, can really help relieve some of the stress and pressure on, on. Bolstering your application in a lot of these areas. And then last question we wanna throw out there is how do you brand yourself or sell yourself? Well, that's a great question.

I think, uh, applicants can choose to brand or sell themselves however they see fit, but I think the most obvious one here is through social media. Of course, if you don't wanna filter your personal Twitter, Instagram page, so just make a separate one. Have a professional page that's public facing for programs to see.

You can show off your headshot, you can follow programs you're interested in, and it can really keep you plugged in. Especially like during covid, a lot of programs started hosting virtual info sessions during residency season, and these primarily get publicized through social media, so it gives you the opportunity to stay in touch with what programs have to offer outside of the more formal.

Residency [:

So on applications and cvs, you should still use the kind of more traditional fonts like Ariel Calibri. Use black ink, use standard margins. Uh, your personal thoughts and opinions can really be saved for the letter of intent or even during the interview process. Um, thinking about business cards, you know, instead of curly, colorful fonts on your business card, you could maybe put a QR code back to your social media page and using your social media page really to let your personality shine there instead.

ppear somewhat professional. [:

Uh, you shouldn't have social media. Make sure your social media's on lockdown. Yeah. Try to hide everything to like, very quickly. We've grown to where it's like encouraged to have it. Just like you were saying. And I a hundred percent agree. It's like, yeah, oh yeah. You should have that. And can say, oh, like, oh, they've got a thousand followers on here.

Let's pull, let's get them interviewed. Yeah. You know, so I lo like, I love how we've accepted it and um, and encourage it. I still haven't seen it on a cv, though. I haven't seen anybody put their Twitter handle on a CV yet. One day I, I saw something floating around social media the other day about. How to put social media on your CV and things like that.

s, keep us updated for sure. [:

Be yourself. Don't change who you are to try to make face with, you know, the other programs or what you think that you should be. So that would be kind of my, you know, key advice here when you're trying to sell yourself. Love it. So, Elizabeth, any last minute advice you wanna leave the SASO squad with when it comes to being a standout candidate?

Leading up to the application process? Well, of course, you know, I do wanna say there's, there's a difference between being a perfect candidate and being a standout candidate. Nobody is gonna be perfect. If you were perfect, there'd be no reason for you to even do residency because it's really meant to be a time of growth and personal improvement.

So remember that you can be [:

You know, it's a great, great source of current UpToDate information. Listen to it on all major podcasting apps. Elizabeth, it was great having you on the show today. Thank you so much. Thank you, Sean. Thank you Taylor for having me and best of luck to all the potential residents out there.

If you want to continue to hear UpToDate topics from us and our guests, please like and subscribe. You can listen to us for free on your favorite podcast app and check out our show notes below to see links and highlights of the episode. And remember, you can separate and stand out.

About the Podcast

Show artwork for The Post-Graduate Pharmacist
The Post-Graduate Pharmacist
Expert advice on how to get a pharmacy residency, fellowship, or other post-graduate training experience

About your host

Profile picture for Sean Smithgall

Sean Smithgall

Assistant Clinical Professor at Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy. Completed a PGY1 pharmacotherapy residency at Geisinger Medical Center and a PGY2 ambulatory care residency at East Tennnessee State University, Gatton College of Pharmacy. Interests include family medicine, post-graduate training preparation, and making podcasts.