Market Saturation: Should You Be Worried?
The following is a true story about a recent experience I had hiring a part-time pharmacist. There are several ways to interpret what you’re about to read.
Option 1: Adopt the lessons I’m about to teach to your own situation.
Option 2: Get offended and/or come up with 100 reasons for why this advice doesn’t apply to you.
I’m a “focus on what you can control” kind of guy, so I recommend Option 1.
This goes without saying, but this was one job post in one city by one hiring manager. The story that follows is my experience and not necessarily reflective of what you’ll find elsewhere.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s break down what happened with my recent job opening, and see what lessons we can learn, shall we?
Is the Pharmacist Market Saturated?
First, the background.
I am the pharmacy manager of a pharmacy at an outpatient oncology clinic. I recently posted an opening for a part-time pharmacist (20 hours per week) on Local Job Network and on Indeed.
Don’t roll your eyes, you KNOW it’d be cool to work with me.
Anyway, after receiving 49 applications in 6.5 days, I closed the posting.
Yes, that’s right.
49 applications in less than a week. For a 20 hour per week position. Granted, I live in a fairly large city (Austin, TX) — but when you read stories of how competitive the market is, this is what they’re talking about. That just sounds scary and depressing, doesn’t it?
But it’s never just about the numbers, is it? The context matters. Just like with literature evaluation, the devil is in the details.
And I’m not here to bullshit you with fear-mongering statistics to get more clicks. I’m here to tell you the real story.
So let’s dig into those numbers a little further.
For starters, I was open to entry-level applicants. I didn’t need you to be an oncology expert. In fact, I didn’t require any oncology experience at all. I’m of the “Hire the attitude, train the skills” school of thought. That opened up the applicant pool.
Next, I posted this position in the summer time. There are a LOT of people that just graduated pharmacy school or residency. This also may have increased my numbers.
And yes, the numbers are staggering. And this is where most things you read will leave it. You’re screwed. The profession is screwed. We’re all screwed.
But, there’s more.
I suspect there’s something you haven’t read in the Reddit or SDN threads. Or in other articles talking about pharmacist market saturation.
More than half of my applications were complete garbage.
Before I offend too many people, let me clarify.
YOU are not garbage. You’re a wonderful pharmacist. But your APPLICATION is garbage. And frankly, that is inexcusable in our job market.
What do I mean by “garbage” application? And how can you make sure your application isn’t garbage? I’m glad you asked.
The Other Side of Pharmacist Market Saturation
As a forewarning, I get worked up when talking about things like this. If I come across as insensitive or crass, I apologize.
I’m not trying to pick on anyone, and I’m not making fun. I’m trying to give a description of the pharmacist job market in an urban area. I want to give you an unvarnished look at what you’re up against, from the perspective of a hiring manager.
AND, most importantly, I want to prevent you from making a few seemingly innocuous (but fatal) mistakes on YOUR application.
Mistake 1: Please Fill Out the ENTIRE Job Application
7 of the 49 applications were incomplete. The applicant tried to shortcut the online application system by writing “Please see my CV for details" on several pertinent fields (job history, education, etc…).
People — I know these online applications aren’t fun, and they are SUPER redundant. It doesn’t matter.
When your application comes into my inbox, it looks incomplete, and you come across looking lazy.
Is that the first impression you want to leave?
Mistake 2: Write a Damn Cover Letter. Make Sure It’s a Good One
I’ve given this advice so many times now, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse.
Yet, many of the people competing for your job don’t get the point.
19 of the 49 applicants wrote no cover letter at all.
But it’s worse than that. 3 applicants wrote a one-sentence cover letter that read something like “I am a pharmacist with X years of experience, and I’m excited to learn about oncology.”
And on top of that, 3 applicants submitted cover letters that were for the wrong institution. Like, they obviously had written a cover letter when they applied for some previous job, but couldn’t be bothered to update even the name of the place they were applying to in the cover letter they sent to me.
If that doesn’t make a hiring manager salivate, I don’t know what will.
OK. So, send a cover letter. Check.
But what about what’s inside your cover letter?
Here’s the deal — Of the cover letters I received, most weren’t good.
Remember, your cover letter is for highlighting exemplary examples of your experiences. It’s also a place for me to see your written communication skills and to learn a bit about your personality.
Most importantly, your cover letter is the place to show me what value you bring to the table.
As much as you’d like it to be, it’s not about you. I don’t care if my pharmacy is the perfect stepping stone in the hero’s journey that is your career. I don’t care that you’ve been interested in oncology since that one super-awesome APPE rotation you had as a P4.
What do I get by hiring YOU instead of the other 48 applicants? Your cover letter is an advertisement, and you are the product. What have you done to save money/make money/improve outcomes at your previous job?
Your cover letter is NOT a place to tell me about your “extensive experience with accurate order verification.” Order verification is the bare minimum thing you can do as a pharmacist. It’s implied that if you have practice experience, you can verify orders. This skill does not belong on your cover letter.
How to Get a Job As a Pharmacist
Here’s the true state of our profession (at least as I see it):
Yes, the market is “saturated.” In terms of quantity, there are more applications for any given position than we’ve seen in recent memory.
Top performers will still get invited to interviews. Even though quantity of applicants has increased, the quality has actually decreased. A good applicant is a breath of fresh air. I sincerely mean this. Since they were so few and far between, I felt a genuine sense of relief whenever I came across a good application.
Your network is more important than ever. This is your single most important asset. Ultimately, this will have the biggest impact on your employment prospects. You’ll find out about jobs before they’re posted, and your application will be put in the “keep” pile.
If you only look at the “I received 49 applications in less than a week” aspect, your job search looks hopeless.
But if you realize that 65% of the applications I received were immediately out of the running (7 incomplete applications, 19 with no cover letter, 3 with a one-sentence cover letter, and 3 with the wrong institution on their cover letter)…
Now your prospects don’t seem quite so hopeless, do they?
In the end, I ended up contacting 6 people out of my 49 applications. That’s a much more manageable number. You just need to stand out among 5 of your peers, not 49.
So…how do you ensure you’re one of those 6?
For starters, your first impression has to be spotless.
When your application comes into my inbox, it’s like a grownup version of Goofus and Gallant.
Goofus submits an application that he clearly phoned in. He doesn’t fill in all the boxes and he makes me work by clicking through a dozen steps to get to his attached CV.
Everyone else filled out the online application. Everyone else gave me a cover letter. Goofus must be too damn important to be bothered with such details. These things are beneath him.
I bet he’ll be awesome to work with…
So, yeah, don’t be Goofus.
In the same vein, put some work into your CV and Cover Letter. Review them for spelling and grammar. Have friends look them over. Get professional help if you need it (trust me, it’s worth the cost).
And for Pete’s sake, don’t be afraid to put some personality into your Cover Letter. I need to hear the real YOU “talking” when you write a cover letter. I can’t stress how important this is.
I’m hiring your personality. I don’t care how much you know about oncology pharmacy — if you don’t fit with my team, you’re not going to last.
When you use generic jargon-y phrases like “the dynamic field of pharmacy,” or “passionate about patient-centered care,” I’m thinking one of two things:
You used a cover letter template and are trying to use million-dollar words to sound “professional”
In real life, you actually talk using generic jargon-y phrases…you’d be awful to have a conversation with
Have you ever seen the movie Dirty Dancing?
Every time you say something like “I am highly motivated by a collaborative, multi-disciplinary practice environment,” you sound kind of like Neil Kellerman.
That’s not what you want to go for.
You want to be more of the Johnny Castle (played flawlessly by Patrick Swayze) type.
And finally, start building your network NOW.
When most people think of “building your network,” they think of the following process:
Connect with a bunch of people on LinkedIn
Post your CV on LinkedIn with a blurb about how awesome and available you are
But you know better than that. That’s not networking. Networking is not about “What can I GET from these people.” It’s about “What can I GIVE to these people.”
It’s about developing relationships over months and years. It’s about you showing up, and earning the trust of your network. It’s about you contributing and providing value to your network.
Do you really think someone you just connected with on LinkedIn is going to vouch for you because you’re seeking an opportunity in ambulatory care?
So where (and how) do you develop your network?
One of the best places to start is local meetings of professional organizations. Join your local ASHP or APhA group. Actually go to the meetings. Meet and talk to people. Contribute to the discussion and to the goals of the group. Do that consistently.
BAM. Now you’ve earned the trust and respect of some of your peers. You’d be amazed at the doors this will open for you.
We’re also in the information age. There are many places to meet other pharmacists online. Find a group you’re interested in and join the discussion.
Here’s the key rule about networking — The best time to establish your network is before you need it.
If you just joined a group and you start asking everyone for favors, you come across as self-serving and desperate. But if you’re already a part of that community, people will go out of their way to help you.
Pharmacy Career Resources
Again, the intent of this article was to give you an objective look (and some tough love) on what you’re up against when you apply for a job.
Even though you’re up against a LOT of competition for a given position, most of that competition is not good. With some effort on your part, you’ll have no problem getting interviews.
You can’t “fake” this stuff. It’s pretty easy to tell in your job application if you can walk the walk.
The fastest (and easiest) way to get a job offer is to be a pharmacist that’s worth giving a job offer to. And in our small world of pharmacy, you’re going to have a hard time getting those opportunities without your network.
So start now. Start polishing your CV and cover letter now. Start meeting people and providing value now. Don’t wait until you need it.
To help you get started, you have some awesome resources at your disposal.
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