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Sometimes the apparently obvious candidate for a job in the pharmacy may not be the best choice after all, writes Séamus Ruane MPSI

Have you ever conducted an interview for a position in the pharmacy, and having had a good look at the CVs of the candidates prior to interview, almost made your mind up in advance? I clearly recall an incident many years ago where prior to interview, there was one clear winner. One candidate who, on the face of it, appeared to be head and shoulders above all others. Her CV was very impressive, all the necessary qualifications and more, lots of experience with the best on-the-job training with a leading pharmacy chain, loads of extracurricular achievements and awards. More as a box-ticking exercise, and for comparison purposes, we nonetheless decided to interview four candidates.

And then along came Lucie! No pharmacy experience, no retail experience, English as a second language, yet we were completely captivated by her ability to communicate, connect, and her level of understanding of customer service. With a sense of disbelief at what we were about to do, taking into account the amount of retail- and pharmacy-specific retraining and upskilling that would be required, we contacted the hot favourite to tell her she was not successful on this occasion, and offered the position to Lucie. In the years that followed, Lucie proceeded to become one of our most valuable and trusted members of staff, progressing to become store manager and having an infectious effect on colleagues and customers alike.

Perfect candidate

Far too often we believe that technical skills, experience, and educational level are what make for a perfect candidate, and subsequent hire. However, positive psychology and the science of wellbeing suggest that when it comes to those we interview, our employees, and indeed ourselves, we would be far better off focusing on strengths. Our strengths are, simply put, things that we are good at, and enjoy doing. Essentially, they represent how our brains are wired to perform at their best. When we get the opportunity to use our strengths on a daily basis, we feel more engaged and energised, experience higher levels of life satisfaction and wellbeing, and lower levels of stress.

I’m sure we’ve all heard of the phrase, ‘Nerves that fire together, wire together’, also known as long-term potentiation. When we repeatedly perform an action or have a particular thought pattern, the nerve pathway involved in that process is stimulated. With repeated stimulation, that nerve pathway becomes the path of least resistance, and over time these patterns or skills become an inherent part of who we are, and an expression of our true selves. They feel natural and effortless for us to use, and as a result we find them engaging and energising.


As an example, I have no doubt you can easily bring to mind a colleague whom you work with, or have worked with, who just seems gifted with people. They have a constant stream of customers and fans that all want to speak to them and them alone. They seem to know the right thing to say, at the right time, every time. People just seem to light up and open up in their presence. It goes without saying that someone with such an obvious ability and strength of excelling at social connection will feel more energised, engaged, satisfied and fulfilled in a position that involves human interaction, face-to-face customer contact, and will perform their best work when afforded the opportunity to do so.

I have no doubt you can easily bring to mind a colleague whom you work with, or have worked with, who just seems gifted with people

This is an obvious example, but it also stands true for the many strengths that all our staff, and indeed we ourselves, possess. So whether it’s love of learning, leadership, creativity, or curiosity, strengths can be our multiplier. When we assign work that aligns to people’s strengths, we have a situation where everyone is doing more of what they do best at work, and as a result, performance improves.

When we have the opportunity to use our strengths at work, we have a more positive work experience and boost our performance, our satisfaction, and our wellbeing at work. Obviously, the first step is to know what our strengths are. There are various surveys and questionnaires online that help us identify our unique strengths. I recommend the VIA Strengths Survey ( as a great introduction to the topic for you and your team. Over 11 million people worldwide have taken this scientific survey, and the website is rich with information on how to discover, explore, and apply your strengths and those of your colleagues.

If nothing else, completing the survey will give you a list of words that describes what is right about you. At its most powerful, being aware of your strengths, and those with whom you work, and actively spotting them in each other, can change conversations, cultures, attitudes, and relationships.

Some questions for you to consider:

  • Would it be helpful to know your strengths, and those of your colleagues and team?
  • When was the last time you arrived into work looking for strengths in your colleagues or in yourself?
  • How could it change interactions between team members if they spotted strengths in each other?
  • Could you allocate roles within the pharmacy that align to people’s strengths?
  • What would happen if you looked for strengths in someone with whom you have challenges?

If you would like to work with Séamus to boost your level of wellbeing or that of your team, he can be contacted at Tel: 087-2274108 or email