If you want the best Veterinary Candidates, you must have these 5 essentials…
We asked our worldwide network of over 308,000 veterinary professionals a simple open-ended question; “If you were fortunate enough to have two job offers where the salary, benefits, and location were similar, what other things would influence your choice?”. As you can imagine, the answers were wonderfully diverse!
For some, it was cookies at morning tea, whilst others could be persuaded by team massages, and one very creative answer was in regards to the artwork in the practice. However, when we started to assemble the data, we quickly began to identify five themes that stood out above snacks, kneading fingers and paintbrushes…
1 – Work-Life Balance
Veterinary practice has traditionally been associated with long hours, physically and mentally challenging work and potentially high levels of stress. With an increasing social awareness of issues such as burnout and compassion fatigue, veterinary professionals are seeking roles where they can achieve Work+Life balance, in order to protect their mental and physical health in the long term.
With almost half of vet job vacancies taking six months or more to fill, there is a relative undersupply of veterinary professionals. Attracting and retaining talented candidates, therefore, requires more than just a friendly advertisement promoting a flexible and family-friendly culture. To stand out, practices need to actually demonstrate a working environment, daily schedule, and roster that are actively structured to support and encourage Work+Life Balance for staff.
It has to be more than just talk. Defined break times, regular reviews of hours, external team activities for fun, not just CE – those are the practical things I look for in determining whether a practice is genuinely interested in helping me maintain my work/life balance – Maria T, Veterinary Technician
What does this mean for a practice seeking new team members? Clinics and hospitals need to demonstrate three key elements to convey the commitment to Work+Life Balance:
- Show that days and shifts are structured to provide genuine breaks and that they are adhered to
- Demonstrate a willingness to actively support Work+Life balance by finding out what this means to each particular candidate (e.g. fewer days, shorter shifts, parental leave opportunities), and discussing how the practice can work to accommodate this where possible
- Establish an ongoing, open dialogue between staff members and management regarding any personal issues and changing roster requirements
2 – Team Likeability
Whilst there is a recognized shortage of veterinarians and experienced veterinary nurses and techs, actual staff longevity in the veterinary world is in the top 10% of all the professions. This means that in general, people spend longer in each job and with each practice, so it makes sense that the likeability of the team is prioritized so highly.
In general, most veterinary professionals are seeking a friendly, collaborative team environment, with a good (professional) sense of humor amongst the team also being a plus!
I am likely committing to several years with these guys so it is important that I like them, and they like me. Rapport takes time to develop but you can sense if you are going to gel pretty quickly – Hannah F, Associate Veterinarian
In order to practically demonstrate team likeability in your job advertisement, it can help to include a quote from one of your long-term team members that talks about how long they have been there and why they have stayed, e.g.:
Ever since I joined four years ago, I have had every opportunity to provide best practice care and to work with an awesome team. My skills and abilities have grown through real CE and mentorship from the leadership team.
3 – Commitment to Continuing Education
Continuing Education, also known as Continuing Professional Development, is a highly-valued commodity for veterinary professionals. Most vets seek to continually build upon their existing knowledge and skills, and particularly value opportunities to enroll in CE/CPD courses involving practical workshops. And, given this will grow your candidates’ talents to help build the strongest team for your practice, you should too!
Being able to demonstrate a track record of supporting and investing in high-quality CE/CPD can seriously influence a candidate’s choice of employer.
Just saying that they provide paid CE leave or a stipend isn’t enough. We all know or have heard of practices that don’t make it easy to use CE benefits. I always ask one of the team when they last went to a CE event and how they reply is usually a good indicator – Marc S, Emergency Veterinarian
A simple way for a practice to display a commitment to CE/CPD is to keep a schedule of Continuing Education expenses under a separate account code in your accounts. Print this information out each quarter, and be prepared to show it to candidates during your discussions and interviews.
The CE/CPD benefits on offer can be further maximized by developing a system whereby staff who attend events are encouraged to give a short, informal presentation to their colleagues afterward, e.g. sharing their “Top 3 things [they] learned” at their course.
4 – Quality of Medicine Provided
This seems like a given, but it is interesting that it ranked fourth in priority behind Work+Life Balance, Team Likeability, and Commitment to Continuing Education.
As generally diligent, empathetic people, veterinarians, in particular, seek a practice that consistently delivers a high standard of patient care and owner interaction. However, team members in all roles expressed a desire to join an up-to-date practice with high-quality protocols.
In the end, you want to work in a hospital that gets results for patients and owners so the quality of medicine and surgery has to be right up there. Up-to-date team knowledge and protocols that are established, documented and adhered are my benchmarks – Tiffany J, Medical Director
One of the easiest ways to demonstrate this quality to potential new team members is to establish monthly Case Study Meetings. Each month, ask one team member to write up an interesting case that they were involved in, or to find an interesting medical or surgical case article in a journal and summarise the key points briefly during a team meeting. The case notes or articles can then be collated into a folder that you take into your interviews to show candidates at the relevant moment.
This is a very simple but effective way to show that your practice “walks the walk” when it comes to delivering quality veterinary medicine throughout the organization.
5 – Online Practice Reviews
This was somewhat of a surprise initially, but when you consider today’s busy online world full of posts, tweets, and reviews about almost everything, it starts to make sense.
When a candidate is considering a veterinary clinic job vacancy, they will inevitably investigate that clinic’s social media presence, including client reviews of the clinic.
I know reviews can be fudged and there is always the odd disgruntled customer but if the trend and sentiment in reviews is broadly in line with my discussions during the interview process that’s good. If there is a divergence between what I can read online and what I am being told, I certainly take that into consideration – Robert G, Veterinary Nurse
It’s a good overall marketing strategy to implement a process that encourages customers to comment and post feedback positively about your veterinary practice – whether it be on Facebook, Instagram, or via Google reviews – and ensure that you respond to every review or comment in a positive and professional manner (even the negative ones). It’s also important to consistently keep your clinic’s website and Facebook content up-to-date and client-friendly, and ensure the website is well-structured and easy to navigate.
So, what does this all mean?
When searching for your next team member, your job ad copy should mention these five key elements:
Join our talented and friendly team and help us deliver quality, best practice Veterinary Medicine. Our commitment to Continuing Education and our focus every day on ensuring a genuine Work+Life balance delivers great outcomes for our patients and clients as demonstrated in our reviews online.
During interviews, you should proactively raise these themes, and discuss further how your clinic can personally support positive outcomes in each area.
Combine these five elements together with a solid salary and benefits offer, and you’ll have a prescription for attracting top candidates to your veterinary team, for the long-term growth and benefit of your practice.
In other words; snacks or no snacks, you’ll be the pick of the litter!
This survey was first conducted over a four-week period in early Q4 2020 via Facebook and LinkedIn Polls and refreshed in Q1 2022. There were over 1,100 valid responses worldwide to both surveys, which we believe provides a solid sample base upon which to draw the commentary and conclusions included in this post.
Sources and reference materials:
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