The Interviewer’s Guide to Hiring Your Vet Clinic’s New Superhero
Congratulations! You’ve received a modest stack of resumes from well-qualified candidates for your open position. You’ve narrowed down your choices to three or four favourites. You’ve got interviews lined up, and you’re anxious to find “the one”.
While we always imagine job applicants to be nervous about their interviews, you too might feel a little trepidation. After all, you’ve had to put considerable effort into making your position and your clinic attractive to job-seekers, given that experienced vets and veterinary nurses are hard to come by.
You’d be correct if you’ve figured out that job interviews work both ways. Here’s how you can make the whole process work to everyone’s advantage.
Adopt a Big Picture Approach
Before anything else, you’ll want to remind yourself of your goals when choosing a new hire. Your new employee will be a part of your team, and the right skills mean nothing if their attitude, work ethic, and personality don’t mesh with your clinic’s culture. You’ve got a limited time to make your assessment while putting forward an accurate representation of what the candidates will be getting themselves into so there aren’t any surprises on either end.
Employee turnover is costly in both time and money, so you want your new hire to “stick”.
Prepare In Advance
Don’t go into the interview cold. If you’re short on staff, you might make the excuse that you’re too busy to do your due diligence, but if you blow these steps you’ll regret it down the line.
Review their resume and cover letter
Your candidate will have listed and described their qualifications on their application documents, as well as some personal details that relate who they are as a living, breathing human being. Your interview will be a chance to allow the candidate to expand on these as well as help you construct a more informative interview plan.
Make a list of questions
At the risk of stating the obvious, you’re going to want to develop a set of questions for your interviewee, and we recommend that you encourage the rest of your staff to volunteer their input. Each of your employees has their own ideas of who will fit, and who won’t.
- Be aware of questions which may violate their rights.
- Think of questions as prompts, encouraging the interviewee to take a free-form approach to their answers. Often, giving candidates the floor and keeping your own mouth shut leaves them inclined to fill the “vacuum” of silence.
- Pay attention to key elements of their responses so you can ask follow-up questions.
- Go here for inspiration for some great interview questions, but tailor them to the role you expect your candidate to fill at your clinic.
Break up the interview by asking a few anecdotal questions, couched in a lighthearted manner:
- “What do you like about our town/city/region? Do you see yourself building a life here? (Especially important for clinics in smaller cities and towns).”
- “What’s the craziest day you’ve had at work?” (Followed by, “How did you think you handled yourself?”)
- “What’s the most frustrating interaction you’ve ever had with a client?”
Remember that their words only tell half the story. Do they seem genuine? Are they enthusiastic when they talk about their career or past experiences? Do they sound arrogant, judgemental, or condescending? How well are they interpreting your own tone and attitude?
How to Structure the Interview
There’s no hard and fast rule for how long an interview should last, nor are there any rules by which you should follow, other than to let the candidate know how much time they should set aside. Even if you’re hiring a receptionist, this isn’t an office job and your interaction shouldn’t be limited to a half hour sitting across a desk from one another. (Do you even have a desk? That involves sitting down, and chances are, you’re not familiar with that activity.)
Remember your goals? Now’s the time to figure out if the candidate can help you reach them.
Greeting your candidate
Your applicant will likely show up at least ten minutes before their appointment, so be ready well in advance…but let them hang out in the waiting room for a few minutes to ground themselves and get their bearings. You’ll also get a chance to find out if and how they interact with your front desk staff and clients.
When it’s time to begin the interview, come out to the waiting room and greet them in a friendly manner. Remember, whether they’re applying to clean kennels or to become your associate veterinarian, they’ll be a member of your team. You want them to feel welcome, respected, and comfortable.
Give them the grand tour
Your sit-down Q&A session should only be the first part of the interview. Try to limit it to 20 or 30 minutes, followed by a tour of your facilities. Introduce your candidate to your staff as a prospect for the position, and let the candidate observe if there are any procedures or patient examinations in process.
Your ideal candidate will be confident and curious; be sure to let them know that they’re free to ask questions about your clinic’s equipment and policies. If the candidate’s predecessor is still on staff, and if it’s appropriate, invite the two to take a few moments to discuss the position and all its ups and downs. You’ll want to prep your outgoing staff member so they, too, can prepare some talking points.
Wrapping It Up
You don’t want to send the candidate on their way after they’ve just finished watching your most talented nurse express a Schipperke’s anal glands. You’ll want to bookend your interview with another quick round of questions…sort of like an informal exit poll. But you want to frame this “epilogue” as an opportunity for the candidate to ask questions of their own, and ideally, they’ll have a lot. Remember:
- You don’t want an employee who is apathetic or desperate enough to take “just any job”.
- If they’re confident and passionate, they’ll want to be sure your clinic is aligned with their own goals.
- You may have taken note of various responses, verbalised or exhibited through body language, during the day that you might want to explore.
This is a good time to ask if they see themselves being a good fit…and why.
If you haven’t previously disclosed the position’s salary or hourly rates, or if the candidate hasn’t asked, you’ll need to decide whether you want to bring up the subject now or make an offer after you and your staff have had a chance to compare notes on the prospect.
Most prospective Vets and Vet Nurses will expect some sort of practical assessment of their technical skills, team contribution and client communications. Some employers prefer to do this on the same day whilst others prefer to schedule another day – there is no hard and fast rule, except that you should let the potential new team member know your preference prior to the interview.
If your candidate is a dream come true, you might not want to let them get away. If you feel the interview went exceptionally well, do let them know. Either way, give them a time frame in which they can expect a response. They should respect your plan to incorporate your staff into the decision-making process, as well as you needing to know the results of the skills assessment.
Nailing Down Your “Neo“
Has everyone on staff agreed on your clinic’s next prodigy? Then don’t let him or her get away. As soon as you’ve made a decision, make that phone call.
But don’t ditch the backup resumes just yet. While your top candidates may have passed muster with flying colours, any self-respecting veterinarian or nurse will want to think over your offer and consider how well your clinic will enhance their own professional life and career goals.
Once everyone is on the same page, you and your candidate be destined for success and a mutually-inspired professional partnership!
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