Going to a job interview can be a stressful experience, but it can also be fun and exciting! The more you practice and prepare, the more fun and exciting it is! KICK ASS VETS will outline some interview guidelines to help you not only take the stress out of the experience, but will knock your potential employer’s socks off!
Two sheep looking at one another, mouths open
Preparing yourself for a job interview will help remove nerves, and will help you sound professional and organized, instead of babbling along like a flock of sheep!
Interview The Clinic Right Back
When you are in a job interview, especially in today’s veterinary market, you are interviewing the clinic just as much as they are interviewing you, if not more! It is very important to make sure you go into the interview with questions of your own. Critically think about what is important to you in a work-place, and make sure you ask questions until you are satisfied that you have your answers.

The second important reason to ask questions is to show your employer that you care about your workplace and want to ensure you are a good fit. This not only will show your employer that you value yourself enough to make sure you pick the right job, but it will ‘steal’ some of the control to your side when it comes to salary negotiations.
From the second you walk into a clinic you need to display an attitude of confidence, even if you don’t feel it! Acting timid or unsure of yourself won’t get you far with clients, and it won’t get you far in a negotiation! Showing confidence, even if you don’t feel it, is a skill that is essential but also one that can be practiced. So practice being confident and showing confidence, as that will translate to your potential employer that you will show confidence to your clients, and be able to ‘sell’ needed interventions.
First impressions are important, therefore your appearance is important. Your attire is part of this, but more important is your eye-contact, your posture, your demeanour.
Your interview starts the moment you walk in the door, and if the receptionist can see into the parking lot, it starts when you get out of your car. Any good clinic will ensure that the whole team likes the person they have hired, so your eye-contact, your friendly nature, your respect for others, etc., starts with the first person you meet which is often the receptionist. How you sit in the reception while waiting to be met for your interview matters. You want to have an air of confidence, but also a friendly nature. Try to not be a robot, be yourself, but your best self!
Clothing should be clean, professional, but also malleable enough that if a GDV walks through the door and all hands are needed, you can jump in and help! Heels look nice, but are they practical? That depends on your ability to walk in them, for me, they are NOT.
Meerkat standing up straight with reflection in glass.
Watching and practicing your posture, your facial expressions and overall appearance in a mirror is important in prepping for any interview.
Arrive On-Time
This goes without saying. Being late for your interview gives the impression that you're not interested in the job. If it appears you don't care enough to arrive on time. It will be assumed you're unlikely to be showing up to work on time in the future. Save the fashion of being late for parties.
The Nitty Grittys
SOLID HANDSHAKE: This may seem traditional, but it's usually accompanied by eye contact and a smile, so it's an important starting point. Practice having a solid handshake that isn’t weak, but isn’t a death-grip either.
SMILE AND EYE CONTACT: Smiling in interviews and eye-contact are important. This shows that you are engaged in the conversation, you have the confidence to meet your employer eye-to-eye, and by smiling you are being friendly. At the end of the day, most employers would rather work with someone friendly and they get along with, then the person that got a 10% higher average in school.
POSTURE: Posture is always important, too hunched appears lazy and childish, too tight feels inorganic. Practice sitting and talking while looking in a mirror to see how you look.
BE SELF-AWARE: Individuals having a regulated emotional response to stresses or surprises are perceived as being less anxious. KICK ASS VETS recommends having prepared statements to the typical expected questions, and to be self-aware of your emotional responses. This will help you appear more calm and collected, which is a needed skill as a veterinarian. Try asking your friends and teachers how you are perceived.
Let's Get Personal
A few years into practice I was working an emergency shift and I had a snail bait toxicity arrive seizing, in which we were just getting an IV catheter and actively cooling, when a 5 month old DOA Shar-Pie arrived. We started CPR and at that moment a status epilepticus dog arrived. I was directing my nurses on how to treat the snail bait toxicity, while performing compressions and running the CPR, while also directing my other nurses on what to do with the seizing epileptic.

It is very important to mention here that I was very fortunate to be working with AMAZING nurses that needed little direction. However being the only vet on duty, all major decisions were in my hands.

We got the seizing patients under control, and performed (unfortunately unsuccessfully, the poor puppy had probably been dead for 5min or so) CPR efficiently.

One of our assistants who was also a vet student later asked me, “How did you keep so calm during all of that?”, to which I responded “I was freaking out on the inside, but when you are in control you need to stay calm and collected in order to effectively lead your staff.” I was stressed, I was scared, I was freaking out, but I managed to keep it together enough to fool my staff into thinking I had everything under control. This allowed the staff to perform their tasks quickly and effectively.

I don't tell this story to brag, but to highlight the importance of being able to control and regulate the emotional response that you protray to others.
Format of a Typical Interview:
KICK ASS VETS will describe what a ‘typical’ interview will look like, and go over the common questions you might be asked, so that you can prepare answers to come off in the best way possible.
Tour & Introductions
Tour Bus
Buckle up! Starting off your interview there is usually the clinic whirlwhind tour where you will meet all the staff and see the premesis.
Most interviews typically start with a tour of the facility which includes introduction to the staff. You will be shown around, including diagnostic tools, the surgical suite, the kitchen (and how often cake is provided), etc. Pay attention during your walk around and ask any questions you might have such as: which tests can be run in house, what anaesthetic monitoring tools they have, what surgical tools are present, etc. My common questions include ability to measure BP, ETCO2, and if suction is present.

Don't worry about asking too many questions because if your potential employer doesn’t want to answer these questions during your tour, is this a place you want to work?
The Sit-Down Interview:
After the tour you will likely be led to an office/closed area where the next step of your interview will occur. Usually the following is included:
The Clinic Explanation:
Your potential employer/manager will briefly describe the job description, how the clinic runs, and reasons why their ‘work family’ is the best. This is their chance to make you really want to work at that clinic. This is where they ‘sell’ themselves to you.
“Tell me about Yourself”
Most interviewers will at some point ask an open ended question where you are asked to ‘tell your story’. If you are unprepared for this question it can be hard to determine what to say, and can leave you blushing, flustered, and off your game for the rest of the interview. This is a great place to really show off how amazing you are, how calm and collected and organized you are.
KICK ASS VETS recommends a brief, approximately 2min long, statement that you have memorized that highlights your best qualities, skills, experiences. This is your first opportunity to really stand out from other applicants. Focus mainly on your veterinary experience however briefly mentioning any serving/bartending/reception jobs, travel experience, or any athletic/musical/extracurricular activity that you have excelled in is worth-while. This shows you are a well-rounded and motivated individual. Practice this statement so you can deliver it without ‘ums’ or ‘ahhs’.
Other Common Questions:
There are a few other common questions that interviewers like to ask, so having prepared situations/statements for these can be handy.
“Tell me about a time when you…
‘had a conflict with a colleague and how you resolved it’
‘had a difficult client/case and how you dealt with it’
“Where do you see yourself in 2 (or 5) years?”
“Do you have any particular interests that you would like to pursue/would like us to support you with?”
“Do you have any areas that you feel you need support with?”
“Working in this industry can be difficult, do you have coping mechanisms in place to help you?”
“Why are you interested in working with our organization?”
“Why are you switching jobs?”
And all too often in this profession: “When would you be able to start?”
Clear, concise, and organized answers are best. Do your best to not ramble. Your interviewer will let you finish telling your story, so don’t wait for them to cut you off. Once you are done your answer, just stop talking. Practice this with friends!

Avoid criticizing or talking down any other vet, clinic, organization, etc. The vet world is very small, you never know who is friends with whom. Phrase your answers to be very diplomatic. “It wasn’t a good fit for me” or “I am looking for …opportunities to grow academically/a different environment/a change of pace/ etc…” are good ways to not criticize a clinic but diplomatically imply that you didn’t have a good experience. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all!
Your Questions for the Clinic
After answering the clinics questions, you will often be asked if you have any questions. Even if you aren’t asked, you should at some point make sure you ask your questions. As mentioned above, this is a very important factor, as it shows confidence, sways some power your way, and shows the clinic that you are determined to find a good fit! You can ask about CPD/CE, mentorship, scheduling, diagnostics, directions the clinic plans on going in the future, etc. Anything that is important to you, you should ask about!
The Salary Question
Pile of coins with a plant on top
Money doesn't grow on trees, but by preparing for your interview you can watch your starting salary grow!
The clinic at some point will discuss salary, and this you must be prepared for. No matter how the question is put forth, you want to have a clear, concise, organized response, outlining why you are awesome and what salary you would like. This should be approximately 30seconds-1min long.
Your offer will most likely come in one of two formats:
1. “We can offer you ____”,
Your Response: “Thank you for your offer, however because of (your justification here) I feel that (your salary request here) would be a fair starting salary”.
2. “What were you thinking in terms of salary?”
Your Response: “I have thought about this, and I feel that due to (your justification here) that (your salary request here) would be a fair starting salary”.
Once you have finished your statement, JUST BE QUIET. Silence will show confidence and worth. Continuing to talk often results in ‘rambling’ and negotiating yourself down, as well as demonstrating a lack of confidence in the validity of your offer.
“Due to my experience working in clinics previously in both assistant and reception roles, my technical skills are above average as are my client communications skills; especially in regards to discussing finances. For these reasons I feel that I will be a valuable asset to your team in terms of client communication, finances, and patient care, and a starting salary of _______________ would be fair.”
Arguments for a justification for a higher salary include previous skills or experiences, location (rural, higher cost of living, undesirable state, etc), out-of-hours, emergencies, weekends/evenings/holidays, sole charge, etc.
Please see our Negotiation Tactics blog for a more in-depth look at negotiations.
Unlike in school, there is no right or wrong answer to any of the questions you might encounter. You ultimately want to find the best fit for you and the clinic, so make sure you are honest and yourself.

That being said, you do want to put your best foot forward! By preparing for your interview you will not only go into the interview with more confidence and will very likely be able to negotiate a higher starting salary, but you will start your career with respect and confidence from your colleagues and employers.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to have mock interviews, and to practice. I still practice before any interview!
If you are having trouble nailing down what to say, how to form your ‘justification phrases’ or are just super nervous, you can always sign up for KICK ASS Consulting where I will help you determine what to highlight, prepare your answers, and practice your interview.
Written by Dr. Ann Herbst BSc, DVM

Published October 1st, 2019

Advocate for yourself, you are the only one that will!

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