interview resources

Interview Tips and Tricks: How to Get the Long Term Job You Want

Before the Interview

  • Do some soul searching
  • Research clinics
  • Overcome pre-interview jitters
  • Prepare for the interview

Do Some Soul Searching Before Your Job Search

What is it that you really want in a job? Is mentoring important? What are your needs, wants, expectations and aspirations? Take some quiet time to sit down and write down what your perfect job would look like. If you find this difficult, use the MVMA worksheet to help start your thinking. Keep in mind that you need to try to manage your expectations. No job is going to provide instantaneous job satisfaction even though many younger people have been told they can do/be anything and they are accustomed to having what they want immediately thanks to today’s technology.

Research the Clinics With Job Postings

Before submitting your resume, do some research as this could save you some paper, ink, and gas money going to interviews at clinics that are obvious bad fits.

  • Try calling the local drug representatives in that area. They have usually visited the clinic, or at least tried to, and may be able to give you some perspective.
  • Visit the clinic website and know how to pronounce the doctors name.
  • Read client online reviews from a variety of sources including Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc. but take them with a grain of salt as people are much more likely to post bad reviews than good ones.

Overcoming Pre-interview Jitters

There are a number of things that you can do during and prior to interviews to help you overcome anxiety and fear. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take a few deep, cleansing breaths before going into an interview. Say positive things to yourself. “I got this.” “I would be a great asset to their team.” “I am confident.”
  • Reframe anxiety as excitement. Instead of thinking about how fearful and nervous you are, tell yourself, “I’m excited about this interview.” Studies show that reframing anxiety as excitement causes individuals to significantly outperform those who do not reframe their anxiety.
  • Power-pose prior to an interview to feel less anxious and more confident. Numerous studies show that adopting expansive postures causes people to feel more powerful. Some examples of high power poses are shown in the top row of the graphic below.

When we meet new people, we ask ourselves 2 things: Can I trust this person? (warmth) and Can I respect this person? (competence) As veterinarians, potential employers will know that you are competent – you made it through veterinary school! They also need to know that you are warm and will handle clients and their animals well. If you are perceived as warm, they will trust you. Be sure you are communicating that you are not only smart, but you are warm, trustworthy and have excellent people skills.

Prepare For The InterviewDuring the Interview
  • Carry 1 item only or you’ll look disorganized.
  • Sit slightly angled at a table as opposed to across from
    someone so you appear to be on the “same side.”
  • Power-pose for 2 minutes before the interview.
  • Remember posture breeds success.
  • Keep your body "open".
  • Don't purse your lips.
  • Claim your space, don’t be territorial.
  • Don’t touch face/hair or fidget.
  • Use open, reasonable gestures to strengthen messages.
  • Make observations about the clinic
  • Interview the interviewer

Make Observations As You Walk Into The Interview

Your first experience will be similar to what your clients experience when visiting you at the practice.

  • What does the parking lot look like? What about the exterior of the building? Is the paint peeling? Is the lawn covered in dog waste?
  • What does it smell like when you walk into the clinic? Were you greeted promptly by a friendly receptionist?
  • Is the waiting room clean? Is it large enough for the clients and patients?
  • Does it look like the doctor has continued to invest in the practice?

Interview the Interviewer

The interviewer will be asking you questions to determine if you fit THEIR needs. Don’t be afraid to flip the script and ask them the tough questions to see if they fit YOUR needs.

  • Why is this position available?
  • What type of training programs or opportunities for growth will be offered to the person in this position?
  • What growth do you anticipate for the practice over the next 12 months?
    Tips for Discussing Growth: Now would be a good time to put your research and knowledge about the practice into use and ask about what you, as the applicant could bring to the practice in either interest or skill set to stimulate services which would result in revenue and client retention. This is not the time to mention changes you’d make as that might come across as offensive – this is just an outlet to describe how you could make the practice more successful.
  • What is the average transaction fee for the doctor? This can sometimes be a good indicator of quality of medicine being practiced and can lead into questions about compensation - how will you be paid and what benefits are offered.
    Tips for Discussing Compensation: An applicant should have an idea of the gross income of the practice and the compensation model. Is it straight salary and, if so, how is that determined? Is it a pro-sal model? If so, what is the benchmark/percentage? A fair, non-biased, non-intrusive inquiry sets the tone that the applicant commands respect and fair compensation versus simply looking for a paycheck. A package of tangible benefits (paid CE, health care benefits, employer-sponsored retirement plans, etc.) may make up for a slightly lower starting salary.
  • Discuss work hours and flexibility, sick time vs. vacation, and on-call expectations.
  • Ask about how your break-in period will be structured. Will you have back-up for difficult emergencies while you’re gaining experience?
  • Will you get daily to weekly feedback? How will mentoring be delivered? Try to get a feel for how they’ll receive feedback from you.
  • Find out their policies regarding after-hours calls from non-clients. Consider that you may have to go out at night to work with people you’ve never met, and your personal security could be at risk.
  • Is there a non-compete agreement and what is it?
  • Consider asking about turnover: "I know that many practices have a high staff turnover. Can you tell me a little about your staff and the turnover?"
  • Consider asking about the culture: "I know when there are a lot of employees it can be difficult to keep them all happy and focused on the same goals. How do you accomplish this in your practice?"
  • Find out if Are mentorship opportunities available within the practice.
    Tips for Discussing Mentorship: if a traditional mentorship system is not in place, consider asking about the contact time ratio between a new associate and DVM colleague to see if the style of collaboration meets your needs. Remember that mentorship means different thing to different people, and that you should make sure your idea of mentoring matches the practice.

Do A Working Interview

Working interviews can be a great way to find out more about the practice so that you can make a better decision on whether you’re a good fit for their team. If one is not offered to you, ask. Here are a few tips for working interviews:

  • Make sure that a practice team member gives you the tour rather than the interviewer if possible. They are more likely to give you information that includes things that aren’t perfect about the practice.
  • Allow extra time for the working interview, in case a late-day call comes in, and take it in stride.
  • Things to watch for:
    • Outdated or too small exam and treatment room
    • Outdated equipment
    • Outdated medicine
    • Improper or unsafe procedures – Do they wear gloves, gowns, dosimetry badges in the x-ray suite?
    • No regular staff meetings, no employee handbook
    • What does the kennel room look like – Is it clean?
    • Poor record keeping or disorganized inventories – paper or computer?
    • People eating in inappropriate places
    • Staff drama
    • Overall building/bathrooms
    • Will they let you touch a pet – If they do, they may not be thinking about the legal ramifications of this.
  • Ask team members what they like about working there, what is hard about working there, what a typical day is like and what the practice’s long term plans are. Consider asking if they had it to do all over again is this a place they would pick to work?
  • What is the ratio of LVT’s to DVMs, LVT’s to assistants?

Tips from Practice Owners

"My experience has taught me that any business has the goal of staying in business. Displaying financial and business acumen is a key behavior. If one’s attitude is that they deserve to be compensated simply because they have labored hard but produced little, then there will ultimately be conflict. The other concern is flight risk. Is the applicant simply looking for a job that they are hoping to only fill time or to become a valuable team member? Why has the applicant applied? What has been the prior work-history and displayed work-ethic of the applicant? Does the applicant have more than veterinary school professors/clinicians as references who can speak on their behalf to answer these questions? Does the applicant have low-utility resume bullet points simply to look impressive? When I think of colleagues who have stayed at the same practice since graduation and are merging into ownership (which is honestly very few people), it is because the employee and employer share similar opinions on the direction, growth, and operation of the business itself all while conducting similar medicine. It is near impossible for an employer to know ahead of time if they will be successful in hiring on all those aspects."

"Regarding discussing compensation at the first interview: I usually have that conversation in the first interview, as sometimes it tells me a lot about the candidate. It lets me know whether they will make their decision based solely on money, or if they are more interested in medicine and the veterinary team. I like them to have some kind of figure in mind so we have a starting point. They should also understand the value of the benefit package that is offered. They often don’t consider the cost of the benefits that are offered to them when factored into the total compensation package. I was taught that the total benefit package cannot exceed 25% of the doctor’s gross production or the practice will lose money. The practice usually loses money the first year a veterinarian works, because the doctor is new and is learning, is slow and needs to build a clientele. I would also like to add that sometimes money is not everything. I took a substantial pay cut for my second job after veterinary school and it was a much better practice than my first, and evolved into my current job as owner of the practice."

"I would emphasize the reality that there is no perfect practice. Be realistic on what you can live with in a practice. The grass is not always greener on the other side. For instance, perhaps, it is not the newest, shiniest equipment or requires a paint job, but the staff treats you with respect or the clientele is respectful. These can be priceless in the long-term."

"What I expect in an interview: Write a really good cover letter and have a good resume. Be sure there are no spelling errors. Dress professionally – first impressions take only 3 seconds. Make eye contact and have a firm, confident hand shake. Do not wear cologne or perfume. Tell me what you are going to do for my practice. What are your special interests – canine/feline, ortho, derm, nutrition, internal, etc.? How do you see yourself utilizing the clinic staff? Ask questions and be personal. We both need to feel like it’s a good fit."

"If interviewing makes you nervous, practice! If the prospect of a working interview makes you nervous, also practice. Reach out to where you did your PBAP rotation, or a practice where you did ride-alongs' during your pre-vet days, and ask if they’d do a mock working interview with you. Most large animal vets will be happy to help."

Michigan Veterinary Medical Association

2144 Commons Parkway
Okemos, MI 48864-3986



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