What Questions Should You Expect In Your Vet Job Interview?

By Ruth Cawston MA VetMB CertAVP(SAM) MRCVS

The interview is probably the most important step when applying for a new job – and as the cliché goes, you don’t get a second chance at a first impression. Careful preparation will help you to feel more confident going in and allow you to present yourself in the way that you want. 

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So, what are some of the questions that commonly come up in an interview?

Tell us about yourself

This is a common opener in an interview, but it’s a very open question and can leave you feeling a little flustered if you’re not prepared. Spend some time coming up with a short summary of yourself, which highlights all the things you would want a potential interviewer to know.

We’ll touch on many of these topics in more detail in a minute, but some areas you might want to mention include: 

  • A quick summary of your career to date
    • I’ve just graduated from Bristol
    • I’ve been working in practice for six years
    • I worked for two years in general practice and have just finished an internship 
  • Areas of your job that you love
    • Medicine? Surgery? Opthalmology? Nutrition? Preventative care?
    • Cats? Pigs? Exotics? Ruminants?
  • What are your aspirations
    • I love being a GP
    • I’m thinking about doing a certificate
    • I want to get into management
  • A few personal details
    • Hobbies or interests outside of work
    • Any ties to the local area
    • Talk about your partner or family, if you feel comfortable with this
  • What you are looking for in a job
    • Tie this back to your aspirations

Here’s an example of a quick summary:

Hi, my name is Sophie, I graduated from the RVC in 2018 and I’ve been working in small animal practice for the last three years. I love working in general practice, but I particularly enjoy ophthalmology and am considering starting a certificate next year. I grew up in this area and I’m moving back to be closer to my family – my partner and I have just bought a house in town. I’m trying to find a practice where I can build up a client base of my own, and who will support me if I do decide to do a certificate. 

 

Are you comfortable with…?

Your potential employer is going to want to know what kinds of procedures you are comfortable with. Are you happy tackling big bitch spays? How do you feel about medical workups? Do you do any orthopaedic surgery? How are you with an ultrasound machine?

Try to give honest answers – you don’t want to get hired and then end up in a situation that you are not comfortable with. If you have areas where you feel you are weaker, enthusiasm can often counterbalance inexperience – I’ve not done a lot of big bitch spays, but I’m keen to get more experience!

What are your aspirations?

A good employer will want to know what kind of vet you are – but also what kind you want to be in the future. Love all-around GP work, or want to do a certificate? Crazy about cats, or passionate about pigs? Enjoy teaching students, or looking to move into management in the future? 

If you are upfront about what you are hoping for in your future career, you are much more likely to find a niche in a role that suits you. 

Strengths and weaknesses

A classic interview question for just about any job – what are you good at, and what do you struggle with? Try to come up with two or three examples for each category if you can. Again, be honest, but express the desire to improve your weak areas. 

Don’t feel you have to have a special area of interest, especially if you are just starting out in your career – being a good all-rounder can be just as desirable as being a surgical whiz or a medical genius. 

Try not to just think of clinical work, either – skills like leadership, communication or conflict resolution are all important to highlight, too. Public speaking, teaching experience, or social media skills are all examples that may be looked on favourably, so don’t hesitate to mention them if you have them. Qualifications in mental or physical first aid are also often desirable. 

Give us an example of….

Another classic interview question – and a more difficult one to prepare for. Try to think of a few different kinds of cases or situations that you might use as examples for this kind of question. 

You might want to consider:

  • Clients who had previously made a complaint 
  • Clients with complex personal circumstances
  • Cases where a pet’s welfare might have been compromised
  • Cases where communication with colleagues was important, or where a miscommunication occurred. 
  • An appointment where something unexpected was found – for example, a vaccination appointment where an abdominal mass was discovered in a seemingly healthy pet. 
  • A complex medical and/or surgical issue, especially if you have a particular interest in one area.

Even if the interviewer doesn’t specifically ask for an example, it’s great to incorporate them into your answers if you can. Just remember not to give any details that might compromise client confidentiality. 

Why are you leaving your current role?

If you’re not fresh out of uni, then your prospective employer may want to know why you’re making a change. As always, be honest, but try to focus on the good things about this potential new job rather than any bad aspects of your old one. Your interviewer wants to feel like you actively want to work with them, rather than you’re simply running away from somewhere else. 

Interests outside work

Some employers will want to know that you’re not only a great vet, but also a well-rounded person. Think of a few hobbies or interests that can help your interviewer get a feel for who you are as a person, not just a vet. 

Don’t feel like you have to reveal any personal information if you are not comfortable doing so – you’re not obliged to share everything with them at this stage. Having some examples prepared in advance will help you to set boundaries in terms of what you do and don’t want to discuss.  

 

Do you have any questions for us?

Almost all interviewers will ask this at the end, and it’s a good idea to have one or two questions lined up to ask. Try to tailor the questions to the specific job being offered, rather than just asking generic questions – it will make you seem more interested in the role. 

If your prepared questions have been answered during the interview, feel free to recap them and the answers that were given, to show what areas you were particularly interested in. 

I had wanted to ask about your support for certificates, but you’ve already said that you’d be happy to fund them, which is great!

I was going to ask about your out-of-hours provision, but we’ve already discussed that you use a local provider!

Conclusion

Job interviews allow you to create an important first impression with a potential new employer but can be a stressful experience. Careful preparation will allow you to present yourself the way that you wish to be seen and gives you the best chance of getting a job offer out of the experience.

Get in touch with The Vet Service today to see how we can help with your vet career.

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