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10 interview tips for veterinary nurses

Written by: Vet Times Jobs
Published on: 21 Oct 2015


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You’ve got past the initial application stage and you’ve been invited for an interview. That’s a great start – it means the employer has seen something he or she likes in your CV and is interested in finding out more.

To help you succeed during this next stage of the job hunt, we’ve put together our top 10 interview tips specifically for veterinary nurses. Of course, any interview is a bit nerve wracking, but hopefully with this advice, and a bit of preparation, you’ll be able to walk into an interview feeling confident and ready to show skills you can bring to the job.

1. Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses

Before you go to an interview, think through what you consider to be both your strengths and weaknesses.

Be careful when pondering your weaknesses. It can be a fine balance between expressing a weakness, which shows you’re self-aware and working to improve your performance, and surrendering information about a weakness that could be seen by the employer as a detrimental to his or her organisation.

For example, avoid saying “I really struggle to make it in on time in the mornings or for a night-shift” as this can show a lack of enthusiasm and energy. On the other hand, you could try saying “sometimes I lack confidence giving advice to other veterinary nurses”.

Whatever weakness you do offer, make sure you also offer a solution. In the above example, for example, you would follow on by saying: “But I’ve been working on this by listening to how my peers offer advice to each other and by asking for other nurses to give me feedback too.”

2. A day in the life… of a veterinary nurse

The interviewer may want to understand a little more about what you expect from a veterinary nursing job and what your experience of being a nurse has been in the past. As a result, they may ask you to explain a typical “day in the life” of a veterinary nurse.
This question helps the interviewer to gauge your expectations of the job, while also helping him or her to see what sort of responsibilities you’re comfortable handling.

Before the interview, list some day-to-day activities that demonstrate how efficient you are alongside activities that show core qualities required of veterinary nurses, such as being caring, attentive, personable and able to multitask.   

3. What sets you apart from other candidates?

Have a think about what you believe sets you apart from other candidates also being interviewed. Similar to considering your strengths, consider what would make you stand out if other candidates had more relevant experience, additional qualifications or simply a stronger CV.  

4. Research

Whether you’re applying for a veterinary nurse job in a practice, out-of-hours surgery, charity or elsewhere, make sure you fully research the organisation. You’ll want to know what values it has, if it has a particular approach to animal care and if it specialises in any area.

Beyond that, you’ll also want to know more about who will be on the interview panel. Will a head nurse be interviewing you, or the practice manager? The more you know about the people you’ll be speaking to, the more you’ll be able to tailor your answers to suit what they’re looking for. Take a look on the organisation's website for a meet the team profile, and search on LinkedIn.

5. Know why you’ve applied for the job

First of all, be confident in your reasons for applying for the specific job. Did you apply because you were looking for a part-time veterinary nurse role, instead of a full-time one? Or did you apply because you wanted to make the move from a charity to practice? Or perhaps you applied because it looked like a great opportunity to kick off your veterinary nursing career, with positive development and progression opportunities?

If you’re confident in your reasons for applying, the interviewer will be encouraged by your enthusiasm.

6. Be ready for slightly tougher questions

The purpose of an interview is to establish whether you are the right person for the job. To do that, interviewers inevitably have to ask a couple of tricky questions. As a veterinary nurse, prepare to answer questions such as:

  • Can you describe a challenging situation you’ve encountered in a clinical setting and how you dealt with it?
    As a veterinary nurse you will inevitably have encountered, or will encounter, challenging scenarios. Whether that’s liaising with an upset client or dealing with a particularly messy kennel, the employer will want to know how you managed to resolve the situation in an appropriate manner. For example, he or she will want to see you showed compassion and empathy when working with upset clients or that you managed to resolve a difference of opinion for the better with a colleague.
  • What are your salary expectations?
    This is a difficult question, as you don’t necessarily want to give away your salary expectations at this stage. You can always respond by saying, “that’s a tricky one – could you tell me what the salary range is for the role?” If they aren’t able to disclose that information, you can say it will be dependent on the details of the job and then give a wide salary range.
  • Can you explain this gap in your CV?
    Perhaps you moved to a new city and it took a while to find a job, or maybe you took a few years out while your children were young. Whatever the reason for the gap on your CV, be honest. If there is a gap in your CV due to being fired from a previous position, then reply tactfully and explain why it won’t happen again.

7. It’s a two-way conversation

Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer. No interview is an interrogation and it’s actually an opportunity for you to find out more about the company too.

Consider asking questions like:

  • Are there opportunities for progression in this role?
  • What is the induction programme like?
  • Can you tell me a bit more about the facilities at the surgery?
  • What sort of clinical freedom is there at the practice?

8. Re-read your CV

It might sound basic, but make sure you re-read your CV before going to the interview. You’ll want to know everything you wrote in your CV off by heart so you can elaborate on examples and know what the interviewer is talking about when he or she refers to particular examples.

9. Re-read the job description

This will give you the chance to remind yourself exactly what the employer is looking for – is he or she wanting to find a veterinary nurse happy to complete reception duties too? Does he or she want someone with an interest in a specialist field, such as nutrition or orthopaedic referrals?

Whatever the requirements, make sure you have a few examples to demonstrate how you fit the bill for each.

10. Prepare a checklist

Double check emails you’ve had with the employer about the interview and see if you've been asked to bring anything specific with you. Add those items to this pre-interview checklist:

  • a printed version of your CV
  • your mobile phone, with the employer's contact number saved (but make sure you switch off your phone)
  • printed directions to the place of interview
  • petrol in your car (if you’re driving to the interview)
  • name of the person who you expect to be interviewing you

During the interview, remember the employer will be looking to understand a bit more about your soft skills – have a read of our article: ‘What soft skills do employers look for in a veterinary nurse?’

If you’re still hunting for a veterinary nurse job, make sure you start your search with Vet Times Jobs. Good luck.