How to win at interviews

Written by: Adam Bernstein
Published on: 1 Feb 2016

Win at interviews

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Gone are the days when employers take on a member of staff at the drop of a hat and with minimal process. A warm, fuzzy feeling about an applicant, or taking the warm body approach to hiring, just doesn’t cut it any more.

While The Apprentice takes the selection process to the extreme, the interview segment – where apprentices are grilled by Claude Littner – illustrates why applicants need to be prepared.

Indeed, there’s no excuse for not being ready for an interview. With a wealth of information available online about the profession, jobs and any given practice, failure to prepare is a capital offence. Clearly, those who go the extra mile in their prep are well on the way to establishing credibility in the eyes of a future employer.


Let’s assume you’re past the application stage and have been called for an interview. The first thing you’ll need to do is put some time into fully researching the practice you’re applying to.

You should think about:

  • the size of the practice
  • how long it has been established
  • the number of sites it operates from
  • the number of staff employed

Consider, also, if there’s any detail on the partners as well as any practice or partner specialisms:

  • Is anyone a leading light with published books or columns to his or her name?
  • Does he or she have any hobbies from which you can form a common bond?

Of course, you don’t want to appear to be a stalker, but having a good working knowledge of a practice can do you no harm and will help you ask sensible questions at interview.

Everything about you

An interview is where the practice and the interviewer have a chance to find out about you, so expect to be asked some pointed questions. This is why you need to refine your own thoughts about your past successes (and failures) because it’s experience, good or bad, that can make or break a practice.

If possible, ask beforehand about the format of the interview and who you will be meeting. That might help you formulate any questions you have and how you should practise for any tricky questions that might be thrown your way.

If there are gaps or problems with your CV, consider how you’d honestly be able to answer any questions levelled at you (remember that lying can come back to bite in the form of a legitimate dismissal).

Among other things, you could be asked about:

  • your personality and how you cope with stress
  • your views on veterinary matters and why you want to be part of the profession
  • how you’d reassure an agitated client with an injured pet (or even a client with a healthy pet he or she wants euthanised)
  • how you stay up-to-date with veterinary medicine

Don’t forget “people buy people” and that presentation is everything. Rightly or wrongly, people make assumptions about you in seconds, based on how you look and are dressed, what you say and what you write. So take time to make yourself presentable with, at the risk of stating the obvious, a clean and tidy appearance.

Take what you need, including a copy of your CV, qualifications and a list of the questions you want to pose.

Plan ahead for the journey, allowing more than enough time to get from A to B. You don’t want to arrive flustered because of a failure to realise there’s a train strike or a new set of roadworks en route.

The interview

Some think an interview is a one-way street where a practice interrogates applicants to weed out the chaff. However, an interview, and the run-up to it, is the time to see if a practice is for you.

On arrival, look at the location, the state of the building and equipment, as well as the welcome you receive in reception. See if you can get to the interview a little early to ask staff – off the record – what they think about the practice.

During the interview, be aware the process will start with questions designed to warm you up; but the awkward questions will come. The key is to stay calm and answer questions carefully and without gabbling and deviating.

While many businesses have defined procedures for conducting interviews and methods of letting applicants know of the outcome, it won’t hurt to ask when you might hear about the outcome and if you are able to follow up if nothing is heard by that date.

Once the interview is over, jot down a few notes about the interview and the questions asked of you (and those you wish you had asked) so you can better prepare for other interviews. Whether this is because most interview processes have several rounds before a position is offered, or because you were unlucky this time, understanding what you can do better can only help.

Good luck.