Interviews, part 1: preparation

Interview checklist

Image © beebright / Adobe Stock

So, after sending out your killer CV, you've been asked to attend an interview for a veterinary profession role. What is your next step?

Before you go

Firstly, consider whether you want to go to the interview at all. Did you apply for the job because you were just doing so for anything and everything to get a feel for how successful you'd be? Or are you completely sold on the practice on paper?

My advice would be to try to speak to someone at the practice to get a better idea about the role before the interview – or even before you apply for the job – but, in reality, that isn’t always possible. Sometimes all you’ll get is an email exchange or telephone call asking you to come to the interview.

From that telephone call (if you manage to get one), if you are 100% sure you wouldn’t take the job if it was offered, don’t go to the interview. It will just waste everyone’s time.

Although I’m a big advocate of gaining as much interview experience as possible, sometimes you just know it’s not going to be right. I turned down one interview following a telephone call based on the fact the rota sounded absolutely horrendous, and another because it was going to be a logistical nightmare to get there.

Worth the distance?

How far away is your interview? Some practices may offer to cover your travel costs, but others won’t. I wouldn’t read too much into it – for me, some did, some didn’t; there didn’t seem to be much of pattern based on how far I’d come or what kind of practice it was.

At the end of the day, it sounds really cheesy, but look at it as an investment in your future. It’ll be worth the travelling if it means you get the right job.

So, if you can, I would go to as many interviews as you are invited to – even if you don’t really think it’s the right kind of practice, you won’t know for definite until you go. Then, if it’s an absolute write-off from the minute you walk in the door, look at it as interview practice.

You won’t be able to pick out a good practice or good interview if you don’t have some experience visiting the bad ones. For example, in one interview I had, it all seemed very nice and supportive until the practice partners had a very subtle disagreement in front of me about the mix of work. If I had not been to other interviews, I perhaps wouldn’t have picked up on that.

The more interviews you have, the more you’ll realise every practice is different and know what to ask.

Do your homework

It may have been a while since you applied; so, if you kept hold of it, re-read the advert. If you have a lot of interviews or sent off a lot of applications, it can be very easy to get confused between them all, so make sure you know what was advertised before you go.

Also, take a look at the company's website and social media pages. You would probably have done this anyway when deciding whether to apply for the job, but make sure you refresh yourself the night before the interview.

Explore your network, too. You may not have realised it yet, but the vet world is very small. Everyone knows everyone, and you’ll be surprised at how many connections you have.

If you have an interview at a practice, ask your classmates whether they’ve undertaken EMS there, ask your lecturers or university clinicians if they’ve heard of it and ask vets you’ve undertaken EMS with if they know of any practices to particularly avoid.

Also, see if any of your friends have “liked” the practice's social media pages, or if you have any “mutual friends” with any of the staff at the practice.

Practicalities

It sounds very boring, but don’t be late. Find out how long it’s going to take to get there, but remember not to rely on what an online map tells you at 11pm – be aware of rush hour traffic and allow plenty of time. If you are going to be late for any reason, telephone the practice.

First impressions

Make sure you look smart and presentable. A good rule of thumb is to wear what you would expect to wear in the role – you don’t want to overdo it with a suit, but smart trousers and a shirt are usually a good go-to option.

Think about whether you need to take any waterproofs or sturdy boots – are you going for a sit-down interview or will you be spending some time with the other vets? Will you go out to visit some farm/equine clients? I would often take a scrub top with me just in case I would be getting involved in any clinical work.

Showtime

On the interview day, remember – relax. Most of my interviews were primarily the practice trying to sell themselves to me, not the other way around. The veterinary world has a very real employment crisis – you, as the job hunter, have the upper hand here.

This can be both good and bad as, while it means less pressure to fight for vacancies, it also means you will have a lot of choice and need to be able to filter the genuine practices from the ones who will say anything to get you to join them.

This is why it is so vitally important for you to interview the practice as much as they are interviewing you.

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