Interviews, pt 2: questions, questions

Question marks

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Interviews can take many different formats, which can include or be a combination of:

  • the classic one hour(ish) with you on one side of the table and two interviewers on the other
  • an informal chat
  • a tour of the practice, with or without other branches
  • a trial day – you may be asked to do some basic procedures/operations
  • spending some time within the clinic

Many interviews involve having an initial chat, followed by a tour, then the opportunity to spend time at the practice or chat with staff. If you didn't get the opportunity to talk to other members of staff, ask if you can go back on a subsequent day – the longer you spend in the practice, the more genuine feel you’ll get for the atmosphere.

If there is a dog in the office, make sure you say hello and fuss it. One of the cardinal sins at a vet interview is ignoring the boss’ dog. It sounds ridiculous, but apparently it happens.

What will they ask you?

Every practice will have a slightly different interview style, so you could be asked very different questions at each interview. I find corporate practices or graduate programme interviews tend to include some of the classical interview type questions, whereas independents tend to be more general.

The most important thing is to be honest, especially about your level of experience and, therefore, how much support you will require in certain areas. The worst thing you can do is try and impress your future boss by claiming you can do a bitch spay unaided then fall apart when they book three in for your first morning.

Also, be honest about your specific veterinary interests. A classmate and I were both asked at interview (for very different practices) if we had any particular interest in exotic species. I said no (truthfully – and was still offered the job), but she said yes (an exaggeration of the truth rather than a lie) to look enthusiastic, and has since found herself the designated wildlife vet.

Here are examples of questions I have been asked at interviews:

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What do you think of our website?
  • What do you think about the area? It’s quite far from home, how will you cope with that?
  • What can you bring to the practice?
  • Describe a scenario where you worked well in a team.
  • Describe a scenario where you gave excellent client care.
  • What are the most important things clients look for in a vet?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • Do you have any hobbies / what do you do outside of work?
  • Where do see yourself in 2, 5 or 10 years?
  • Do you have any intentions to go travelling soon? (Tread carefully – this can be taken two ways: interesting person or will not stick around long).

What should you ask them?

Make a list about any questions you want to ask the practice – this may get quite lengthy, but often most of them will be answered during the process of the interview.

I often felt totally drained by the end of an interview or taster day, so when presented with the predictable “do you have any more questions for us?”, I’d be drawing a total blank.

This is when the list comes in handy – then you can glance through to see if you’ve missed anything. These will be individual to yourself and what you’re looking for in a practice, but my advice would be to aim your questions specifically at how much support you’ll get.

The harsh truth is some practices will lie about what they can provide for you, so the best way to dig out the truth is to ask in detail about how exactly they intend to do that.

For example, things to ask include:

  • Would you have increased consult times to start with?
  • Will there be a senior vet available to answer questions while you’re consulting?
  • Will there be someone available to scrub in on your surgeries for as long as required?
  • Are there qualified/experienced nurses monitoring your anaesthetics? (Trying to gain surgical confidence while keeping half your attention on the anaesthetic is suboptimal).
  • Will you have a formal second on-call or will your boss always be available should you need them while on call? Is this indefinite (for example, until you are confident on your own) or only for a set time frame?
  • How will you be integrated into the on-call rota? Will you be thrown straight in or allowed a few weeks to settle in?
  • Will there be an induction period to allow you to get used to, for example, the computer system or will you be thrown in at the deep end?
  • Will you help with the PDP? Do they even know what it is?
  • Can I bring my dog to work?

The other way of confirming whether you’ll receive the promised level of support is by asking staff members – this is one of the most important things you can do before you accept a job.

In addition to asking about support, ask how long staff tend to stay for, whether it has a good working environment and what the average working day would involve.

Often, if it is not possible to talk to other vets on the day, you’ll be provided with contact details for other vets. Be very wary if you have not been given the opportunity or been actively prevented from talking to other members of the practice – this should ring alarm bells.

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