Tips for approaching your first interview

Written by: Dave Beeston
Published on: 29 Jun 2021

waiting room Image: © Pixel-Shot / Adobe Stock

Image: © Pixel-Shot / Adobe Stock

It’s no surprise that interviews can be a daunting experience – especially when they’re for your first job out of vet school.


A huge number of pressures are on our veterinary students – even more so during the current COVID‑19 pandemic – and I can only sympathise with the challenges that our future vets are facing currently.

The final year of vet school went so quickly for me – one minute you’re finishing rotations, the next it’s time for finals and you need to get out into the real world.

This article is really out there to provide some advice for those of you going out into the interview world, because for many of you, it’ll be your first interview since applying for vet school – and things are slightly different now.

Confidence is key

I cannot stress enough how confidence is key – interviews test you at how good you are at interviewing.

Interviewing is a skill, and much like learning to drive, the best way to become confident in your ability is practice and experience.

Interviews are your opportunity to showcase all of your best qualities, but you need to give yourself the tools to express these confidently.

As I mentioned above, this is going to be the first time in a number of years that you’ve had an interview – you’ll be out of practice.

I have been lucky to be on the other side of the interview, and it makes a huge difference when you’re interviewing a chatty, confident person.

I’m not expecting you to feel completely comfortable during an interview, but the best way of becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is exposure.

I understand that EMS opportunities have been limited this year, but hopefully you’ll have made some friends and contacts that would be willing to do a mock interview with you. A word of caution, though – over-rehearsing your answers may make things seem a little scripted.

My top tip would be to think about the common questions you’ll be asked in an interview and write down some bullet points as prompts. Interviews go quicker than you think, so make sure every word counts.

Take a moment

Silence can be awkward, I get that, but don’t feel like you have to fill every second.

Hopefully by the time you get to an interview, you will have had a practice run or two, but you’re bound to come across questions that you weren’t fully prepared for.

Some people are blessed with the gift of the gab and can rustle up a reply on the fly, but honestly, you can tell when people are making things up. I would much rather someone took a second to process a question and give a concise answer – maybe that’s just my short attention span, but I can guarantee I’m not the only one.

At the end of the day, you’ve been given an interview because the employer thinks you’re good enough to be employed; he or she is not going to try to catch you out.

However, things can catch us by surprise – and taking a moment to formulate an answer can keep the attention on you.

Ask away

Ah, the inevitable question: “Do you have anything you’d like to ask us?”. Now is your opportunity to really shine.

As much as it may sound like you’re asking them a question, this crucial step is still part of your interview – and believe me, this can be a game changer.

You don’t want to be that person who turns up and has nothing else to ask (unless you’ve already asked the questions during a longer visit). I’d always recommend that you visit somewhere you’re wanting to work – your first job can make or break you.

I was very fortunate to get a job offer from my EMS practice, and I think that’s the easiest way of figuring out if it’s the right place for you, but if you haven’t had that opportunity then now is your time to get the details.

Have they taken new graduates before, and have they stayed? What mentoring/support opportunities will there be? What’s the CPD allowance like? What will your role be? Are you going to be consult only, or will you get surgical experience, too?

These are all crucial questions. Remember, an interview is a two‑way conversation, and you are in demand, too.

That's all folks

Hopefully you’ve managed to grab a tip or two from this short piece. Hundreds of resources are out there for preparing for interviews, but once again practice makes perfect – so get out there and do a trial run.

  • This article and an accompanying podcast were previously available exclusively to job seekers who had completed their Vet Times Jobs Skills Match profiles.
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