Skip to main content

Top 5 ways to mess up a veterinary recruitment interview

Written by: Dave Nicol
Published on: 19 Oct 2018


Image © YakobchukOlena / Adobe Stock

Recruitment interviews are a minefield and most people working in vet clinics have never received any useful training in how to get them right – a startlingly crazy situation given that the cost of poor recruit can be as much as four times the salary you intend to pay a candidate.

Here are the top five errors people make when recruiting vets, nurses and reception staff into their veterinary practice.

1. Shortlist 5 people and interview them all in one day

This is a monumental waste of time, but it’s exactly what ends up happening when you don’t prepare properly for the recruitment process and clearly define a person specification at the outset.

If you have ever interviewed more than three people, you’ll know how hard this is and how much time it takes. By the end of this day your brain will be frazzled and your judgment severely impaired. Plus, you will have lost an entire day of valuable time.

When I recruit, my objective is to interview only one person and then hire them. That’s the ideal short list.

2. Perform your interviews at the pub

Yes, this does still happen. So why is it bad?

Well, apart from the fact that all you can do is ask hypothetical questions, you are also going to be drinking beer. Alcohol tends to enhance your emotional rather than your reasoned responses, so increases your chances of making a rash decision.

3. Don’t perform any competency-based techniques and just ask poor questions

Talk is cheap, as they say, and action is what we are interested in.

Most people sit down at a desk during an interview and ask the candidate useless questions like “Can you set up for an anaesthetic?” – to which all but the dumbest of candidates will say yes, regardless of their skill level.

Instead, get them to actually set up for (and possibly perform) an anaesthetic. You’ll pretty quickly find out who can and can’t do the job.

4. Ask questions like ‘why do you want to work here?’

This question is firmly grounded in ego. We like to hear why someone thinks our veterinary hospital rocks, but the answer adds little (more accurately, no) value to your decision.

I wouldn’t bother asking a question like “why do you want to work here?”, simply because the answer tells you nothing useful – your candidate will have some polished answer ready for this common question, which may or may not be true.

Better to stick to questions that get them talking about their past experiences and how this can be related to the job you are offering, without biasing the answer.

For example, “have you ever had a time when x happened?” – x being something really important to the role, like a crazy client who had no intention of paying their bill walking through the door with a super sick animal.

When they say yes, just ask them how they handled things and what happened. If they say no, and this is a really important part of the job you’ll expect them to do, then you’ve uncovered some very useful information that will save you a lot of time and money down the line.

Based on their answer you’ll soon know who has and who hasn’t handled this type of thing – and because you haven’t biased their response you’ll be more likely to get the truth.

5. Think someone is likely to be good at the job because you like him/her

This is a monstrously common error. When we like someone we think working with them will be easy, but remember two things: firstly, in an interview you are on your best behaviour. And secondly, they are on their best behaviour too.

It’s really easy to like someone under these circumstances, but will things be so smooth in the thick of battle? Probably not.

The final reason not to hire someone just because you like them is that you probably like them because they are similar to yourself. But good businesses need a variety of personalities to get things done.

I, for example, am great with ideas and creativity, but can be hopeless at finishing tasks off. If I hired only mini-mes then we’d have one hell of an idea-generating machine, but we’d also run out of money in a month because we weren’t getting anything done.