What are practices looking for in prospective vets?

Written by: Ian Wright
Published on: 29 Jun 2021

Image: contrastwerkstatt / Adobe Stock

Image: © contrastwerkstatt / Adobe Stock

Job interviews can be daunting experiences, with understandable nerves and anxiety both before and during the event. Interviews, though, should be seen as an opportunity, as practices are looking for the same thing as you.

Are you a good fit for each other? Do you share similar visions in terms of working up cases, relationships with clients, work-life balances and opportunities for growth?

Rather than approaching an interview as a hurdle to be overcome with a pass or fail in terms of whether you are hired, it can be viewed as a chance for you and the practice to find out more about each other, and see whether a future relationship will lead to you both blossoming.

Asking the right questions

To achieve this, both you and the interviewer need to ask the right questions. You are likely to be asked:

What clinical competencies/ practical skill sets you have

This is often not asked as a deal‑breaker as many key skills will be acquired while working and most can be taught.

It is asked primarily to see where your strengths are, what particular interests and skills you have already pursued, and to see what areas of training may be required.

It is important to be honest and outline the areas that you feel you are strong in (for example, surgery, medical procedures, client communication or animal handling) and to highlight the areas you feel you may need extra support in.

What your strengths are

Most employers, in my experience, are much more interested in skills that can’t easily be taught.

This may be confidence with clients, analytical thinking, enthusiasm for cases or special interests. This is a great opportunity to highlight the areas where you feel you excel.

Employers are building a team and won’t expect candidates to excel in all areas.


How far away from the practice do you live, what are the reasons for wanting to work in the area, what attracted you to the practice and why would you like to work there?

Again, it is important to be honest and highlight potential difficulties with travel or other commitments, while also talking about what attracted you to the practice.

It is vital to do your research, and check practice websites and social media, to see if the practice would be a good fit for you. If it is then explain why you think that is the case and how you view yourself fitting in.

What should you ask?

It’s also important that you are ready to ask questions, but not for the sake of asking them.

What do you need to know about the job to make it a good fit? Hours? Specialities in the practice? Support for new graduates or training? CPD allowances? Social aspects?

This is the time to find out.

If at all possible, I would also advise that you attend an interview in person. Although telephone and teleconference interviews can be an initial point of contact, you will only get a real feel for a practice if you have visited and talked to staff.

Body language

You will also get a lot from body language and the practice “vibe”.

If you cannot attend the interview in person, perhaps ask if you can come in to do a trial day or meet the team on a separate occasion. I’m always keen for interviewees to spend a bit of time with the staff and see how they interact.

A new job will hopefully be a long‑term relationship, and both you and the practice want to do all you can to find out if you are the right fit for each other.

A vet I know who is looking for new work said she was “looking for the right shelf to put her books on”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

  • 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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