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Veterinary Tips: Interview Questions for Veterinarians in 2023

You’ve made it past the application process, now it’s time to prep for your interview! Some of you love this part of the job search, while some of you dread it. Regardless of where you stand, one thing is for certain: a little bit of help can go a long way while you prep! Being a recruiter myself, I do have a different set of questions for new graduates looking for their first job versus a seasoned veterinarian looking for a change in practices. Because of that, while I do believe practical tips like what to wear are helpful, I also want to prepare you for the types of questions you might get asked specific to where you are in your career journey as a veterinarian.

Questions for the New Grads

1. How have you been impacted as a student by the pandemic?

One of the questions I often ask my new graduates is how they have been impacted as a student by the pandemic and the changes it forced veterinary schools to make in the last two years.  Some students did not get as much time with in-person instruction and on-site clinical experience was occasionally limited due to Covid outbreaks. Some candidates may feel that their practical skills are not quite up to par with peers who graduated a couple of years prior for this reason. I want to reassure them that their mentors in the practices where we place them will understand these special circumstances. These mentors will give them the support that they need to get up to speed in a way that is safe for them and for the animals they are working on.

2. What teaching methods are most beneficial to your learning style?

I make it a point to ask new graduates to describe the teaching methods that they found most beneficial to their learning style. Not every new doctor needs a highly structured mentorship environment. Some new doctors only need to know that there is someone in the next room that they can call on in case of an emergency while others prefer regular meetings to go over cases and a structured introduction to practical veterinary medicine over the initial course of weeks and months. 

3. Describe a time when you felt stress. How did you handle that situation?

When we are considering new graduates for positions that have an emergency component, I more frequently ask questions that will establish their ability to process stress in general.  We won’t know exactly how they will respond until they are seeing these critical cases in person, but students will often have been through circumstances either in life or school that tested their ability to remain calm in the face of intense pressure. Their answers to my questions help me learn if I’m placing them in the best environment for their individual gifts.

Questions for Seasoned Veterinarians

1. What is something you appreciated and one thing you wish you could change at your previous position?

With regards to more seasoned veterinarians, I wish to know which aspects of the workflow at their previous practice they appreciated and which aspects they would change if they could. There is a reason they are looking for a new opportunity and I want to understand more about those factors before I place them in another clinic. I want to help people make veterinary career moves in an upwards trajectory.  I am curious to know if the candidate aspires to leadership so that I can ensure we will have the opportunity for growth they are looking for. If they would rather focus on medicine and leave management to others, I want to be mindful of that too. Often, a tempting salary will cause a seasoned doctor to take on a position that is, in fact, less harmonious than their previous role and they experience regret.  I try to avoid this situation with all my candidates.

2. Do you have experience training/mentoring others?

An area I like to explore when it comes to leadership requires that candidates describe their own abilities to mentor others. What experience do they have teaching others and how would those students respond if I asked them about their experience?

3. Describe a scenario in which you were frustrated in the practice. How did you handle that situation?

To get a sense of how my candidate may interact with others on the team, I have often asked them to share a scenario in which they found themselves flustered and asked them to share how they were able to resolve their frustration. What did they learn from the circumstance?  Would they do anything differently? We do not live in a bubble and veterinarians do not practice in isolation. They need to be able to impart knowledge to others and elevate the skill set of those around them in an uplifting and edifying way. We are all emotional beings, but we must be able to manage those emotions in a healthy way that isn’t destructive to those around us. If this is an area where a candidate has struggled in the past, we want to ensure that there is sufficient support for them to grow in this area.

By exploring these past experiences and future goals, I try to learn if the candidate and my opportunity are a match. My personal goal is to check back in with my placed candidates on their one-year anniversary to find that they are happy with their decision to take the job and that I helped them on their career path! If you’re looking to start your next chapter in your veterinary career, I’d love to help! Let’s connect and “vet” together to get you started toward the veterinary career of your dreams.

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