Conducting veterinary interviews

Conducting a veterinary interview
For many owners and managers, conducting veterinary interviews is the hardest part of the entire hiring process.

The interview in the recruitment process is considered the key tool in assessing a candidate’s suitability to a role, so why is it that so many practice owners don’t know how to conduct one? By John Burfitt

Go on career social media platforms such as LinkedIn, and it won’t be long before you’re inundated with a small avalanche of well-meaning posts about how to make the right impression in a job interview, all explored from the candidate’s point of view.

The pickings for employers in terms of tips and insights into how to conduct an effective interview are, however, much slimmer. In fact, interviewing is a skill that few people in small business have ever been trained in, let alone have much idea on how to get it right.

And yet, ask any recruiter and most claim it remains the key tool in assessing a candidate’s suitability. “I believe we suffer from what I call ‘the warm body syndrome’,” says Dr Diederik Gelderman, the author of the book Veterinary Success Secrets Revealed. “We often hire in haste and if we spent more time on aspects of recruiting like interviewing, it might help enormously. 

“In an interview, you have to be guided by your gut instinct in terms of behavioural and cultural fit for the practice, and not just for skills. An interview is also the time when it’s not about you; it’s about the person sitting in front of you, so it’s the time to let them talk.”

It’s not about me

On the topic of the essentials of effective interviewing, Anna Hodges, director of Sydney recruitment company Purple Squirrel, has one important piece of advice to impart. “In general, employers talk far too much in an interview. They just cannot shut up about themselves and their practice,” Hodges says. “Eighty per cent of an interview should be the recruiter listening to the other person talk. “It’s that simple, yet so many people complicate it by not preparing for it and then having no idea how to conduct it.”

“An interview is also the time when it’s not about you; it’s about the person sitting in front of you, so it’s the time to let them talk.”—Dr Diederik Gelderman, vet and business coach

Hodges says the interview starts long before the candidate is sitting on the opposite side of the table. The employer needs to have done some homework into the extent of the responsibilities of the role, the skills the role demands, the qualities needed to fulfil the vacant role and the qualities of the ideal candidate. “Far too often, I hear employers telling me they go into these interviews hoping to wing it, and then wonder why they weren’t happy with the outcome,” she says. 

“To understand the candidate, prepare by thinking about the questions that need to be asked and the kind of questions that will get that person to open up. It’s about first creating and then working with a strong brief of what it is you are looking for, then knowing what to ask to get the information you will need to make a decision. All of that needs to be thought through long before you’re sitting face to face in the interview.”

More than skills

Christine Khor, managing director of the recruitment company Chorus Executive and author of Hire Love, shares advice with hopeful candidates. “I often tell them they need to be prepared but nothing can prepare them for a bad interviewer who doesn’t care to delve too deeply about the person or the role, and all they’re trying to do is tick boxes around skills,” Khor says. 

According to Dr Ilana Mendels of Sydney training consultancy Vet Prac, attention must be paid to not only what is said in an interview, but also how it is said. “Once the people are in front of you, it’s also time to talk values and motives. The best employment environment is one where people are happy and productive,” Dr Mendels says. 

“Talk about what you want to achieve in the business and if it matches their drive. Ask them what drives them and what their goals are, to see how it might fit into your own business strategy. But importantly, watch for their honesty and personality and watch even more closely for their responses.”

Body language can also express a great deal that words have failed to, she adds. “The interview is the chance to capture enthusiasm about working together so I always look for evidence and potential. You can’t fake enthusiasm and you can’t train so when you do find it, grab it!”  

4 handy tips to follow

Christine Khor of Chorus Executive lists four areas employers need to develop when conducting an interview:

1. Prepare, so you know exactly what you are recruiting for and the essentials needed for that role. 

2. Thorough homework on the candidate by reading their resumé thoroughly so you know their background and skills.

3. Be present in the interview. Listen and engage with the person in front of you, instead of checking your phone or looking out the window. By listening with intent and responding to it, it might lead your discussion into areas that reveal exactly what you’re after. 

4. Ensure the interview dynamic has been well set so that the candidate is comfortable with the process, and therefore, comfortable to share information when asked. Always remember this person is putting themselves up to be judged and evaluated, so have a bit of empathy and keep the conversation on track so the questions are asked in a way that is going to elicit the responses you want—one way or another.

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