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Interview Guidelines

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Going into a job interview can be a stressful experience, but it can also be fun and exciting. This is directly related to how much you prepare in advance. To start, there's two big things to keep in mind for your interview. The first is that you are interviewing the clinic as much as the clinic is interviewing you, and this needs to show. The second is that half of your job is working with clients, so everything in your interview (eye contact, clarity, showing confidence) will also be showing your interviewer how you are likely to interact with their customers. To prepare you for this, Vet Locum List provides a clear understanding of what you need to be ready for before walking into your interview.

The First 5 Minutes

The first 5 minutes of your interview is imperative. What you say, how you look, and how you present yourself will be important in how you are viewed as a potential employee. Appearing timid or unsure of yourself won't get you far in terms of how your employer, coworkers, or clients value you (or your medicine), so you may want to practice a few of these points until they become second nature.

Arrive On-Time - This goes without saying. Being late for your interview already gives the impression that you're not interested in the job. If it appears you don't care enough to arrive on time for your first day, it'll be assumed you're unlikely to be showing up to work on time in the future. Save the fashion of being late for parties.

Dress Appropriately - This typically means to dress 'one step up’ from your day-to-day work attire in that role (maybe a few steps up if soiled scrubs are the norm). When interviewing at a clinic, make sure your wardrobe is practical enough that you can step in and help restrain an animal if needed (i.e. high heels are only as nice as they are stable, so something more versatile may be better).

Solid Hand-shake - This may seem traditional, but it's usually accompanied by eye contact and a smile, so it's an important starting point. No one said each hand shake needs to be a kung fu dealth grip, just something solid to start things off right.

Smile and Make Eye Contact - Have you ever been out with someone who has spent the time staring at the phone as opposed to engaging with you in conversation? It's never memorable in a good way. Maintaining eye contact and smiling frequently is a great way to engage whoever you're in conversation with. Obviously you can take this to a point where its uncomortable for everyone, but moderation will serve you well. One study showed that there was an increased likability of interviewees that smiled 15% more often in the interview. Eye-contact 60% of the time was found to increase likability in women, but decreased likability in males2. Unfortunately, males can be perceived as confrontational more easily, so try not to make it like you're sizing up a fellow sports competitor.

Posture - Posture is always important, too hunched appears lazy and childish, too tight feels unorganic. If you want to be particular about this, the same study mentioned above showed that a relaxed, natural, but strong posture was better than a strict ‘marine-attention’ posture. If you really want to get specific, increased likability occurred with those with a body angle of on average of 77 degrees vs. 91 degrees, as well as those showing an increased variability of posture. We don't suggest pulling out a protractor to measure the angle of your posture, just be aware of how you could look to others.

Be Self-Aware - Those that demonstrated more regulated and monitored emotions and reactions were perceived to be less anxious. This suggests that it's good practice to have prepared statements so that you can easily deliver answers to questions without having a reaction of ‘surprise’ or ‘stress’. It's beneficial to keep your emotions in check and your reactions tempered during this process, as some clients can be far more stressful to interact with, and it'd good to demonstrate you can keep your cool. Awareness of how you are perceived to others will get your far, so you may want to ask your close friends to teach you about yourself.

Format of a Typical Interview

Tour & Introductions - Interviews typically begin with a tour of the facility, but don’t be shocked if this comes at the end of your tour instead. This walk around usually includes meeting the staff, viewing the general work area, seeing the diagnostic equipment, etc. Keep in mind that this is a great opportunity to show you’re ready to dive into the workplace. On top of making a good impression to your interviewer, this will also be your chance to make a good first impression with your future fellow staff. In some places (usually smaller independent centers), the staff you interact with sometimes have a say on which of the applicants they would prefer to work with, so remember to smile. This is also a good opportunity to engage your interviewer and the staff in questions about the environment. Make sure to have a few questions prepared in advance about things you would like to see / learn about. If you didn’t see an x-ray machine, inquire. Is blood work done on site or is it sent away? Are there other imaging tools available? Go nuts! If they don’t want to hear these questions, then it’s probably not a place you want to work.

The “Tell me about yourself” Question - It’s unlikely that you will go through an interview without a question like this. If they instead begin the interview with ‘when can you start’, you should be worried about their standards for hiring. Here you should deliver a prepared statement, which should be about 2-3 minutes in length1, should include your veterinary related history (keep in mind they also have your resume), and should highlight any useful skills or experiences that make you stand out from other applicants. Briefly mention any bartending / serving / reception jobs or any travel experience, as these suggest an adaptable personality and a history of communicating with clients1. Practice this statement so that you can deliver it clearly, concisely, and without any ‘ums’ or ‘ahhs’. Having a well-planned, supported, and organized response that is clear and with professional vocabulary is of utmost importance3-5.

Other Questions - There are several other common interview questions that it would be wise to have an answer prepared for. An example of this would be “Tell me about a time when you…”, which is often followed by “had a conflict with a colleague and how you resolved it”, or “had a difficult client / case and how you dealt with it”, or you may just get the classic “where do you see yourself in five years”. It’s best to prepare answers for these in advanced. Keep them clear and concise, and avoid rambling when possible.

Your Questions - Some clinics will ask you if you have any questions, and some will not. Either way, it is a good idea at this point for you to ask some questions of your own regardless of whether or not you were prompted. This demonstrates that the interview is two ways in that you are both looking for a good fit. Potential questions could include continuing personal development (CPD), mentorship, scheduling, available diagnostics, what directions the clinic is planning on going in the future, etc. However, don't just ask for the sake of asking, it will show, so make sure it's something you're interested in.

The Salary Question - Your offer will most likely come in one of two formats. Less commonly: “We can offer you $____”, where you may respond: “Thank you for your offer, however because of (your justification here) I feel that (your salary request here) would be a fair starting salary”. More commonly you may get “What were you thinking in terms of salary?”, which sometimes is a good strategy for letting people under value themselves. However you may say, “I have thought about this, and I feel that due to (your justification here) that (your salary request here) would be a fair starting salary”. Once you have finished your statement, just be quiet. Silence will show confidence and worth6. Continuing to talk often results in ‘rambling’ and negotiating yourself down, as well as demonstrating a lack of confidence in the validity of your offer. With this in mind, it's always good to have an approximately one minute justification prepared for your interview. This should include why you feel you will be an asset to the clinic and anything special you can bring to the clinic to increase its value (1).

For example: “Due to my experience working in clinics previously in both assistant and reception roles, my technical skills are above average as are my client communications skills; especially in regards to discussing finances. For these reasons I feel that I will be a valuable asset to your team in terms of client communication, finances, and patient care, and a starting salary of _______________ would be fair.”
Arguments for a justification for a higher salary include previous skills or experiences, location (rural, higher cost of living, undesirable state, etc), out-of-hours, emergencies, weekends/evenings/holidays, sole charge, etc.


In the end, you need to remember that unlike when you were being tested in school, there's no one right answer to any of these questions. You are in that interview to make sure you and the clinic are a good fit, so make sure you represent your side of the interview well. Although it may feel weird, mock interviews are an excellent way to get your nerves down and give you some experience answering different questions (we still use them despite years of interviews and successful job hires). Also remember that there's a lot of people out there in the same position you are in, so don't be afraid to talk about it with others who have been there already!


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