Want to know how to write resumes and cover letters for veterinary jobs?
You’re in the right place.
Although writing a cover letter and resume for a veterinary job can take a lot of time, in this article we have created a comprehensive guide for writing an amazing application.
Drawing from Dr Dave Nicol’s extensive experience as a vet, practice employer and hiring expert, we give you the best tips and tricks for writing an amazing veterinary resume and cover letter.
If you want to really ace that application, we also recommend listening to this podcast below before writing.
How to Write a Veterinary Resume
A resume is typically the first thing an employer sees, and therefore is incredibly important.
The typical advice to those writing a resume is not to go above two pages. Although this is standard, Dr Nicol believes that this advice may be flawed.
In a time when there are few applicants around, it is highly unlikely that a potential employer will discard your application based on length alone.
‘Having reviewed hundreds of resumes as a hiring consultant for a number of hospitals, I can tell you that detail focussed vets have a hard time writing short resumes, and in a job where attention to detail is a skill to be prioritized, I personally look for a slightly longer resume’.
Design-wise, going for a professional/sleek design is preferable. The appearance of a resume isn’t too important (compared to the content). But if you’re keen to make a stand out impression, go check out this guide here on resume design.
Tip: When designing your resume, keep the company that you’re applying for in mind. 61% of hiring managers consider customising a resume the best way to boost an applicants chance of getting hired.
How to Structure a Resume
Structurally, a resume should include the following sections:
-A personal summary
For a visual example of what an amazing resume might look like, check out this resume cheat sheet here.
How to Write an Amazing Personal Summary
Whilst it can be easy to overlook your personal summary, that’s a huge mistake. It’s important to get this section right, as this is the only part of your resume whereby you can directly address the reader.
Creating a sense of who you are (and what you have to offer!) are key to enticing the reader to check out your cover letter.
First, introduce yourself to the reader. Adding a flair of personality here is good, as it gives the employer a sense of who you are, and whether you would align to the practices values.
Once you have done this, write a short summary of your relevant experience. Try to demonstrate your skills through your experience, for example:
‘Shadowing Dr X at my local veterinary practice gave me great insight into what effective client communication looks like, improving my interpersonal skills’.
Finish your personal summary with a line on what specifically you like about the job/practice, to display your enthusiasm for the role.
Work Experience, Education and Extracurricular Activities
In the work experience section, it is key to keep it short and to the point.
In the headers, include dates, job titles, and company names. Briefly describe what you did during the role and what you achieved/gained during this time.
If you can relate the skills and experience to the skills highlighted on the job application, even better!
List your university and qualifications. Don’t worry about highschool grades, they won’t be relevant anymore.
For work experience and extracurricular activities, only include the roles which are relevant.
Whilst it can be tempting to list every activity and job you’ve ever had, this is unnecessary and will waste the reviewer’s time.
Keep it clear, simple and concise. Check spelling and grammar thoroughly (some employers will immediately disregard you if you have any) and outline headers clearly.
Make sure you are demonstrating the desired skills and values throughout. If you are applying through an agency (which might not be a great move), check whether your resume is optimised to go through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), using a tool such as this one.
Whilst it is good to demonstrate how your skills match those outlined on the job specification (as highlighted above) avoid writing what you think the employer wants to hear.
This will not only sound disingenuous, but will also cause problems in the long run – as you risk getting a role you’re not suitable for. For the benefit of both you and your employer, it is much better to be true to yourself and honest about your values and skills.
Also, avoid using email names that look unprofessional, and be conscious of short work periods that you list on your resume, as this could potentially indicate something went wrong at your last job.
How to Write a Cover Letter for a Veterinary Job
Generally, a cover letter should be about 250-300 words long. Although this isn’t a hard rule (it will depend on the employer), according to an Orange County Resume Survey, almost 70% of employers preferred a shorter cover letter. Suffice to say that you should try to say what needs to be said in as few words as necessary.
Again, whilst there are no hard rules, a cover letter generally consists of:
-An initial address (dear X)
-An Introduction (covering what role you’re applying for and why)
-A hook (more on this later)-A section on your skills and practical experience
-A section on your school/other relevant qualifications -Your closing statement
Now let’s explore what each section consists of, and learn how to optimise your cover letter for a veterinary job.
Your Initial Address
Whilst most people begin their cover letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, this can be rather generic and is, frankly, lazy. You can do better.
Try instead to address your cover letter to the person reading it, as this is more engaging and personalised. If you can’t see the name of the person hiring on the job ad, perhaps email or call the practice and ask who to address your cover letter to.
This part is relatively simple. In your introduction, you need to briefly outline what position you are applying for and where you saw the advertisement. If you have a job reference, it’s good to include this too.
My name is X and I would like to register my interest in the position of X (ref: 1307), currently being advertised on X.com.
Whilst this section is not always necessary (especially when applying for smaller businesses) outlining who you are and what you’re applying for is generally good practice.
Writing Your First Paragraph
Now you have the formalities out of the way – it’s time to write your hook.
This is arguably the most important part of your cover letter, as it gives the employer a glimpse into who you are.
Although it can be tempting to write a hook that panders to your reader, it is important to be genuine in this section. This is because in the veterinary field there are currently more positions than there are veterinarians, which means that prospective employees can be far more selective.
By writing a hook that is reflective of yourself (rather than the employer), you can easily screen out practices which may not fit you as an individual, saving a lot of time and worry.
As Dr Nicol says:
‘It’s better to get rejected from a job that won’t meet your needs than miss one that will’.
The key to a good hook is one that is engaging, honest, and personal. Avoid vanilla statements such as ‘I have great interpersonal skills’ and ‘I work well in a team’. Instead, tell the employer why you want this job, and why you would be a good fit for the role.
During this section, it’s a great idea to outline some of your core values, and express how you see them fitting within the clinic’s culture. This exercise is not only good for you (as it can help indicate whether you would mesh well within the team), but also for the employer, who will be looking for indications that you would fit well into the company’s culture.
An example hook may look like:
‘Since volunteering with your practice in 2019, I have always wanted to return as a graduate. Having now completed my first year in practice I have acquired experience that is relevant and aligned with the practice needs.
Additionally, as a former client of the practice, I am familiar with the processes and am aligned with the values of the clinic. I would love to be part of such an empathetic, personal service.’
If you want to get advice on how to choose a practice with the right culture for you, listen to the podcast below.
Skills and Practical Experience
Whilst your hook is all about engaging the reader, this section is about concisely conveying how your skills and experience align to that outlined on the job description.
For example, if your employer wanted a veterinarian with ‘good interpersonal skills’, you don’t just say you have them, you show them you have them.
‘I have the following skills which would make me great candidate for this role:
– Good Interpersonal skills. During my work experience at Thursbury Veterinary Practice, I used my interpersonal skills to help resolve client frustrations over social distances restrictions in the clinic.’
Tip: Using bullet points can be a good way to stay concise and clearly convey your suitability.
Education and Further Training
Having conveyed why you want the job and your suitability, it’s now time to mention your schooling and further training.
By further training we are referring to experience and/or extracurricular activities which you think might set you apart from other candidates.
An example of what this might look like could be:
‘I got my degree at Glasgow University last year, and graduated with a merit.’
‘Outside of my work and studies I volunteer as a communications officer at my local kennel, further demonstrating my preference for client facing roles’.
Your Closing Statement
Your closing statement should be brief, but leave the reader with a good last impression!
Perhaps reiterate why you want to work for that specific practice, or what sets you apart from other candidates.
Always finish with a call to action. A call to action is something that encourages the reader to complete a specific action.
A good example could be:
– ‘If you would like to get in touch with me, you can call me at this number: X or email me at this address: X’
If there is a specific time you would like to be contacted, it’s good to state so here as to avoid any miscommunications.
Cover Letters Do’s and Don’ts
Whilst (as stated earlier) there are no hard and fast cover letter rules, there are some things which can make or break your application.
Writing a cover letter that is personalised is not the only key to writing an engaging cover letter (that doesn’t feel generic or disingenuous), but also key for filtering out clinics that wouldn’t fit your needs.
If you’re looking for a practice that provides more mentorship/guidance, communicate these needs.
As mentioned earlier, there are more jobs than there are people – so it’s a great time to to find a practice that fits you, than find a practice that doesn’t fulfill your needs.
Avoid using overused generic statements (that are unsupported). This is especially true for the skill section, as anyone can claim to be a ‘team player’ etc. If you back up statements with statistics (relating to job performance) – even better!
Writing a great resume and cover letter can take time. But the good thing is that after you’ve done it once, you have a template for all your other applications.
If you are applying to multiple places, we recommend creating a ‘template cover letter and resume’, which you can adapt, personalise and use every time.
Now you have learned how to write a resume and cover letter for a veterinary job, you should check out our Career Success Roadmap. This roadmap will help you avoid the common career mistakes veterinarians make and teach you the steps every veterinarian needs to take to thrive in their career.
Check it out now.