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In today’s market, veterinarians are a hot commodity. After you finish your schooling, you’ll likely find yourself interviewing for your first official veterinary position. While this can be quite an exciting time, it can also be a nerve-wracking one. 

Let’s cover what you need to know in order to be successful when interviewing with a veterinarian employer.

Struggling to apply for your new role? Check out our guide on how to write a resume and cover letter

Question 1: How Do You Support Continuous Growth in Your Practice?

We have all heard the dreaded tales in which a wide-eyed, newly graduated veterinarian arrives for their first day of work, full of new and innovative ideas, only to be swiftly dismissed and told, “Well, we have always done it this way.” Feeling rejected, the new veterinarian slumps their shoulders and becomes hesitant to share their ideas in the future.  

Asking a future employer how and if they support continuous growth in their practice is a way in which you can gauge their commitment to the personal and professional development of their team.

Though the example above focuses on a new graduate, this really applies to all veterinarians at any stage in their career. Continuous growth, whether it is improving technical skills, updating anesthesia protocols, or hosting leadership seminars for the entire team, is an approach that fosters fulfillment amongst the team. It encourages a learning mindset, where sharing ideas and teaching each other new skills becomes the norm.  

One of the ways clinics may support continuous growth is with regular staff meetings where wins, problems, and goals are discussed as a group. This is also a prime opportunity to showcase different team members who are always innovating and wanting to better their practices so that they can share their experiences that may help others improve.

Question 2: Do You Offer Structured Mentorship?

Mentorship has become one of the most important priorities for veterinarians seeking a new employment opportunity. We finally acknowledge the importance of mentorship for a sustainable career in our industry. 

It’s difficult to find a job description these days that doesn’t include mentorship as part of the role’s benefits. However, simply listing mentorship in a job description doesn’t mean that the employer knows how to initiate a meaningful mentorship program for a new veterinarian joining their team.

It is important to ask how your potential employer supports structured mentorship in their practice. Asking questions like: Are new veterinarians assigned a specific veterinarian as their go-to mentor for advice? Is there time set aside in the schedule for the new veterinarian to review cases with their mentor, or to shadow their mentor during a particular type of procedure or appointment? Do mentorship sessions occur in person, virtually, or as a hybrid opportunity?  

These are the questions to ask to ensure that mentorship is an authentic and meaningful benefit offered by the practice and not just a word that lures you in within a job advertisement.

Check out our quick guide on how to find a good mentor here

Question 3: Do You Offer Flexible Scheduling?

A typical 9-5 schedule in which overtime hours are implied but not compensated for is a thing of the past. Or at least, they can be. As other industries learn to embrace a four-day workweek, veterinary medicine is slowly catching on.  

It used to be that veterinarians were expected to work a standard schedule, which included very little room for scheduled breaks and often didn’t allow for them to leave on time.  Many veterinarians’ feelings of burnout have sparked interest in seeking flexible employment in future roles. 

As you interview for a new position, consider asking whether the practice offers flexible scheduling, and if so, what are some examples of their team’s schedules that support flexibility.  

Scheduling falls into many categories: the actual number of days and number of hours that you work, a weekend rotation, and even how your appointments are scheduled on any given day. Some questions you could ask include: Is there an option for longer shifts, and fewer days per week worked? What about shorter shifts to ensure that you can pick up your kids from school every day, or attend a band practice? Your work life should support your home life, and vice-versa.  

So having a schedule that allows you to have a personal life is something that you are allowed to prioritize.

Question 4: What Intentional Methods Do You Use To Ensure a Positive Workplace Culture?

Workplace wellness and a positive workplace culture do not just happen overnight.  The culture within a company is something that is built on a foundation over time. There is nothing more detrimental to team morale and productivity than a toxic workplace. The golden question is:  How does your future employer ensure that their workplace culture is monitored as well as the health of their patients?

One key component to a positive workplace culture includes structured and open communication. Every member on the team should have a leader to whom they can safely and confidently confide in. It is important for the team to know that they can ask questions without judgment and that the workplace is a safe space. 

Additional approaches include teaching the team to give and receive feedback. This is a great way to nurture an open dialogue amongst everyone in the clinic and make sure that they are comfortable approaching each other with questions or concerns. Positive workplace culture can quite literally save lives in our industry – not only the lives of our patients but also the lives of our colleagues.

Question 5: How Do You Evaluate Performance? 

Once you’ve been hired, almost every employer has a system for evaluating your work performance. Some questions to ask: How often will you get to reassess your performance? Is your performance measured by your production, the number of appointments that you see, positive reviews, or some other metric altogether? 

Regular performance evaluations help an employer and employee set professional goals that align with both the company’s long-term vision and the employee’s career path.  

How will your future employer know that in five years you hope to be the clinic’s hospice and palliative care expert unless you get to discuss it and plan for it? Making sure that both parties are on the same page when it comes to advanced training, timelines, and areas in which the employer and employee can improve, are a driving force when it comes to a sustainable and fulfilling career in practice. not only that, it also puts an objective perspective on compensation methods so that both parties are fairly compensated for the work that they do.

Conclusion

Overall, when you are looking for a new veterinary practice to work at — keep in mind you’ll want to make sure the practice’s mission and culture mesh with your long-term goals. Having questions for your future employer not only shows your interest in the practice but also gives you the information you need in order to pick the right practice for you. Regardless of the employer, never settle for less, and don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for what you deserve — you might be surprised at the results.

Dr. Samyra Stuart-Altman

Veterinarian & Veterinary Practice Co-owner

Samyra is a veterinarian and veterinary practice co-owner. Her volunteer activities have taken her as far north as polar bear country and as south as the Mayan Riviera. She is passionate about the human-animal bond, animal welfare, mentorship, and workplace wellness. Samyra enjoys writing for her blog (click to read here) and drawing custom pet portraits for her humble art business called 'Ink Naturally.'

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