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Stop Offering Crappy Interviews

It’s a buyer’s market.

This means that potential employees get to decide who they want to work for.

Almost every veterinary hospital is short staffed, likely including yours.

If you fail to provide a great interview process, they will likely find another hospital that will.

A Healthy Interview Process:

  • Reply in a Timely Manner to the Applicant (<2 weeks)

  • First Interview. Have them leave understanding the next step.

  • Follow up in a Timely Manner (<1 week)

  • Second Interview (not an unpaid working interview)

  • Notify them of Your Final Decision

Reply in a Timely Manner

The candidate was excited when they applied for a position at your hospital. They may have told their friends and/or family members about the job they were hoping to land. Now it’s been a month and they haven’t heard from you. If they haven’t done so already, they will start looking for another job. If you never reply to them, they will likely never apply to your hospital in the future.

Yes, we all get candidates that aren’t quite who we are looking for. Maybe they have no experience or maybe they are not even aware of what the job is. I’ve had individuals from IT sectors apply for veterinary technician positions. Regardless of the fact that I have no intention of hiring them, I always reply to every single person who applies to my hospital. Imagine if that IT individual goes on to become a veterinary technician one day. Perhaps they know of a family member or friend who is a veterinary technician. Perhaps they are a pet owner in your area. Reply to every single person. It’s worth noting that most hospitals don’t have hundreds of applications rolling in right now. Take the time to reply to everyone in a timely manner which means in under two weeks from when they submitted their application. Anything longer is just plain rude.

First Interview

One great thing about the 21st century is that technology is ever present and available to help us interview more people in a shorter amount of time. I would encourage you to consider your first round of interviews over a video call platform (zoom, google voice, teams). While this seems impersonal, it allows you to interview more people and allows you to determine whether or not they are worth your time for an in-person interview. The other nice feature is that you can interview individuals that may not be located in the area. For individuals that are looking to relocate this allows them the opportunity to interview without the expense of traveling. No one likes their time wasted within the first hour you are likely able to gauge whether this person is qualified for an in-person interview.

If interviewing in-person is your jam, that’s a great option as well. It allows you to screen them inside the hospital. They get a sneak peek at your hospital, and you get to connect with them on a more personal level than a video call platform. Typically, in-person interviews tend to last longer than video interviews. If you have a strong candidate in your hospital, you are more likely to offer them a tour of the hospital and go into more detail. I call these show-n-tell interviews. This is where you like the interviewee enough to start showing them and advertising the clinic in a positive light. You don’t get the opportunity to do any show-n-tell to the candidate if you are doing a video call interview.

Regardless of in-person or video calling, be sure to keep it in a reasonable timeframe. Most first interviews should be scheduled for one hour. Unfortunately, I know of managers that have started out an interview and then turned it into a show-n-tell and then asked the candidate to stay for a few hours to observe the team. Candidates need to be given a timeframe in which they should be expected to be at the hospital for the interview. Springing a longer interview process on them isn’t fair. Many candidates won’t say no because they want the job. They feel like they need to say yes and it’s something they were not prepared for. It’s best to stick to the timeframe that you provided to them rather than them having to rearrange their schedule no matter how flexible they appear to be.

Have a set of standard questions you plan on asking. Too often managers start off interviews by asking, “tell me about yourself.” This broad, uninteresting question will likely leave you with not much more information than what they shared on resume. Here is a list of potential interview questions you may consider asking during your interview.

Interview Question Examples
Download PDF • 174KB

Regardless of what you ask, come prepared. What kind of information are you looking to get from this candidate? Too often managers just wing it, and it shows. Be sure you are fully aware what you CAN and CANNOT ask for questions. If you aren't aware, then you likely should not be interviewing. Check out this article that addresses the legal aspect of questions asked during an interview.

Lastly, before the first interview ends you need to provide them the next steps in the interview process. What?! You don’t have a written-out procedure of how you interview individuals? Please write out the process of how you plan to interview for the position. How many interviews do you require for a veterinary technician position? What is the process for interviewing for a veterinarian? The step-by-step process should be listed out. The interviewee should leave knowing when and what the next step is. You can use the above suggested process to get you on your way to writing yours.

Follow Up

This is the part where many managers fail. You took the time to interview someone, and they dedicated their time to you. Please don’t ghost this individual. They’re waiting to hear whether or not they are moving onto the next interview or not.

You likely know after the first interview whether or not you want to move on with this individual. Be courteous and let them know within a week of when they interviewed. Waiting for all the other interviews to be completed is likely an unnecessary step. If you like them, let them know by inviting them for a second interview. If you are debating and think more information may help you decide, invite them back for a second interview. If you didn’t like them, let them down gently so they can move on.

One thing managers fail to do is to write out a list of competencies that they are looking for in a candidate. The process of writing out a competency list for what you desire in a new hire will allow you to look back at your interview (where you kept detailed notes of the individual and went through a series of standard questions) and compare them to what you desire in a new hire.

For example, if you are looking for someone who embraces working in a team, you will want to have an interview question that allows you to evaluate the candidate for that. Is hiring someone who has a high EQ (emotional intelligence) important to you? Then be sure to evaluate them for it post-interview. Using a point-scale system to objectively rank your candidates will help you in the selection process. I've always been a fan of going through a competency list post-interview and assigning points to that competency so I can look at that candidate and determine if I want to move forward. For an idea of how to create this for your own hiring process you can download this pdf:

Download PDF • 206KB

Unpaid Working Interviews are Illegal

Unpaid working interviews in which the interviewee performs hands-on skills inside the hospital are illegal. Making someone work for free is illegal. When you ask a potential employee to prove their skills in the hospital by working on patients and interacting with clients, you need to pay them. Failure to do so can may result in you being sued or fined.

Some hospitals do pay for working interviews. If you are interested in doing working interviews within the law, you must enroll this person in your hospital as an employee so they are paid and fully covered by your hospital’s worker’s compensation in case they are injured during the interview.

That said, I don't recommend paying for an interviewee to work at your hospital to prove their skills. We don’t make veterinarians prove their skills by performing surgery for an interview. Why do we require veterinary technicians/nurses/assistants to prove themselves? I hear what some of you are saying, "I've hired someone in who said they could do XYZ and turns out they could not." I get it, but the practice of requiring these veterinary professionals to prove their skills is archaic.

This out-of-date practice started because veterinary technicians were only on-the-job trained. It was a trade job where one learned skill only and limited knowledge behind the "why." Even in trade jobs that exist today (like plumbers, carpenters), it’s illegal to require someone to work for free. Since the profession of veterinary technology has evolved where many