So, you’re looking for a new associate veterinarian, practice manager, licensed technician, client care specialist, assistant, or some other position in your animal hospital. Searching for and selecting the right person to become your next team member is hard work. But, hiring managers find themselves doing just that quite often in the veterinary profession, where the average turnover rate exceeds 25 percent.

If you’re an owner or practice manager looking to fill a position and you’ve already written a great job ad, combed through too many resumes to count, and researched your handful of favorites online, you’re finally ready to conduct interviews with those who have made it through the process so far. And for many owners and managers, interviewing candidates is the hardest part of the entire hiring process.

But interviewing doesn’t have to be as terrifying as it might seem. Here are seven tips to help you ask the right questions and get the right person on board.

Always conduct a phone interview first.


Conducting a phone interview prior to a face-to-face interview will save you a lot of time and energy. During the phone interview:

  • Discuss the position with the candidate and determine if it is a good fit for them and the practice.
  • Identify whether the candidate has a pleasing manner and professional tone of voice and communication style.
  • Ask the candidate basic questions regarding their availability and preferences. Does their availability match your needs?
  • Determine why the candidate is interested in the position.
  • Ask the candidate about their minimum salary requirements.

Standardize the interview process.


Standardizing the interview process will ensure you are evaluating each candidate equally. It will also enable you to delegate recruiting to others in your practice. Here are some guidelines to consider:

  • Begin the interview by explaining how the interview will be conducted. (“Hi, Susie. I’m Tracy. Thank you for meeting with me today. After I explain how I typically conduct interviews and what you can expect, I’ll spend a few minutes explaining the role and tasks of the position, the history and philosophy of the practice, and the skills and qualities we’re looking for. Then, I’d like to learn a little about you and your previous work history and the information you’ve listed on your application and resume. Then, I have about 10 standardized questions I’ll ask you and everyone else who interviews for this position. After that, I’ll be happy to answer all of your questions. And finally, we’ll discuss next steps in the hiring process. How does that sound?”)
  • When explaining the job requirements, be sure to give a copy of the job description to the candidate.
  • Provide some background behind why you’re recruiting for the position.
  • Because the employee market is so competitive, don’t forget to tell the candidate what is unique about your practice and why they should want to work there. Be positive, but also be honest and realistic.

Ask the right questions about job history.


What did the candidate do before applying for your open position? A few questions you should consider asking:

  • Tell me about your current/previous position. What do/did you do on a daily basis?
  • Why do/did you want to leave your current/previous position?
  • What do/did you like best about your current/previous job?
  • What do/did you like least about your current/previous job?
  • If I were to talk to your boss, how would he or she describe you, and would that assessment be accurate?

Ask the right questions about skillset.


Now’s the time to ask your standardized questions based on the position. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What is the most challenging assignment you’ve ever undertaken, and why was it so difficult?
  • What skills do you have that you believe would be important for this position?
  • What kind of relationships do you have with those you work with?
  • What is the most important quality of a job to you?
  • Describe a situation when you had to act promptly and decisively and your manager was not available to advise you.
  • How do you like to be managed?
  • Tell me about a situation that called upon your leadership skills.
  • How do you handle situations that frustrate you?

Allow the candidate to ask you questions.


Be sure to allow ample time for the candidate to ask questions. He or she has just been bombarded with a lot of questions and information, so don’t rush through this part of the interview.

Always explain next steps.


Let the candidate know your approximate timeline and whether you’ll have any interviewees return for second interviews. Tell the candidate when you plan to make a decision and when he or she will hear back from you regarding that decision. Ask the candidate how much notice they plan to give their current employer. Discussing hours and schedule for the position, a potential start date, and salary and benefits may also be appropriate at this time.

Evaluate the candidate after the interview.


When evaluating candidates, look at your notes closely, use the same requirements to judge everyone, and consider:

  • Punctuality
  • Pleasing manner and voice
  • Appropriate dress
  • Patterns of behavior
  • Feedback from others in your practice

Be specific in your reasoning for hiring or not hiring this person to avoid reactionary hiring.


At the conclusion of the interview process, you should be ready to select your candidate, and you should feel confident in your choice. Learn more about hiring the right veterinary professionals for your practice here. And, watch for my blog next week, which will cover how to properly train and on-board your new team member.