David B. Gerber, DVM, BA
Simmons Northwest

The key is to separate yourself from the crowd. There are usually several applicants for the good jobs, and, after a time, they all begin to look the same. All are intelligent, typically well-groomed, knowledgeable, and have resumes that are pretty much the same. So, how can you make your hunt successful?

First, you need to decide what would be a good fit for you and not simply “shotgun all the available positions. Decide what it is important to you. You can reasonably expect a vision similar to yours, open communications, medical and management mentorship, decent equipment and supplies, and fair compensation. Don‘t shoot for the moon, but decide what is and is not a “deal breaker. There are no perfect jobs.

The next step is to investigate the potential veterinary practices as thoroughly as possible. Many now have websites that give a lot of useful information about the practice. By simply walking in the front door and watching and listening, you can learn a tremendous amount about a practice culture.

Job seekers often make the mistake of focusing on what THEY will get out of the job and not what they can offer the prospective employer. Surely, you need to have your needs met, but it is also critical to figure out why a position is available. Clearly, the potential employer has needs that must to be met or the position wouldn‘t be available. It is NOT because he or she owes you anything. There are three main reasons why positions are available. Typically, the employer wants more time, more money, or improved client and patient care and often a combination of all three. So, when applying for a position it makes a lot of sense to try and identify the needs and speak to how YOU can help meet those needs.

Continue to think of separating yourself from the crowd. Why should you be hired ahead of a seasoned practitioner? What can you, as a recent grad, offer that they often can‘t. The obvious answer is cutting edge knowledge and familiarity with the newest and latest equipment and treatment protocols. But there is one much more overriding quality…PASSION, ENERGY, and the right ATTITUDE.

So, how do you actually get the job? First is to mail (note, I did not say email) or, better yet, hand-deliver your resume and cover letter. Hand-delivering will allow you to get a feel for the practice and it will show the staff what a friendly, outgoing, and well-groomed person you are. Mostly it will show how interested you are in the position. They will undoubtedly offer feedback to the employer, either good or bad. DO NOT SEND it by email or fax.

With all the information and resources available for resume writing, most well-drafted resumes look almost identical and it is impossible to separate them in a meaningful way. The employer generally knows the specific job duties of a receptionist, technician, or assistant. So, when describing past positions, talk about how you used the job to improve the business, how you instituted new procedures, how you communicated with staff and clients, how you were a team player. A resume should be geared to a specific position, which requires time and effort to investigate the practice. Different positions require different resumes and cover letters. Use heavy, high quality paper. There can be NO errors (that means NO errors). Include a stamped return postcard asking for follow up.

A cover letter is an excellent tool to emphasize your qualities that will help to solve the problem the owner is having (not enough time, not enough money, or not being up-to-date medically). It also allows you to talk about yourself. After all, you are a lot more than a “human resource; you are a complete person. With the fear of litigation, most owners are reluctant to ask any personal questions, although they really want to know these things. A cover letter is a great tool to tell them about yourself. From talking with many veterinarians over the years and from hiring many employees myself, I want to know who you are—as a human being. After all you will be living closely with your new employer 5 days every week!

Assuming you passed the resume hurdle, you are called to come for an interview. Dress professionally for the interview and try to schedule at a time most convenient for the owner. Remember, he or she is probably overworked already (thus the need for an associate). At the interview, take the opportunity to again talk a little about yourself. Ask questions about the practice. Interviews are two-sided, and the match must work for both the practice and you. Find out about level of care, special procedures you may not be comfortable with (ear crops), convenience euthanasia, etc. It is much better to find out about the “fit before you move, buy a house, settle in, and begin working. This is the time to ask about policies and procedures so you can get a sense of how the practice operates. Is it “well-oiled machine, or is there a chaotic “fire house feel? Are decisions a group effort, or does the owner make them all? Are employees, both DVMs and support staff, treated with the respect they deserve, or is there a revolving door? There are usually reasons why practices have high turnover. During the interview and while touring the hospital, talk with the staff, pet the cat. At the end of the interview, thank the potential employer for taking time out of his/her busy day.

Finally, what to do after the interview. In our electronic communication age, many applicants will send “thank yous by email. But, few, if any, will send a HANDWRITTEN note by US Mail. This will again show that you care. If you really want the job, say so, and you also might request an opportunity for a second interview.

Good Luck!

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