CVs, applications and interviews
When applying for graduate vet roles it’s worth taking time to understand what the employers are looking for in applicants during the recruitment and selection process.
You can then tailor you application for each opportunity and highlight your skills and attributes that match or exceed their requirements.
What are employers looking for?
It is widely acknowledged that new graduate vets will generally have the same clinical knowledge and skills (RCVS Day One Competences), so employers are looking for attitude as well as aptitude, and someone who will fit into the team and is willing to train and learn. Understanding what employers are looking for will help you to decide how you demonstrate these skills and abilities in your application.
Among others, some specific skills employers said they are looking for are:
- ability to deal with stress and make decisions
- ability to show empathy
- ability to manage consultations
- friendly, enthusiastic and polite
- a strong work ethic
- ability to work in a team
- being proactive - someone who'll answer the phone if it's ringing
- strong communication skills
Do your research - employers want you to understand their practice and the role you're applying for
- Look at the company website and their social media
- Research the community they are based in
- Is the practice involved in any charity work?
- Are any of the vets specialists in an area you are interested in?
- How does your EMS experience match their requirements?
- If you are applying to a charity, find out how they are funded and how it differs from a private practice
Read the job advert carefully and tailor your application
- Identify the skills and qualities they are looking for and make sure you answer these requirements
- If the practice has a particular area of interest, mention your own experience in this area.
- Mention any specific development opportunities you are interested in
- If you have spent time in the practice already, mention this in your application and reflect upon your experience
How do I make an effective application or CV?
Most veterinary practices and graduate programmes will ask either for a CV and covering letter or a CV and an online application form as the initial application process. This is very similar to applying for many other graduate-level jobs, however there are a few things you may want to consider for your veterinary application to help you stand out.
To get started visit our information on writing a CV and a covering letter. All the information on these webpages is applicable to veterinary CVs and letters. However, find the answers to common questions about veterinary CVs.
How do I put all of my EMS and rotations onto a two-page CV?
The answer is you don’t.
Employers want to see only the most relevant placements, these are usually the most recent and from the relevant field of interest. For example, if you’re applying to become a small animal vet, focus on a few of your small animal clinical placements.
Employers know that you have completed your minimum number of placements in all areas in order to graduate, so focus on a select few that are of direct relevance to the job and show how your experience stands out from that of other applicants. As you progress through your degree and you build your clinical experience, your animal husbandry experience becomes less recent and less relevant.
What does a CV look like?
Here are three sample CVs.
Example CV - equine
Example CV - farm animal
Example CV - small animal
How can I make my application stand out from other graduates who have similar clinical experience?
Be enthusiastic about the area of work and the employer you are applying to.
Employers will often say that graduate vet CVs are often very similar as graduate vets will have gained similar EMS experience and undertaken similar areas of study to pass your degree with Day One Competences. Often it is the covering letter that employers are interested to read as they can gain a better understanding of your passion to work in the area of practice and your particular interest to work for them.
If you are applying for a role in a specific area, tell them why you're enthusiastic about it. Include any information about previous work experience, or research you've done that made you want to choose this route.
Be sure to include details of your EMS (Extra Mural Studies) placements, including your practical experience and details of the practice.
Show the employer that you want to work for them and that you have done your research and understand why you will fit into their practice. Make reference to how you align to the employer’s values/behaviours and refer to any policies/opportunities that are of particular interest to you; for example diversity policies, sustainability, community engagement, investment in staff etc.
Life outside of the 'vet sphere'
Many employers will assume you already meet the academic level required, so will want to know more about you as a person. Include information about your interests and hobbies in your application.
Are there any further stages before an interview?
Many employers will invite you straight to an interview if they are happy with your CV and covering letter. However, there are a few other ways in which veterinary recruiters might want to find out more about you before interview:
- Attending webinars to find out more about the employer
- Telephone interviews
- A self-recorded video interview. Rather than speaking to someone via Teams or Zoom, the company may ask you to pre-record yourself answering questions or speaking briefly about yourself. You can practice this type of interview using the Sonru package, available on our website
- Skill set questionnaires – you may be sent a list of procedures and be asked to rate your confidence levels for each to enable the employer to understand where further support and training may be needed
- Case history exercises – for very competitive equine positions, for example, internships at Bell Equine Veterinary Clinic, candidates have been emailed a case history and asked to comment on how they would have responded to the situation
How do I stand out at an assessment centre?
A number of larger veterinary groups now use assessment centres, or ‘recruitment days’, as part of their recruitment process for new graduate vets. Assessment centres activities are designed to assess your potential to fulfil the role and encourage the demonstration of particular skills and qualities.
At these recruitment days candidates might be asked to complete some of the following types of activities:
- Deliver a 10-minute presentation. Usually on a non-clinical subject that you will be given before the day, for example, “What do you want to gain from your first year in practice?”
- Attend an interview. Questions are likely to be both clinical and non-clinical
- Team-building exercise. A non-clinical team problem-solving exercise for employers to see how you work with others
- Practice or hospital visit. A chance for you to see a practice or hospital, meet staff members and learn more about the business. Employers will want to find out how you interact with the whole practice team and with clients.
Prepare for assessments centres
How do I prepare for interviews?
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic veterinary employers have been, and are still considering using in future, a combined virtual and in-person recruitment process. This may mean that part or all of your interview process could be online. In which case, your travel time and costs may be reduced but there are a few other things to consider:
- Prepare in the same way you would for a face-to-face interview. Employers will continue to ask questions to assess your motivations and abilities but may provide scenarios through photos, diagrams and/or videos to test your clinical/professional knowledge and other attributes
- Consider the person specification and the desired skills and attributes that the employer is looking for and identify examples from your studies, placements and extracurricular activity to provide evidence to demonstrate those capabilities
- Even though you are behind a screen, still dress to impress and have a clear and tidy background. Are you presenting yourself as an organised and professional individual? Make sure that your environment is free of distractions and noises
- Do a technology check – download any software in advance and make sure your microphone and speakers are working. Also be aware of your positioning on screen - don’t sit too close nor too far away. Ideally you want the employer to be able to see you from your chest upwards. Log on for the interview a few minutes early so you are ready to go at your allocated time
- When responding to questions make sure you look into the camera of your device, speak clearly and with enthusiasm. Remember only 7% of our communication is through the spoken word, the rest is made up of our body language (55%) and our voice and tone (38%). You might find it beneficial to practice in advance of the real thing
This will likely involve a director or practice manager, and a senior partner or head nurse. Larger practices may also ask an HR colleague to sit on the panel. Generally, panels will try to keep the tone fairly informal so they get a chance to see your personality. Some practices incorporate interviews as part of a trial day in practice, as it’s important to them to see how you work with their existing team members.
Most practices ask a mix of clinical and competency-based questions, plus questions about your motivations, preferences, interests and expectations. You may also be asked questions about hypothetical scenarios, such as “You overheard a colleague say something wrongly to a client on the phone. What would you do?”.
General questions may include:
- What do you know about our practice/group?
- Do you have a preference for medicine or surgery?
- How do you feel about on-call or out-of-hours working?
- Tell me about yourself
Skill set questions may include:
- How long do you take to do a medium-sized bitch spay?
- What imaging do you have experience of using?
- Could you identify 'X' on this image?
Prepare to ask you own questions during the interview
- Ask insightful questions to show your enthusiasm and to show you have researched the company
- Don't be afraid to take a notepad with you into the interview with questions you want to ask
Advice on preparing for an interview
Come and speak to our team for advice on how to prepare for your upcoming interviews.
- Make an appointment with the Careers team via MyCareer for interview preparation support
- Request a vet-tailored practice interview via MS Teams or via the video interview platform Sonru by contacting Shelley Ashenden
- Practise your general interview techniques through Graduates First
An employer's perspective
Matt Plumtree, Senior Clinical Director, YourVets
Matt talks about how the EMS can help student vets decide where they would like to work and what he looks for in applicants during the recruitment process.