If you've got a veterinary degree and are looking to go straight into practice, you're in exactly the right place.
Read on for information to help you find a job with your veterinary degree, including what employers are looking for, information on recruitment processes, where to find vacancies and writing effective CVs and covering letters.
What are employers looking for?
In March 2016, we conducted a survey into the recruitment processes used by vet recruiters representing different sizes and specialism.
It was widely acknowledged that new graduate vets will generally have the same clinical knowledge and skills, 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.
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
Where are positions advertised?
Some smaller practices only recruit a new graduate sporadically when a position becomes available.
Larger organisations have established graduate programmes that can recruit 40-80 graduates per year.
Some good places to start looking include:
- company websites
- recruitment agencies
- online jobs boards
- social media
- your own networks and through University contacts or conferences
See the list of resources below to find some websites we have identified that could help your search.
Make the most of your Extra Mural Studies (EMS)
EMS are a fantastic way to prepare yourself for clinical practice. You will gain:
- experience – by planning effectively, you can get great experience, particularly if you know which specialism you want to pursue
- contacts – keep in touch with the vets and nurses you work with to build your professional network – this could be helpful when looking for work in future
- skills – each placement will develop your clinical skills and experience
- awareness – you will be ready for the transition from your studies to a graduate role
Making an effective application
Most of the processes for making an initial application for vet roles are similar to many other jobs, however there are a few things you may want to consider to help you stand out in your CV and covering letter.
Be enthusiastic about your specialism
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.
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.
Stages before an interview
There are a few other ways in which veterinary recruiters can find out more about you before interview:
- 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, e.g. internships at Bell Equine Veterinary Clinic, candidates are emailed a case history and asked to comment on how they would have responded to the situation
- Attending webinars to find out more about the employer
- Telephone interviews
Standing out at interview
Although interviews can vary dependent on the role, the practice and the interviewer on the day, we have identified some common stages of the interview process that are used by large and small practices alike.
Observations/time in practice
It's important for the hiring manager to see how you work in practice, and you may be asked to spend some time in the role while being observed – this could be anywhere between a few hours to a few days.
You will be assessed on how you interact with the team and with clients.
Face to face interviews
This will likely involve a director/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.
Most practices ask a mix of clinical and competency-based questions, plus questions about your motivations, preferences, interests and expectations.
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?
Preparing for the recruitment process
Do your research
- 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?
- Does your EMS experience studies 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
- Pull apart 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
- Ask insightful questions to show your enthusiasm and to show you've done research
- Don't be afraid to take a notepad with you with questions you want to ask
An assessment centre is a half or full day of activities which often include a mixture of exercises such as group work tasks, role plays and presentations.
Some of the larger recruiters have used these recently, but it is unclear if these will be used much in the future.
Final top tips
Dress professionally and appropriately for the role
You should look smart and professional, but do bear in mind that you might be asked to do a work trial, so tying your hair back and wearing sensible shoes is a good idea.
Manage your expectations
Be careful not to overly focus on what you want from a role without considering what the practice wants from you.
Try to bring the two together and explain how what you want to get out of the role fits with the practice's requirements.
Prepare by planning your answers
- Anticipate the questions
- Practising your answers beforehand can help avoid you feeling too nervous
- Think about your experiences and how you can present these as evidence of the skills required