In order to work for a veterinary surgery, you will need to pass the vet interview. Given the technicality of working as a vet, this is not an easy task! Customers will be trusting you with their much loved pets, so it’s essential that you can demonstrate to the veterinary surgery that you’ve got what it takes! The veterinarian interview questions will usually be conducted by one or more of the practice partners or vet recruiters, while interviews with charities or for governmental vacancies will likely be conducted by the Chief Veterinary Officer or vet recruiter, in conjunction with a member of the Human Resources team.
In this blog, we’ll give you a full breakdown on the type of vet interview questions you are likely to face, give you tips on how to answer, and provide you with some advice on how to conduct yourself during the veterinary interview.
As a veterinary surgeon you will be a representative for the practice you are applying to join, both at the surgery itself and within the wider community in which you work, so the way you dress for an interview needs to reflect your professionalism. You should wear something that is both smart and comfortable — for men this should be a suit or smart trousers and a jacket with a shirt and tie, while for women a suit or smart trousers/skirt with a blouse/shirt and jacket are ideal. Also, do not forget the importance of personal grooming and clean shoes.
If you find interviews a nerve-racking experience, try to keep in mind that you are also attending the veterinary interview to find out whether the post suits you and you want to work at that particular veterinary practice. Speak clearly, try to remain calm and avoid rushing your answers — give those interviewing you opportunities to expand upon their questions. Do not underestimate the value that vet recruiters will place on enthusiasm. Smile when you meet them and shake their hands. Make eye contact during the vet interview questions and adopt a friendly, positive and professional approach. It is likely that you will be shown around the veterinary practice/hospital etc. either before or after the interview — this is a chance to illustrate your enthusiasm by asking questions, showing your interest, commitment and passion for the veterinary profession, and creating a good impression.
Asking a friend or relative to practice veterinarian interview questions with you is a great way to reduce the nerves you may feel on the day. Also remember that the more interviews you attend the less daunting they will seem and the more your confidence will increase.
THE VETERINARY SURGEON INTERVIEW PROCESS
Make sure you know the job description, person specification and the information you supplied in your CV and covering letter when you applied for the post inside out, as this will likely form the basis for many of the veterinarian interview questions. Be prepared to expand on the information you submitted with your application with examples from your previous experience, including your veterinary degree course, extramural placements and your previous/current employment if you are already working as a vet.
You should be up to date with current governmental policy relating to animal health and welfare, and developments within the veterinary profession. Keep an eye on the Department for Environment. Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) website at www.defra.gov.uk and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) website at www.rcvs.org.uk, as these are an invaluable source for the latest news. If you work or are looking to work within a veterinary sector such as pathology or research, within the government or education sectors, or you are a specialist veterinary surgeon make use of all resources available to you, such as particular associations/unions dedicated to your area. Make sure you have read the latest edition of veterinary journals such as The Veterinary Record, and be prepared to talk about any recent or planned developments within the veterinary profession that are likely to affect you as a vet and the veterinary practice/charity/organisation you are applying to as a whole.
Research the practice (or other veterinary employer) thoroughly — read through any information sources you have been given such as practice information booklets, look at the surgery’s website, and talk to prospective colleagues at the practice if possible. If you are relocating (or even if you are not!) it is a very good idea to do a little research into the local area, finding out about the practice’s client-base, for example local farms.
Write down any questions you may have about the post, the practice etc. and take them with you to the interview. You should also double check whether you will need to bring any documents with you to the interview — it is common for veterinary recruiter surgeons to be asked to bring their RCVS registration documents, professional indemnity insurance documents, evidence of eligibility to work in the UK for overseas veterinarians, and possibly your driving licence too. It is also worth taking a copy of your CV and covering letter with you, just in case the interviewer(s) have mislaid them.
It is standard practice to ask certain vet questions at interview and therefore well worth preparing answers to these in advance. You should also try to think about other questions the interviewer(s) might ask you based on the position itself and the information you submitted when you applied for the role. A few tips to follow when answering questions are:
Try to lead the interviewer(s) towards areas of your veterinary experience that you want to talk about. Capture their interest and ensure you pause during your answers to give them a chance to expand on their questions.
Avoid yes/no answers at all costs and try to support your answers with specific examples from your veterinary practice experience.
Focus on your strengths and successes wherever possible, but remember the interviewer will want to know that you can also recognise your weaknesses and devise strategies to resolve them through continuing professional development (CPD), on-going learning and the desire to broaden and build upon your skills and experience. During the vet interview questions, a good way to illustrate this is to talk about how you have revised and developed specific areas of your work as a veterinary surgeon in various situations, for example your consultation technique and within the operating room, and any future goals that you have.
It is likely that you will talk about salary and employment issues towards the end of the interview. The best way to broach this is to talk about the salary and other benefits you receive in your current (or previous) veterinary post and ask how your experience and skills will be recognised in the new role.
If you do not get the position, contact the veterinary practice (or other organisation) and ask for feedback on how your interview went. This is great way to refine and improve your interview technique for next time.
Below we have a selection of vet interview questions asked both by veterinary schools interviewing prospective students and veterinary practices interviewing veterinary surgeons. The questions are organised into general sections, and you should try to think about how you would answer these questions, formulating ideas and themes that you can adapt to suit each interview you attend.
Examples of introductory/personal background vet interview questions
Q Please tell us a little bit about yourself and why you want to become a vet?
Q What made you apply for this post?
Q What other veterinary schools have you applied to?
Q What other practices have you applied to?
Q Why are you leaving your current veterinary post?
Q Why do you want to work as a locum vet?
Q Tell us about your veterinary degree course at XXX — what aspects of your training did you enjoy/not enjoy?
Q How would you describe yourself as a vet — what special qualities do you bring to the profession?
Q If you were to ask your friends to describe you, what would they say?
Q What are your hobbies, and what have you learned from participating in them?
Insider tip: Try to avoid vague answers to these questions. For example when asked about why you decided to become a vet, talk about a specific experience from your past, whether this be taking your first pet to a veterinary surgery, visiting an animal rescue centre or undertaking your first veterinary work experience. Talk about the vet who inspired you and go on to explain what cemented your decision to train as a veterinary surgeon. Try to highlight your interest in the owner-pet relationship and the role of the veterinary surgeon in caring for the interests of people and animals, rather than just saying that you love animals.
Q How have your life experiences prepared you for a career in the veterinary profession?
Q What is the role of the vet in today’s society?
Q What is the role of the vet within a local community?
Q What do you think are the main issues affecting veterinary surgeons today?
Q What do you understand about other roles for the vet besides working in general practice?
Q What are the responsibilities of a veterinary surgeon with regard to human/public health?
Q What type of veterinary medicine are you interested in?
Q How will you cope with the physical, emotional and time stresses associated with working as a veterinary surgeon?
Insider tip: Be prepared for questions relating to developments within the veterinary profession — when interviewers ask this type of question they are looking at your knowledge of topical events and current affairs that impact upon veterinarians in all fields. If you can refer to a recent article you have read in a veterinary journal this is a great way to illustrate your dedication to keeping yourself informed.
Questions About Your Veterinary Experience
Q What part of your veterinary training did you most/least enjoy?
Q What made you decide to specialise in small animals/equine work?
Q Describe a small/large animal case that particularly interested you.
Q Have you ever made a major mistake during your career, e.g. a surgical mistake, misdiagnosis etc? What did you do I would you do if this happened?
Q How do you feel about providing emergency cover, possibly being called out in the middle of the night, during your anniversary dinner etc, to deal with an emergency situation?
To learn more about how to pass the vet interview questions, please click HERE.