4 Tips for Hiring Veterinary Staff

Follow these tips to hire the best candidate for your clinic.

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Whether you are just starting your own veterinary practice or you are looking to replace or expand your practice, hiring is an essential part of running an efficient practice. With an employee costing 1 ½ to 3-times their annual salary and some employees taking up to five months to reach break-even productivity, according to Investopedia, making sure your next hire is the right one is essential to your practice’s longevity.   

Have you looked at how your practice selects the best candidates? Here are some tips to help your veterinary practice reduce hiring time and increase the amount of time you can spend growing your business by better serving new and existing clients.   

Focus on Soft and Technical Skills When Hiring

While having the necessary education and licensure for a technician or veterinarian is necessary for competency, looking at the complete skill set of a potential hire is equally important when making a successful hire.

“For a technician, you look for a person with good technical skills: Being able to put catheters in, being able to intubate animals, being able to setup a patient for a radiograph is what I look for in a vet tech,” says Dr. Philip McHugh, veterinarian and medical director of Park Vet Hospital in Durham, N.C. “For a DVM … you look for very strong interpersonal skills, which is not something that people learn in medical school. The person’s personal makeup, their attitude, their energy, their friendliness — that can’t be taught. You only have one-time to make a first impression.” 

Observe Late-Stage Applicants in Action

Building on evaluating a candidate’s inter-personal skills, seeing how the late-stage candidate interacts and performs “on-the-job” will help your practice get a better handle on the long-term potential of the individual. During the final stages of interviewing, McHugh introduces applicants to his veterinarian team and sees how they perform by observing how they analyze a case and how they would treat animals, their work-style, etc. “Then I get feedback from the doctors because I need to know if this is a person that my current doctors can work with,” McHugh says.

Look Into a Candidate’s Complete Background

When you contact a candidate’s personal and professional references, along with running a background check on them, you will learn a lot about their social skills, honesty and integrity. “If it’s just a general reference like a professor or friend, their professors might know their technical skills, but they might know them as a person,” McHugh says. “If it’s a previous employer, I want to find out if it’s the same story,” concerning why they left and the circumstances surrounding their employment.

Running a background check for a candidate will give you a better picture on their level of responsibility and maturity. If a candidate has access to your practice’s money and prescription drugs, McHugh pointed out that running a background check will determine if the applicant has declared bankruptcy or has poor credit, showing how responsible he or she is. Background checks are used by three in five employers, according to the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA). A blemish-free background check shows that an applicant is well-versed with money matters and is a strong indicator of integrity.

Depending on the results of the background check, including their driving records, criminal records, drug test records and prior jobs, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, you’ll be in a better position to give the ultimate hire responsibility with sensitive information. However, make sure your firm can run one, by obtaining written authorization and by checking with a local attorney that your state doesn’t ban one (Hawaii and Washington State don’t allow them).    

Use Various Resources When Looking to Hire 

McHugh recommends using the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) resources to look for new staff. “The AVMA has an employment service, all or almost all state Veterinary Medical Associations are tied into it,” McHugh says. Its Veterinary Career Center permits candidates to post resumes, have their resumes reviewed by hiring veterinarians and helps students gain experience with its Student externship locator.

Along with using the AVMA’s online employment portal, McHugh recommends asking a vet school to post a job opening, asking colleagues for applicant referrals and using online employment websites such as Craigslist.org to find candidates for vet tech positions.

Implementing these hiring practices will increase the likelihood of your veterinary practice from hiring the wrong candidates. This will ensure your clients have the best experience possible and reduce the likelihood the hire will not work out, saving you more money in the long-term.       

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