It worked! You sent out your resume and cover letter, and you have a fish on the line! Now is the time to get ready for your interview. Be aware that the practice may want to conduct a phone interview, personal interview and even a “working” interview or observation time. Here are some things to consider:
One of the best ways to interview involves behavioral questions, which is founded on the concept that past actions are the best predictor for future actions. So you may be asked questions such as:
Next time, we’ll take a look at the face-to-face interview and how to sell yourself to land the job you want!
- Be ready for a phone call. This may sound silly, but it matters what type of voicemail message a potential employer will hear when they call you. Take a moment to listen to your outgoing messages, at home and/or on your cell phone, and make sure you sound professional — no loud music, obscure messages, lazy grammar, that sort of thing. At least while you’re sending out resumes, you should realize this is someone’s very first image of you. Make it a good one. Keep in mind that a potential employer could call at any time, so answer your phone in a welcoming way. If they catch you at a time that is not good, ask them if you can schedule a call when you can speak more freely; this is particularly true if they catch you at work. Be ready for the scheduled call. Typically, a phone interview is just to get a feel for your level of interest, and there shouldn’t be too many tough questions.
- Do your homework. This is the time to review the website again, paying more attention to details. Learn the names of the team members, particularly the practice owner(s), associate veterinarians and manager(s). Read as much as is available about the history of the practice, what services they offer to their clients and patients and the general “feel” of the business. Take this step seriously, and spend some real time preparing.
- Think of questions they’ll ask. Hiring processes differ, mainly because the training of the management who do hiring can vary. Regardless, you can count on some basic questions being asked. Be prepared to answer the following (and this isn’t easy!):
- Why are you looking for a new job?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- Why did you leave your last job? (Don’t be afraid to be honest; if you weren’t a good fit for your last employer, that doesn’t mean you’ll be a bad fit for this one.)
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a team member and/or boss.
- Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a client.
- Tell me about an achievement for which you are the most proud.
- Come with questions to ask them. One of the most important things to realize is that while they are interviewing you, you must interview them. Yes, they have a vested interest in hiring someone that will be a good fit for the team, but you will be the one living within this new practice so make sure you feel it is a good fit. You can’t do that without asking questions. As you prepare for your cover letter and interview, write down any questions that come to mind. Some may be biggies that you want/need answered before considering accepting the job. Others may be small enough that you can wait until a position is offered, or the position is accepted, because they may not be “deal breakers.” But be sure to ask your “deal breakers” during the personal interview, which may include:
- Basic employment expectations, such as position, number of hours per week, shift time, wages and benefits. Keep in mind that you should consider both the wages and the benefits package. You may opt for a lower wage if they provide great benefits, so consider the comprehensive investment they are willing to make.
- Training program … in particular, do they have one for you! It’s not uncommon for us to train “on the job,” as is typical in our industry, but it will show your willingness to learn if you discuss their training expectations at this point. You will be held accountable for learning and adapting to their practice, but you should also expect them to put time and energy into your initial training.
- Job duties, which are best explained in a job description provided for your specific position (not the employee handbook or policy manual, which serves a different purpose). You want to know what they expect you to do day in and day out. Some of these duties may be “deal breakers” or at least strong contenders, such as does the front office team make collection calls to unpaid invoices? Do the technicians perform any duties that are not typical for the law or the general industry? Will assistants have help with restraint when they encounter fractious animals during general husbandry tasks? This is a good time to think about your past employers, and recall any nightmares or corners that you were backed into in the past, so as to avoid being in that corner again!
- Professional development: Does your career goal fit with the philosophy of the practice? For a technician, an example may be a person who wants to pursue specialization or advanced learning in an area (for example, dentistry). This candidate should ask if dentistry is a growing area of interest for the practice owner. The job has to fit well for both employer and employee.
- Environment, such as team morale, management style and how typical issues, such as team conflict and gossip, are handled by the practice leadership. Don’t be afraid to ask them some tough questions regarding the more intangible, but nevertheless important, aspects of the work environment. We’ve all worked places we’d rather not have, so use those experiences to help you determine a better fit for the future.
- It’s all about the outfit. Do not assume that just because the position you’re considering will wear scrubs on a daily basis that your appearance at the personal interview is not important — it definitely is! “Professional casual” is the way to go. So wear nice pants (not jeans) or a skirt that is a respectable length (not for the dance club, in other words). Select a nice blouse or collared shirt; no strapless or straps of any sort, no bare mid-drift, no pierced belly button peeking out. If you are coming to the interview right before or after work, ask if it’s alright if you come in scrubs. Be sure they are clean, pressed and presentable when you arrive for the interview.