Why Can't I Find a Job as a Vet Tech?

How this vet tech’s interview skills may be holding them back.

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A veterinary technician writes:

I have been trying to find a job as a vet tech and I’m having a difficult time. I've been on about seven interviews and got only three responses back, all saying that I was not experienced enough for the clinic. I don't know why since I've been at my clinic for more than three years and I do just about everything. The only problem is that we don't use computers (which I can learn quickly), X-rays, in-house labs and I have a very strong background in customer service. I had one interviewer tell me right away that I wasn't going to get the job because I didn't know their practice management software and that they don't have the time to train me. During the interview, I do tell them this up front and I also mention that I'm a quick learner.

Is it my age? I don’t tell them how old I am because I really don't look it and don't act it? I talk it up about how I love talking with owners about their pets and other things. I'm very honest about the things I do and the things I want to learn more about. I don't know what else to do.

For most people, job searching can be a frustrating and demoralizing experience. Each rejection chips away at your confidence a little, so by the time you walk into your 10th interview, you are expecting yet another “No.” Believe it or not, this shows. Recruiters can sense that you are growing desperate and that you lack confidence in yourself. I applaud you for not giving up, and hope that with the following suggested changes, your luck turns around.

Firstly, the fact that you have been invited to seven interviews says that you have a strong resume that stands out. Practice managers and owners typically receive dozens of applications for a position, spend only a couple of minutes (if that!) reviewing each one and only invite a handful of applicants to the interview. Your resume stood out seven times, which is great!

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The bad news, of course, is that you didn’t get an offer as a result of any of the interviews, which leads me to believe that it’s your face-to-face interview skills you need to brush up on. That’s a whole topic in itself, which I’ll leave for next time.

The feedback you keep receiving about not being experienced enough is an interesting one: if you were totally inexperienced for the position, why did you get invited to the interview in the first place? It’s more likely that there were other candidates more experienced than you, or even with the same level of experience but who were more impressive in the interview. I suspect it’s the latter, so we’re back to your interview skills.

Working in a clinic without a computer system for over three years is a problem. It doesn’t matter that you tell the interviewer you’re a quick learner — you may very well be, but there are a few other issues here. Firstly, lack of a PMS (practice management software) suggests that the clinic you work in is archaic in its practices, from customer service to patient care standards. So automatically the rest of your experience is brought into question. 

Imagine that you were a software engineer applying to work at a leading company like Facebook. The recruiter sees that you previously worked at Google as a software engineer. There are two key assumptions the Facebook recruiter makes: 1) You were good enough to be hired by Google, so you must be a great engineer; 2) you will bring with you ideas and a sense of innovation and culture that they want to emulate.

The opposite is true in your case. The recruiter at a progressive, leading veterinary hospital sees that all your previous experience comes from a small practice with no computer systems and wonders what additional value your experience can bring to their hospital.

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The second issue is that there is a myriad of hospital processes that are facilitated by a PMS, it’s not just used for patient histories. Suddenly your inexperience is multiplied by a factor of 10 because the recruiter is thinking of all these processes they have to teach you.

I didn’t quite understand from your email: Have you not used radiography machines and an in-house laboratory either? If that’s the case, my advice to you is this: Get out of that hospital as soon as possible!  Get a junior position in a reputable practice and then start applying for vet tech positions in other hospitals.

You asked if your age is part of the reason you have been unsuccessful. I don’t know how old you are, and while recruiters will never tell you that you were not hired based on your age (it’s illegal!), the truth is, it can sometimes play a role in the hiring decision. However, if you are a high-caliber candidate, it doesn’t matter how old you are — you will get the job. So, no — I don’t believe “it’s your age.”

The last point I want to make relates to your sentence “I talk it up about how I love talking with owners about their pets and other things.” I have interviewed literally hundreds of veterinary technicians, receptionists, assistants, doctors etc. Never has someone saying they love talking to owners about their pets impressed me. It’s like saying you like animals. Firstly, it’s kind of the bare minimum standard if you want to work in a veterinary hospital: You have to like animals, and you have to like talking to people about their animals. Secondly, everyone says it. Especially the inexperienced assistants.

It’s fantastic that there are things you want to learn about — go out and learn them! I know it’s difficult to quit a job without having another one lined up, so I’m definitely not suggesting you do that. But why don’t you start doing some volunteer work on your days off at another hospital and then resume your job search?

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