This means there will be even more great job opportunities with a higher salary range. But it also means that you need to prepare for job interviews.
To help increase your odds of getting hired, we’ve compiled a guide on the 10 most common job interview questions and answers for veterinary nurses.
1. “Do you have any pets?”
If you’re a vet or vet nurse, there’s a good chance you’ll have a pet at home. But what if you don’t? Don’t worry; that shouldn’t immediately disqualify you. But be prepared to answer why not.
If the hiring manager asks this question, it’s because they’re interested in seeing if you have a personal connection to animals beyond working hours.
Draw on relevant experiences you have of owning a pet. If you don’t have one because you’ve got a busy schedule, then let them know.
EXAMPLE ANSWER #1
Yes, I have 2 cats and 3 dogs at home. They mean the world to me, and I would do anything to ensure they’re healthy, safe and happy. I try to replicate that level of care for patients while striving to be professional and composed in the company of pet owners.
EXAMPLE ANSWER #2
No, I don’t have pets at home. I had a family dog when I was younger, but he passed away in old age. I’ve wanted to adopt a pet for a while now, but I don’t think it’s right to have one at the moment with my schedule. Pets need owners who are home regularly, not someone who is away for the majority of the day.
2. “Are you comfortable working with different kinds of animals?”
Clinics ask this question because they want to know if you can adapt to different animal types and personalities. They also want to know you won’t show implicit biases when providing medical care.
Respond by affirming your commitment to providing unbiased care. Draw on concrete examples from your experience.
All animals are living beings and need care, love and support. In my 12 years of experience, I have grown to love working with all kinds of animals, from dogs and cats to reptiles and livestock. I take pride in offering quality care to every patient that comes my way.
3. “What is your favorite case or procedure that you assisted with?”
Hiring managers ask this to get a feel for your on-the-job experience. Part of the hiring process entails finding someone who can maintain composure during the most complicated parts of the job.
How you answer depends on your experiences. Always have a reason in mind for your example, and show how this experience left a positive impact on you. Set the stage, show the action you took, and highlight the positive results.
One of my favorite cases was when I was an intern. Somebody came in with a dog that had been abandoned on the side of the road, scared, and in a critical state. We conducted an extensive physical examination and placed it on a multi-week rehabilitation program and nutrition plan. At first it was terrified, but weeks later, its health was restored and it began to open up. This was the most memorable case I’ve worked on, because I learned the importance of a good rehabilitation plan, and got to see just how transformative this work can be.
4. “How do you keep animals calm during a procedure?”
Keeping an agitated animal calm can be difficult, even for the most seasoned veterinary nurses. Pets can be comfortable with their owners, yet easily agitated around non-family members.
Hiring managers ask this question because they’re trying to see how well you perform under pressure and that you understand handling techniques and animal behaviors.
Highlight your knowledge of accepted handling practices and show how they apply to the examination room.
When treating animals, I combine multiple standard practices to keep them calm. Firstly, I keep high-value treats close by. This helps to gauge the sickness of the animal and provide positive reinforcement for future visits. Secondly, I let animals explore the room to get acclimated. Finally, I keep in constant communication with the pet owner. If owners are at ease, the patient will be more at ease.
5. “What skills do you have to make you an effective veterinary nurse?”
Veterinary nurses should have a blend of hard skills and soft skills. In terms of hard skills, patient care and knowledge of medical equipment, procedures and treatments are crucial. Soft skills include compassion, communication skills and problem-solving skills.
This answer to this question will show if you’re a good fit for the job. Chances are they’re not interested in learning how well you can play the flute. But if you can show them that you wrote a flute piece that has a calming effect on felines, then talk about it!
Highlight a combination of technical and soft skills you have. This is an opportunity to highlight your greatest strengths (that relate to the job description).
What makes me an effective vet nurse is my combination of skills. Firstly, I’ve gained valuable technical skills and training on medical technology in my formal education at ABC University and through practical experience gained at Pet Clinic XYZ. Most importantly, I’m a compassionate person who strives to maintain a professional demeanor with pet owners.
6. “What do you do to avoid compassion fatigue?”
Compassion should play a role in any medical career. But helping others can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Over a prolonged period, these experiences can cause burnout.
Hiring managers may want to know the steps you take to avoid emotional burnout and compassion fatigue. The last thing they want is to bring someone on staff new only to see them crash and burn.
Remember that the interviewer is looking for physical and verbal cues. If you’ve suffered from compassion fatigue before, try and keep your composure, don’t leave silence in the air for too long, and maintain a confident posture.
This is a significant problem for the entire healthcare industry. I have developed coping techniques, such as exercising. If I have a tough day at the office, I go to the gym after work to release it through physical exercise. I’ve also adopted the practice of keeping a journal of things I’m grateful for. It helps a lot to focus on the positives.
7. “How have you comforted an owner either during treatment or after a passing?”
Vet nurses serve as the middle person between pet owners and the veterinarian. They often communicate with patients who have lost pets.
Similar to the question about compassion fatigue, recruiters are looking to see how well you deal with trauma in the workplace. In this case, it’s the trauma of others. They want to know that you can deliver hard news in a compassionate, thoughtful way.
Showcase your communication skills, empathy and ability to comfort others.
Pets are members of the family, so the loss of one can be distressing for its owner. Utilizing active listening, open communication and validation can make the process easier for pet owners. When dealing with grieving pet owners, I make sure they know they’re being heard, and treat their feelings as justified. Finally, I provide answers to questions the owners have regarding the conditions surrounding the pet’s passing.
8. “How do you keep up with the latest veterinary developments?”
Medical professionals should adapt their practice to provide patients with optimal care. Hiring managers want to know that their employees make efforts to keep up with industry developments.
This question allows recruiters to assess your long-term dedication to the field. It’s also a way for them to avoid hiring candidates who can open them up to accusations of malpractice.
Use this as an opportunity to showcase your professional memberships, network and knowledge of industry-specific publications. Show how your knowledge of developments in the field help you provide exceptional patient care.
As someone who is passionate about my work, I take steps to ensure that I provide exceptional patient care by staying on top of developments in the field. Firstly, I have a subscription to Vet Nurse Monthly and I subscribe to multiple industry-specific newsletters and blogs. Secondly, I attend relevant workshops, webinars and yearly networking events to expand my knowledge base and network.
9. “Are you comfortable cleaning up after animals?”
It may not be the funnest part of the job, but cleaning up after animals is a daily task at veterinary practices. How you respond says a lot about your professionalism.
This question goes to the core of your work ethic. They want to know whether you can comfortably deal with the dirty parts of the job, or if you’ll just try and pass them on to someone else.
Be honest, yet professional. Show that you understand this is one part of the reality of providing quality care for the pet and their owners.
While it’s not the most pleasant task, this is something every veterinary nurse has to do during their shift. I believe that tasks like this are one more way to show pets and their owners just how much we care.
10. “What is your favorite animal to work with?”
All vet nurses have a favorite animal to work with. It’s expected that you would develop an affinity for one particular breed or type of animal. You may be competent working with different animal types, but you may feel one is easier to handle than others.
This question is a way for the hiring manager to get you to open up and test your personal interest in animals. Remember that implicit bias we talked about? They’re also looking to see that you can adapt and work beyond your preferences without bias.
Be honest, but show that you’re adaptable.
I like working with all animals, which is why I chose to be a vet nurse. But if I had to pick one, it would be mixed-breed dogs. I find they’re usually more understanding and easier to handle. But the truth is, my favorite type of animal to work with is the one that needs my help the most.
Working with animals can be a rewarding career. It can be physically and emotionally exhausting, but working in a veterinarian’s office can also be satisfying.
As the demand for veterinary staff grows, the competition is also expected to intensify, meaning you need to be astute, confident and professional. It’s time for you to stand out from the crowd, ace your interview and have the dreaded talk about salary expectations!
What other questions have come up in your vet nurse interview? Let us know in the comments section below.
Originally published on October 14, 2014. Contains contributions by Andrew Moran.