Veterinary practices receive hundreds of CVs each month from vets, who are all competing for a limited set of jobs. Whether you are a new graduate looking to get your first role in practice or an established vet seeking new challenges, there are a number of key rules you should follow when targeting a new job.
These principles can help you to stand out from the crowd, so that your application doesn’t get cast aside.
Include a skills section in your CV
We’re often told to focus on highlighting our experiences when preparing a CV. However, it is also useful to highlight what you consider to be your key skills.
By clearly listing and rating your skills in a devoted skills section (Figure 1), you make it easy for practice managers to get a quick idea of where your strengths lie. This is particularly important if you are a graduate and have little on-job experience.
In the skills section, take the opportunity to highlight correlations between the skills listed in the job posting and your own skill set. Adapt the skills section so it reflects what they are looking for. In cases where you have knowledge of a relevant skill but little on-job experience, don’t hesitate to include it.
Just make sure to give it a low rating, to show that it is an area of development rather than expertise. It is better to show employers that you understand what they are looking for than to hide your weaknesses.
They want to know that you understand what’s required, that you’re self-aware and can evolve on the-job.
Highlight desirable personality and characteristics
In addition to setting out relevant skills and experiences in your CV, it’s important to find a way to convey your personality. Being a vet is a social, customer-facing job that involves teamwork. Practices are therefore looking for dynamic, motivated team players, who are willing to adapt to different challenges on-the-fly.
In your cover letter, it is therefore important to highlight that you like working with others and that you are a kind and considerate individual.
These five personality traits are sought by veterinary practices:
- Communication skills
- A kind, caring mindset
By drawing attention to these attributes, you will show that you are someone who can be trusted to work effectively alone and with others and project the values of the organisation.
Focus on the practice’s needs first
As job seekers we all have a tendency to focus on why we want a job on a personal level (eg I want the job so I can…). Although this seems like a natural way to communicate, it conveys narrow thinking and a lack of empathy for the needs of the veterinary practice.
In your letter and in the interview, you should instead make the needs of the practice your primary focus. Using the job advertisement as a guide, describe what they are looking for (eg you are looking for a vet who has diverse experience with different animals) and then explain how you can address these needs (eg I have diagnosed, treated and operated on a range of different animals).
If you are doing this the right way, you will find that instead of starting sentences and paragraphs with the word “I”, you start with “you”. You may also find that you feel more inclined to write about “we”, putting an emphasis on the collective.
It’s also useful to do a bit of background research. Explore their website and LinkedIn profile to try and understand what makes the culture of the practice unique.
It might be related to the location, size or services provided by the practice, the set of skills possessed by existing employees or the equipment they have (eg ultrasound or x-ray machines).
Little nuggets of information will help you to tailor your application to the job and show that you care about the specific practice you are applying to.
Bring your boots…
When you go to an interview, it is important to look presentable and professional, but also wear comfortable clothes that make you feel confident. Some practices like you to see you at-work and get a sense of your personality on-the-job.
So also remember to take your work boots, scrubs, protective gear and stethoscope! Leave these in the car, but be ready to get them out and do a bit of practical work. Practices will like to see that you came prepared to get involved.
Good luck with your job hunt
Candidates tend to forget that in addition to being as skill-based job, being a vet is a social, team-oriented job. So be aware that your personality and general enthusiasm to work with others is almost as important for employers as your skills and experience.
If you go to interviews with an open-mind and demonstrate that you are kind, motivated person you are likely to stand out from the crowd. Good luck with finding your next vet job!