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Published: Jun 27, 2023 13 min read
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Regardless of the size or type of business you own, learning how to find great candidates to join your team is often a challenging and stressful task. This is even more true for highly specialized fields such as veterinary medicine, where the skills and qualifications required of a successful candidate are hard to find.

In our guide on how to hire a veterinarian, we cover the key points you need to know about finding and selecting the best candidate for your needs (hint: a good job description on a job posting site like ZipRecruiter can be a great place to narrow down the perfect candidate for your needs — and send jobs to a 100+ boards with one click). Read on to learn about writing an effective job description for veterinary roles, recruiting prospective candidates, evaluating applicants, developing insightful veterinarian interview questions and choosing the right person for your team.

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What is a veterinarian?

A veterinarian, also known as a vet or animal doctor, is a medical professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating animals for diseases and injuries. Veterinarians must have a degree in veterinary science and obtain a license to practice veterinary medicine, which typically involves passing a series of state or national exams. They also can practice different types of veterinary medicine, ranging from companion animal veterinarians to livestock veterinarians and research veterinarians.

What does a veterinarian do?

Veterinarians provide medical care for animals, including diagnosing illnesses and diseases, preventing the spread of diseases and performing surgeries. They also advise pet owners on preventative health care for animals, such as vaccinations and proper nutrition, and may provide “well-pet” services, such as routine checkups. Some veterinarians specialize in the care of certain types of animals, such as horses, cats or dogs.

How to hire a veterinarian

The more effort you put into your recruiting process, the less you will have to worry about how to retain employees and whether you've made the right choices when putting your team together.

There are several steps you can take to make the process of hiring a veterinarian for your business easier and more successful. Whether that means only using the best recruiting software or researching best practices for using an applicant tracking system (ATS) to filter candidates, utilizing the right resources alongside a well-thought-out process is key. The following sections will examine these steps in detail to provide the information and resources you need to find the perfect candidate for your organization.

Consider what type of veterinarian your team needs

The first step in hiring a veterinarian is determining the type of vet you need. Different kinds of veterinarians specialize in different areas, so it's essential to consider what type of expertise your role requires. The following are some of the most common types of veterinarians:

  • Companion animal veterinarian: These vets specialize in the medical care of cats, dogs and other small animals. Some companion animal veterinarians also have special training in nutrition, behavior and dentistry.
  • Research veterinarian: Research veterinarians are involved in the development of new drugs and treatments for animals. Their work involves clinical research and testing on animals.
  • Veterinary specialist: Veterinary specialists are experts in a particular field, such as surgery, internal medicine or pathology. They typically have completed additional training and certification in their specialty.
  • Livestock veterinarian: These veterinarians specialize in the care of farm animals, such as cattle, horses, goats and sheep.
  • Exotic animal veterinarian: These vets focus on the care of exotic animals, such as reptiles, birds, amphibians and fish.

Write a veterinarian job description that attracts veterinary talent

Writing an effective job description is crucial to attracting the right candidates for your veterinarian role. It allows you to clearly define the role and provide prospective candidates with a comprehensive overview of what is expected of them. When crafting your job description, be sure to include a detailed summary of the role, a list of qualifications and experience requirements, any specific skills desired and a description of the workplace culture.

You should also include any benefits or compensation associated with the role, such as vacation time and health insurance, to entice potential applicants. Additionally, you should explain the application process, provide up-to-date contact information, set a deadline for applications and establish a timeline for when applicants can expect to hear back from you. You can use a veterinarian job description template to help you quickly write a detailed job description.

Recruit prospective candidates

After you have written your job description, it's time to start recruiting for the best veterinarian candidates. Fortunately, there are several possible avenues to take when sourcing potential candidates ranging from online job postings on websites like ZipRecruiter to networking within the veterinary community. In many cases, organizations employ a combination of both online and offline recruiting strategies to cast the widest net possible. The following are some of the most powerful veterinary recruiting strategies to consider.

Company career page

Having a dedicated careers page on your company website allows candidates to learn more about your organization and available opportunities. This page should include your current job openings, application instructions and an overview of your company culture and benefits. When considering how to create a better career page, remember to describe what sets your organization's workplace apart from competitors and explain why top veterinary talent should consider applying.

Veterinarian program partnership

Partnering with veterinarian education programs at local colleges and universities is an effective way to gain access to students and recent graduates. Reach out to program directors to inquire about opportunities to present to students, attend career fairs or post openings on their job boards. Students and new graduates will likely already have the necessary educational background, allowing you to focus on determining if they would be a strong cultural fit for your practice.

Veterinarian conferences

Attending and presenting at veterinarian conferences is an excellent way to connect with experienced veterinarians who may be interested in transitioning to a new practice. It's also a great way for you to gain exposure for your organization and build relationships with potential future employees. Be sure to bring plenty of marketing materials and be prepared to discuss your job openings, company culture and benefits.

Job fairs

As the name suggests, job fairs are events specifically designed to help connect employers with prospective employees. These forums can provide an excellent venue for you to meet face-to-face with job-seeking veterinarians and discuss any job openings in greater detail. The greatest benefit here is the ability to assess a large number of candidates in person in a short amount of time.

Job posting sites

A quick search of the term "full-time jobs near me" will bring up plenty of online job posting sites that allow you to post your veterinary job opening. Web-based recruitment sites like ZipRecruiter provide a powerful platform for you to broadcast your job opening to millions of potential candidates.

By utilizing a combination of the best job posting sites for employers and niche sites that cater to veterinarians, you can quickly narrow your potential applicant pool to only the most qualified and experienced veterinarians. It is important to keep in mind that there is a fee associated with many of these services, so be sure to research the pros and cons before committing to any one site.

Evaluate job candidates based on their qualifications, experience, and skills

At this point, you should have a list of qualified candidates along with their veterinarian resumes. A fair and consistent evaluation process is essential to ensure you make the best hiring decision while avoiding any potential bias. The best way to achieve this is by creating a comprehensive list of skills, qualifications and experience needed for the job and scoring each candidate on their ability to meet these criteria.

Careful screening of applicants will also help ensure you're only considering the most qualified veterinarians to join your team. Using the best background check sites will help you verify the information provided in a candidate's application and resume and provide peace of mind that you won't find any unpleasant surprises after hiring.

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Know which veterinarian interview questions to ask

When you've narrowed down your candidates to a shortlist of finalists, it's time to start interviewing. Asking the right veterinarian interview questions is critical to get a better understanding of each candidate's unique abilities and how they would fit into the workplace.

Look for questions that will help determine a candidate's level of interest, experience, technical knowledge and overall cultural fit for your practice. With this in mind, here are a few example questions, along with an explanation of what they can tell you about a candidate:

  • Why did you decide to become a veterinarian? — This question will help you understand a candidate's motivations and career goals.
  • Describe a time when you had to make a difficult decision that made for an uncomfortable interaction with a client. — These kinds of behavioral interview questions will help you assess a candidate's problem-solving skills and ability to remain professional in difficult situations.
  • What steps would you take if you observed an animal that seems to have suffered serious levels of stress or abuse? — This type of question will help you understand how a veterinarian handles sensitive situations and appraise their interpersonal skills.
  • What do you think your greatest strength is as a veterinarian? — This question will provide insight into how the candidate views their own abilities and provide them a chance to highlight their most impressive qualifications.
  • What challenges do you think the veterinary industry will face in the future? — This question will help you gauge a candidate's level of knowledge about current events in the field and may provide valuable insight into how they could contribute to your practice.

Select a top-quality veterinarian candidate

Once you've gathered all the relevant information from your applicants and conducted thorough background checks and interviews, you'll be ready to make your final hiring decision. Selecting the right candidate isn't just about looking for the most technically qualified or experienced individual but also about finding someone who fits the team, culture and values of your practice.

When you have found the right candidate, it's time to make a job offer. Be transparent about the salary, benefits and other incentives you can offer, so your chosen veterinarian is clear on what they can expect from their new role. It is also essential to be transparent about expectations for the position so both you and the candidate know what is expected of them from day one.

Veterinarian FAQ

What is the cost of hiring a veterinarian?

The cost to hire any professional service provider, including a veterinarian, will vary depending on the methods for applicant sourcing used, the length of the overall process, the geographical location and any unique qualification requirements that may make finding the right candidate more challenging. Employers can expect to spend anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars on the hiring process.

How much do veterinarians make?

When it comes to average salaries of veterinarians, the range of pay depends on many factors such as geographic region, specialty and years of experience. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average veterinarian's salary is $103,260 per year or $49.64 per hour. The 25th percentile has an average annual wage of $82,580 ($39.70 per hour), and the 75th percentile receives an annual wage of $132,980 ($63.93 per hour).

What education does a veterinarian need?

In order to complete veterinarian schooling, one must first obtain a bachelor's degree and then receive a veterinarian degree from a four-year veterinary school program. Upon completion of the program, veterinarians must pass the NAVLE (North American Veterinary Licensing Examination) to become licensed to practice. Some states may have additional veterinarian requirements, such as state exams or further training.

Where do veterinarians work?

Veterinarians may work in various settings, including private animal hospitals and clinics, research facilities, zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, pharmaceutical companies and even in the military. Additionally, many veterinarians also offer house calls to pet owners who prefer this option.

Summary of Money's How to Hire Veterinarians

By adhering to the tips outlined in this article, hiring the right veterinary employee for your practice should be a straightforward process. Start by outlining what qualities, skills and qualifications you need in a successful candidate, then use these criteria to source applicants, conduct background checks and hold successive rounds of interviews.

Making an effort to be as transparent as possible about the job offer and expectations for the role will help ensure that you and your chosen candidate are on the same page. If you take these steps, you will be well on your way to bringing a valuable addition to your team.