Veterinary nurses, technicians, and technologists are expected to be in high demand over the next decade, with a projected 16% employment growth.
For veterinary nurses, be they newcomers or seasoned veterans, this means there will be even more great job opportunities. However, it also means that you need to get ready for some job interviewing.
To help you get started, we have compiled a guide on how to answer 10 common job interview questions for veterinary nurses to increase your odds of getting hired.
1. ‘Do you have any pets?’
While you do not need to have a pet to take care of a crazy critter professionally, it does allow you to have direct care experience regularly rather than just during office hours. Plus, the hiring manager might be interested to see if you would offer the same level of care to a veterinarian’s patient as you would to your pet at home. Also, the older or longer you have a pet, the better it looks for you. It shows that you are competent and responsible enough to care for an animal.
But what happens if you don’t have a pet? That shouldn’t affect your hiring chances, especially if you’re honest about why you don’t have a pet at home.
So, there could be two ways to answer this type of question:
‘I have a dog and a cat at home. They mean the world to me, and I would do anything to ensure they are healthy, safe and happy. While I do try to replicate that kind of care to patients, I avoid being overly attached or emotional to be as professional and realistic as possible. Essentially, I want to be a neutral source when working with the vet, the animal, and the owner.’
‘No, I do not have any pets at home. I had a family dog when I was younger, but he passed away in his old age. I have 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 all kinds of animals?’
How do you feel about working with docile pets? Can you handle aggressive or nervous animals? These are important questions that interviewers ask when looking for a veterinary nurse.
Most clinics accept all types of animals that may display different behaviours. This requires somebody who can handle different types of cats, dogs and everything in between.
As a vet nurse, it’s crucial to know how to handle various types of animals that walk through those clinic doors.
Here’s one way to respond to the inquiry:
‘At first, I was not confident enough to assist with challenging animals, especially as a student. I was afraid of getting bitten, or I was concerned that I’d hurt the patient. However, after a couple of years of experience, I can now confidently say that I am comfortable working with all kinds of animals.’
3. ‘What is your favourite case or procedure you assisted with?’
The veterinary clinic wants to dive into your experience and see what you have done on the job. Veterinarians want someone who has assisted in complicated procedures, or that took part in an animal’s full rehabilitation. Of course, how you answer this will depend on your own experiences, but make sure to provide a reason behind your chosen case. You could say something along the lines of:
‘One of my favourite cases does way back when I was just an intern. Somebody came in with an abandoned senior dog who was discovered on the side of the road. The person who found the dog was willing to pay to rescue the animal. So, we did everything we could to save him, from casts to medication to bloodwork to diets. At the moment, he is about to turn 23 and is still healthy and well. I have worked on many cases since then, but this one was one of the most memorable ones as I learned so much about the industry and the importance of a good rehabilitation plan.’
4. ‘How do you keep animals calm during a procedure?’
One of the hardest tasks for a veterinary nurse is keeping an animal calm, even during a routine check-up. It can be challenging, even for the most seasoned veterans in the business. That said, hiring managers will be interested to know about any measures and strategies you employ to calm down an excitable animal in these situations.
The best answer is one that is honest and highlights your skills in the position in a passive way. Here is an example:
‘I gradually developed my own method through various tips and tricks I’ve learned from others. I usually combine a couple of these: I get to their level, I remain calm, I have a stash of treats in my pockets, and I never get scared if I hear growling. I’ve worked with so many animals throughout my career that I’ve learned how to respond to different behaviours and characters in order to keep them calm.’
5. ‘What skills do you have to make you an effective veterinary nurse?’
A veterinary nurse needs to have a blend of both practical and soft skills. Your potential employer wants to know how your expertise and skills make you effective at your job. There’s a lot you need to know to be a great veterinary nurse, including doing administrative work, working with technology and being familiar with veterinary practices. You also need to demonstrate that you are a compassionate, communicative, and reliable person.
‘If I may say so, I think I have all the necessary skills that are required to be an effective veterinary nurse. I know how to handle animals and work with pet owners, and I am familiar with the ins and outs of administration and vet technology. Most importantly, I am a compassionate person who can sympathise with pet owners while also maintaining my professionalism. In my opinion, this is crucial to be a good vet nurse.’
6. 'What do you do to avoid compassion fatigue?'
In any healthcare job, there is a lot of talk about being compassionate. While this is a critical component for workers, it can eventually become emotionally and physically exhausting. As time goes by, your ability to feel compassion diminishes.
So, how do you handle it?
Hiring managers may want to know the steps you take to avoid emotional burnout and compassion fatigue, whether it’s through your hobbies or by establishing emotional boundaries.
‘I understand this is a significant problem for the entire healthcare industry. I have had my fair share of tough cases. But I have developed some coping techniques, such as exercising. If I have a tough day at the office, I will go to the gym after work to release it through physical exercise. Over the years, I’ve also learned how to keep a journal to write out my thoughts and frustrations. It helps a lot.’
7. ‘How have you comforted an owner either during treatment or after a passing?’
Vet nurses serve as the middlemen between the pet owners and the veterinarian. Therefore, they are required to engage with patients who have lost a pet. It can be challenging, but it’s part of the job. So, what can you do? Listen, be kind and outline their options. That’s really all you can do as a vet nurse.
‘It’s a distressing time for the pet owner, especially when the pet is considered to be a member of the family. I do my best to be kind by listening to everything they say, and I present the various options they have either in treating the animal or making its last few moments more comfortable.’
8. ‘How do you keep up with the latest veterinary developments?’
Day in and day out, you’re working in the trenches and caring for every patient that saunters through the door. When you leave the office, you try to disconnect.
Overall, what time or energy do you have to keep up with the latest news and trends in your field? That’s a good question. But hiring managers want to know if you make an effort to stay up to date with industry developments. For instance, you could say:
‘Well, my previous employers ensured that we learned about the latest trends through conferences and meetings. They helped me develop as a professional and encouraged me to also sign up for relevant newsletters that keep me in the loop with new developments. I’m always willing to learn about new technologies, tactics or regulations if that means that I can do my job correctly.’
9. ‘Are you comfortable cleaning up after animals?’
Cleaning up after animals that visit the vet clinic is often part of the job. Your potential employer will want to ensure that you are, in fact, comfortable with this chore. How you respond will say a lot about your professionalism and how you deal with your duties as a veterinary nurse.
‘While it’s not the most pleasant task, this is something every veterinary nurse has to do during their shift. What needs to get done, I will get done. That’s part of the job.’
10. ‘What is your favourite animal to work with?’
Golden retrievers or Labradors? Siamese or Bengals? Reptilians or fish?
All vet nurses have a favourite animal to work with. Over the years, it’d be expected that you’d develop an affinity for one particular breed or type of animal.
So, while you are competent to work with every animal, you may feel one is easier to handle than others.
‘I do like to work with all animals. But if I had to pick just one, it’s usually the mixed-breed dogs. I find that they are usually smarter, more understanding and easier to handle. But if you are good at what you do, you shouldn’t be too concerned about one animal over another.’
Working with animals is perhaps one of the most rewarding careers today. While it can be physically and emotionally exhausting, being employed in a veterinarian’s office can 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 and ace your interview.
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 14 October 2014.