4 simple rules for hiring the perfect veterinary team
The very first day I opened the doors to my practice, my excitement was unbearable. My wife was my receptionist and I’d made my first real hire as a practice owner: a technician with no experience and no self-awareness. Being a start-up practice, I knew we wouldn’t be busy, so I figured I could train her myself.
Unfortunately, three of the four patients I saw on that first day were for euthanasia, and my new technician gave big, long, inappropriate bear hugs to all of them. I let her go two weeks later, and soon realized she had also been under the influence of alcohol while she’d been working.
Since then, I’ve hired more than 60 team members and, thankfully, there was nowhere to go but up when it came to my hiring skills. From all of that, I’ve learned four simple rules for the hiring process that have dramatically improved my success.
No. 1: Don’t hire in a hurry
Ashley, your superhero client service representative of four years, tells you on a Friday afternoon that she’s moving to a new city and gives you her two weeks' notice. So you find the first person who can breathe and, in turn, settle for the wrong person so that Ashley will have a week to train her before she leaves town.
We all get caught making this mistake, because we all often panic in these situations and don’t go through a hiring process at all.
Cross-train your entire team if you have less than five team members, and cross-train at least a few key people if you have a larger team. This will help you make adjustments to scheduling and prevent freak-out mode when someone leaves unexpectedly.
No. 2: Don’t make a decision after a single interview
One interview is unlikely to give you time to really know a candidate and evaluate skills and true personality. Perform at least three interviews.
At my practice, we start with a phone interview where we determine if they’re good communicators and ask basic questions that guide us to see how they’d fit with our workplace culture. The second interview is in-person, where we ask easy and difficult questions, review the job description and discuss the job in detail, including our expectations for the position.
If that goes well, we conduct a job-shadowing interview where they come in for two to four hours and we evaluate their skills and their interaction with the team, clients and patients.
No. 3: Don’t skip calling references
This is a common mistake, because candidates come to our practice for the in-person interview and seem simply incredible. So, we think we need to hire them immediately before they take a job at another practice. I’ve made this mistake more than once—and I’ve been burned more than once because of it.
Make sure to call references every time. The information to be gained from a previous employer who’s managed them for only six months can be telling and can prevent a poor hire. I’ve had references share with me a candidate’s poor work ethic, inability to be on time or tendency to gossip. Some of these candidates I’ve hired anyway, thinking that I knew them better than the reference after my three interviews.
Later? Filled with regret. References don’t usually want to say anything negative about a previous employee, so when they do, you’d better listen.
No. 4: Don’t skip the details
Often we get excited about candidates and move to talking to them about their soon-to-be schedule before discussing things like policy and pay. This is a big mistake that can give both you and your potential hires misgivings about the job and what it entails.
Review the details of your holidays, dress code and business hours before making a job offer. Miscommunication about pay or piercings can get things off to a rocky start.
When it comes to hiring veterinarians or key leadership positions, we also ask our candidates to fill out a personality profile (like the DiSC or Myers-Briggs) to help us understand how well they’ll integrate with our team.
Last (but not least!), make sure to write out your hiring process and follow the entire thing every time. Simple rules of hiring will dramatically improve your success in creating the team you dream of working with every day.