How to find an associate

How to find an associate

Finding a great associate takes hard work, focus, and patience. Here's how to pick your ideal candidate out of a crowd.
Dec 01, 2008

Illustrations by Steve Pica
She's out there somewhere. Hiding among the recent graduates and doctors looking for a change of scenery is your ideal associate. But she'll take some effort to find. Long gone are the days of placing an employment ad in a veterinary journal and waiting for a throng of applicants to apply. There are practices that have been looking for an associate for months and even years without success. The average veterinary school graduate receives four to five offers of employment. The numbers are not in your favor.

Despite these odds, some practices have little or no trouble acquiring new veterinarians. So what are they doing that you aren't? As the labor market changes, practices must also change how they recruit. If what you've been doing in the past is no longer working, maybe it's time to look at some fresh ideas and approaches. Let's examine the best strategies you can use to find your own Dr. Wanda.

Make friends with the Internet

Mark Opperman, CVPM,
Most people today turn to the Internet for almost everything, from shopping to playing games to communicating with friends and family. So can you guess the first destination for today's job applicants? That's right: the Internet. And job seekers have plenty of options. They can visit general employment sites like and, or they can use veterinary-exclusive employment sites like But just posting on a veterinary-specific site won't necessarily leave you flooded with applications. In this competitive market, you have to set your practice apart. And it starts with your employment ad.

To find your ideal associate, you have to sell your practice as a great place to work. So ask yourself, "What makes our practice great?" Then tout those attributes in your ad—and don't shortchange yourself. I was recently conducting a veterinary practice management class, and as part of the exercises, I asked the students to write employment ads. One practice owner seeking an associate doctor wrote a real snoozer. When I asked that doctor about her hospital, she told me they had 24-hour care, a high employee-to-doctor ratio, a digital radiography system, licensed technicians, and a recently remodeled facility. But none of that information was in her ad. That's a mistake! Those are the kinds of high-caliber features associates are looking for, and listing them in your ad can do wonders for recruiting quality associates.

The bottom line
In addition to touting your practice, you also have to sell associates on the surrounding area. Ask yourself, "Why do I love living here?" Another participant in my management school told me that her practice was located near a beach, in an area with great schools and less than five miles from a major city. Plus, the practice was very family-friendly. All this information needed to be in her ad—but wasn't. Keep in mind that you're not limited in words online like you are with a print ad, so you can include some of this detail—though you don't want to ramble on and on. I suggest including your Web address, the hours you expect the doctor to work, any emergency service required, and the salary and benefits you'll be offering. Some people say you shouldn't post a salary range, but I think that if you're only willing to pay $70,000 and a candidate is looking for $80,000 or $90,000, you could be wasting each other's time.