Does your veterinary hiring strategy need an upgrade?

May 10, 2019
Maureen McKinney, Associate Editorial Director

Steve Jobs said, A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players. Heres how to build your own veterinary A team.

If you're not having success, here a few tweaks to reboot your veterinary hospital's hiring techniques. (maicasaa/stock.adobe.com)The difference between the number of open veterinarian positions and the number of job applicants today is staggering. Ten years ago, the veterinary job market was full of active applicants checking their state veterinary medical association classifieds and submitting resumes. Today, practices need to find passive applicants-those “A players” who are working in a veterinary hospital but are unhappy in their current position.

'No longer is it working to throw up an ad and have five or six great people knock on your door.'

According to Joel Parker, DVM, president of executing training firm Veterinary Practice Solutions, practices looking to hire quality associates today (and who isn't?) need to be aggressive and employ a long-term approach. In a session he sponsored at Fetch dvm360 conference in Baltimore this weekend, Dr. Parker explained how to dig deeper to find passive applicants and take a close look at their own team.

“No longer is it working to throw up an ad and have five or six great people knock on your door,” Dr. Parker said.

His overriding advice in the hunt for new associates (and technicians) is to find and hire A players: “Your practice likely has some A players right now-those who are creative, motivated, persistent problem-solvers. You probably also have some B and C and D players. Research has shown time and again that practices that can attract A players will do really well.”

Here's how to dig deeper in your search for quality DVMs:

Be an A team

A players like to work with other A players. Set yourself up for success by being the best practice possible in terms of patient care.

“Be an AAHA practice, get Fear Free practice certification,” Dr. Parker said. “These things bring clients as well as professionals to your business.”

Protect your positive online reputation

Passive applicants who aren't happy in their current job are looking at other practices and, like pet owners, are reading online reviews to get a sense of whether the practice seems like it could be a fit for them.

“Five-star online reviews are like standing ovations,” Dr. Parker said, so go after them with gusto.

Always be actively recruiting and interviewing

Continue to seek out and interview candidates even when you're fully staffed.

“People leave practices all the time for any number of reasons,” Dr. Parker said. “The best thing is to be prepared for anything.”

Get creative, he advised. Consider placing fun or cheeky employment ads, which can really grab a prospective candidate's attention.  

Market your practice to the local talent

“In addition to using marketing to attract new clients, marketing your practice to local [veterinary professionals] will get you closer to your A team,” Dr. Parker said.

Develop a veterinarian database with emails and phone numbers, and use existing email or texting services, such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact, to reach out. He recommended sending these marketing communications about every two weeks, asking neighboring veterinarians if they'd like to pick up a shift at your hospital.

“Be polite but brief,” he said. “Introduce yourself and provide an opt-out option in your communications.”

Looking for an associate?

The dvm360 Spotlight Series: Associate Shortage looks at the current vet shortage and offers some solutions. Get it all here.

Test them out

Dr. Parker called it “the magic of the extra shift.” A paid working interview enables the practice to see how the candidate works, including clinical knowledge, motivation level and people skills.

“After the candidate's shift, ask the entire team for input,” Dr. Parker advised.

Use 'em or lose 'em

“Give good people lots of things to do-and reward them regularly-so they stay motivated and happy,” Dr. Parker said. Extra education and more responsibility are great motivators for people who are intrinsically motivated.

Put on the golden handcuffs

“When you find someone who's really, really good-who works great with the team, puts in long hours, brings in new clients and garners positive online reviews for the practice-give them the ‘golden handcuffs,'” Dr. Parker said.

Lock those A players in either on an ownership level or with excellent employment terms. It will be well worth it in the long run.