How to hire veterinary team members who fit your practice culture


Knowledge and skills aren't always enough.

When hiring new team members, of course it's important to look for candidates with the proper education and skills. However, you also need employees who mesh with your practice's core values—the principles that define your culture and determine what's important in your clinic. Maybe your practice takes pride in high-quality pet care, great client service, showing attention to detail, or strong teamwork. These are excellent qualities, but if your team members don't adhere to a shared practice culture, they'll dilute it. Toxic employees detract from the essence that gives your practice its identity and hurts your ability to achieve long-term goals.

"The key point in the entire veterinary employment process is to hire team members whose values and morals mirror yours and those of the practice," says Dr. John Wilde of John A. Wilde, DDS, in Keokuk, Iowa.

When there's a good fit between the culture of a practice and its employees, the whole team tends to be happier, harder-working, and more productive, and they're more likely to stay with you long-term.

So how do you find employees who are compatible with your culture? First, determine your practice's core values. Then, when you interview job applicants, ask questions and make observations that enable you to learn about the applicant's values and job-related priorities. (For a sample interview form, visit

Ask yourself whether the person warrants a positive answer to the following questions, says Dr. Kenneth James of James Gang Dental Group in Kent, Wash.

1 Does he or she fit into our practice culture?

2 Does his or her temperament suit those of the other team members in our practice?

3 Does he or she fit comfortably in our practice environment?

If you make a mistake and hire team members who don't fit your practice culture, it will become readily apparent to everyone concerned, so it's best to just cut your losses and move on. Remember that most clinics have unique cultures in the same way that employees have different job-related priorities. These preferences are neither good nor bad—they're just different. These differences are what make veterinary practices—and some employees—more or less appealing to clients.

So it's important to stay true to your values rather than compromising your practice's culture so a new employee will fit in. Don't settle for a toxic employee. You owe it to your clients to continue searching until you find a (near) perfect match.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is the author of 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing, and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices (Jones and Bartlett, 2007).

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