How your veterinary practice can avoid the new hire from hell

March 25, 2019
Oriana D. Scislowicz, LVT, PHR
Oriana D. Scislowicz, LVT, PHR

Oriana Scislowicz, LVT, PHR, was a veterinary practice manager for many years before becoming senior HR specialist at Pharmaceutical Product Development.

Try out these interview tips from Ori Scislowicz to save yourself time and money.

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Any manager who has gone through the hiring process has dealt with the cringe-worthy feeling when a candidate just completely fails their interview. But what about candidates who seem to perform quite well, and look good on paper too, but they still end up not working out? Are there signs we missed during the interview process? Here are some red flags to look out for when you're looking for that perfect new hire.

Before the phone interview

Your absolute first impression of a candidate is their resume and your communication with them to set up an interview. When the resume has lots of grammatical and spelling errors, I see a lack of attention to detail-something we cannot afford to risk in medicine. Some resumes look more like a social media profile with cutesy photos or clip art and curly lettering. A Facebook profile is great for this, not a professional resume. When a resume doesn't appear to be tailored to the position they are applying for, and your type of hospital (specialty, university, primary practice, etc.), it demonstrates that this candidate is sending this resume out to everyone and anyone, without taking the time to adjust it for your specific position. This also is an indication that they aren't likely interested in your position specifically, they just want a job.

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The next step is to reach out to the new hire either by phone or email to set up the initial interview. If a candidate fails to respond within 24 to 48 hours or does so in a sloppy manner (for email communications), I doubt their sincerity for the position. I'm also hesitant to move forward when a candidate demonstrates little flexibility in making time for the interview and acts as if they are entitled to your time.


During the phone interview

When you get a candidate on the phone, it's your first chance to get to know them as a person, not just as a promising contender on paper. One of the first ways an interviewee can impress me is to be sure they are prepared and exactly on time and available when I call. I've had candidates not answer the phone at all, call back an hour late, or even answer while they were out shopping. These all indicate to me that they are not organized, nor truly enthusiastic about the job or respectful of my time.

I begin by asking their familiarity with our company and why they want to come work with our team. When a candidate knows very little about us, or the position, this sends up a red flag. In the age of the internet, it's easy enough to do minimal research beforehand to get a gist of what the organization is about and what the job entails. On the flip side, when a candidate goes through our core values (which are on our site) and how they connect their own values with these, I am truly blown away-this earns major brownie points!

Poor interviews tend to go in one of two directions-candidates are either terribly vague in their responses, or they overshare. If a candidate appears evasive in their answers, it makes me concerned that they are trying to hide something, or aren't able to have a productive, professional conversation and either way, these raise concerns. When a candidate stops themselves often and rephrases things, and their story doesn't completely match their resume, I worry that things aren't adding up. The oversharers open up by badmouthing previous employers and coworkers and tend to see themselves as the victim in most situations from their past where things didn't work out.

Another type of candidate that should make you run for the hills is the arrogant, “I'm-the-most-qualified-person-ever” interviewee. When a potential new hire cannot think of one weakness of their own or cannot speak to how they would do things differently when asked about a conflict from the past, I worry that they are unable to grow and learn from their mistakes. We all make mistakes, but what I'm looking for in a candidate is someone who can own those mistakes and demonstrate how they've improved themselves from them.

Lastly, when a phone interview wraps up and the only question the candidate has is about money, raises or benefits, I'm concerned that they are more interested in the short-term and themselves, versus becoming a part of our team and mission. While we all work for money and we want to know these details at some point in the interview process, showing some self-control and self-awareness goes a long way.


The in-person interview

This stage of the interview process is a great opportunity to see how the individual works with the team. It's very important that there is good chemistry with the staff, because if there's not buy in from the team, the new hire is not likely to work out.

Some warning signs I look out for at this stage include showing up in too casual attire (especially if you specified what they should wear) and coming in with an unenthusiastic attitude. No one wants to work with someone day in and day out who seems like they'd rather be anywhere else, especially from the beginning.

Sometimes when surrounded by peers versus someone in management, candidates become more comfortable and may trash talk previous employers (especially if they discover they both have worked in some of the same places). This is a huge warning sign that not only can the candidate not behave professionally, but they have a tendency to gossip and blame others for their issues.

At the end of the in-person interview, I encourage questions. At this point, they've learned about the position over the phone from a manager and have seen it done in person. When they have absolutely no questions, it can demonstrate a lack of interest and a lack of depth of thinking.

If you ask about potential start dates and the interviewee says they can start right now, be sure to look into why that's the case. If they're currently employed somewhere, why wouldn't they offer the employer at least two weeks' notice as a professional courtesy? If they're in between jobs, is this because of something legitimate like a move, or were they fired?

Making decisions about who to hire is one of the most important tasks of a manager. In the end, it takes a lot of company time and money to not only go through the hiring process, but to train as well, so it's worth it to get it right the first go around. If you don't feel “sold,” but think this is as good as it can get, it's much better to be patient and continue your search. Hiring someone is easy, having to find a way to let the wrong person go is much more difficult.

Oriana Scislowicz, BS, LVT, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and regional manager at CVCA Cardiac Care for Pets in Richmond, Virginia.