Must-haves and must-nots in veterinary job ads

July 4, 2019
Brendan Howard, Business Channel Director

Brendan Howard oversees veterinary business, practice management and life-balance content for dvm360.com, dvm360 magazine, Firstline and Vetted, and plans the Practice Management track at all three Fetch dvm360 conferences.Brendan has proudly served under the Veterinary Economics and dvm360 banners for more than 10 years. Before that, he worked as a journalist, writer and editor at Entrepreneur magazine and a top filmed entertainment magazine in Southern California. Brendan received a Masters in English Literature from University of California, Riverside, in 1999.

Think about who you are and who youre looking for, then write a veterinary practice job ad for that. Job ads are sniper rifles, not shotguns, says the recruitment-minded Dr. Dave Nicol.

When it comes to job ads, don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and be honest. (jimmyan8511/stock.adobe.com)

What not to do in a job ad? Dave Nicol, BVMS, Cert. Mgmt MRCVS, says the origins of the particularly bad veterinary practice job ad are lost in the sands of time.

“This style, I'm unclear where it came from,” Dr. Nicol says, “maybe some session at some conference with some speaker who told everyone you need to make your job ad look like every other job ad.”

Dull, vague, run through HR and legal until the personality of your practice has been drained completely from it. You know: “professional-looking.”

Dr. Nicol has worked in practices, owned practices, sold practices and owned practices again. And now part of his work in his consulting is to help practices with recruitment. And he has a couple of cardinal rules.

Long or short?

Dr. Nicol has heard advice that job ads should be short and sweet. He says that depends on who you want.

If you're looking for a big-picture thinker, a direct-action taker, not a detail-oriented person, by all means, keep the job ad short and sweet.

But if you need a detail-oriented, process-driven person, you want long and detailed. That'll weed out the text skimmers.

“People forget that a job ad is all about deterring the wrong people too,” he says. “A long, three-page ad will put off all the shallow people.”

Rule No. 1: Be authentic and honest in your job ads

Dr. Nicol sees inauthentic, dishonest ads all the time: They promise that the practice team plays well together, the hospital has all the latest toys, the clients happily pay for gold-standard progressive medicine and everyone works 38-to-40-hour weeks, Monday through Friday, with the occasional but rare Saturday morning. If that's true, good for you. But that's not always the boots-on-the-ground reality, he says.

“What the truth is, is the team is miserable,” he explains, “they've been short-staffed a doctor for 24 months and they all want to kill each other, and they were once AAHA accredited but the linoleum's peeling off the floor these days and the ‘toys' are gathering dust.”

If your practice is wonderful and it's easy to work there, say that. If, however, your practice is struggling through some growth pains or some bad circumstances, write a job ad to appeal to a problem-solver who's going to come in and help you shape up the practice and turn things around:

“If I'm in a turn-around place, I need to say, ‘I need help to turn this around,'” Dr. Nicol says. “Tell them, ‘It's tough here, we've under-invested, people are down in the dumps, but I have a vision for the future and I need someone who can help lead a team from the darkness to the light so this practice serve the community that needs it."

“I'm not saying to be self-destructive in your ad, but be honest to a fault. If you have good intentions, if you're genuine about fixing things, be honest about what they're walking into.”

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Rule No. 2: Recruiting is marketing

Your customer is that one special hire you're trying to attract. “You're not trying to appeal to as many potential hires as possible,” Dr. Nicol says. “You need to believe in your brand of quirky.”

Ask yourself: What's your practice strategy? What are you trying to achieve, and why, with this new hire and the practice in general? What's the culture of your practice? How do people really behave? Are they productive, high-functioning and demanding of each other? Or are they friendly, helpful and team-oriented? Or some mixture of the above?

“This will be different for every practice, because practice culture is like a human thumbprint,” he says. It's never the same thing twice.

The bottom line for job ads

You're looking for the special person who wants to work in, not just any practice, but your practice.

“In the veterinary profession, we don't have a recruitment problem, we have a retention problem,” Dr. Nicol says. “If we want change, we need to match people up better to jobs. I know, that terrifies people who worry they already don't get enough people applying.”