Tips for landing your first veterinary associate position

VettedVetted August 2020
Volume 115
Issue 8

Congratulations to the class of 2020! As you prepare to enter the workforce, consider these tips to make your job search more fruitful.

Congratulations to all of this year’s veterinary school graduates! If you haven’t yet started searching for your first associate position, now’s the time. We know it can be stressful, but fear not, new grads, here are some tips from Eric Miller, senior specialist of talent acquisition at Banfield Pet Hospital, to help you land the perfect job.

Did you miss our virtual career fair?

Miller provided these insights during the dvm360 virtual career fair held last month in partnership with Banfield Pet Hospital. In addition to learning about opportunities at Banfield, several speakers offered advice and guidance for aspiring veterinary associates embarking on their career, with topics including resume writing and interview tips, strategies for managing student debt, maintaining health and wellbeing, and diversity and inclusion in the workplace — plus graduation greetings from a host of “stars” from stage, screen, and within the veterinary profession. Click here to view a recording of the webinar.

Do your research

Before you apply for any associate position, Miller advises, to do your research. Understanding what you are looking for in terms of hospital size, location, culture, work-life balance, and other factors will lead you to the practices that are right for you. Look for as much information as you can find about each hospital’s:

  • Health benefits
  • Practice policies
  • Onboarding process
  • Staff levels
  • Schedule flexibility
  • Mission and goals
  • Future opportunities at the practice

Your cover letter

Miller feels strongly about cover letters. “You should always attach a cover letter unless the job specifically says not to,” he says. Your cover letter, which briefly outlines your professional work experiences, should be broken into three paragraphs. But first, make sure all of your contact information is correct. “If we can't get a hold of you, we can't interview you,” Miller says.

The first paragraph of your cover letter should include your name, the name of the hiring practice and the position for which you are applying. This paragraph should be customized for every job you apply for. Unlike a generic cover letter, adding these details shows that you are interested specifically in this hospital and this position.

The middle section is where you really get to showcase any achievements or experience that makes you a good fit for this role. Highlight anything that will help you stand out from other applicants.

In your closing paragraph, mention again your interest in the hospital and how ready you are for the position.

Your resume

Like your cover letter, your resume must be up to date. And be sure to include your name in your phone’s outgoing message so a recruiter or hiring manager will know they have reached the right person.

Make sure you have a professional email address on your resume. If you are using your veterinary school email address, be sure to check how long it will stay active.

Avoid nonessential “filler” information on your resume. “If you're applying for a role as a veterinarian, we probably know you're really good with clients,” says Miller.

Instead, he recommends, mention your achievements, such as volunteer work, research, publications, and successes from previous jobs. This is the type of information that makes you stand out, he says.

Finally, reach out to the employer or recruiter when you submit your resume to reiterate your interest in working at the practice. Another option: reach out to practices that aren’t actively hiring. They might just think of you when they are.

The interview

Before the interview, whether it’s on the phone or in person, learn as much as you can about the practice, and prepare questions to ask during the interview. This shows employers you are very interested in the job.

For in-person interviews, Miller recommends bringing five copies because you never know who you will run into. “It would be better for you to return home with four resumes rather than be short one when you need it,” he says.

When the interview ends, politely ask about next steps. And be sure to follow up with a thank you note or email restating your interest in the position. If they give you a timeline for when to expect someone to reach out and it does not happen, follow up.

If you are passed over

Be sure to send a thank you note anyway, and let the practice know if you are open to other positions that may become available. Also consider asking why you didn’t get the job. Any feedback may help your interview process in the future.

If you receive an offer

If you receive an offer, Miller recommends taking a few days to consider it, and reach out to the recruiter or employer with any specific questions you have. Let them know when they can receive an answer.

Miller says it’s OK to negotiate at this point, just be prepared that the practice may not accept your counter-offer.

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