Veterinarian clinical work fun, but messy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 3, 2012

I hate interviewing prospective employees! Over the years, I have hired some real non-winners.

And missed some great employees. The not good employees have stolen from me, lied to me, forged checks and various other stressful things. People who we have passed over have become great employees at other clinics, veterinarians, lawyers, medical doctors, educators and many others.

Sometimes I see prior employees at Walmart or McDonalds. Sometimes I hear stories about how I didn’t hire someone who is now a professional. Veterinary clinics do not tend to pay well, so we are competing with fast food and retail and tend to pull from a lot of students.

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The job is fun and not at all boring, so for every position, we get maybe a hundred applicants. And sifting through that many applications is problematic at best.

The first pass through the written applications is the easy part. Improperly completed forms and ones that only say “see resume” get a major black mark.

A huge black mark is gained by refusing to deal with dog poop or something equally prevalent at a veterinary practice. (It is always good to know a little something about the place you are applying to.)

After the written applications are pared down, we invite the remaining applicants for a group interview.

Here we try to gauge how the prospective employees deals with typical situations, thinks on their feet and deals with stress. We try to be honest and open about the job.

There are lots of great things about working in a veterinary place and lots of not so great things. It is amazing how many people think that working here is all about playing with kittens and puppies all day every day!

If you think it is rough to do a group interview as an applicant, it is; but it is equally not easy to pick someone to spend many of your waking hours in a short amount of interview time.

From the group interview, a select few do a ‘working interview’. This is where the person comes in and works for a 4-hour shift. (Things can get hectic and sometimes this time extends.)

Working interviews are usually where I get to meet people for the first time. I found out long ago that people will act more naturally around their future peers than they will the doctor.

Working interviews can be a lot of fun for both the person and the team. We had one kennel cleaning applicant who never set down his coffee cup the whole time. Fun to watch on close circuit TV, but not hired.

Another crawled in the cage with the animal instead of feeding, walking and cleaning. There are some who didn’t realize just how much physical work it actually takes to work with animals.

And even some who are afraid of animals. But most are just young. (Hint: six months or more at McDonalds looks good on an entry level application.)

I recently re-met one of our non-hires. He is a quite capable professional, but he tells a story about working for me for a day.

I guess a day could be correct when you figure that a half day could be 6-8 hours around here.

He says that we gave him leather gloves that came up to his shoulders and told him to move this huge eagle and then clean the cage that took hours.

He is much younger than I and I am certain that his memory is better than mine, but I really only remember two bald eagles coming to Guardian Animal.

Since eagles were federally protected, endangered and violations punishable by jail time for me, I am quite certain that a new employee would have never gotten near an eagle.

Again with that memory thing, but the gloves that we have now come right to your elbow. Being able to move your elbow and move quickly is essential, because even though it might not have been an eagle and memory and time enlarges things and tales, a red-tailed hawk or a barred owl are both quite formidable opponents.

I have had both go through the leather gloves and into my arm. We must have been impressed to allow a new recruit to touch one.

I don’t know why, but in the end, we didn’t hire this person. We spent a bit of time talking with him and on his own, he went straight from Guardian Animal back to his prior job at the movie theater.

But we gave him a story that has lasted for 15 years. And sometimes, that is the best thing that we do for prospective employees: we remind them to stay in school, go to college and/or get a different job.

But I think, Mr. Horne, it is about time for a new adventure for a new story.

Keep some time on your schedule open. We will be in touch.