Job interview tips for Veterinary Surgeons


Alright, so we found a job that we like, we updated our CV, we created a great cover letter and now… we just got a phone call and we were invited for an interview! Yay!!! Yay?… Hm, now we start to get nervous about what we’re going to do or say…

So, how can you prepare for a job interview? Luckily, there are several things that you can do to improve your chances of success when going to job interviews:

1. Research, research, research

Is this starting to sound repetitive? Well, it is for a reason. Knowing what you’re getting yourself into is one of the best ways to know if you’re in the right place or not. More specifically, if you are the right fit for the place. Don’t forget that it might be your dream job, but you also have to be the dream employee and have the skills that the employer needs. By now you would have done a bit of research about the place. Now focus on getting a bit more “personal”, try to find out the names and memorise the faces of the people you will likely meet. Try to understand the type of place you would be working in. Also try to learn a bit about legal aspects of the profession in the UK.

  • Learn a bit about controlled drugs and the laws of prescription and dispensing medication
  • Learn a bit about pet insurance and charities
  • Learn a bit about how clinical problems are solved in the UK compared to home (for instance, pyometra is an emergency surgery, but some places will stabilise overnight rather than rushing for surgery or change approaches if it’s an open pyometra)


2. Be prepared for their questions

In most cases, your interviewer will want to know more about you, your experience and skills. Make sure you bring your own CV so you can refer back to it when the interviewer says “so on your second job at clinic x you said you gain this competence”.

Prepare yourself for questions related to your CV and previous experience, including procedures you have done and how you’ve done them. If you’ve got CV gaps, be ready to answer for those! (i.e. “why did you stop working for a full year?”)

However, also prepare yourself for more technical questions, such as how would you approach clinical presentation x or y (let’s call them blocked cats and pyometra), or how you would deal with an angry client or a client that is asking you to do something you don’t agree with (such as performing the euthanasia of a young healthy dog that has “attacked” another large dog). For this, clinical experience but also knowledge of the profession will help you!


3. Make your own questions

Interviews are two-way conversations – while the employer is trying to find out whether you’re a nice fit for the vacancy, practice and team, you should also try to find out whether they are the right employer for you and are able to give you what you need. So always make sure you know what you are looking for and ask about whether that is going to be met.

Make a list of questions you want to ask and don’t forget to add some important ones:

  • What type of support is available and in which form? Do you need to do sole charge? Can you call out another vet or is it always a nurse? Can you reach another vet when you’re working alone at night?
  • How do the out-of-hours work? Are they outsourced? Are they sent to another branch? Do they just look after inpatients and have someone else attend the emergencies?
  • What do the working rotas and shifts look like?
  • How do holidays and off-days work?
  • How does employee insurance work? (they will likely tell you all employees are covered by VDS, so read about them on our blog post and you will automatically look more knowledgeable, especially if you are foreigner AND applying for your first job!)
  • How does the practice work in terms of surgical caseload and consultation time? Is there a set day for surgery, or are you expected to do surgery in the morning and consult in the afternoon?
  • Anything else you can think of! Including “random” stuff such as “do you PTS cats in the kidney or do you always place an IV?” if you think they are relevant!


4. Dress code

No fixed rules on this, but I would dress smart and get some scrubs or white coat and stethoscope ready! Many times you will be presented with a formal interview, so you want to make sure you have something comfortable that looks good and clean (no old jeans and ragged t-shirts!). Avoid lots of jewellery, makeup and strong perfumes. You don’t need to go all fancy on a suit if you’re applying for a clinical role, but you should be mindful or the role you’re applying to – you might want to look a lot more formal if you are going for a residency, academic or salesperson/marketing interview.

But be prepared to be asked if you would like to see the practice, and in that case it always looks smart to reply “I have my working scrubs with me, would you prefer that I quickly change?”.


Some extra tips

It’s usually a very good idea to approach other employees when you visit to get a feel for the place – do they look happy? Are they complaining about something? What conditions were they offered (are you being offered the same)?

However, you have to do this in a tactful way as you don’t want to look like you’re trying to do a lot of quite personal questions out of nowhere… it will usually create some uneasiness! So make some conversation before!

Also be prepared to spend a lot more time at the practice during your interview (don’t schedule anything else for that day) and also to “get your hands dirty”. That means you might be asked to actually do things if you are attending an interview in person, such as take bloods, place a catheter or run a vaccination consult.

Also, keep in mind that your first interview might a phone call or skype videoconference. You should still approach any of these as a formal interview and don’t wear pyjamas for you skype videoconference! Follow the same rules preparing for the interview, preparing questions you might be asked and questions for the interviewer.

Don’t forget that if you are living abroad, there will be questions about how you’re going to manage the move and how you’re planning on doing it. You will likely get other specific questions about National Insurance Number, how you’ll sort accommodation, driving licence/car and other details about living in the UK.