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What do you want from the job?

Firstly, before you start looking for a new job or undertaking reverse recruitment, you have got to know what YOU want. This has to go deeper than a list of requirements covering the type of practice, location, salary, on-call rota, etc. It took time for me to understand my personal values and goals and then think about aspects of a job that would allow me to grow and fulfil those. If you don’t do this then you will feel internal stress and conflict and wonder why you are doing this job.

I have found that my values and goals changed throughout my life so it was important to review them frequently, and certainly before seeking a new job. I found the “VetX:Thrive” online course to be invaluable to me in this regard.

Make sure you write down your needs, list and prioritise them, and think about what you would negotiate on and what is non-negotiable to you. I found I needed to constantly refer to this list throughout the process to keep on track and not to be swayed by shiny things like higher salaries – always a plus, of course, but are you willing to trade chronic unhappiness for a few thousand pounds? I was also flexible in some areas of the package as these were parts that could be negotiated on. For example, I was open to taking part in an out of hours rota because dismissing all jobs that had OOH rota may well have discounted an otherwise perfect job.

You need to choose wisely and make sure it is a good fit by matching the practice values with yours. You don’t want to stumble into your next job or take it because you were flattered they asked you, you want find it by design so you should be diligent in matching your requirements with the practice’s requirements. This is the way to long-term job satisfaction, my Jedi Padawan.

Wise choices

Initial stages

What follows is my method for sorting out job opportunities when faced with a sizable number at one time and then I will describe in more depth my process for finding out about the practices and what they were offering me and matching that with my requirements.

As the practice contacts come in, my process starts with an initial rough grading of 0 to 3 of practices that contacted me; 0 – no way, 1 probably no, 2 investigate further or a maybe, 3 yes and take further. I tabulated this (Excel, Google Sheets or an A0 sheet of paper according to taste) and used the following criteria:

  • Advert – did it give the right feel (I will write a post expanding on this for the benefit of all), pick it apart to try to work out what they want. Definite Jedi force required here.
  • Location – I was looking for rural so somewhere inside the M25 had an automatic 0 score.
  • Did the other things match up to my requirements – I usually had to ask more questions on this
  • Cyber-stalking – was the practice website and social media up to the image they wanted to portray. Were the individual members of staff listed and have biographies and photos, did they have similar interests to my interests? I was looking for the teams here, not just vet teams but RNVs, and I discounted anywhere that did not have a good number of RVNs compared to the vets. Google reviews – were they good, were they fair? How did the practice respond to the reviews?

The next stage was to speak to someone at the practice and initial contact was usually with the practice manager or one of the directors. This initial contact spoke volumes about the practice; it should be friendly and by chatting you should be able to get a good rapport going. Some of the corporates don’t do themselves any favours with this as contact is only via regional recruiters who know little about the practice and the role. I let the practice contact speak initially and wrote notes while I got an overall feel of what they were saying and being on the guard for warnings like being so busy they couldn’t consider changing to 15 minute appointments. Then I started injecting some open questions; for example, standards and quality are important to me so I would ask about how they see the RCVS Practice Standards and implement them daily.

I often had some email tennis to clarify what was said by phone especially regarding the role and not just the title for recruitment. For example, one practice advertised a clinical lead position but on further digging was found to be a practice of one director and one part time vet.

The initial visit

The next stage, if they scored a 3, was an initial visit. The first 5-10 minutes in the waiting room and with the member of staff I was meeting with was key – if it felt wrong at that point, then the gut feeling was usually right on further investigation. The reception and prep areas are a barometer of the atmosphere in the practice. Was the waiting room clean or was it dirty and smelled of wet dog? Where there people waiting, how long had they been waiting? Listening to the receptionists answering the telephones was useful – they are the front line, the practice’s public face. For example, I visited a practice that was so poor in the waiting room that no matter how good they may have been behind the scenes, there is no way they could make up for such a bad impression! The waiting room was dirty, poorly decorated, the flooring was peeling and the smell of rank dog was overwhelming even for a desensitised vet nose! And then the receptionists went on to ignore me for a full 10 minutes. You think I’m kidding? I’m not! If you are this practice, be very ashamed!

It is very important to ask open questions; ask about the past and the future of the practice, not just the present. Asking open questions means it is much less likely for the other person to guess what answer you want to hear. For example to try and ascertain if the practice is open to change and continued improvements, I asked ‘What changes have you brought in to your practice in the past year and how has that gone for you?’ Remember an interview is a two-way process and even more so in this employee market so don’t just wait for the practice to ask you questions. The questions may be construed as difficult or awkward, but only by those that have not thought or considered this aspect of their business!

I always try to speak to the person leaving or anyone who has left the practice in the past year and was suspicious if the practice was obstructive about this. People leave a job for all kinds of perfectly benign reasons but if the practice wants to hide these reasons from you, be warned. You could consider asking locums or other people that may know the practice such as non-vet friends in the area, trying to find out about the reputation of the practice (estate agents are also good people to ask, a good vet is a common question from people moving to the area). Finding out about staff turn-over is very important – from this you will be able to gauge long term happiness of staff. How many positions are they looking to fill? How long have they been looking to fill the position? Did they only start looking once someone had left or are they ahead of the curve?

Next week, I will continue my description of my practice sorting process by talking in more depth about what to investigate in the next step.