Does no-one else see the problem with veterinary job ads at the moment? In this current recruitment crisis, it is a job seekers market. Yet the ads have not changed to reflect this and most seem stuck in the past; they are the same as the ones I read 17 years ago, looking for my first vet job. They do not inspire me to apply and in some cases are actually off-putting. Therefore this week I am going write about job ads from a job seekers point of view.
The purpose of a job ad, particularly in the current veterinary employment market, is to sell the practice so that someone wants to apply. Hopefully more than one vet applies and then you can choose the best fit! I think the current problem stems from the mindset of the person who writes the ad and what they think should go in an ad; this is generally someone who has been ‘management trained’. What needs to go in an ad is very different from the list of requirements for the job. By this I mean that by putting too much detail in an ad you may be dismissed by a group of vets that could be suitable if you were flexible in other areas. On the other hand, the ad must contain certain information; the location is key. A large proportion of potential employees will be choosing a practice on location as they have family they won’t want to move, a partner with a job that cannot move etc. so don’t leave this up to chance and state WHERE the practice is based. To hopefully inspire some to apply that might consider moving, you need to sell the location and area. But please don’t say it is based an hour from London. This is a large area and would include Scotland if you were flexible with flying (I have a friend who commutes Edinburgh to London). Brighton and Peterborough are an hour from London going by the train timetables but in reality it would take more like three times that to actually do the journey door to door. Obviously if you do put that on your ad remember you are narrowing your field to people who like London. Conversely, don’t say it is close to the countryside if it is in the middle of a city. Seriously, I have had someone try to convince me that the east London docks are a countryside location.
So, let me deconstruct the perfectly reasonable sounding ad above and show you how it is really interpreted by a job seeker (even if slightly tinged by cynicism and cider). This ad is entirely fictional but is made up of parts of ads that I see on a weekly basis. I’m really only going for two key things here; misleading stock phrases, and irrelevant information. A job ad might be the ultimate in short-form writing, so if the information isn’t relevant then it’s wasting space. And if you don’t believe me, pick up the Vet Times or equivalent and have a look at the job ad section.
- Dedicated, flexible – what does this mean? This is completely dependent on your perspective and is completely untestable so why put it in. Dedicated – I think all vets need to be dedicated to keep doing what they are doing, they don’t it for the glory. Flexible – this could be interpreted as ‘expect to have your goals changed every 10 minutes’. The same goes for “forward-thinking practice” – who’s ever going to admit in a job ad that they’re stuck in the past?.
- Vocational – basically saying that the job is it’s own reward. This smacks of martyrdom, and reads as a justification for poor pay, conditions and work-life balance. ‘Keen to recruit’ – so is everyone else.
- Busy, busy case-load, fast-paced – busy or too busy, overworked and understaffed?
- Proudly independent – I will come back and discuss this another week. So why does this make you better? Please don’t give the potted history of the practice – it really doesn’t matter if it was set up 5 years or 105 years ago.
- Hang on, what type of practice and what work? SA in a mixed practice? There are ads out there that leave it up to the job seeker to guess!
- Vets (plural) – even if you are looking to fill more than one post, why draw attention to it? The likelihood of getting a vet couple to work for the same practice together is slim to say the least. From everyone else’s perspective it looks like bad practice planning (at best) or rats leaving a sinking ship (at worst) to say that you have multiple vacancies at the same time, and it’s concerning that the remaining staff will be over stretched and overworked. How about leaving out the plural vacancies in the ad; you can let applicants know later in the process once they are interested in your practice. Just make sure you have a good reason and don’t start bitterly complaining that this generation of vets just can’t take the pace. (You think I’m kidding?)
- Experience level of the applicants – are they being flexible? Do they not know what they want? Or are they desperate and will take anyone as long as they have a pulse?
- Treating pets like our own. Everyone has different standards of care and when full-time working, our own pets are further down the hierarchy and mostly survive by benign neglect! It’s a great sentiment, and something your clients would love to hear, but you’re not advertising to your clients, you’re advertising to vets. Possibly cynical, cider-fuelled ones.
- Vet of the year awards – yeah, just like everyone else. Unfortunately, this means little as it is not uncommon for practices to encourage staff to nominate each other and since only one nomination is needed, these are a little pointless.
- Do not list your toys. Seriously, every practice has digital x-ray now. And ultrasound. And blood machines (which ones is maybe more relevant but not for an ad). If a practice is dead proud of their latest high tech toy and it’s digital x-rays…
- Staff – You are hardly going to put that they are not friendly and supportive, are you? But who are they? Are they RVNs? People want to know who they are working with as we spend such a large proportion of our waking time at work. The ad must show the team that people will be working in, other vets and more importantly, the nurses. Nurse training practices can be a mixed bag – an opportunity to mentor some colleagues or to have under skilled, underpaid staff?
- You must state salary band. Stop shying away from mentioning money. This is getting the profession nowhere.
- A work-place pension is required by law so unless yours is especially remarkable, don’t mention it.
- CPD – this is standard and unless you are going to say how much, how many days or to what level, don’t bother.
- Working hours – this is important for a lot of vets but unless you are going to be honest then don’t bother putting it in. You might also consider hours being negotiable or flexible. ‘Basic x-hours’ suggests that this will be the minimum you will be working but there is no upper limit. 60 hour weeks, no thanks.
- Location – you must state the location. No ifs or buts. Don’t assume a job seeker will Google you; just this extra step may well put someone off. The number of ads I see every week without this key information is unbelievable – take a look yourself. Sure, everyone you know already knows exactly where Pugh, Pugh and Barney Mcgrew Vets is, but I don’t unless you give me at least the name of the town.
- Cake on Fridays – patronising. Is this the thing that you’re most proud of about your practice that you chose this before anything else? Really? Are you using this to differentiate yourselves from the other 87% of practices that have this on their adverts? Is this the summit of your concern for your staff’s wellbeing? On a more PC note, what if I’m on a diet or coeliac?
- Must have a sense of humour – because no-one else here does? Because three weeks in you’re either going to laugh or cry and crying upsets the clients? Don’t laugh, I have seen several ads with this.
- CV and covering letter – you can ask for this later, first get the applicant to like your practice and contact you. The first contact the applicant makes with the practice is critical so needs to be slick and professional. If you’re organising a telephone conversation, keep to the time set or if that’s absolutely impossible – emergencies happen and vets should understand this – at least let the candidate know, before the time set, and give an apology and an explanation. This shouldn’t be a job-seeker thing as it’s basic courtesy but, again, this has happened to me. This conversation needs to be with someone who can talk with authority and is also good at selling the practice without over-promising. Have a good think who would be best for this as it is not always the most obvious person. I have had some less than overwhelming contacts with practices where there might not have been anything wrong with the practice but that is not the impression I gained from the initial conversation.
- Hotmail email address – not professional for a company. You can do better. And please include a name of who to contact.
This is how the ad at the top of the page actually reads:
Next week, I will expand on what I DO want to see in job ads.