Right now, the veterinary field is in what is one of the biggest hiring crises in recent memory. Hospitals are struggling to find good candidates for all positions, but especially experienced technicians and associate veterinarians. In fact, the AVMA reported that between January 2019 and May 2021, there were 18 positions open for every veterinarian seeking a job and six positions available for every technician or assistant. As burnout and other factors continue to drive away veterinary team members, it seems this problem may become worse before we find relief.
Another factor making it difficult to find quality candidates is the prolific recruiting savvy of the large corporate veterinary practices. They have funding that allows for prominent recruiters to reach out to passive candidates and offer signing bonuses that most privately owned hospitals cannot compete with. Pair that with the excellent benefits that corporate hospitals typically can offer, and it can seem as though private hospitals are at a severe disadvantage.
However, we at iVET360 believe that there are many things that private hospitals can do to not just compete with corporate hospitals but outperform them in the recruiting arena. There are massive benefits for employees who choose to work for privately owned practices instead of corporate hospitals. A few tweaks to your recruiting and team policies can make a world of difference in drawing candidates to you.
While the number of things you can do is limitless, here are five “sure-fire” ways the iVET360 HR and Training Team recommends to increase the candidates (and quality of candidates!) that apply for your positions.
Posting the right ads
The days of two-sentence job ads are over. Candidates don’t care what you want in in an applicant; they know what qualifications are needed for a veterinary technician. Instead, they want to know why your hospital is different and why they should choose your position over the corporate role down the street. Your ad should exude personality and reflect your hospital’s culture. Talk about the fun things to do nearby, the fabulous team events people participate in, and charitable events that would be a part of the candidate’s life. Need some inspiration? Check out iVET360’s Job Ad Creator template here.
Making interviews count
A job interview should be less about talking skills and more about studying the person in front of you. Your questions should focus on what the individual will bring to the hospital’s culture. We recommend dedicating a small segment of the interview questions to skills and abilities (a paid working interview will help you determine actual skill level because who hasn’t hired a technician who said they were excellent but turned out to be afraid of animals?). The majority of the interview should be situational and behavioral questions that help you best understand how the candidate will react to typical scenarios in daily practice life. PS Remember that your questions also reflect your hospital, so candidates will hear you ask questions about “how do you respond when a doctor snaps at you” and know exactly what kind of culture they would be getting into.
Fire the “experience snob”
Talent can be found in the most unlikely of places. One of the best hires our Managing Director of HR & Training ever made was an inexperienced ex-convict for a veterinary receptionist. This person had turned her life around completely and was one of the most loyal team members that every client adored. The lesson? Experience and background aren’t necessarily the best indicator of a great employee. Some of the most experienced technicians can be some of the worst additions to culture. Look at the person in front of you, and don’t be afraid to take a chance on the charismatic barista or passionate retail associate that wants to work for you. The time you take to train them may pay high dividends in performance and loyalty.
Invest in the team
No article about recruiting would be complete without talking about wages and benefits. While Millennial employees are known to want to seek out roles they are “passionate” about, at the end of the day, they still have families to support, bills (and student loans!) to pay. Every candidate you offer a job to will strongly consider what you are offering in wages and benefits. Make sure that you are paying your team the most you reasonably can. We suggest hospitals review their team’s salaries and adjust/ increase even if it affects profitability in the short term. Losing team members will affect profitability much more, plus affecting client retention and patient care. Your team is worth the best wages and benefits you can afford to give them. If you can’t afford to increase wages, then pack in benefits, which tend to be substantially cheaper than wages. This can include paying 100% of your team’s health insurance costs, increasing PTO, and so much more. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
Focus on why YOUR practice is better than corporate medicine
Some candidates might not realize the downsides of working for a corporate hospital. After all, a $20,000 signing bonus would be awfully tempting to a veterinary technician who has felt underpaid and underappreciated. This can overshadow what we know to be true about corporate hospitals: they often overwork their team members and focus more on revenue than on patient care and team happiness. Don’t be afraid to say things like, “You didn’t get into veterinary medicine to sell wellness plans; you became a technician (or veterinarian) to practice medicine and make a difference. At ____ Animal Hospital, we want you to practice the medicine you went to school for while having a voice in how we care for our patients, clients, and team.” Your hospital is fantastic because it isn’t corporate, so don’t hesitate to make that clear.
Despite a challenging hiring market, we have found that hospitals that emphasize team happiness have seen no decrease in the quality or number of candidates applying for roles. Our best advice is to show your candidates why their days at your hospital will be the most rewarding and focus on your culture. Pair that ethos with fair & competitive wages or benefits, and you are sure to build a talented team.