What Everyone Ought to Know About Interviews

The Vetducator Vet Interview Basics
Interviewing seems simple, but it isn’t.

I have participated in some disappointing interviews.  Cases where participants clearly did not prepare, or did not care, or said the wrong things, or otherwise shot themselves in the foot.  For vet school, internships, and residencies, the interview is a small piece of the puzzle, but still an important one. For faculty positions, the interview is probably the most important consideration in hiring.  Regardless of the position to which you are applying, here are some basic rules for a successful interview.

Be interested. I considered writing ‘appear interested’, but if you’re applying for a position you’re not interested in, stop and withdraw your application. You should at least be interested at the start of the interview. That may change by the end, but you need to begin with enthusiasm. This is manifested by responding to what you’re told and asking questions. It kills me when I am in an interview setting and we ask, “What questions do you have for us?” and get “Uhm, none really, thanks.”

Be prepared. You should spend time on the organization’s website. For vet school, do you know what tracks there are and when you get to touch live animals? For internships, what specialties are at the practice? For residencies, who are the people in the program and their backgrounds? For faculty positions, you need to do so much research that I have a separate post about it. This research should inform the questions you ask.

Be engaged. Ask the interviewers questions as you go. A back-and-forth conversation is more natural and will get you better answers than a barrage of questions at the end.

Dress appropriately. In veterinary medicine, this is a suit. For men, a suit and tie. For women, pant- or skirt- suit with a nice blouse. No exceptions. More conservative colors are better- black and navy blue. You should know what color shirt looks good on you. You do not need a vest or pinstripes, but these are acceptable if they are within your style and suit your frame.

Be timely. Get to the location no later than 5 minutes before your scheduled time. If you don’t know the area, leave plenty early. You can sit in your car if you get there very early. Don’t enter the location more than 15 minutes before your scheduled time. Watch the clock when you are talking with interviewers to make sure you have time to ask the questions you want to ask.

It’s not a long list, but it is amazing the number of applicants who do one or more of these wrong.  There are just the basics, we will cover how to do a great interview elsewhere. But you have to nail these without exception.  Walk before you run. What other baseline, core rules do you think belong on this list?

The need for this blog

Vetducator demonstrates veterinary academic professionals need help.
Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

This year, I’ve had quite a few students and interns approach me about reviewing their materials for the VIRMP, which I am more than happy to do.  I thought, instead of sending individual emails to each, I could write a single blog post and direct them to it. I could also offer my services online.  That way, others outside of my institution could also benefit.

I have seen some atrocious applications for vet school, internships, residencies, and faculty positions.  Video interviews where the interviewee was backlit. Poorly composed CVs that evaluators had to dig through until they figured ‘why bother’ and stopped considering the applicant.  Negotiations where one side or the other acts unwisely or unprofessionally, sinking the whole deal. I have been shocked that no one has mentored students on how to structure their senior year to maximize the impact on their internship application.  There is a need for people to get help in their professional progress in veterinary academia. I want to help those people.

This blog will be about employment and professional progression in academic veterinary medicine.  From undergrads applying to vet school, veterinary students applying to internship, residency applicants, and faculty applicants.  We will talk about cover letters, CVs, interviews, how to strategize to position yourself for the next step, who to talk to and when, and all other things related to the business of veterinary academia.

I have personally experienced this progression and the job market, have served on and chaired countless search committees, have been a hiring manager in my role as a Department Chair, have helped innumerable undergrads, vet students, interns, residents, and junior faculty get to their next step, and have published in peer-reviewed journals about post-graduate education.  I have always had an interest in the business of veterinary medicine, I stay up to date on current trends, I touch base with colleagues at other institutions to sound out the academic world. I want to share this expertise with those of you who want to make your professional progression as excellent as possible. Please follow along, comment, email me, and work together to make things better.