The 7 Most Important Interview Questions to Ask (and Why)

While a resume can give you a pretty good idea of an applicant’s skills, experience and educational level, it’s the interview that lets you narrow down who would be the best fit with your veterinary team. It can be helpful to plan your interview strategy in advance so you won’t miss any important details. Here are a few essential questions to ask each of your candidates, as well as what you can and should learn from each response.

Q: What strengths and abilities do you feel you bring to the table?

The answer to this question should help you determine each candidate’s special abilities or unique attributes. Remember – hiring right isn’t just about finding someone who can perform the job duties at hand. It’s also about figuring out how they might complement your veterinary team as a whole. By asking this, you may discover a prospect who has a particular skill or attribute that your current team is lacking.

Q: What’s the best job you’ve ever had and why?

If you want high performers on your team, you have to figure out what they’re passionate about. This question is a great way to uncover a person’s favorite tasks and activities. Do those passions align with the position you are trying to fill and, equally as important, do they fit with the overall culture of your practice? For instance, does a candidate value growth and learning, or is pay and benefits their most important factor?

Q: How do you prefer to be managed?

This is another important and eye-opening question because it helps you figure out how much hand-holding a particular applicant may require. If you’re a super hands-on boss who tends to micromanage people, someone who favors autonomy would not be a good fit. Conversely, if a candidate says he or she prefers ongoing feedback and regular coaching but you’re more hands-off, the match may simply not be there. It’s always better to know this upfront so you can avoid hiring the wrong individual.

Q: What do you like best and least about your current/previous employer?

It’s always a red flag if an applicant has can’t find anything good to say about their current or former employer. A response that’s 100% negative is unprofessional and a sign that the problem may run deeper, possibly even carrying over into your practice if you hire them. It’s ok if they point out a couple of areas of improvement – that shows objectivity and initiative. Besides, we could all stand to improve, couldn’t we? However, if the candidate uses the interview as a venting session, it’s probably best to steer clear.

Q: Can you share a time when you had a disagreement at work and how you resolved it? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Conflict happens in every business and in every industry – including the veterinary field. Whether it’s dealing with an irate client or butting heads with a co-worker, it’s bound to happen at some point. The goal is to assemble a team of individuals who can keep their cool, remain professional and proactively resolve problems. Look for thoughtful responses that demonstrate good interpersonal and problem-solving skills. And if the candidate answers the second part honestly, kudos! This shows introspection and the ability to admit and learn from one’s own shortcomings.

Q: Why do you want to work for this practice in particular?

The response to this question should give you a better feel for how much effort the candidate put into applying for your job. Ultimately, you want someone who’s done some research on your clinic’s history, culture, mission and values, as this indicates their level of interest and engagement. If they hem and haw their way through this one, or provide general responses such as “because I want to work with animals,” they’re probably not a very strong candidate.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?

It may seem cliché, but this question is helpful for learning a potential employee’s long-term goals. For instance, is the candidate eager, self-motivated and determined, or is he or she simply looking for a job to help pay the bills. Keep in mind that a prospect’s long-term plan doesn’t necessarily have to include your practice specifically, as long as it involves goals for self-improvement and growth.

Hiring can be a time-consuming and costly experience. That’s why it’s imperative that you get it right the first time, if possible. By asking the right questions and knowing what types of responses you should be looking for, you’ll be better equipped to hire the best candidate and avoid having to repeat the process over and over again.