Applying for a vet tech job? Be ready for anything—especially in the interview process!
True, the job itself can present all sorts of variety, depending on the patients and owners that come through the door and each animal’s respective medical needs. Every day is guaranteed to be different in terms of who you deal with, what type of services you provide, and what skills you need to demonstrate. Remember this last one especially: it may just show up in the interview.
The vet tech interview process can vary widely depending on the needs of the particular clinic and the availability and interests of the interviewer. Busy clinics may not have a lot of time for extended “get to know you” chit-chat and may want to get to the point quickly so they can get back to work. On the other hand, an interviewer might want to take more time with you, especially if they’re considering you for a long-term position and want to make sure you’re a great fit for the organization.
You may or may not even meet the DVM(s) at your initial interview, especially if an office manager performs personnel tasks. You might even be told that there’s less emphasis on what you say in an introductory conversation and more on how you perform. In such cases, a clinic may focus more on an extended probationary or observational period before making a long-term hire.
Vet tech candidates preparing for interviews may have an advantage if they are familiar with the questions they may be asked. This collection of questions—some common and others less so—along with possible answers, were all shared by past and present vet techs.
Q. “Tell me why…”
More than just sharing facts or correct ‘book answers,’ these open-ended questions require candidates to think a little deeper and share some of their personality and motivations.
- “Why do you want to work here?”
- “Why do you like animals?”
- “Why do you want to help animals?”
Answers to these questions will always be different based on the individual responding, but perhaps will resonate with the interviewer who may have similar life experiences involving animal care.
Q. What animals have you had in your life?
This question was suggested by VeterinaryPractice.com as a way to let candidates share the role that animals have had in their lives and the type of role they played. Were they farm kids where cattle or sheep were raised and cared for or were they suburban kids who had a great relationship with a dog, cat, snake, etc.? Such a question can also indicate a candidate’s comfort level with certain types of animals. This can be followed up with a question about if they currently own pets.
Questions on Vet Tech Skills and Abilities
Q. “Tell me how…”
The Florida Veterinary Technician Association advises job candidates to expect to be asked technical questions, including to describe how they have or would perform certain procedures such as urinalysis; dental procedures/prophylaxis; acquiring and analyzing tissue samples; and about the imaging process.
While these might all be hypothetical, they can provide excellent opportunities for candidates to share their knowledge of the processes that would likely be part of their regular duties and demonstrate that they have learned and performed them properly. For instance, describing the urinalysis process can start with getting a sample, testing it using correct protocol, re-checking results, and preparing a formal report. It can also include sharing the knowledge that results can possibly be affected by getting tests mixed up, contamination of the sample or testing area, or the presence of certain pathogens or medicines in samples.
These types of technical questions can also go beyond clinical answers and demonstrate familiarity with both procedures and personality: “This one time I was trying to brush a dog’s teeth and something funny happened…”
Q. “How do you deal with high emotion?”
Sanford-Brown, who provides training and degrees for veterinary assistants and other positions, suggests that people seeking vet tech jobs will likely be asked how they would feel and act in certain situations, including how to interact with scared pets or scared owners.
In animals and humans alike, strong emotions and high stress may quickly lead to other emotions, including anger or sadness. Like people, animals in pain may become more aggressive and less rational. Having the ability to recognize the signs of this, be aware of them, and not take things personally can all be useful skills. Knowledge of how to be soothing and calming to humans and animals can also go a long way.
Q. “How do you feel about death?”
Unfortunately, not all pets, service animals, or livestock can be saved. There are circumstances where euthanasia may end up being the most humane solution, even though it can be emotionally difficult and the opposite of why many people want to work in animal-related careers. So not only asking a vet tech about their thoughts and experiences with death but also if they would be willing to perform or assist in the task as part of their regular duties can be a suitable question at an interview.
The topic could be framed as a yes or no question, or as part of a longer answer about appropriate scenarios for euthanasia or even methods of how to provide comfort to grieving families at these occasions yet still remain professional.
Q. What else can you do?
Questions about past positions at public or private clinics or in related jobs could help a veterinarian or hiring manager learn what you may bring to the table beyond standard skills of a vet tech.
This is an opportunity to share what you have to offer that perhaps other candidates don’t:
- Do you have experience with standard veterinary office software?
- Are you familiar with the care of more exotic species of animals, like reptiles or birds?
- Have you worked with different types of providers?
Q. What else could you do?
Along similar lines, vet tech candidates may be asked what abilities and tasks they would be able to perform, above and beyond the typical duties of a vet tech. Such expectations could be especially common at a smaller clinic, where everyone may do everything, from answering the phones and performing clerical tasks to cleaning cages and mopping floors after closing.
This might also include working different shifts, handling pet food deliveries, or helping with community events. It’s usually a good rule of thumb, at least during standard interviews, to say “Yes—whatever you need,” and to say so enthusiastically.
Questions on Vet Tech Professional Challenges and Opportunities
Q. What mistakes have you made related to this field?
Although this question could initially sound negative or bring back some unpleasant memories from the past, an employer may be interested to hear about their potential new hire’s professional experiences. More importantly, they may be interested in what they learned from past mistakes and what they did about it.
Be prepared for follow-up questions such as:
- How did you make things right?
- What steps did you take to keep yourself or others from making the same mistake?
This may require some reflection on your part, but it could create a point of sympathy and solidarity; perhaps your particular mistake is a common one or may have also been experienced by the person interviewing you. It doesn’t have to be something terrible or unprofessional, but maybe an early mix-up before you had much training in the profession. Though embarrassing then, it could make an amusing yet cautionary tale now.
Q. What kind of challenges are you seeking in this position?
This question could allow for a more creative answer than the traditional (yet vague) question about a candidate’s career goals.
With this particular question, people can share specifics of what they hope to gain from being hired. It could be something missing from a prior position that a previous employer didn’t offer or something that’s present in this particular clinic:
- I’d like to have more of a leadership and decision-making role.
- I like this clinic’s approach to _____.
- I want to work with a larger/smaller team.
- I want to work with the public more.
- I’d like to be more involved in surgeries vs. admin tasks.
This also could indicate if someone likes learning one thing and moving on or may be willing to stick around and have longer-term objectives.
Q. What kind of challenges do you see in the industry?
This question can show that you try to keep on top of what is happening and that you can see the big picture:
- Are there controversies?
- Are there unmet needs at a state, regional, or national level? (e.g., more vets, more techs, more rules)
- Does the profession need more regulation or is it regulated enough?
You don’t have to get into partisan politics, which can be divisive, but you could discuss different laws and trends for the animal care field:
- Are people taking their animals to the vet more or less?
- Are cases of abuse growing or declining?
- Are animal diets getting better or worse?
- Are visits becoming more expensive?
Some reasonable solutions could also be discussed rather than simply griping.
Q. What could be a particularly difficult aspect of the job?
This suggestion from InterviewStrategies.com suggests that some honesty could be required here, whether it’s busy work you aren’t very fond of or a difficult, unpleasant, or messy technical task, like giving pet injections or staying calm when tending to an abused animal.
Other Possible Questions in a Vet Tech Interview
Q. Who do you admire in this profession?
This question can be an opportunity to share information about people who may have inspired you to enter or do well in this industry. It could be a specific person in your local community who you might have interacted with. It could be someone from the past or maybe someone from a TV show who specializes in interactions with different types of animals. Someone considering hiring you might like to hear how you never missed an episode of “The Crocodile Hunter” as a child, or that you still always tune into Dr. Pol.
This can be a good way for a prospective employer to learn something about your passions, interests, and the type of work you’re interested in.
Q. What part of being a vet tech most interests you?
This could be another open-ended question that gives interviewees the opportunity to talk about their training and interests. It could also let a potential employer know which duties a candidate would be most eager to engage in, if given a choice, keeping in mind that as a vet tech you still might have to do a variety of tasks. This also allows you to get specific rather than saying “everything.”
As a final note, be sure to have your own questions prepared for the interviewer about your prospective place of work. After all, it’s important for you to find out whether the clinic is a good fit for your needs, interests, and career goals.