Recruiting the Right Staff and Keeping Them
World Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress Proceedings, 2018
Mark Moran, BSc, MBA
Vets in Business Limited, Ashcott, Bridgwater, Somerset, UK

People are the key to the success of any organization, which is why recruiting and retaining the right staff for your clinic is critical to its future development.


Before commencing the recruitment process, there are a number of key processes that need to be complete first.

Your Clinic’s Vision and Values

You must be able to describe to any prospective member of the practice staff an inspiring vision for the future of your practice that will encourage them to join you in the journey, and to describe the values that you will uphold whilst you are on the journey.

The vision and values are key to attracting applicants and helping them to understand the type of clinic they will be joining, whilst also providing you with a benchmark to determine whether a candidate will be a good “fit” for your clinic. Failing to live up to a clinic’s values is the most common reason why well-qualified candidates do not work out as anticipated.

The Job Descriptions

Recruiting a new member for the team is a good opportunity to review the job description of the role, even if they are replacing an existing member of staff. Developing job descriptions helps you to reflect on the key tasks the individual is to perform, and will allow both you and the candidate to judge whether they are suitable for the role.

The Person Specification

This should define the type of person for whom this role would be suited. This should include the obvious technical qualifications that might be required; however, it is really about the personal attributes that are required. These should reflect the clinic’s values in terms of personal character (empathetic, conscientious, self-awareness, willingness to help others, etc.).

The Job Advert

The level of detail you may wish to include in the job advert is usually dictated by the cost of the medium used. It should include the job role and then the key points from your vision, values, job description and person specification, as space allows. Providing a contact point to allow access to further detail is always helpful, and this is simply where the supporting documents are already available.

Invite candidates to provide a covering letter, setting out why they should be the next member of your team. Putting the key points in the advert allows them to direct their answer accordingly.

Reviewing Applications

Remember, the best candidate may not have the best CV! Often long-serving staff are prompted to explore job vacancies because of some recent event. As such, they will often not have had the time to prepare a “polished” CV, so a little bit of digging can often unearth a little gem.

Create a list of the key requirements (technical and more importantly personal) and judge each CV against these in as objective a way as possible. Don’t make the list too long; it is better to focus on 6 to 10 key areas and look for evidence in each case. Assign a weighting score to each question so that you can “grade” experience (say 3 for lots, 1 for some). Ensure that your key requirements don’t breach local laws regarding discrimination.

The Interview Process

The interview is an opportunity for you to explore the candidate’s background and experience, and for the candidate to find out more about your clinic. As such, the way in which you prepare for and conduct the interview process will be a key factor in both attracting good staff and identifying future problems. Before each interview, review the score sheet from the CV review and identify any areas of concern that you specifically wish to explore. Use the same list to score each candidate after the interview. It is a good idea to have identified a question or scenario that you can use to allow candidates to demonstrate their suitability against each point. Asking each candidate the same questions will give you a much better impression of their relative strengths and weaknesses. This is important, because often we find that we don’t have an “ideal” candidate.

Effective Questioning

  • Use as few questions as possible (prepare them beforehand).
  • Use open-ended questions.
  • Tell the listener why the questions are important.
  • Ask every question as if it were being asked for the first time.
  • Ask questions at the relevant time.

Effective Listening

  • Care about the other person’s point of view.
  • Maintain concentration.
  • Take time to weigh up what is being said.
  • Use “acknowledgements” to give you “thinking time.”
  • Develop questions to fill in the “gaps” in your understanding.

Induction and Probation

Prepare an induction program before the successful candidate arrives. Try to give them time to get to know your clinic and the key process that they will use before “chucking them in at the deep end”. It is worth investing a short period of time at the start to avoid problems later on.

Set up periodic reviews to touch base and to allow you to deal with any emerging problems quickly.

Set up more formal reviews at 3 and 6 months to review progress and to record successes and concerns.

These reviews should be meetings on equal terms, and which use a positive reflection of the past and open-ended questions to draw on the employee’s own evaluation of past performance and to direct their skills toward new accomplishments. The outcome should be an agreed-upon list of SMART objectives.


Speaker Information
(click the speaker's name to view other papers and abstracts submitted by this speaker)

Mark Moran, BSc, MBA
Vets in Business Limited
Ashcott, Bridgwater, Somerset, UK

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