College of Veterinary Medicine

Counseling & Wellness Services

Self-Help Information: Job Search Packet 

Experts suggest beginning your job search 6 - 9 months prior to your graduation!

The most important consideration in your first work experience is to work in a practice that is dedicated to mentoring you!

What Veterinary Employers Want: Employees that are:

  • enthusiastic about veterinary medicine and practice
  • self-motivated - able to jump in where needed
  • focused - able to keep on track, completing tasks in a timely manner
  • quick learners with a desire to continue learning
  • able to multi-task - works well under pressure
  • able to maintain a good sense of humor
  • good communicators - works well with clients and staff
  • interested in the profession and promoting veterinary medicine in all arenas
  • loyal to clinic and works as part of a team
  • What New Grads Should Look For: Employers that provide:

  • support, mentoring and guidance but allows you to test your skills
  • honesty
  • professionalism, ethical practice, good relationship with colleagues, public
  • reasonable hours and compensation
  • staff respect and support
  • clean work environment
  • feedback and constructive feedback
  • respect for your opinions, treating you as an equal
  • material, staff and equipment to provide optimum care and diagnosis, or the ability to refer when the patient's needs exceed the ability of the staff or facilities
  • reasonable expectation of workload
  • commitment to continuing education
  • Employment Agreements

  • employment duties
  • term of employment agreement
  • employer's practice philosophy
  • professional liability insurance
  • compensation - salary - base + % production
  • emergency duties and compensation
  • vacation/sick leave time
  • continuing education and professional membership dues
  • health, dental, disability insurance
  • retirement and 401K plans
  • non-compete clause
  • personal pet care

    Three Important Factors for a Successful Job Search

    1. awareness of your goals and skills
    2. an understanding of the labor market
    3. a well planned job search campaign

    Steps to Conduct a Job Search

    I. Self-Assessment - identify your values, interests, skills, accomplishments, experience and goals

    A. Values - qualities that are important and desirable (leads to greater satisfaction)

    B. Interests - arouse attention and enthusiasm (closely related to values and can trigger, or lead to, skill development

    C. Skills - recognize your skills and communicate how they will benefit an employer (think accomplishments and technical/non-technical skills)

    II Research and Explore Veterinary Career Options - explore the "matches" between your identified skills, interests and values and the demands of career fields

    Private Practice

  • Sole owner or partnership
  • Specializations (feline, equine, dairy, food animal, exotics, surgery, ophthalmology, etc.)
  • Clinic, hospital, mobile, private residence
  • 74% of veterinarians in U.S. are in private practice (58% small animal, 8% farm animals/horses; 29% mixed animal)
  • Private Industry

  • Research and development of new products
  • Marketing
  • Laboratory testing
  • Public relations
  • Management
  • Pharmaceutical production
  • Quality control
  • Clinical evaluation of new products
  • Biomedical
  • Government

  • Federal, state and municipal
  • Protect public health and insure safe food supply through testing, prevention, and elimination of animal diseases
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Department of Energy
  • Peace Corps
  • Military

  • Biomedical research
  • Food safety
  • Disease prevention
  • Care for government-owned animals
  • U.S. Army Veterinary Corps
  • U.S. Air Force
  • Teaching and Research

  • Teach professional, graduate and undergraduate students
  • Conduct laboratory and clinical research
  • Treat patients
  • Other

  • Lab animal medicine
  • Zoo practice and management
  • Aquatic practice
  • Avian medicine
  • Wildlife management
  • Animal shelters
  • Racetracks
  • Epidemiology
  • Circuses
  • National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA)
  • Environmental impact study teams
  • Pet store franchise
  • III. Choose a Career Field and Target Employers - no career will utilize all your skills, allow you to develop your interests, and incorporate a value system completely with yours. Try to target a career field that will satisfy some of your high-priority needs.

    A. Good research on employers will not only give you the competitive edge, but also help you decide which employers you want to reach and which strategies you will use to contact them

    B. Informational interviews

    C. Talk with current and former employees

    IV. Prepare Job Search Materials and Develop Job Search Skills

    A. Resumes and cover letters should be tailored to reflect your qualifications as they relate to the interests of prospective employers

    B. Job search skills include effective interviewing skills, marketing yourself well, and salary negotiations

    V. Plan and Conduct a Job Search Campaign - set aside a specified amount of time each week to work on your search

    A. Pursue Advertised Vacancies (most popular)

    1. Journals (JAVMA, Compendium, Veterinary Medicine, etc.)
    2. AVMA - Career Center
    3. Conferences - job boards
    4. Internet sites
    5. Newspaper classified ads
    6. Employment agencies

    Although this is the most popular method it is not the most effective!
    Nearly 80% of openings are never advertised!

    B. Develop a Network - most jobs are gained through networking!

    1. Acquaint yourself with professionals in that field or organization
    2. People in your network may include family members, friends, classmates, professors, past employers, peers in various organizations, etc.

    C. Contact Employers Directly

    1. Send a cover letter and resume to the clinic, practice, organization, etc.
    2. Follow up with a phone call - may result in an invitation to meet with the employer
    3. Indicate your desire to meet with them even if they have no positions available (informational interview works well here)
    4. Always follow up all interviews with a thank you letter or phone call
    5. Develop a new contact in your network (stay in frequent contact)

    D. Follow-Up and Record Keeping

    1. Keep a record of all contact, interviews, thank you notes, referrals, etc.

    E. Be Persistent!

    1. Do not be reluctant to submit your resume on more than one occasion to an organization for which you would like to work
    2. Demonstrates enthusiasm and interest

    VI. Obtain Offer and Continue to Develop Your Career Action Plan

    A. Send thank you notes to those who helped in your job search

    B. Continue to develop your short and long term career goals


    1. Preferred Work Functions
      actual work tasks and responsibilities
    2. Salary Needs
      cost of living
    3. Preferred Geography
      near family
    4. Work Environment
      size of clinic/organization
      diagnostics available
      client base
    5. Special Needs
      upward mobility
    6. Career Field
      private practice

    Printable form for RECORD KEEPING


    Veterinary Job Websites

  •  (veterinary career center of the AVMA)
  • (good list of links)
  • (jobs in the U.S. and other countries)
  • Military Job Websites

  • (Army)
  • (Air Force)
  •  Government Websites

  • (Department of Agriculture)
  • (Department of Energy)
  • (Department of Health and Human Services)
  • (Complete government listings)
  • (NASA)
  • (Peace Corps)
  • (Food and Drug Administration)
  • (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service)
  • Journal Websites

  • (JAVMA)
  • Career and Salary Information

  • (Department of Labor)
  • (O*NET)
  • (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • (Census Bureau)
  • Note: This is not an exhaustive list. Although time consuming, the web can provide helpful information for employment and careers in veterinary medicine.



    Behavioral-based interviewing is based on the premise that past behavior/performance predicts future behavior/performance. Past performance examples may come from work experience, activities, hobbies, volunteer work, family life, etc. At an interview, it is important to focus on your experiences, behaviors, and dimensions (which include knowledge, skills, and abilities), that are job related.


    Your answer to a behavior-based question must explain the situation you were in, the task (problem) for which you were responsible, the specific action you took, and the results of your actions. Your answer must contain all of these components to be a complete STAR.

    EXAMPLE 1: Describe a recent work related problem and the actions you took to solve it.

    SITUATION: Advertising revenue was falling off for the Evergreen, WSU's school newspaper, and large numbers of long-term advertisers were not renewing contracts.

    TASK: My goal was to increase advertising revenues.

    ACTION: I designed a new promotional packet to go with the rate sheet and compared the benefits of Evergreen circulation with other ad media in the area. I also set-up a special training session for the account executives with a professor who discussed competitive selling strategies.

    RESULT: We signed contracts with fifteen former advertisers for daily ads and five for special supplements. We increased our new advertisers by twenty percent over the same period last year.

    EXAMPLE 2: Tell me about a time when you had to exert leadership in a crisis situation.

    SITUATION: Right before Thanksgiving break, most people had gone home for the weekend break. Our fraternity president and vice president had already left for home when we got a call that one of our brothers had been involved in a car accident.

    TASK: My task was to provide support in this emergency situation.

    ACTION: I volunteered to go to the hospital to be with my brother and then called his parents in Spokane. I also made arrangements for them to stay at the Hospital Hospitality House when they got to Pullman.

    RESULT: They were pleased I had taken time from my own weekend to help them. Our chapter advisor congratulated me for keeping a cool head and handling the situation. I've since decided to run for chapter office.


  • Analyze the type of positions for which you are applying. What skills do employers require?
  • Analyze your own background. What skills do you have (content, functional, and adaptive) that relate to your job objective?
  • Identify examples from your past experience where you demonstrated those skills. Concentrate on developing complete STARS.
  • Where possible, quantify your results.
  • Be prepared to provide examples of when results didn't turn out as you planned. What did you do then?
  • Before entering the interview room, identify 2 to 3 of your top selling points and determine how you will convey these points (with demonstrated STARS) during the interview.

    Keep a personal achievement diary while in college and once you're employed to help document demonstrated performance using the STAR technique.

    NOTE: Candidates must be able to demonstrate to an employer that they have the skills necessary to do the job. Even if the employer is not conducting a behavioral-based interview, candidates can succeed in the interview by concentrating on relating "STARS" to the employer and evaluating their achievements in this fashion.


  • What was the toughest decision you had to make at a previous job?
  • Tell me about the most difficult person you've had to communicate with.
  • Tell me about a group project that you were involved in. What was your role?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to persuade someone to your point of view.
  • Describe a recent work-related problem and the actions you took to solve it.
  • Tell me about a time that you had to overcome disappointment.
  • Tell me about a time when you demonstrated assertiveness.
  • What is the biggest challenge you've faced in college and how did you deal with it?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict in a group situation.
  • Tell me about a time when you followed through on a commitment, despite difficulties.
  • What kind of pressure did you feel on your last job? How did you handle it?
  • Describe a situation where you had to do several tasks at the same time.
  • Describe a situation when you had to work with someone very different from you.
  • Can you describe a time when you disagreed with a co-worker or supervisor? How did you handle it?

  • Don't view any experience as insignificant—in an interview it's likely that hearing about one of those seemingly insignificant or minor experiences will satisfy interviewers more than a recounting of a top achievement.
  • During the stress of an interview, you'll be hard-pressed to recall good examples—however, you'll have little trouble remembering them now when you aren't under stress.
  • Rehearse how you'd describe key experiences to interviewers so you can recount them vividly and concisely. If you can create strong visual images in the interviewers' minds, you'll have a better chance of convincing them that you have the desired skills.
  • When you relate a story to interviewers, describe features of your personality that helped you succeed, what exactly you accomplished, and how your work helped your employer or group.

    Telephone interviewing is becoming increasingly common in today's competitive job market. This method of interviewing can have advantages and disadvantages for both the job seeker and the employer. Employers like this method because it is a cost-effective and impartial way of interviewing employees. To give yourself an edge it is important to keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep your resume and cover letter near the phone, so that an unexpected call from a potential employer will not leave you unprepared. Have a few well-formed questions prepared to ask. This expresses interest and intelligence to the interviewer.
  • Expect to be asked when, why, and how questions regarding both your employment and educational history. These questions are commonly posed by employers to get a quick assessment of the interviewee.
  • Wait until the interviewer has had a chance to set their agenda for the interview before you take control of the conversation. Typically, interviewers have information they want to impart and are more focused on talking than listening at the beginning.
  • Have a brief, 45-60 second description of yourself ready to state to interviewers. You should include background, experience, and skills that validate your appropriateness for the job.
  • Make sure the information you tell an interviewer does not conflict with your resume.
  • If asked about your background, be upfront and do not express discomfort at the questions. Often this will be a red flag to employers as to a past problem.
  • Ask for the interviewer's name so that you can send a thank you letter after the interview.
  • Remember that the interviewer will not be able to physically see you. Thus, body language can not be used to help you make a positive impression. This being the case, what you say and how you say it become much more important. You should strive to present a strong, confident image of yourself, as an interviewer will be more apt to make a positive evaluation of you. Talk about your experiences and what you have learned from them. One tip to remember is to use crisp and clear language to present fact-filled sentences. This will keep the interviewers attention as you continue the conversation. It is also important to let the interviewer know that you are focused on what he/she is saying by interjecting short phrases such as: "I agree" and "That's right". Sound sincere and do not come across as a "salesman" trying to pitch yourself to the interviewer.

    At the conclusion of the interview, propose a face-to-face meeting at the interviewer's convenience in the near future. If the company is in another area you can ask if they will be in your area and available to meet. If the interviewer finishes with saying that you may not be a good match for the job, do not be afraid to show surprise and recount your related skills and background and offer to answer any further questions. Remember to send a thank you letter, restating your interest in the position and thanking them for their consideration.


    During the initial interview, ask questions that show you are interested in and knowledgeable about the organization and the position for which you are interviewing. "What's in it for me" questions (salary, benefits) should be left for later interviews with the organization or until a job offer has been made.


  • What makes your organization different from other?
  • How did the organization get where it is today?
  • Where does this organization plan to be in 5 years? In 10 years? In 20 years?
  • How does the organization plan to get there?
  • What is the greatest challenge, from your perspective, that the organization faces in the next year?
  • What are the core values of this organization?

  • How does the job for which I am interviewing fit in with the mission of the organization?
  • What would a typical day be like in the position for which I am interviewing?
  • How does this position relate to others in this department?
  • Which departments would I interact with most?

  • What is the organization's policy on promotions?
  • How is the position for which I am applying evaluated? How often?
  • How long should a person plan, on average, to be in a position before being eligible for promotion?
  • Does the organization have formal career paths established?
  • What is the organization's policy on lateral transfers?
  • In your opinion, where would the supervisor for this position intend to be in 1 year? In 5 years?

  • How did the opening for which I am applying occur?
  • Where is the person who held the position before the opening now?
  • How secure is this position?
  • Your organization has recently reorganized. Do you anticipate further changes in the next year? Would they affect the position for which I am applying?

  • Is training provided for the position for which I am interviewing? How is it provided? How long is it provided?
  • Are training opportunities available through the organization?
  • What is the organization's policy on continuing education through colleges? Professional seminars?
  • How does the organization handle days away from work to attend classes or seminars?
  • Does the organization support membership and participation in professional organizations?

  • What is the organization's policy on relocation?
  • How often could a person be expected to move in this position?
  • Does the organization cover relocation expenses?
  • Does the organization assist with the relocation process (finding housing, job assistance for spouse, etc.)?
  • BENEFITS (Best to ask after an offer is made)

  • What type of benefits program does the organization offer - fixed or cafeteria style?
  • Which of the following are available: medical, dental, vision, accidental death/dismemberment, company car or mileage allowance, clothing allowance, athletic/exercise facilities, bonuses, profit sharing, stock options, retirement plans?
  • How much does the organization pay for?
  • COMPENSATION (Best to ask after an offer is made)

  • What is the starting salary?
  • What is the maximum salary, if any, for this position?
  • How are raises awarded? According to tenure? According to merit? Cost of living?
  • How often is a person eligible for a raise?
  • How often are paydays?

  • Possible Interview Questions


  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Of what are you most proud?
  • Work Related

  • Describe your ideal work environment.
  • Describe the most difficult work-related situation you have ever faced. How did you react?
  • How important is communication and interaction with others on the job in this field?
  • How do you normally respond to conflict in the work environment?
  • Tell me about a time you had to go beyond what is normally expected of an employee to get the job done.
  • Education Related

  • Why did you select your field of study?
  • What is your greatest educational achievement? Greatest challenge?
  • How do you think your education has prepared you for your desired career?
  • Activities Related

  • How do you like to spend your time outside of work and class?
  • What goals have you set for yourself outside of work?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • Goals

  • What are your short and long-term personal/career goals? Why are they important to you?
  • What is the one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
  • Give an example of an important goal you set and describe how and why you did/did not reach it.
  • Personal Qualities

  • What is your greatest strength? Weakness?
  • What do you think your greatest contribution to our organization will be?
  • How can our organization help you overcome your greatest weakness or trait?
  • What can you do for us that someone else cannot do?
  • What is your typical role as a group member?
  • How do you work under pressure?
  • Give an example of a time you acted as a leader. What is your leadership style?
  • Success/Failure

  • What do you consider your greatest success?
  • What do you consider your greatest failure?
  • Knowledge of the Organization

  • Why did you seek a job with our organization?
  • What do you know about our organization?
  • Summary

  • Why should we hire you?
  • What distinguishes you from other people I am interviewing today?
  • What do you want me to remember about you?


    How to get from what they offer to what you want!

    First of all, let's understand the process!

    There are two different philosophies regarding salary negotiation and they just might make a difference to you.

    "First Offer, Best Offer"

    A company that has this philosophy has a handle on the employment market and is familiar with what the average compensation is for the type of position they are offering. When an offer is made, they typically believe they are offering a competitive offer, which represents a fair wage and is the best offer they can offer at this time. In this philosophy, there is no conscious effort to extend an offer where negotiation is expected and have found it counterproductive to bring in an underpaid employee.

    "Negotiation is OK and expected"

    This philosophy can be the attitude of the hiring personnel or a reflection of the company's culture. It could be that this is the last step in the interview process: negotiating your way into a decent offer, the final test of your aptitude for the position being offered.

    So you ask now, "How will I know which philosophy my employer has?" Good question! You can respond to both in the same manner, and it is how they answer that will let you know which philosophy they are ascribing to.

    When told of the salary offer, instead of responding with a quick OK, your response could be a thoughtful "Hmmm". If your interviewer is of the 1st philosophy, he/she may explain how they arrived at the salary quoted and will be prepared to await your acceptance, or response.

    If your interviewer is of the latter philosophy, they might counter with a question such as: What salary did you have in mind? This is often a cue to begin the salary negotiation process.

    Sometimes entry-level applicants may think that salary negotiation is for the "big buck" positions; however, it's often easier to negotiate at the hourly-wage level than practically anywhere else. An extra $1-3 per hour seldom exceeds a company's phone bill.

    In addition, remember to consider the fringe benefit package, this can often account for much more than an increase in salary. Remember- "nothing ventured, nothing gained!"


    David G. Jensen, Search Masters International

    Jack Chapman, author of Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make a $100 a Minute

    Need Additional Help?

    Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine Counseling and Wellness Services offer free individual counseling for these and related issues for veterinary students (WSU Veterinary Students ONLY). For more information or to schedule an appointment call or e-mail:

    Anne LaFrance, MA, Licensed Mental Health Counselor
    (509) 335-4607
    135A McCoy Hall

    NOTE:  The information contained in these self help documents is not to be used as a substitute for professional care.  Neither the authors, Washington State University nor the College of Veterinary Medicine assume liability for injury incurred by following the information presented in these self-help documents
    Last Edited: May 13, 2014 12:47 PM   

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