How do you make yourself the best person for the job?

Standing out from the crowd abstract
While there may be enough jobs to go round, you don't just want a job, you want the best one...just like everyone else. Bagging a great job needs focus and determination.

What does an employer want?

The best candidate needs to fulfil a number of different criteria, and when you understand what practices are looking for, you'll be able to show them exactly how you shape up against these key parameters.

We asked a range of practices what they look for in potential employees, and clinical skills actually played only a small part. Some of the most frequently mentioned words were enthusiasm, compassion, connection, clinical skills, personable, empathy, willingness, confidence, team skills, curiosity and conscientious.

"Clinical skills actually only play a small part in what practices are looking for in potential employees"

The fact is that practices are not just paying your wages; they are making a significant financial investment in the business's future, as 20% of the average practice's turnover is spent on paying its vets. Every post filled has to be with the right candidate. And they'll have plenty of candidates to choose from when 30 CVs and letters arrive to apply for just one job.

Stand out, for the right reasons

Faced with so many applications, your potential employer will most probably first scan through them. Any that are scruffily presented or badly spelt will be cast aside at this point. No matter how great your experience or results, if you can't be bothered to present a tidy and accurate persona at the application stage, you won't get past it. Essentially, you're sending a clear message to the practice that that's how you'd be as a colleague and clinician – slapdash and half-hearted.

In order to appear professional and employable, it's important to:

  • Use the spell checker facility and ask your parents or tutors to have a read through too
  • Not use coloured paper
  • Keep to a standard text colour, size and font throughout
  • Keep things brief – no waffle and repetition
  • Not go past 2 pages – that's easily enough for you to be able to sum everything up and keep your potential employer's interest
  • Follow a standard structure for laying out your CV and covering letter (there are lots of examples online)
  • Tailor the content to each specific position. It may seem a pain re-doing each one, but potential employers can spot a blanket approach a mile off, and it doesn't tell them that you're keen to work with them
  • Spell the practice name (and the word ‘veterinary’) correctly
  • Address your letter to a named person, not ‘The Practice Manager’. And spell their name correctly.

There's a debate at the moment concerning ‘clever’ applications – candidates who may have made a video, sent their application on a USB stick or via e-mail, connected with the practice via LinkedIn and so on. We found that most directors and principals agree this demonstrates an innovative and free-thinking candidate, and could pique their interest and might secure an interview. As long as it's not too clever, that is, too much like technology for technology's sake, all form and no substance. Be aware that your potential employer is likely to be from a different generation from you, so don't overdo things.

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