Dr. Pat gets a lot of calls these days from practice owners who can't find job candidates. She asks each one to tell her about their practice. Then she says, "That's your job ad."
Dr. Patricia L. Wohlferth-Bethke, a former practitioner, oversees the online AVMA Veterinary Career Center as an assistant director of the AVMA Membership and Field Services Division.
"I ask very few questions, and I listen, and I let them talk," she said. "I do help them by asking key questions about their practice—what makes them proud, what gets them up in the morning to go to work—and how they can potentially incorporate that into their job ad."
It might not absolutely help, she said, "but at least you know you've done all you can to attract candidates. And maybe the practice is in a location where few people consider, except for the one person that you eventually do find that will stay there forever and buy the place. And that's the thing. You don't need a ton of applicants. You need the right applicant."
The AVMA offers various resources for employers looking to hire, including classified advertisements in the JAVMA and on the AVMA Veterinary Career Center, two virtual career fairs to date, and a physical job board at the AVMA Convention along with listings in the daily convention newspaper. In January, the AVMA Board of Directors approved holding a career networking event at AVMA Convention 2019 coming up this August in Washington, D.C.
A decade ago, practice owners could simply say they had a job, and plenty of people would apply because unemployment was higher, Dr. Wohlferth-Bethke said. She started to see a change in the ratio of job ads to applicants in 2013 and more of a balance around 2015-16. Now things are the other way around.
Dr. Wohlferth-Bethke said practices have to stand out because deciding to take a job is a life-changing event. A job ad is actually a powerful marketing piece explaining what the practice has to offer. She said: "The bottom line is to think like a job seeker. If you're a job seeker, what do you want to read? Because you've got about a minute and a half for people to read your job."
Put important things up top. The first thing is: What's the job? The ad should discuss the practice culture and what the practice does that stands out. Whoever is writing the ad could talk to long-time employees about why they keep coming in to work each day. A flexible schedule is important. Dr. Wohlferth-Bethke advises listing a wide range for salary so people will know the ballpark. The ad should list benefits and the location as well as why people want to live there.
Employers who post on the AVMA Veterinary Career Center also have free access to resumes, while most job boards charge extra. Other tools for hiring include one-on-one networking, using the LinkedIn professional networking site, turning to a recruiter, and putting up ads on job boards at veterinary meetings.
Beyond hiring, retention is so important, Dr. Wohlferth-Bethke added. She said retention is practice management, pure and simple. The AVMA has begun to offer online continuing education on practice management and other topics via the Lead & Learn webinars.
Dr. Wohlferth-Bethke's basic advice for retention is to be kind and provide career development. She said, "By and large, people want their job to mean something, and they want to make a difference."
Steps to create a successful job listing
- Job title: Use the job title, as the first thing people read, to describe your opportunity by including key information and increase the level of interest.
- Job description: Make your job opportunity stand out from the others so that candidates will want to know more.
- Company profile: This is your moment to shine and market your practice as a desirable place to work. What you take pride in as an owner or employee should be reflected here.
- Job requirements: This is typically the last section candidates read, so only specific information should be included.
Explore the AVMA Veterinary Career Center.
Related JAVMA content:
Hiring crunch (April 1, 2019)