Hiring for Your Culture

March 14, 2018

Will any person satisfy – or are you looking for a good fit?

Consider hiring for your culture rather than for skill sets. 

Once your culture is in place, it’s time to find great people who complement the ethos and values.

After all, you want people to buy into the ideals and standards that are in place so that everyone is moving in the same direction. If people are fighting the system, then it will be more difficult to achieve positive outcomes. The best people are team players who truly support the hospital, the veterinarians, management and co-workers.

One aspect that can really help is to stop thinking of people in terms of “employees” or “departments.” You’re all part of the same team working towards the best pet care possible.  Rallying around the idea we’re all in this together builds a sense of unity and community, which fosters culture.1

Current Team

Taking a critical look at your current team with respect to the clinic’s culture can be a difficult task. Just because the person has good skills as a veterinarian or technician, doesn’t necessarily mean the person is good for your culture.

It’s time to divide your current staff into 3 categories:

  1. People who already understand the culture and see how they fit into it.
  2. Individuals who haven’t quite figured it all out yet, but are willing to learn and adapt in order to fit in.
  3. The ones who just don’t get it and really don’t want to change or willing to adapt. After giving them a fair chance, it’s time for these folks to utilize their skills in another facility.  If you retain people who don’t fit into your setting, then you risk the health of the culture and the rest of the team members.

Tools for Hiring

Consider using aptitude tests during an interview with potential candidates. Just remember, if you use questionnaires, they must be given to each applicant during the same time in the process and in the same format. In all instances, consistency must be respected and upheld by your hiring team.

Cover Letter

I recommend requesting a cover letter from all potential hires. In my experience, I can learn a lot by just glancing at the style, format, layout, greetings and salutation. Plus, you can often get a “feel” for a personality based on the tone and words used.

Red flags in cover letters may be that it’s addressed to the wrong veterinary hospital or the name of the person hiring spelled wrong. This, for me, speaks volumes. I once received one where “veterinary” was spelled wrong – it landed in the trash. The cover letter is one way you can help train your hiring team on “reading between the lines,” so to speak.

Interview Questions

This is an area where you should spend some time developing the questions. The goal is to find the person who has the necessary skills AND fits into your culture.  So think about what really makes a good fit.

Here is a question asked two different ways.

  1. How do you see yourself as a leader among your team?
  2. When leading a team, how do you encourage and enable them to reach new heights of success?

Do you see the difference between the two questions?

The first one asks about the candidate and stops there. The second question allows them to answer in a way in which there is initiative and follow through. Add a few questions to your scripted list that encourages more problem solving and engaging questions.

There are many websites that list questions for veterinary professionals. Simply “Google” Veterinary Interview questions. Remember, the hiring team must ask the same questions, at the same time during the interview process to all applicants. BE CONSISTENT!

Additional assistance can be found in the VIN/VSPN course on “Hiring for Aptitude and Attitude.” 

By using these tools and having a clear sense of the ideal candidate for your culture, you are sure to find people that will thrive in your veterinary hospital. Because when everyone works together, good outcomes will occur.

Here’s to hiring for your culture,

Rebecca Rose, CVT


1  The 8 Essential Steps to Building a Winning Company Culture. By Monica Zent.