Shaking Hands

I interviewed to get into the college of veterinary medicine in May of 2015. I applied after two years of undergrad, I interviewed once, and I was accepted (for more on this pop over to my previous post—Final Destinations). So, what is said here is based on my own personal experience and only one interview. That said, I think some of this info could be applied to other programs (in some ways).

I thought, as it is basically the anniversary of my interview I would tell you guys what I found out, both while preparing for the interview and during the interview. I’m breaking this into two pieces (one on Monday and one on Tuesday) because it turned out rather long. The first will be on preparation and the second on the actual interview.

The school I applied to does a panel interview (with three interviewers: a practicing veterinarian (mixed or small animal), a specialist from the college (or the dean etc.), and an industry spokesperson/ agriculture professor/large animal vet). Many, if not all of the questions will be college specific (so don’t rely on my info alone to inform you about your college of choice) and some interviewers have favourite questions that they use frequently. A number of veterinary programs are now using the multiple mini interview format used in medical school interviews, I hear.

This is the first big part of applying! Know the colleges you want to apply to inside and out. Know the due dates for different aspects of your application, know how they calculate averages, and what criteria they use to choose interview candidates. Further, know what they are looking for in the interviews, how they score candidates, and how much the interview is weighted compared to your grades and application essay/resume. I’m going to focus most of this article on the prep for the interview and the interview itself but, what I listed above is how you get the interview in the first place (if you guys like this, and want to see more info on this aspect let me know)!

For preparation for the interview I personally chose not to do the student run mock interviews provided by the Pre-vet club at my university. In fact, I wasn’t part of the club at all. This is in part due to my unique connection to the veterinary industry through my dad (a vet) which allows me to “jump the queue” and get to know a lot of vets on a first name basis and see and participate in many areas most students can’t. The other part of me not being in the club was… well frankly I’m not big on clubs of any sort. One of the first things I did was seek out agriculture professors who I knew had helped with interviewing previous years.

I made a meeting with one particular professor, and asked similar questions of two different vets who had been on the interview committee before. I spent some time asking basic questions, I’m only giving the gist of their answers since I obviously don’t remember them word for word:

What sort of dress were you looking for?

-Professional but not over the top dressy generally. Don’t wear jeans but a fancy dress might not be the best either, as there may be some doubt whether you would be the sort to actually get your hands dirty.

What did you notice first about applicants?

-Some would sit down without shaking hands and introducing themselves, or being invited to sit. It might have just been a nerves thing but it didn’t look great. Also, your hands can shake but try to breath and keep your demeanor steady, friendly, and open. Dealing with people is a huge part of the job and they want people who are already pretty good at this.

What was the biggest mistake you saw during interviews?

-A lot of students didn’t have an awareness of themselves, which meant they forgot to breath, fidgeted without thinking, didn’t make eye contact, or sometimes rambled instead of answering questions directly. Try not to talk with your hands overmuch, as well, for girls mainly—don’t touch or twirl your hair, for everyone—don’t bite your lips or tap the table or the chair arms etc. The students who could relax were far more successful communicators and far less likely to exhibit fidgety behaviours. By far this is where most students could improve, be mindful of yourself.

How is the interview structured?

-Each interviewer has a line of questioning that they are expected to pursue but may jump in after your initial answer to another interviewer. Also expect to be/know you will likely be cut off during some of your answers if you are a person who gives really in depth replies. The time may seem like forever for you but, often it is hard to get through everything we want to ask with talkative students. That’s not bad, just don’t feel weird if you get cut off. Also, try to make your answers succinct.

Then I brought out the big guns: What can you tell me about the interview questions?

-There’s a pretty standard set of question types:

You will 100% be asked the difference between animal rights and animal welfare.

You’ll probably get one on leadership, what it looks like, and how you have participated in it throughout your life.

There will be an ethics question in most cases, and they may also ask you to define what a professional is or professionalism in general.

You may be asked a question about who your role models are (and they’re not looking for clichés).

It is likely you will be asked about the governance of the profession and the structure of the governing bodies as well as what their roles are.

Current events will be brought up, particularly stories involving the pet or agricultural industries but also the general human-interest stories.

You’ll likely be asked what you expect to get paid as a veterinarian.

Euthanasia generally comes up at some point.

Other questions will likely pertain to your personal areas of experience and interest as the interviewers are given the students files days ahead of time so they can review them and ask relevant questions.

The vets also asked me some of the types of questions they would normally ask a student applying. At the end I asked each vet to score me on a scale to five as to where they would’ve placed me (as in the interview all questions are scored on this basis, with notes from the interviewer) and how I could improve. While one of the vets gave me a 4-4.5, the other scored me only a 3. I will note that between the two vets there was definitely two very different personalities, they were from two different clinics, and they were of different genders.

When I asked about improving the vet who gave me a 4-4.5 told me I may benefit from making my answers a bit more succinct and that I needed to brush up on my understanding of roles of the governing bodies of the profession and current events but that he would change very little overall. The vet who gave me a 3 suggested that I needed to try harder to answer the question specifically and succinctly. She also told me not to overstep the boundaries of my knowledge and to brush up on a couple of things regarding my personal experience areas.

I presented myself for all my “mock interviews” as I planned to dress for the interview and asked each person whether there was anything about my attire they would change. Universally I was reminded to shine up my cowboy boots the day of, but otherwise was fine in my dress pants and blouse, with no makeup on whatsoever.

So, that was my preparation! Hope it was interesting. Let me know in the comments whether you’ve done similar prep for interviews and whether you found this interesting. I know it is very vet-y.




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