I have an interview for a vet assistant at an animal shelter! Advice please! :)

princesspeach2

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It has been about a year since I last posted (this was my thread Back to pre-vet, which step to take next? )

Brief update/background- Initially, I really loved my job at the school working in special education. As the year went on though, I started to get bored and restless despite enjoying the creative freedom (and just freedom in general) I had when working with the students. I had a lot of fun overall and felt like I did a good job helping our students, but I realized it isn't something I want to stay in for a career. The head teacher is still encouraging me to go into teaching as I have a knack for it he says, but something is missing for me personally.

Anyways with covid, I wasn't able to get a summer teaching aide job, so I have been job hunting and on unemployment for awhile. I had an interview for a grocery store manager position which I was not selected for, and another for a doggy daycare attendant. Shortly after my 2nd interview at the doggy daycare, I received a call that I got the job. I wasn't super impressed during my 1st interview (just overall lack of professionalism-ie talk about how they would rather only work with girls and not boys because at their last job, girls would get competitive over cute boys...I'm 27), but since I was on unemployment I had to take the job.

On paper, I should LOVE the doggy daycare job. There are adorable aussies, goldens, and shepherds (some who are even puppies!) who want to snuggle and play fetch, I get to watch the dogs splash about in a pool, make up games for them, have them all sit in a circle for treats, and it is a pretty easy job although physically demanding with all of the cleaning. Yet, I just wish I was doing more and learning more.

Luckily, I received an email inviting me for an interview at my local animal shelter. It is for a vet assistant position, and more of a "will-train" type thing, rather than wanting a certified VA. I feel terrible interviewing at another place when I just accepted this position, but I am still in the 30-day trial period (and my offer letter had my wages as 50 cents less than what I was told at the interview). I also overheard the manager talking about how they will close down again soon probably if things with covid don't improve, so this job is not stable either.

My interview is on Wednesday, and I really am just looking for any advice on what they are looking for and what to expect. Are there any sort of questions that are the norm? I can find advice for interviewing at a vet clinic or interviewing at a shelter, but not for both. I just want to walk in prepared. I understand that there is a good chance I'll have to help with euthanasia (open admission shelter) which I am okay with, and that there is a good chance of seeing animal cruelty cases as well.

Here is the job posting:
"
ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:
Administer vaccines, de-wormer, microchips, medications and other treatments as directed.
Document medical records of all shelter and foster care animals in PetPoint or on paper as appropriate.
Prepare animals for surgery and monitor animals under anesthesia and during recovery.
Provide supportive care and treatment for sick and injured animals as directed.
Restrain patients for procedures performed by veterinarians or technicians.
Maintain clean and sanitary conditions in the clinic and isolation areas; clean and sterilize surgical and other laboratory equipment.
Any other duties as may be assigned by the Shelter Veterinarians and Veterinary Technicians.
Regular and predictable attendance is required.

QUALIFICATIONS: Experience working in a veterinary clinic, shelter, rescue or boarding/daycare environment preferred.

KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND ABILITIES: Ability to: Learn cleaning and disinfecting methods and the use and care of cleaning materials and equipment; appropriately handle and restrain animals; learn basic animal care; learn basic veterinary terminology and recognize abnormal conditions; understand and carry out oral and written directions. Genuine passion for and commitment to animal welfare is required. Ability to work well within frenetic nature of shelter environment. Ability to communicate skillfully and effectively with a culturally diverse staff, volunteers, and community in a professional, pleasant, and respectful manner at all times. Maturity with ability to use good judgment and display a professional manner.

I volunteered at another animal shelter for a year in high school, and have a year of experience from working at a privately-owned vet hospital as a kennel/receptionist/and VA-in-training.

Thank you so much for any advice! :)
 

battie

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Just like any other job interview, go in with the mentality of how you're skills and work ethic will benefit the shelter. Dont worry too much to the point of stressing out.

As far as leaving the other job, it is what it is.
 
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princesspeach2

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Just like any other job interview, go in with the mentality of how you're skills and work ethic will benefit the shelter. Dont worry too much to the point of stressing out.

As far as leaving the other job, it is what it is.
Thank you for this advice. I probably an over thinking it a bit, I just really woykd rather have this job and tend to get nervous during interviews. I will try to just relax and not stress out unnecessarily about it. :)
 
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SkiOtter

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I just really woykd rather have this job and tend to get nervous during interviews. I will try to just relax and not stress out unnecessarily about it. :)
You’re allowed to take a second to think about answers. You don’t have to immediately have an answer ready to go when they finish asking a question. You can always ask if you can have a couple seconds to think.
Also, take a couple deep breaths before you interview to help calm yourself down.
 
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princesspeach2

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I can't recommend the book 60 Seconds and You're Hired enough. Get it, learn it, practice it, nail your interview!
I just bought it now and will read it tonight! Thank you for the advice. While I have always managed to get a job despite by poor interview (in my opinion) skills, it would be nice to walk in feeling confident! :)
 

princesspeach2

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You’re allowed to take a second to think about answers. You don’t have to immediately have an answer ready to go when they finish asking a question. You can always ask if you can have a couple seconds to think.
Also, take a couple deep breaths before you interview to help calm yourself down.
That is a good point. I usually try to rush to an answer, or sometimes I'll say "that is a good question" to try to buy more time. I never thought about asking for a couple seconds to think as something that was allowed. The deep breaths before is also a good tip. That is something I forget to do when anxious, and it definitely can help. Thank you!
 
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cbucks

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Seconding what everyone else has said!! I think one of the main things that you'll want to highlight in yourself is that you're ready to learn on the go and pick up information quickly. When I first started working at a shelter I had shadowed at a few clinics but never did anything hands-on, and basically from the minute I walked in the shelter I was restraining, giving vaccines, working anesthesia, etc. so you want to show that you're prepared to dive in headfirst! Also with taking time on answers, during my interview at University of Florida they asked me a question and I was completely blank, so I basically said "I'm sorry but I need some more time to think about this, could we come back to this question later?" and they were totally fine with it! Fingers crossed for you :)
 
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britzen

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Looks like I may be too late since your interview is today, but I used to work as a manager at an open admission shelter. I didn't oversee the animal care department, but they generally were looking for:

1. People who were ready to work no matter the task
It's a lot of cleaning, especially for new people.

2. People who followed the protocols
The shelter will have specific ways that they clean, etc. It's all designed to minimize disease spread or for animal and human safety. If you don't follow it you are useless to them, could cause something like a parvo outbreak, and could open the shelter up to liability.

3. People who took the safety protocols seriously
The number of people (mostly volunteers) who ignore big red "QUARANTINED OR DANGEROUS ANIMAL - DO NOT TOUCH" because an animal is cute and fluffy is... high. Like, keep your fingers out of the cage, dude. It also leads to crappy welfare for the animals - where I worked any animal that bit or scratched a human got an automatic 10-day rabies quarantine, even if the animal was vaccinated. 10 days in a tiny quarantine cage for a cat or a kennel run with no walks or human interaction for a dog is very stressful for the animals.

The people I saw interview who didn't work out usually either balked at how gross the job was, kind of did their own thing during a working interview based on how they cleaned at their last job (which usually isn't stringent enough for a shelter environment), or did something dumb related to a safety warning on an animal's cage.

If you haven't been told what kind of interview you are doing, I'd wear business / business casual to the interview but keep some working clothes in your car in case they want you to do a working interview.

To give you an idea of the normal tech schedule, here's the general workflow of the animal care staff where I worked.

07:00 - 09:00 - prep food and meds per every animals specifications. Most were on the same food, but some had special diets. Many had meds. Distribute food and meds.
09:00 - 12:00 - clean kennel runs or cat / small animal areas. There were three dog runs at the shelter where I worked and two cat / small animal areas. A new person usually would take all three hours to clean just one of them. More experienced folks could finish in about 2 hours.
12:00 - 17:00 - animal intakes / vaccines / ongoing med care, euthanasias, ongoing cleaning (dishes, laundry, spot cleaning if kennels got especially dirty), animal enrichment (walking / play group especially with dogs that were not allowed to work with volunteers for some reason), logistical stuff (sorting food/litter/etc shipments, donations, etc)
17:00 - 19:30 - prep food and meds and distribute, close out activities (cleaning exam rooms, checking temp in all animal areas, closing outdoor access on all kennel runs, paperwork, etc)

Also, be prepared to be the primary for euthanasias - shelters have different rules depending on your state and euthanasia can often be performed by any shelter employee who has undergone the training and approval process, not just veterinarians (many shelters do not have vets on staff - the one I worked at had a part time vet that was only there from 10 am - 3 pm M-F). I didn't work directly for the animal care department, but I had to undergo training as I was the manager on duty a few days per week. All of our animal care staff was expected to complete the training within 6 months of hire.
 
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katashark

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I just bought it now and will read it tonight! Thank you for the advice. While I have always managed to get a job despite by poor interview (in my opinion) skills, it would be nice to walk in feeling confident! :)

I hope you crushed your interview! how'd it go? PM me if you want to talk details or interview question advice. or we can go through what they asked you? whatever you need.
 
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princesspeach2

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Seconding what everyone else has said!! I think one of the main things that you'll want to highlight in yourself is that you're ready to learn on the go and pick up information quickly. When I first started working at a shelter I had shadowed at a few clinics but never did anything hands-on, and basically from the minute I walked in the shelter I was restraining, giving vaccines, working anesthesia, etc. so you want to show that you're prepared to dive in headfirst! Also with taking time on answers, during my interview at University of Florida they asked me a question and I was completely blank, so I basically said "I'm sorry but I need some more time to think about this, could we come back to this question later?" and they were totally fine with it! Fingers crossed for you :)

Hi! Thank you for the comment. That was actually one of the things I had prepared myself to say as a strength, but I was never asked any sort of "normal" interview questions like that. It was all a bit rushed, as there was an unexpected surgery so the vet staff obviously needed to hurry and go assist with that. I got a whole tour of the shelter with the HR person though, which was really neat. She told me about all the changes and I got to see everything, which was a lot of fun. When I asked her if there was anything about me that made her worried about whether I'd be a good fit for the position, she said no (for her, not speaking for the vet staff who make the decision) and said that I seemed very enthusiastic. :) Everyone seemed really nice, and I got a great feeling overall about the place. Much happier and friendlier place then the doggy daycare. I felt at ease with the staff I spoke with while waiting for the interview or after.

They were going to be making their decision by early this week, but I made the really tough decision to withdraw my application after finding out that there are no busses running past 7pm here, and just earlier that week the VA had to stay til 10pm to help with an unexpected surgery (they said it is fairly common to have to stay late sometimes). My boyfriend and I are a single car household (saving up for a 2nd, but it'll be a year out), and he will need the car for work himself soon. I would have no way to get home if I had to stay late if he was at work. :( So I accepted my old position back at the school. There were a lot of parts I really liked about it, and it is walking distance. I'm also taking 18 credits (online courses) at my community college this semester, so working at the school will give me set hours and make it easier to have time for school work. I plan on volunteering at a donkey rescue and shadowing a large animal vet this year, then volunteering with a local spay neuter clinic (you actual volunteer as vet staff) next year. :) Bright side, someone else who really wants the job and needs it will now get it hopefully. :)

I just emailed them letting them know I was withdrawing my application.
 
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princesspeach2

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Looks like I may be too late since your interview is today, but I used to work as a manager at an open admission shelter. I didn't oversee the animal care department, but they generally were looking for:

1. People who were ready to work no matter the task
It's a lot of cleaning, especially for new people.

2. People who followed the protocols
The shelter will have specific ways that they clean, etc. It's all designed to minimize disease spread or for animal and human safety. If you don't follow it you are useless to them, could cause something like a parvo outbreak, and could open the shelter up to liability.

3. People who took the safety protocols seriously
The number of people (mostly volunteers) who ignore big red "QUARANTINED OR DANGEROUS ANIMAL - DO NOT TOUCH" because an animal is cute and fluffy is... high. Like, keep your fingers out of the cage, dude. It also leads to crappy welfare for the animals - where I worked any animal that bit or scratched a human got an automatic 10-day rabies quarantine, even if the animal was vaccinated. 10 days in a tiny quarantine cage for a cat or a kennel run with no walks or human interaction for a dog is very stressful for the animals.

The people I saw interview who didn't work out usually either balked at how gross the job was, kind of did their own thing during a working interview based on how they cleaned at their last job (which usually isn't stringent enough for a shelter environment), or did something dumb related to a safety warning on an animal's cage.

If you haven't been told what kind of interview you are doing, I'd wear business / business casual to the interview but keep some working clothes in your car in case they want you to do a working interview.

To give you an idea of the normal tech schedule, here's the general workflow of the animal care staff where I worked.

07:00 - 09:00 - prep food and meds per every animals specifications. Most were on the same food, but some had special diets. Many had meds. Distribute food and meds.
09:00 - 12:00 - clean kennel runs or cat / small animal areas. There were three dog runs at the shelter where I worked and two cat / small animal areas. A new person usually would take all three hours to clean just one of them. More experienced folks could finish in about 2 hours.
12:00 - 17:00 - animal intakes / vaccines / ongoing med care, euthanasias, ongoing cleaning (dishes, laundry, spot cleaning if kennels got especially dirty), animal enrichment (walking / play group especially with dogs that were not allowed to work with volunteers for some reason), logistical stuff (sorting food/litter/etc shipments, donations, etc)
17:00 - 19:30 - prep food and meds and distribute, close out activities (cleaning exam rooms, checking temp in all animal areas, closing outdoor access on all kennel runs, paperwork, etc)

Also, be prepared to be the primary for euthanasias - shelters have different rules depending on your state and euthanasia can often be performed by any shelter employee who has undergone the training and approval process, not just veterinarians (many shelters do not have vets on staff - the one I worked at had a part time vet that was only there from 10 am - 3 pm M-F). I didn't work directly for the animal care department, but I had to undergo training as I was the manager on duty a few days per week. All of our animal care staff was expected to complete the training within 6 months of hire.

Thank you so much or all this information! It wasn't a working interview, just a normal sit down one. The HR rep gave me a tour of the entire shelter afterwards, which was really neat and interesting to see the inner workings of a shelter. Even when I volunteered at one back in HS, I didn't get a tour of the entire place.

They had a whole color code system for animals that could not be walked by volunteers, and for sick, contagious animals, they were in a separate area that volunteers had no access too. It is sadly not surprising the that you mention that a high number of people would try to pet the caution animals cause they are cute, or ignore the quarantine sign. I had other clients lunge out to try to pet another clients dog before. Why would someone think that is a good idea?

Their schedule was fairly similar to what you listed, except a majority of every day (morning to night) is spent doing surgery, clearance exams, or medical treatment. From my understanding, the VA's did some cleaning/laundry/dishes/etc, but the animal care techs were the one who did most of it (along with animal enrichment), as the vet clinic is super fast paced and they have 2 vets there full-time.

I appreciated the information about the euthanasias. I have heard that was the case at other shelters. From what the HR gal told me, only the vets and maybe actual RVT's did the actual euthanasia (VA's might be present for it, but not the ones doing it).

I ended up having to withdraw my application after learning during the interview how VA's sometimes will stay late into the night, which wouldn't be a problem, but the public transportation (which I would have to rely on when my bf was at work as we only have 1 car) stops at 7:30pm.
 
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princesspeach2

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I hope you crushed your interview! how'd it go? PM me if you want to talk details or interview question advice. or we can go through what they asked you? whatever you need.

Thank you! That was really kind of you to offer. I felt that it went really well, although I do think that they were looking for someone who felt very comfortable with fractious animals, and I am not entirely there yet (I was honest how I only did 2ndary restraint on fractious animals at my previous clinic). They really only asked a few questions, and none were really the "typical" interview questions. They mainly just asked for me to elaborate on my experience with animals, and clarified my veterinary experience. The place seemed really great, and I really liked all the staff that I spoke with or interacted with.

The other VA they had who I met was actually a pre-vet as well, and she had started working at the front and shadowing in the back, and then they moved her to back full-time!

They had a few more people they were interviewing, and then would let me know early next week via email.

Unfortunately, I made the very tough decision to withdraw my application, as I found out that it is very possible that there are nights where I would have to stay very late, and while right now I am able to have the car to get to work, my boyfriend will need it soon himself, and the busses here currently don't run past 7:30pm. I was planning on biking, but once it is snowing that won't work out well. I decided that it would be wiser to just accept my position back at the school for this school year, since that is walking distance. I also need to get my wisdom teeth out, and have amazing dental insurance through them.

It would have been such an amazing opportunity though.

Oh, and I read that book your recommended. I felt that it was pretty useful and changed my thoughts on the whole interview process and what a good answer was. So thank you again for the recommendation!
 
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princesspeach2

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To update all you lovely people, the HR gal wrote back. She was very nice, and said that they very much enjoyed meeting me, and to let them know if they other place doesn't work out. I think I might have been a candidate they were seriously considering. I responded, and while perhaps it is not the standard, I was honest and just let her know that it was only due to transportation concerns that I accepted my old job back, and that I planned on reapplying in the future if there was an opening once we have a 2nd car. I didn't want her to think there was something about the job and shelter itself, since that was not the case. I'm feeling optimistic though since clearly a bridge was not burned, and a door left open in fact! :) Thank you again for all the advice and feedback on here.
 
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cbucks

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Hi! Thank you for the comment. That was actually one of the things I had prepared myself to say as a strength, but I was never asked any sort of "normal" interview questions like that. It was all a bit rushed, as there was an unexpected surgery so the vet staff obviously needed to hurry and go assist with that. I got a whole tour of the shelter with the HR person though, which was really neat. She told me about all the changes and I got to see everything, which was a lot of fun. When I asked her if there was anything about me that made her worried about whether I'd be a good fit for the position, she said no (for her, not speaking for the vet staff who make the decision) and said that I seemed very enthusiastic. :) Everyone seemed really nice, and I got a great feeling overall about the place. Much happier and friendlier place then the doggy daycare. I felt at ease with the staff I spoke with while waiting for the interview or after.

They were going to be making their decision by early this week, but I made the really tough decision to withdraw my application after finding out that there are no busses running past 7pm here, and just earlier that week the VA had to stay til 10pm to help with an unexpected surgery (they said it is fairly common to have to stay late sometimes). My boyfriend and I are a single car household (saving up for a 2nd, but it'll be a year out), and he will need the car for work himself soon. I would have no way to get home if I had to stay late if he was at work. :( So I accepted my old position back at the school. There were a lot of parts I really liked about it, and it is walking distance. I'm also taking 18 credits (online courses) at my community college this semester, so working at the school will give me set hours and make it easier to have time for school work. I plan on volunteering at a donkey rescue and shadowing a large animal vet this year, then volunteering with a local spay neuter clinic (you actual volunteer as vet staff) next year. :) Bright side, someone else who really wants the job and needs it will now get it hopefully. :)

I just emailed them letting them know I was withdrawing my application.
I'm so sorry this didn't end up working out for you:( But on the bright side it does seem like they liked you, and like you said if things line up better in the future you could always contact them again! Plus a donkey rescue sounds amazing:love:
 

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