Conquering a Tough Job Market

Every partner hospital is different, and so are we!
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Like everyone else in the veterinary market today, we’ve struggled with the challenges of hiring the people we need, especially doctors, to provide the services our patients demand.

We generally have a pretty good understanding of what’s happening in clinical practice from our own experience, managing our 46 partner practices. However, we like to look at the best data, so each quarter we turn to NYC-based market researchers to gather further evidence that can help us make better decisions.

The one thing that we knew for sure is that recruiting and hiring has become a major pain point for veterinary practices across the country.

Finding candidates

If you’re struggling with staff replacement within your practice, you can take cold comfort knowing that you’re not alone. It’s not surprising to learn that 60% of practices surveyed reported that finding good candidates is more difficult now than in previous years – despite the availability of online sites to help in sourcing candidates.  In addition, pay expectations among applicants are not aligned with historic industry averages, and practices report that finding truly qualified candidates remains a major challenge.

Where practices look to source applicants depends on the position. In conducting searches for veterinarians, 46% of respondents reported success in finding a candidate through associations such as the AVMA Veterinary Career Center or a state association. Other job sites weren’t as valuable, with just 14% reporting successful sourcing through Indeed and only 8% through LinkedIn.

For paraprofessional and support staff, the most common sources were job sites – Craigslist (38% used the site to find a front desk staffer and 32% found a veterinary technician) and Indeed (32% used the site to find a front desk staffer while 35% found a vet tech).

90% of respondents reported asking for references for veterinarians, but just 34% reported performing a true background check. In our experience, references tend to be overwhelmingly positive (no surprise, given the candidate provides them) but a background check can help identify issues before an employee is even hired. If you don’t go that far, even a simple Google search can yield valuable insight.

Just 9% of practices reported using a recruiter for hiring. If your practice has had an essential position open for more than 3 months, you should consider engaging a recruiter to help you fill it. In a busy practice, when a position is open for more than a few weeks, lost revenue is likely to be costing far more than a recruiter’s fee – and can be more stressful on the rest of the staff.

Success only starts with the hire

The goal of the recruiting process is to obtain a high quality employee who will make a meaningful contribution to the practice for a long time. There are lots of reasons for turnover in veterinary practice – long hours, stress and the emotional toll on veterinary workers – but there are steps that can help limit turnover, and ease the pressure to be constantly recruiting.

Surprisingly, 23% of respondents reported they do not conduct working interviews. Working interviews should always be the standard for hiring a veterinarian. We believe that having candidates come in for a full shift and paying them for their time (1099), helps you to understand how they practice medicine and, most importantly, if they fit in with the culture of the practice. At the end of the day, while technical skills are certainly important, doctors who don’t fit your culture aren’t good hires and won’t last.

Do your homework

Successfully onboarding a new employee starts with good HR practices. 22% of practices reported they did not have job descriptions for each position in the practice. Clearly defining what the job entails will give employees a much clearer picture of your expectations, and makes it easier to train and provide constructive feedback. 29% of practices reported not conducting a review within 90 days of hire. We can’t stress this enough – an employee who knows how to meet the expectations of their supervisor is a much happier employee than one who lacks the feedback to know if they are doing a “good job.” Happy employees are more productive and far more likely to be long-term contributors to the practice. Successful recruiting starts with reducing turnover!

The Takeaway

Hiring is a critical challenge for veterinary practices right now. Hire people who fit your practice culture and your own unique needs, and then make the effort to retain them – you’ll have a better chance of not having to enter the hiring process at all!


  • Clearly define expectations via job descriptions for all employees
  • Always consider your practice’s culture and whether or not a candidate is a good fit from that perspective.
  • Always conduct working interviews for doctors – and pay them!
  • Considering conducting background checks for all potential employees to identify issues before they are on your payroll
  • Consider engaging a recruiter for essential positions that have been open longer than 3 months


The survey was conducted by a NYC-based market research firm. The survey questions presented in this post were part of a larger ongoing market tracking study which has been conducted for several years to assess changes and trends impacting veterinary practices. 

Practices were recruited randomly from a universal listing of veterinary practices provided by InfoUSA, a leading provider of medical databases. 230 veterinary practices participated in this survey, of which 50% were veterinary practice owners, 38% were practice managers, and 12% were non-owner veterinarians or had other titles.

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