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Why Recruiting Veterinary Graduates is so Difficult

11th August 2017

Having trouble recruiting the ideal vet? Don’t worry—you are not alone! The numbers speak for themselves:

  • In 2015, two-thirds of veterinary practices took more than three months to fill their vacancies.
  • A third of veterinary practices received fewer than four applications.

Practices looking to recruit reported difficulties at every stage: a lack of applications, a lack of suitable candidates, and successful candidates turning the job down!

What is happening to our vets?

Looking at the applications they’ve received, a lot of veterinary practices might find it hard to believe that the number of UK graduates is increasing— the Register of Veterinary Surgeons shows that the number of UK veterinary graduates has increased by about 25% over the last 10 years. So why aren’t all these graduates applying for jobs?

Are some young vets just not interested?

Some think there are parts of veterinary practice that graduates just don’t want to work in. TV’s ‘Yorkshire Vet’ Julian Norton said that recent graduates simply aren’t interested in the kind of small, mixed, and rural practices shown in the much-loved All Creatures Great and Small. Dr Norton thinks that what was once seen as idyllic and committed work with all sorts of animals is now dismissed as isolated and unsociable work. Do recent graduates just want urban comforts and regular work in large surgeries?

Practice managers shouldn’t take Dr Norton’s gloomy diagnosis to heart. It is true that slightly more veterinary graduates have not gone on to do any veterinary work since qualifying, but that is not the full story. There are plenty of eager, skilled graduates who are looking for all kinds of meaningful work with animals.

Be cheerful about recent graduates

Dr Gudrun Ravetz, the president of the British Veterinary Association, has encouraged us to be faithful in our young vets:

  1. 80% of veterinary students want to work in clinical practice.
  2. Only 2% of veterinary students want to work outside the veterinary profession.
  3. Almost half of veterinary students would work in mixed practice.

So why are practices having difficulties attracting all the great, skilled graduates? The best way to answer this is to see what the graduates themselves are looking for.

What veterinary graduates want

There are 2 things that all veterinary graduates are mainly looking for: location and support.

Graduates are not looking for large sums of money. If they feel like they will be looked after, helped to develop, and in a good area, they will want to work for you. Knowing this, there are some simple ways that your practice can attract the very best applicants:

  • Encourage recent graduates to apply. Trust in their abilities and open your application process up to them. Over 80% of unsuccessfully filled vacancies required at least one year’s work experienceyou will have a much more encouraging pool of applicants if you welcome recent graduates. They might require some initial training to see how your practice runs, but with the right support they will excel in no time.
  • Let your applicants know that your practice will help them make the most of their career. Opportunities for graduates to develop their expertise are valuable—tell them the kinds of animals they will be working with, how they will make the most of their knowledge, and how they will be helped to learn more. If graduates feel like they will be supported in the role, they are much more likely to apply.
  • Say what’s great about the area where they’ll be working. It can be daunting to move for a job, so help applicants feel more confident. Celebrate beautiful scenery, and mention what applicants can do in the local area—graduates used to urban living might need to be told about transport around where they will be working. If applicants feel enthusiastic about where they will be working, they’ll feel even more enthusiastic about what they will be doing.
  • Assure applicants that they will have some form of work-life balance. No veterinary graduate expects a 9-5 job from their first clinical practice. Still, the widely publicised stress levels in the profession can all make recent veterinary graduates wary about what a job will demand of them. Most worrying of all is the simple statistic that the suicide rate of vets is around four times that of the general population. Be clear with applicants about what kind of work and support they can expect from your practice: calmer graduates means more applicants! And do say if you can offer flexible working arrangements: vets thinking of starting a family will be sure to apply.

There’s no need to think that graduates don’t want to work at your practice. Remember what they want from their professional career—and the fears that they might have— and you will quickly attract the very best applications.

Celebrate the location of your practice, and the development opportunities that your practice can provide: the ideal graduate is waiting for you!