Animal Health and Veterinary Career Advice: Listening Without Getting Defensive

By Stacy Pursell, CPC/CERS
The VET Recruiter®

On more than one occasion, I’ve referenced the fact that emotional intelligence is a key factor in how much success a person enjoys in their career. The more emotional intelligence you possess, the more successful you will ultimately be.

There are multiple facets to emotional intelligence. Not only does it involve identifying and influencing the emotions of others, it also includes identifying your own emotions and regulating them accordingly depending upon the situation and the circumstances. And this certainly applies to one’s professional life and their Animal Health or Veterinary career.

A person’s emotions can “run high” while they’re exploring other employment opportunities, especially if they’re in the hiring process of an employer and they’re hoping to receive an offer of employment. The more emotionally invested you are in something, the more difficult it can be to remain objective. However, it’s important to remain objective in these types of situations, so that you can maximize the situation to your advantage, no matter what the outcome might be.

Unfortunately, I have been witness to quite a few situations in which a professional in the Animal Health industry or Veterinary profession was not able to practice a high degree of emotional intelligence. As a result, they were not able to maximize the situation. In fact, they branded themselves poorly in the process and quite possibly hampered their future prospects for employment with the organization, if those prospects were to arise.

I’ve addressed this topic before, after some fashion, with the article, “Feedback Following the Interview is a Gift, NOT a Personal Attack.” However, I continue to see some people struggle in this area, and that’s why I’m broaching the subject again, albeit with a different slant.

That’s because listening without getting defensive does not only apply to feedback that you might receive following a job interview, either from an employer or from an executive recruiter. It also applies to every interaction that you have with other people, including during the recruiting and hiring process. These interactions include—but are not limited to—the following:

  • An initial phone call with a hiring manager or executive recruiter
  • A phone screen or telephone interview with a hiring manager or other decision maker
  • An in-person, face-to-face interview with a hiring manger
  • An online, face-to-face interview with anyone involved with the organization’s hiring process
  • A conversation with a hiring manager or executive recruiter following the face-to-face interview (which we’ve already discussed).

Although I have yet to indicate this explicitly, the only situation in which a person would be defensive in any one of these situations is if they received what they perceived to be criticism. I’ll take it a step further than that. They would be defensive is they received criticism that they believed was unwarranted and/or unfair. In other words, they take what the other person is saying not as feedback or even as constructive criticism, but as a personal attack.

I have been an Animal Health executive recruiter and Veterinary recruiter for 23 years, and I can say that hiring managers are not in the habit of personally attacking candidates during the hiring process.

Candor is one of the core values of The VET Recruiter, and I view it as my job to be candid with any candidate whom I am presenting to one of my clients. That’s because it’s my goal to create a win-win situation for both my client and also for the candidate. If my client decides that they are not going to extend an offer of employment to a particular candidate, I view it as my duty to be forthright with the candidate and share reasons, (when my client gives me permission to do so) that they did not receive an offer. I do this in the hopes that the candidate will take the steps necessary to improve their candidacy for future employment opportunities so that they can better take advantage of those opportunities and continue to grow their career.

As I mentioned in my previous article about the importance of feedback following the interview, being defensive is counterproductive for a number of reasons. Those reasons include the following:

  • You focus more on what you perceive to be a slight or even a personal attack than on the feedback itself.
  • You don’t take steps to make the improvements that are necessary to progress.
  • The person providing the feedback will be less inclined to continue providing feedback. (In addition to a hiring manager or recruiter, the person providing the feedback could be a co-worker or colleague.)

Active listening is another core value of The VET Recruiter. That’s because we believe that actively listening to others—really listening and not pretending to listen to just waiting until it’s your turn to speak—is instrumental to a person’s growth and development as a professional. So, no matter situation in which you find yourself, don’t get defensive and don’t take what is being said personally. Instead, commit yourself to using what is said to better yourself and improve your situation.

Not only will you brand yourself in the right way in the present, but you’ll also position yourself for greater success in the future.

If you’re looking to make a change or explore your employment options, then we want to talk with you. I encourage you to contact us or you can also create a profile and/or submit your resume for consideration.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1. By helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2. By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of Animal Health and Veterinary organizations. If this is something that you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.