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Episode #179 – What the COVID-19 Pandemic Has NOT Changed About the Marketplace, Part 4

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #179 - What the COVID-19 Pandemic Has NOT Changed About the Marketplace, Part 4

Julea: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health thought leader and executive recruiter Stacy Pursell, provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health companies and Veterinary practices acquire top talent, while helping animal health professionals and veterinarians attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast episode, we will be continuing our series about what the COVID-19 pandemic has NOT changed about the employment marketplace. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Julea. As always, I’m glad to be here.

Julea: Stacy, we have talked about several things that have not changed in the marketplace since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This is the fourth podcast episode in our series. What will we be talking about today?

Stacy: We’re going to be talking about soft skills and the fact that they’re still important for Animal Health and Veterinary organizations that are looking to hire. In fact, I believe they’re even more important now than they were before the pandemic began.

Julea: More important? Why do you say that Stacy?

Stacy: Because the pandemic has presented a number of challenges, many of which can’t be tackled with technical skills alone. Many of these changes are rooted in the interaction that people have with each other, and as you know, soft skills are also known as “people skills.” Animal Health companies and Veterinary practices must be flexible, and they must be able to adapt to ever-changing circumstances and situations in the workplace and the employment marketplace. The best way to accomplish this is to hire people who have strong soft skill sets and who can react and adapt quickly and effectively to what is happening around them.

Julea: That certainly makes sense. And we’ve addressed soft skills before on the podcast. Specifically, we’ve addressed the fact that soft skills are just as important as technical skills, if not more important in some situations.

Stacy: Yes, that’s correct.

Julea: And we’ve also discussed some of the soft skills that are the most important. Or, to put it another way, the ones that are the most valuable to an employer. So what are we going to talk about today?

Stacy: Well, it’s important to note that although we’ve discussed some of the most valuable soft skills, it doesn’t mean that an employer should hire strictly for those soft skills. There are other factors involved, and an Animal Health or Veterinary employer should take these factors into consideration.

Julea: What are those considerations?

Stacy: Well, those considerations are actually pretty simple. They consist of the organization itself and the position that the organization is trying to fill.

Julea: What do you mean by that?

Stacy: We’ve discussed the soft skills that are generally considered to be the most important or the most valuable in the marketplace. Those are the constants. The variables are the individual organization doing the hiring and the position that the organization is trying to fill. Those are the variables because they change. No two organizations are exactly the same, and no two job openings, even if they’re within the same organization, are exactly the same, either.

Julea: So what’s the first step?

Stacy: If you’re an employer, then the first step is to figure out which soft skills your organization values the most. After all, you can’t hire for these skills if you don’t know what these skills are. And if your organization does not value soft skills at all, then you have a problem that needs to be addressed. Namely, you have to recognize the value that soft skills provide to employers in the employment marketplace.

Julea: But just about all employers recognize the value of soft skills, don’t they?

Stacy: Yes, thankfully that’s the case. However, even if they do value these types of skills, they may not even know which ones they value the most.

Julea: Doesn’t it make sense that the soft skills they value the most are probably some of the skills that most employers value overall?

Stacy: Yes, it does make sense, but how an organization prioritizes those skills is also very important. For example, you could have two employers that value the same five soft skills. However, the order in which they value them could be different. What one employer values as its #1 soft skill could be #5 on the other employer’s list and vice-versa.

Julea: So how does an organization determine its top soft skills and how does it prioritize them?

Stacy: Everyone involved in management should identify which soft skills they believe are the most important and they should also prioritize those skills. Then, everyone should compare notes, so to speak, and set standards for the organization overall. This is beneficial on a number of different levels, including when it comes to company culture, employer branding, and even core values.

Julea: How’s that, exactly?

Stacy: When an Animal Health company or Veterinary practice identifies the soft skills that are most important, it is articulating its employer brand. It’s identifying what it views as the most valuable attributes of its employees, as well as which attributes it would value in prospective and future employees. And of course, identifying these skills ultimately helps the organization to hire better. It helps it to hire candidates who possess characteristics that will mesh better with the company culture.

Julea: That makes sense. What’s next, Stacy?

Stacy: The second step is to figure out which soft skills the position requires or which soft skills are most important in the filling of the position. More than likely, the soft skills that the organization values as a whole will be represented within these skills, but it probably won’t be a one-to-one match. In other words, if you have five soft skills that the organization values as a whole, there’s a good chance that an individual position won’t require those exact same five skills. And even if a position does call for those same five soft skills, there’s a good chance that the order or the priority of those skills will be different.

That is why it is crucial for the decision makers within an Animal Health company or Veterinary practice to identify and define the soft skill set that is necessary for a position. And it’s not good enough to just have a general idea of which skills are required. They should be defined in a concrete fashion and then articulated and communicated to everyone involved with the hiring process. If an employer does not do that, then it runs the risk of miscommunication, which in turn increases the chances that it will not hire the right person for the job.

Julea: Stacy, what else should employers do when it comes to assessing the soft skills of Animal Health and Veterinary candidates?

Stacy: Well, once an employer identifies the soft skills that it wants to target, it must screen for those skills. While this should ideally be taking place all throughout the hiring process, the interviewing stage of the process is where it really takes place. Therefore, it is important for a hiring manager to ask the right questions during the interview. This means asking questions that specifically screen for the soft skills for which you want to hire.

Julea: I would imagine this also means asking questions that go well beyond the standard interview questions.

Stacy: Yes, that’s right. This might require some research on the part of those people who are conducting the interview, but the hiring process is an investment of time, energy, and effort. The employer must make such an investment in order to receive a return on that investment.

Julea: Stacy, what else can you tell us about the type of questions that an employer should ask or about the role of the interview stage of the process?

Stacy: The type of questions that work the best are behavioral-based interview questions. As we’ve discussed before, this means asking situational questions that pose real-world scenarios. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, candidates usually arrive to an interview prepared to answer standard questions. As a result, they have standard, rehearsed answers. Asking questions for which they have not prepared forces them to “think on their feet” and put their soft skill set to use. Second, these types of questions help a hiring manager to assess a candidate’s problem-solving ability.

Julea: How does that work, exactly?

Stacy: You can pose a hypothetical situation, one that revolves around a certain problem. Then ask the candidate how they would solve the problem. They can solve it using their technical skill set or their hard skill set or both, but then you can change the circumstances of the situation.

Then ask them to solve the problem again, now with this new set of circumstances. This will challenge them to adapt to the changes and still devise a workable solution. This more accurately mimics what happens in real life, which is what you want to simulate. What you see as the candidate answers your questions and attempts to solve the problem is pretty much what you’ll see if the candidate joins your team as an employee.

The bottom line is that as an Animal Health employer or Veterinary employer, you want to hire people who can solve problems consistently well and do it with a superior soft skill set. As we’ve mentioned, the pandemic has introduced many challenges and problems into the workplace and marketplace. Organizations need employees who can solve problems and solve them on a consistent basis.

And what employers need to understand is that soft skills are yet another reason that an organization should consider interviewing a candidate who has not presented a resume.

Julea: Why is that?

Stacy: A resume basically details the hard skills, technical skills, and work experience that a job candidate possesses. However, when you interview someone—either through a video interview, a Zoom interview, or in person—you can get a much better idea of the person’s soft skills and how those soft skills could help the organization if you were to hire the person.

And this also speaks to the issue of passive candidates vs. active job seekers.

Julea: How is that?

Stacy: When an employer interviews someone and that someone doesn’t have a resume, it’s because they’re not a job seeker, but a passive candidate. An active job seeker probably already sent their resume to the employer in advance of the interview. They might even have filled out an online job application, too. So when I talk about interviewing a candidate without a resume, I’m talking about interviewing a passive candidate. More than likely, this passive candidate is one of the top passive candidates in the marketplace. As a result, they’re probably not even aware of the job opening.

Julea: And why is that Stacy?

Stacy: Because they’re not looking for it. They’re not looking for any job, actually. And the reason for that is their current employer is keeping them busy and relatively satisfied in their current position. At the least, the organization is keeping them satisfied enough to not want to seek a job elsewhere.

As a result, these professionals must be presented with an employment opportunity for them to even consider it. Many times, the person who does that is an Animal Health recruiter or Veterinary recruiter. And it’s important to note that just because a candidate finds out about an opportunity does not mean they will automatically be interested in it. Whoever presents the opportunity to the individual must also generate interest in the opportunity and convince the person to join the hiring process.

Julea: Stacy, hold on for a second. But what if the candidate is interested in the position and they do decide to enter the hiring process? Doesn’t that means they’re applying for the position?

Stacy: That is a great question. However, it does not mean the candidate is necessarily applying for the position, even if they agree to enter the hiring process. This is a critical distinction and an important one. When a passive candidate enters the hiring process, they have NOT made the decision to leave their current employer yet. If a hiring manager assumes this is the case, then they are making a mistake.

Julea: Stacy, I’m going to make a mental leap, but are you saying that since these passive candidates are not officially applying for the position and they haven’t made the decision to leave their current employer, that’s why they don’t have their resume ready?

Stacy: That is exactly right. You made the correct conclusion. Active job seekers usually have their resume 100% updated and ready to go. But top passive candidates are not active job seekers. They are not conducting a job search and they absolutely have not made the decision to leave their current employer.

Julea: But they are interested in the opportunity, at least somewhat?

Stacy: Yes, they are interested, but only to a certain point. The employer’s job is to keep the candidate interested and make them even more interested. And it doesn’t matter if they have a resume or not. It’s risky to stop the entire process and ask the candidate for their resume. If they don’t have a resume ready, they’re not going to take the time to put one together. And do you know why that is?

Julea: Because they’re interested in the opportunity, but not totally sold on it.

Stacy: That’s right! They’re interested, but they’re not totally sold. So that means it is the hiring manager’s job to sell them completely. If you’re an employer and you haven’t sold a top passive candidate completely on your opportunity and they don’t have a resume ready to give you, don’t pressure them with the resume until you know that you’ve sold them. Pressuring them may turn then away and cause them to not move forward.

The #1 reason why you should interview a candidate without a resume is because if you don’t, then you’re going to miss out on the chance to hire a qualified candidate, possibly a top candidate in the marketplace. And you’re going to miss out on the candidate because you’re placing a greater emphasis on protocol over hiring priorities.

Julea: Stacy, what do you mean by that?

Stacy: The top hiring priority for any organization should be to hire the best candidates in the marketplace for its open positions. What if, as an employer, you have the opportunity to interview that candidate? Are you going to refuse to interview them if you don’t have a resume in hand first?

Julea: Stacy, I imagine that you have told hiring managers not to demand a resume from candidates that you have presented to them, is that right?

Stacy: That’s right. And there’s a rule I like to use that applies to this situation. That rule is this: if you want someone to do something, then make it easy for them to do it. If you want a candidate to be interested in your job, then make it easy for them to be interested in your job. If you make it difficult—by demanding that they produce a resume, for example—then they are less likely to be interested.  We do ask passive candidates for their resume, but we must balance that without pressuring them because we do not want to risk turning them off. We need to make it easy for them to move forward.

Julea: Stacy, we’re just about out of time for today. Is there anything else that you’d like to add before we wrap up today’s episode?

Stacy: Yes, I would just like to say once again that hiring the best candidates is always a priority for Animal Health employers and Veterinary employers. The COVID-19 pandemic has not changed that. In fact, the pandemic has probably made it even more important for employers to seek out those candidates who have the best combination of technical skills and soft skills and convince them to join their organization. This is no time to be following strict hiring protocols revolving around applications and resumes. This is the time to do everything you possibly can to hire the best job candidates you possibly can.

Julea: Thank you, Stacy, and thank you so much for all of this great information.

Stacy: You’re very welcome, Julea, and thank you. It has been my pleasure, and I look forward to our next episode of the Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider!

Julea: That’s all for today’s show. For Stacy Pursell and everyone at The VET Recruiter, thank for your listening and we invite you to join us next time when we address more employment issues in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. We hope that you’ll join us then!

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