Episode #193 – Animal Health and Veterinary Hiring: Experience vs. Attitude

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #193 - Animal Health and Veterinary Hiring: Experience vs. Attitude
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Julea: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health Thought Leader, Stacy Pursell, founder, and CEO of The VET Recruiter, 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 and Veterinary organizations hire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life. Stacy is an Animal Health Executive Recruiter and Veterinary Recruiter. She is in the trenches every day of recruiting and hiring for the Animal Health industry and the Veterinary profession.

In today’s podcast episode, we’ll be talking about Animal Health and Veterinary hiring, specifically hiring for attitude vs. hiring for experience. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Julea. As always, I am glad to be here with you today. How are you?

Julea: I am doing great Stacy…. Stacy, judging by the title of today’s podcast episode, I am guessing that we are going to talk about whether or not employers should place a priority on hiring for experience or for attitude. Is that right?

Stacy: That is correct Julea. This has been somewhat of a debate in the world of employment for quite a while now, although I must say that the majority of people involved in the debate side with attitude over experience.

You just have to do a Google search to see a number of articles and blog posts that talk about the merits of hiring for attitude over experience. However, it is not that simple. Hiring in general is not that simple. If it was, then every employer would hire well most of the time. And after more than 20 years as an Animal Health recruiter and Veterinary recruiter, I can say with confidence that is not the case.

Julea: Why do I get the feeling that you do not count yourself among the majority when it comes to this debate?

Stacy: There’s a good reason for that, and it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Mark Twain. He said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” And that’s exactly what we’re going to do today. We are going to pause and reflect upon the roles that experience and attitude play in terms of Animal Health and Veterinary hiring.

Julea: That sounds great. Where would you like to start Stacy?

Stacy: Well, first let me say there’s no doubt that there is value in hiring for attitude. A person with the right attitude can make a tremendous difference in an organization. However, blindly hiring for attitude over experience can be a dangerous proposition. Before discussing why that is the case, I’d like to explain why ideally, it should not be an either/or situation.

Julea: What do you mean by that?

Stacy: Ideally, an employer would be able to hire for both. In fact, it should be the goal of every hiring manager and practice owner to hire for both attitude and experience. That’s the ultimate goal. The danger arises when the hiring manager at an Animal Health company or veterinary practice attempts to hire for just one, sacrificing the other out of preference, necessity, or both.

So I’d like us to approach this discussion by keeping in mind that having to choose between attitude and experience can be avoided altogether if an employer is able to hire a job candidate who possesses both. That’s the best of both worlds.

Julea: But if you can’t have the best of both worlds, which world should you choose as an employer?

Stacy: There is an answer to that question, but there is also a journey we must take in order to get there.

The job of an Animal Health company or Veterinary practice is basically to do two things for its customers. Those two things are to solve problems and provide value.

Julea: We have discussed solving problems and providing value before on the podcast, haven’t we Stacy.

Stacy: Yes, we have, and that’s because they’re both very important. It is true that these two things often overlap, since employers can solve the problems of their customers by providing value of some kind. But everything comes down to these two things for the customers of an organization. Customers trust an Animal Health organization or Veterinary practice because its employees solve their problems and hopefully provide multiple forms of value.

So this means as an employer, you need to hire candidates who can both solve problems and provide value. So the question becomes this one: how are these candidates going to do that?

Julea: Okay, I see. The question really is are these candidates going to solve problems with their experience or are they going to solve problems with their attitude?

Stacy: Right. When it comes to solving the problems that Animal Health employers and Veterinary employers face on a daily basis, what is more valuable—attitude or experience? When it comes to providing value, what is more valuable—attitude or experience?

Julea: So what are the answers?

Stacy: Basically, the answer is that it should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, attitude is more important than experience in terms of solving problems and providing value, while in other instances, experience is more important than attitude. It is up to the hiring manager at the Animal Health company or Veterinary practice to decide which is more important, depending upon the situation and the circumstances within that situation.

Julea: So it’s not an all or nothing proposition?

Stacy: No. Once again, ideally it’s not an either/or situation where you’re forced to choose one over the other and you can hire for both. And even if you do have to choose one over the other, it’s not an all or nothing proposition. Employers can make a decision based on what it best for the organization in that particular instance.

And you have to remember, when you hire someone for your Animal Health company or Veterinary practice, you are basically taking a risk. You just want to take the best and most calculated risk that you possibly can. But no hire is 100% risk-free. That’s just not possible. So when you hire for attitude over experience, you’re taking a calculated risk. By the same token, when you hire for experience over attitude, you’re still taking a calculated risk.

Julea: Stacy, when it comes to Animal Health and Veterinary hiring, there is a lack of enough high-quality candidates in the marketplace, is that right? Even with the pandemic and even with the recession, there just isn’t enough good candidates to go around, especially on the Veterinary practice side. Isn’t that what we’ve been discussing in recent weeks and months?

Stacy: Yes, that’s correct.

Julea: So what are the chances that employers would be able to hire candidates who have both the right experience and the right attitude? Wouldn’t their chances be lower?

Stacy: That’s right. Hiring for both attitude and experience is difficult, even when there is an abundance of good candidates, and that’s just not the case right now in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession especially in the Veterinary profession where there is a shortage of veterinarians and other professionals.

This means if you are a hiring manager at an Animal Health company or Veterinary practice and you are looking to fill a position, there may be a lack of available, qualified candidates. This, in turn, means you’re more likely to be faced with a situation where you can’t hire for both attitude and experience.

Julea: So, what should Animal Health and Veterinary employers do Stacy? What is your advice for them?

Stacy: First, be fully aware of the situation in the marketplace in terms of Animal Health and Veterinary hiring and the lack of enough qualified candidates. Second, take the steps necessary to address the situation.

Julea: I imagine that you are going to share those steps with us now Stacy?

Stacy: Yes, absolutely! I have three steps, and the first one is to deepen the talent pool.

When an Animal Health hiring manager or Veterinary business hiring manager finds themselves in a situation where they have to choose between attitude and experience, it means that their talent pool is not deep enough. As I just mentioned, the reason is partly because of the state of the current marketplace, which is competitive. However, an Animal Health or Veterinary employer must work to deepen the available talent pool, whether that is through networking, employee referrals, or hiring an Animal Health recruiter or Veterinary recruiter.

The second step is to streamline and perfect the hiring process. Deepening the talent pool is just the beginning. Then you must move those candidates through a process that will keep them engaged and interested in both your opportunity and the organization itself. It doesn’t make much sense to get candidates with both a good attitude and plenty of experience into the beginning of the hiring process if they drop out before you get to the end of it.

The third step is to focus on employer branding. As an employer in either the Animal Health Industry or Veterinary profession, the bottom line is that you want to attract candidates who have both the attitude and the experience you crave. This starts with organizational excellence and extends to the hiring process. For example, if your veterinary practice is a great place to work, then your employees will tell their friends and colleagues, promote the practice on social media, and become a passionate promoter for the organization.

Julea: Stacy, I’m afraid I’m going to try to pin you down here, but in your experience, which solves more problems for employers—attitude or experience?

Stacy: As I’ve stated, both are very important, but I would have to give the edge to experience, even if it’s only a slight edge. You were correct earlier, when you got the impression that I wasn’t on the side of the majority. There’s no doubt that attitude solves a lot of problems, especially interpersonal ones. But I believe that experience can solve a wider range of problems, and in some cases, solve them more quickly.

Julea: Okay, if that is the case, what can employers do if they have found a great candidate with a lot of experience in the Animal Health industry or in Veterinary Medicine, but they’re worried about the person’s attitude?

Stacy: This is where the interview stage of the Animal Health and Veterinary hiring process is so important. During the interview, ask probing questions to evaluate whether their attitude is a result of their current employment situation or simply their life-long outlook.

Julea: Do you have some examples of these questions Stacy?

Stacy: I do Julea! These questions can take the form of behavioral interview questions such as:

  • Can you tell me about a time you failed in the work or professional setting?
  • Can you tell me about a time in which you were in the middle of a conflict in a professional setting?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you faced an ethical dilemma at work?

 

After you ask these questions, you can continue to probe by asking follow-up questions such as “How did you handle that situation” or “What was the outcome of that situation?”

Julea: So, these behavioral based interview questions will give you a better idea about the candidate’s attitude?

Stacy: Yes, depending on the candidate’s answers to these questions, the hiring manager at the Animal Health company or Veterinary practice has to determine if the candidate could be coachable or if the candidate might be toxic, or at the very least unproductive, to the current team and organization.

Julea: So once again, it’s a risk, no matter what you do.

Stacy: Yes, all hiring is a risk, to a certain degree. That’s why it’s dangerous to blindly implement strategies such as “Always hire for attitude over experience.” Every candidate is different. Every hiring situation is different. So each candidate and each situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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

Stacy: Yes. Ideally, an Animal Health employer or Veterinary employer will work to generate more leverage for themselves in terms of Animal Health and Veterinary hiring. Leverage is all about options. The more options you have in a situation, the more leverage you have. As we discussed today, this means deepening your talent pool, streamlining the hiring process, and focusing on employer branding. This positions you better to hire for both attitude and experience.

Remember that as an Animal Health employer or Veterinary business employer, it is your job to solve the problems of your customers and provide value to them. The first step in doing that is hiring employees who are able to solve problems and provide value. That’s why you should do everything you possibly can to find, recruit, and hire those candidates who have both the attitude and the experience necessary to get the job done.

Julea: Stacy, thank you so much for all of this great information you provided to our listening audience today. And for those people who are considering a job change, I want to encourage you to check out the hot jobs on The VET Recruiter website at www.thevetrecruiter.com There are also plenty of tips to help you through the job search or interview process. The VET Recruiter website has resources for you on how to put your resume together, how to work with a Veterinary Recruiter or Animal Health recruiter, how to negotiate your salary package and you can also sign up for The VET Recruiter career tips newsletter. There are many career related resources to help you on The VET Recruiter website. For those listeners who are Animal Health employers or Veterinary business employers who need to hire top talent, reach out to Stacy today for information on how The VET Recruiter can help your organization find the talent you need. The VET Recruiter helps Animal Health employers from the largest companies to the smallest companies find the talent they need for critical jobs that are open within their organizations. The VET Recruiter also helps veterinary practices both corporate groups and private veterinary practices find the talent they need. The VET Recruiter has placed more talent in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary industry than any other recruiting firm and Stacy has been serving the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession since 1997.

Julea: Once again, the website address for The VET Recruiter is www.thevetrecruiter.com. Stacy, as always, thank you for joining us today.

Stacy:  It is my pleasure. Julea. I look forward to our next episode of the Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider!