Snagging the Best Talent in Animal Care Recruiting:

Here’s What to Look For When Hiring for These Key Veterinary Roles

AUTHOR: Ninad Pandit
The wild world of animal health recruiting has only gotten wilder.

Can we get away with saying that it’s a jungle out there? The forecast for the increase in workers in animal care and veterinary services is hovering around 22% growth between now and 2029. Revealed in another study, veterinary technologists (RVT), vet technicians (VT), and assistants are expected to see a 16% increase in employment over the same timeframe. Given how important candidate flow is for day-to-day operations, it’s especially critical when looking at location and market expansion. Vets cannot expand their practice without the staff needed to support the expansion. This scenario is core to what those in animal healthcare are experiencing now and moving forward. Veterinary healthcare makes up 2% of the total U.S. pharmaceutical market, and is expected to experience an exponential increase due to staggering growth in demand for vaccines.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride in the animal healthcare industry for talent acquisition.

2020 was a Hot Mess and Our Furry Children Will Always Be Essential

These forecasts combined with the impact that COVID-19 has had on the industry could result in a perfect storm of opportunities for those recruiting in this space. Since animal health has been deemed an essential service, a decision on which all pet parents agree, care continued throughout the pandemic…though it looked a little different. Elective procedures were put on hold but are now making a comeback as restrictions are lifted. As short as the partial shutdown was in some areas, this has caused a deficiency of candidates as veterinary clinics and hospitals play a tough game of catch-up. The patient demand has seen exponential growth as pet owners try to get needed care for their furry friends that they may have skipped over the past few months. Due to this, those holding frontline roles in animal health are feeling the pinch and experiencing burnout, leading to higher levels of turnover. Given that veterinary practices will always be deemed essential no matter what, the pressure is not going to ease off in staffing for animal healthcare practices.

A proactive approach and a crystal-clear view on what to look for when recruiting candidates is a non-negotiable for success.

Even in Normal Times, Staffing is a Bear (or a Grumpy Cat)

For those staffing veterinary hospitals and clinics, recruiting is even more daunting because their current staffing needs are higher than pre-pandemic levels.


“We are fully staffed on veterinary technicians’ is a phrase no veterinary practice has said for years.”

Kenichiro Yagi, registered veterinary technician and president of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America


Hiring in this industry can be tricky between managing candidate expectations and employer requirements…aspects of which can be seen as at odds with each other at times.

It’s no secret that those in frontline positions in animal health sometimes feel like the black sheep of healthcare. When compared to those in human care, animal health workers rarely get a fair shake and feel underpaid, undervalued, and underutilized. Case in point, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America created the Veterinary Nurse Initiative in 2016, focusing on a formal title upgrade to ‘veterinary nurse’ from ‘veterinary technician’. This effort is just one of many being taken to educate the public on the advanced skills and knowledge needed for those working in animal health.

This disconnect between skills and credentials ties right into the dissatisfaction many candidates have around potential earnings. The level of care needed for these important patients (that some pet owners may prioritize over their humans; ahem) doesn’t add up to the level of pay in many cases. The increased requirements for health and safety measures around PPE as well as an overnight need to expand skill sets to include supporting telemedicine all support and add to the transient nature of these frontline roles.

What’s someone recruiting in this area to do?

It’s All About the Data, Baby

Navigating the realities of the employment market and the unique challenges faced when hiring for frontline roles in animal care make it clear that this is not a one-size-fits-all situation. There are three key areas to winning in this vet recruiting space: have a compelling employer brand to attract hard-to-find talent; a simple process for managing applicant flow; and lastly, data, which is what we’re going to focus on here (Why? Because we’re dorks that way!).

Dialing in data points to know exactly what skills are needed – down to the personality traits, strengths and weaknesses – from each candidate for each role is critical. It’s the difference between hiring and training a long-term employee that will continue to generate revenue for your company or hiring an employee that sticks around just long enough for you to invest in training and then says, ‘peace out’ as they were never a great fit in the first place.


Candidates must be assessed on three key areas: Cognitive Strengths, Work Style Preferences, and Cultural Preferences.


These tent poles encompass core competencies needed when hiring for these frontline roles. Creating a custom profile covering key data points for each role pinpoints the exact attributes that mirror what the best candidate in that role would look like.

Finally, Your Recruiting Checklist for The Top Three Veterinary Practice Roles

By relying on data that drills down to the minutiae of skills and characteristics that top performers for each role possess, hiring organizations have the upper hand in this competitive employment landscape. Data from skills assessments and preferred profiles gives a solid benchmark for measuring all candidates against, helping to ensure faster hires and longer retention.

In our many years of working within the animal care recruiting industry, here’s what we’ve learned about the top 3 most recruited positions. Drumroll please…


When recruiting for veterinary assistants, look at how the candidate approaches problem solving. Are they a natural leader that prefers to call the shots? Do they come across as super competitive? If so, you might be surprised to hear that this candidate may be a hard pass for some organizations.



Top performing veterinary assistants, in most instances, are team players. While they are problem solvers, they prefer to do so within a support role. Working with a team toward a greater goal motivates them. Top candidates for this role show a level of calm, as they tend to carry out their work in a measured fashion with deliberate actions to get the job done.


  • Team player
  • Problem solver
  • Calm demeanor

**Special note: A culture where flexibility is valued and close attention to detail is not a major sticking point gives top performing veterinary assistants the environment they need to thrive.


Does your candidate struggle with explaining their experience or tend to beat around the bush when pinpointing times they needed to make a quick decision? Consider putting them on your discard pile. Successful candidates for this role have advanced communication skills. This is instrumental when communicating with their patient’s owners regarding their treatment plan or other courses of action.


Top performers for this position are thoughtful yet quick decision-makers relying on their experience and expertise. Does your culture tend to be restrictive and led by hard and fast rules? Top performers prefer an environment that allows them to question the status quo and to act quickly, be spontaneous (while also leveraging concrete and abstract information when doing so).


  • Advanced communication and interpersonal skills
  • Speedy decision-maker
  • Acts quickly, spontaneous


The stakes can be high for this role as veterinary technicians/nurses tend to be more involved in the clinical side of the practice. Administering anesthesia before surgery, taking x-rays, and performing lab tests take an elevated level of skill. An above-average level of communication skills is a must in these candidates as complex problem-solving is a key aspect of the role.


Top performers in this area rely on solid data to make decisions and suggest solutions. They thrive in fluid environments and adapt well to change. The best veterinary technicians or veterinary nurses typically seek out new and unique situations that put their knowledge to the test and give them the opportunity to come up with their own solution.


  • Detail-oriented
  • Complex problem-solver
  • Organized
  • Data processing capabilities



Go Forth with Data & Prosper

Knowing the key skills required for each role minimizes obstacles such as recruitment time, hiring risks, and an inconsistent pipeline flow restricting location and market expansion. Those hiring in animal care are already feeling behind the eight ball. When recruiting for your next frontline position, ensure you have solid data backing your decisions. Not knowing the exact skills and traits needed for each role will leave you left behind while your competitors breeze past. You don’t have to put your tail between your legs – gather the data and move forward with hiring confidence.

A Case in Point: Rapid Expansion for a Veterinary Rollup

Last year, Talentcare started working with one of the fastest growing veterinary rollups in the country that covered two states and supported 20 locations. Their mission was rapid expansion, yet that goal was thwarted at every turn due to recruiting problems. Every animal hospital needs to have both the doctors (the veterinarians) and all the supporting team positions (techs, care providers etc.) on staff in order to operate successfully. These frontline positions were sucking up all the recruiting time (typically the highest-turnover roles in the office) causing the hiring of doctors to be put on the backburner. There was an immediate need to get applicant flow under control for the support roles and free up the team to recruit the veterinarians. Their challenges weren’t a surprise given their career site was unbranded (it looked stale and unexciting) and the applicant tracking system they were leveraging was not optimized for recruiting (they used spreadsheets to track applicants – ack!).

One year later, they now cover 7 states and have increased to 46 physical locations. In the past 18 months alone, we helped them make 350 hires. We are not ones to toot our own horns, but…toot, toot.

How did we do it? By weaving our magic combination of data, employer branded-career sites, and a simple applicant tracking system into their talent acquisition processes. We can do it for you too!

Talentcare serves clients in the animal health and veterinary industry nationwide helping to recruit and hire critical frontline positions such as Vet Techs, Vet Assistants, Groomers, Front Desk and more.

Are you recruiting in animal healthcare?

Drop us a line here and we’ll help you identify your ideal candidates, backed by solid data – faster than a cheetah runs a mile.