Vet School Interview – Part 1


I was asked to comeand talk to you tonight about how weselect our students.

And to explain that, I need to back up a little bit beforeI talk about the interviewin particular.

So one of the thingsthat's different about the University ofMinnesota vet school, somewhat different, isthat we made a change in our admissionsprocess a few years ago.

We startedthis in 2004.

Where we decidedthat rather than just looking for people whowere smart and had gotten good grades andhad experience, we wanted peoplewho were smart and had gotten good grades, and had experience, AND could demonstrateto us that they had what some people callbehavioral competencies that would help thembe successful, not just in vet schoolbut after vet school as veterinarians.

And we were lookingfor people who would be successful as smallanimal practitioners, large animalpractitioners, but also people who couldwork in public health, government, industry, research, et cetera.

So we want people whocan be successful in any of those areas.

So one of the thingsthat we did to help us down that path waswe worked with a local– they're basedlocally but they're an internationalpersonnel firm called Personnel DecisionsInternational.

And we worked with theconsultants there and 8 or 9 othervet schools from around the countryto do this study that looked at successfulveterinarians, and asked them tocontrast their behaviors with less successfulcolleagues that they had known.

So we did focus groupsall over the country looking at what madepeople successful.

And we decided that wewould base a good part of our admissions decisions onthose same characteristics.

So that's what thatbehavioral interview– it's actually behaviorbased questioning– is the type ofquestioning that's used in the interview.

And behavior basedquestioning is the kind of, it couldbe in any sort of, you could be gettinga job doing anything and go through a behaviorbased interview.

It's not specific toveterinary medicine at all.

But a behaviorbased interview is an interview that assumesthat future behavior is best predictedby past behavior.

So we ask you, “Tell meabout a time when you.



” and then we give youa scenario and you tell us abouta time when you.



whatever that is.

I'll give you an examplehere in a minute.

And that's differentfrom a more traditional interview wherewe might ask you, “What are yourgreatest strengths and weaknesses?” “What do you enjoy?” “What don't you enjoy?” “If a client camethrough the door with a dog that hadjust been hit by a car and only had 50 dollars, what would you do?” That's a hypothesisbased question.

So we're asking youto tell us what you thinkyou would do.

Or more likely, whatyou think we want you to tell us.

So a behaviorbased interview is, “Tell me about atime when you.



” Well, we know that youhaven't yet encountered a client with 50 dollars.

Probably not, unlessyou've been working in a clinic, thenyou might have.

But we know thatmost of our applicants haven't been inthat situation yet.

So we're not expecting-we're not going to be asking you thosekinds of questions.

We're going to beasking you things that you have already–about things you've already had to face in life.

So, an example of aquestion that's not on the interview, becauseI wouldn't tell you a question that is onthe interview, right? But an example of thesame kind of question that we use when we'rehiring staff members at the vet school is, “Tell me about thebiggest challenge in effectively handlingseveral competing demands.

” So, we've all hadto juggle different competing demands.

“Tell me about atime when you faced a big challenge inmanaging those competing demands, and howthat worked out for you.

” So what we're askingyou to do is to reach back into yourmemory and tell us about a time that youfaced this situation.

And the things thatare going to help you do better in thatsituation, in that interview, are having had enough life experiencethat you can draw on a somewhatcompelling story.

Now we're not expectingthat you've been in the Peace Corpsand saved a village.

If you have, great, that'sa compelling story.

But, it doesn'thave to be.

We realize that theaverage age of our incomingstudents is 24, and so most of them havenot saved villages yet.

Maybe willnever save villages.

Probably haven't donemost of the things that they're goingto be doing as a veterinarian.

So we're not asking youspecific questions like that.

But you have to haveenough life experience that you're going to beable to come up with a compelling story.

What are some otherthings that you can imagine would begood experiences? Yeah? Female Audience Member:Leadership roles? Leadership roles.

Absolutely! We're looking forpeople who are leaders.

And part of that ispositional leadership, taking on a president, vice-president, treasurer.

Or it might beleadership in your job.

If you have asummer job, again, it could betotally unrelated to veterinary medicine, but you're the shift manager, something or other.

That's great.

It doesn't just haveto be that kind of leadershipthough too.

It could beleading an initiative.

It doesn't have to beleading other people.

Leading other peopleis great, but leadingan initiative.

Let's say that you're, through some community organization or churchor whatever else you're involved in, you decide that you really want to make theworld a better place.

And here's how youcontributed to do that.

It could be something you did very independently.

And that wouldbe fine too.


Very important thatyou get animal and veterinaryexperience.

And it dependswhere you're applying to school, how they're going to quantify that.

And how muchis enough.

And what kindis best.

So I would say whatyou want to do is make sure that you havedepth and breadth.

So, it wouldn't beenough to um.




volunteer once amonth for a year doing something orother.

That wouldn't beenough.

But at the same time, you don't necessarily have to work, workingin the same clinic for 15 years, doingthe same thing.

That's great.

We won't hold itagainst you at all.

But could you have usedyour time differently and more to youradvantage to not only look goodon your application but again betterprepare you for answering the kindsof questions we'll be asking you? You know, havingexperience volunteering at the Humane Societyand working in a small animal clinic.

Getting some largeanimal experience.

Doing some sort ofresearch project through yourundergraduate program.

A UROP grant or somethingwould be great.

So again, animal andveterinary experience and knowledge ofthe profession.

We define that prettybroadly in Minnesota.

We want people with abreadth of experience.

So, could you get inwithout having had any small animalexperience? Yeah.

I wouldn't avoid it, but if that's not at all your interest andyou've got a lot of other kindsof experience, that's fine.

But again, enoughdepth that you've really gotten somegood experience and some amount of varietyis your best bet.

Did you havea question? Female Audience Member:Yeah.

I have a coupleof questions.

I'm wonderingexactly how formal is the interview? Yeah.


I'm just thinking aboutlike response time.

Is it okay if wetake a little bit to think about it? Thanks for asking that.

I didn't talk aboutthe specific structure.

The way wecurrently do it, and it'll probablyvary over years, so maybe by thetime you're there, it'll be alittle bit different.

But right nowwe interview with a pair ofinterviewers.

So, two facultymembers, or a staff member anda faculty member interviewingone student.

And basicallywhat we'll do is, “Hi, my name isDr.

So And So.

Nice to meet you.

Thanks for coming.

Did you have anytrouble finding us?” And a little bit ofbuilding rapport, but we're notgoing to spend a lot of timechatting.

We're going to jump rightinto the interview.

And then we'll letyou know that this is a structured, behavior based interview.

So, we're going to beasking you questions and giving you achance to respond.

We'll then befollowing up with follow-upquestions, or what we callbehavioral probes.

So when youtell your story, then we'll say, “Oh.

So then what happened?” And then you'd say.



And then, “Howdid he respond?” I'm making thisup right now.

And then, “Howdid you respond?” “How did it turn out?” For example.

Because we need to getto the bottom of it in order to decide howto rate your answer.

Because at thebottom of each sheet, we have a standardizedscoring guide that tells us, what'sa good answer, one extreme.

And what's anot good answer.

And we'll rate you ona five point scale for each question.

And there are, boy.



there are eight, nine, ten questions to get throughin an hour.

And so there'snot a ton of time.

I'm sure it feelsvery action packed when you'refeeling like you're on thehot seat.

I wouldn't anticipate anysort of grilling at all.

It's not at alllike a trial or something like that.

It's just gettingmore information than, what happened? What did he say? What did you say? How did it turn out?Kind of things.