Talent Territory columnist Stacy Pursell is the founder and CEO of The Vet Recruiter. She is a workplace and workforce expert who has served the animal health industry and veterinary profession for nearly 25 years.Read Articles Written by Stacy Pursell
Predicting the future can be a dicey proposition. However, when you have an overabundance of supporting data, it becomes less of a prediction and more a matter of deductive reasoning.
That the case when it comes to the employment marketplace, and the labor market when it comes to the veterinary profession. I have more than just supporting data. I have plenty of first-hand accounts to back up my claims.
One thing I have preached during the past couple of years, but especially in the past year, is that we’re experiencing a candidate’s market. This is especially the case in the veterinary profession and animal health industry.
In a candidate’s market, job seekers and candidates have more options. That’s because there are more job openings than there are qualified workers to fill those openings. Not only that, but the best candidates in the marketplace also have the most options. That’s because they’re the most qualified and more organizations want to secure their services.
Veterinary Jobs Aplenty
What we have here is a cause-and-effect phenomenon, and this phenomenon is having a tremendous effect on the veterinary job market. To set the stage, I’d like to reference a CNBC article titled “For Aspiring Vets, Jobs Are Aplenty — Demand Set to Rise 18 Percent in 10 Years.” Here is a direct quote from the article:
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities for veterinarians are set to climb by some 18 percent through 2026, while roles for vet technicians will rise by 20 percent in the same time frame.”
A DVM360 article reported that the unemployment rate in the veterinary profession fell from 1.5 percent to 0.5 percent during 2017. Keep in mind that the national unemployment rate is about 4 percent, the lowest in 17 years. That should give you an idea of what’s happening in the employment marketplace.
The fact is that the veterinary profession doesn’t have enough qualified veterinarians and veterinary nurses. This is perfectly in line with the conditions that a candidate’s job market produces. So then, what’s the effect? For the answer, I’d like to again quote the CNBC article:
“Salaries can reach into the high six figures, depending on role and area of practice. And demand is so high that vet students often have two job offers when they graduate.”
Two job offers when they graduate. Not one, but two. You might read that and think to yourself, “It sounds like an embellishment, an exaggeration to make the situation seem more dramatic than it actually is.” If that’s what you’re thinking, I can tell you it is most definitely not the case.
The reason I can tell you this is because as a recruiter in the veterinary and animal health industries, I work every day in the trenches of the employment marketplace. I talk with hundreds of people every month, and I see what’s happening in real time. As a result, I can attest to the fact that the CNBC article is absolutely correct.
The Proof Is in the Trenches
So, what does this look like exactly in the employment marketplace? I can shed light on it. Right now, the recruiters in my office are talking with new-grad veterinarians and veterinarians with two years’ experience or less who are expecting $100K to $130K in base compensation. And they are receiving offers in that range.
Here’s an example. We had a candidate with two years of experience who received not one, not two, but three job offers. One offer included a $130K base, one was close to a $130K base, and the third offered $100K but had a $130K guarantee.
I have another example. We interviewed a new graduate who had no experience. The graduate is expecting a base salary of $120K for her first job. Shortly after speaking with her, we had a client who wanted to interview her.
I’ve seen things like this transpire daily for quite some time. I’ve watched it continue to move in this direction, and the trend shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. The expectation of higher salaries and benefit packages is increasing and will continue to rise.
This is good for veterinarians who want to improve their employment and career situations and their lives, but what about employers? Is it good for them? And what can they do to make sure they’re able to hire the talent they need?
A Four-Step Blueprint
Veterinary practices and employers can take these four concrete steps to address the situation:
1. Recognize the Situation for What It Is: Reality
This is not the time to ignore the fact that the market will be like this for some time. We have a shortage of veterinarians that is not going to end anytime soon. If you’re a practice owner, recognizing the reality is the first step in successfully engaging top talent in a candidate’s market.
2. Be Proactive With Hiring Instead of Reactive
You can’t wait for talent to come to you. In other words, qualified candidates are not going to flock to you just because you have an opening. In order to hire the candidates you want to hire, you must proactively search for them, identify them and persuade them to consider your employment opportunity. They must be convinced that your opportunity is the best move for their career.
3. Recognize That Time Is of the Essence
Why is time so valuable during the hiring process? Because there’s less of it if you want to hire qualified candidates for your open veterinary positions. Remember the example above? The candidate with two years’ experience who received three offers?
If you’re considering a highly qualified candidate in the marketplace, then it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the person is interviewing with other organizations and will receive multiple offers. This means that if you drag your feet during the hiring process and don’t act with urgency, you’re going to miss out on top candidates.
4. Make Compelling Employment Offers
As we’ve seen, it doesn’t matter if job candidates are new graduates. You can’t lowball them on the offer. You can’t think they’re going to accept less than market value. They are not going to accept it. They have expectations, and if those expectations are unmet, they’re not going to work for your veterinary practice and might end up at your competition.
As you can see, there is a shortage of veterinarians. Not only that, but the shortage is going to last another 10 years at least. This is the time to acclimate to current market conditions, create a plan for navigating those conditions and execute the plan to the best of your ability.
Because you know that’s what your competition is going to do.