Talent Wars: How to Attract and Retain Talent

In this article, Chief Administrative Officer, Monica Maxwell, discusses why CVT recruiting is so difficult and strategies to help clinics attract and retain the employees they have.

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The job market has changed. Certified Veterinary Technicians are difficult to find and retain. In this article, Monica Maxwell discusses why CVT recruiting is so difficult and strategies to help clinics attract and retain the employees they have.

Certified Veterinary Technicians have become the mythical unicorns of the veterinary recruiting world. Portland, and most of the country, is in a CVT crisis. While it is a simple supply vs demand dilemma, the reasoning behind this issue is more complex. The veterinary industry is currently creating a fair number of new CVTs each year that come out of school. The problem is they don’t stay in the field.

Why? Why we are having a technician shortage is an even more complex issue, but you can make correlations to the teacher’s crisis. Both the CVT and teaching profession are emotionally and physically taxing, have limited upward mobility, and are limited in pay. Millennials choosing careers in college look closely at ensuring their degree will get a healthy ROI. Both CVTs and Teachers have low scores in this area. Neither crisis is one we can solve with a simple step, but we are certainly dealing with the consequences.

CVT positions are staying vacant for months at a time and when you do offer a position to a CVT, you can often get yourself involved in a bidding war with another clinic. For some veterinary clinics, this causes an increase in turnover since CVTs have so many options available.

So – what’s a clinic to do?

There are no easy answers to the CVT shortage, but there are creative ways we can look at recruiting in order to attract the best candidate.

First – make a priority list of what hard and soft skills you are looking for. Are you looking for a CVT or do you need a veterinary assistant? Create a list of soft skills you are looking for in addition to hard skills. What soft skills make employees at your clinic successful? Every question you ask in the interview and reference check process should keep these competencies in mind.

Once you do this, you need to be creative in terms of how to attract the CVT candidate. Just posting a position really won’t do the trick for you anymore. Your goal is to find the passive job searcher (a candidate that is currently employed).

1. Referral Program

Ask your staff to help you recruit and pay them for it. While forking out cash can be hard, consider the money you are losing having the position open. Offer a smaller bonus for qualified candidates to call, and larger bonus for those that actually accept the position.

2. Relocation

Consider recruiting from outside the area (favorite spots are those cities with a higher cost of living). This can be a challenge with our current housing market, but the majority of new Dove techs move to Portland from other cities specifically to work at Dove. Worried about cost? Consider the cost of the open position. You can offer a small amount towards the candidate’s total relocation costs.

3. Partnership

Work with your local vet tech program to get in front of new graduates. Volunteer for career days, offer to have the students do a shadow day at your clinic, or host an extern. It is a long term strategy, but if you are in front of the students you are more likely to get them to apply when you have an opening. An externship can also serve as a job interview of sorts.

4. Signing Bonus

When competing with other clinics consider a sign on bonus – but use rarely and for candidates that have everything you are looking for. While you do not want a candidate to take your job solely on money, up-front cash can sway a candidate that is considering two offers.

5. Educate

When negotiating with a candidate, make sure they really understand their total compensation. Have a tool that totals all of your benefits in addition to their base pay so they can truly compare the offers they are weighing.

6. Offer Something No One Else Can

Money isn’t everything (and your recruiting budget is limited). What makes your clinic different? Can you offer a unique schedule? Better (or distinctive) benefits? Think outside the box and sell what makes your clinic great.


Recruiting is one step, retaining your CVTs once you recruit them is key. Turnover costs average three times the salary of the employee you are replacing. That number is even higher for CVTs whose time to fill is often 10 to 12 weeks. So – what is the key in retaining CVTs?

CVTs state lack of upward mobility as a part of job dissatisfaction. At the same time, many of them are not interested in managing. Upward mobility does not necessarily equate to management for many CVTs. Proper utilization is the key to ensuring they stay engaged.

1. Ensure they are actually using their skills

Your CVTs should be handling the nursing care for your patients. This not only frees up your doctors to see more patients and talk to clients, but this is the work they want to do!

2. Find out their motivators and capitalize on those

Do you have a tech that loves dentals? How about one that loves training? Great with inventory? Specialize pieces of your CVT’s position to give them some growth while also helping your clinic run more smoothly.

3. Tech appointments

Tech appointments (used for things like nail trims, nutritional counseling, vaccine boosters, wellness blood draws, etc.) not only frees up your DVM staff, but gives your tech staff increased responsibilities and makes them feel valued.

4. Give kudos, watch for burnout

Celebrate your staff successes. They have a difficult job with high levels of emotional and physical strain. Give them praise, check in with them often to see how they are doing, advocate for them when you can.


We certainly cannot solve the CVT shortage, but we can position ourselves in each of our clinics to be more successful in hiring and keeping these valuable (and difficult to find) members of our staff.

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