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Animal Shelter Worker Interview
Questions

25 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns

Updated August 17th, 2018 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Job Interviews     Careers     Nonprofit    
Question 1 of 25
How do you handle stress and pressure?
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How to Answer
Imagine you are helping a person adopt a dog. You are concentrating on completing their paperwork but in the meantime, dogs are barking loudly in the background and a new volunteer has just informed you that one of the dogs appears to be in distress.

Sometimes working at an animal shelter is a tough job! Since shelters are non-profits, you often have volunteers to manage as well.

Share with the interviewer that you know how to stay calm under pressure. You are capable of handling the most stressful situations because you have learned tools like deep breathing to help to remain calm.
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Answer Examples
1.
How do you handle stress and pressure?
Imagine you are helping a person adopt a dog. You are concentrating on completing their paperwork but in the meantime, dogs are barking loudly in the background and a new volunteer has just informed you that one of the dogs appears to be in distress.

Sometimes working at an animal shelter is a tough job! Since shelters are non-profits, you often have volunteers to manage as well.

Share with the interviewer that you know how to stay calm under pressure. You are capable of handling the most stressful situations because you have learned tools like deep breathing to help to remain calm.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I handle stress very well and when you call my references, they will attest to this fact. When I am under pressure on the job, I focus on the task at hand and make sure to not get distracted. Staying on deadline is very helpful and I will delegate when necessary to alleviate some stress."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Stress is part of any demanding job, and I embrace it to the fullest. I take good care of myself and prioritize my workload to maintain a healthy balance in my stress levels."
2.
What are your weaknesses?
Pick weaknesses that are not a core skill for this position. You can be candid in your answer; recognizing that you aren't great at something and acknowledging your need to improve. Be sure to have an action plan in place for improving on this weakness.

Perhaps you are watching TED talks to gain skills in a particular area, reading the latest-and-greatest book on the subject, or maybe you are taking a seminar at a nearby community center. We are all human with our weaknesses, so don't be afraid to share yours!

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I believe I could improve on some technical skills including Excel and PowerPoint. Currently I am at a beginner to intermediate level; however, I would be more comfortable at an advanced level. I have enrolled myself in an evening/weekend workshop for the next six weeks. We will see how stellar my skills are after that course!"
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Everyone has weaknesses. I tend to be too nice sometimes. When vendors are not fulfilling their requirements, I tend to believe there must be a logical and understandable reason. I have to remind myself that we are paying for a service and they must meet our expectations."
3.
Can you work evenings, weekends or overtime?
Animal shelter workers are often required to work long hours, especially if you are a full-time employee. You may be required to work overtime if a coworker calls in sick or during a time of crisis. Before you agree to any schedule, be sure to know your availability! Now is a great time to ask about the schedule. You also want to express that you are willing to work the hours required and that you can be flexible in emergency situations.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I am willing to work whatever hours you need me. Can you tell me a little more about what to expect from the schedule?"
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I am new to my career and understand that my hours need to be extra flexible as I build my career. I can make most schedules work. What are your expectations for this role?"
4.
When you suffer a setback, how does that emotionally affect you and your work?
Setbacks often happen in environments like animal shelters, where you cannot always control or predict the events of a day. Everyone handles the stress and disappointment of setbacks differently. Discuss with the interviewer how you typically cope with setbacks in the workplace.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"Experiencing a setback is always disappointing, and can be a bit disheartening, but I understand that it happens from time to time. If I experience a major setback I will take a few moments to debrief with my manager and discuss what I could have done differently. Then, I move on!"
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Setbacks happen for a reason, and they do not affect me emotionally in the least. I fully understand that, when working with animals, one cannot always predict how a day will turn out. I am a very pragmatic thinker and stay focused despite the challenges that come my way."
5.
How do you feel about administering medication to large dogs?
Even if you don't have much experience giving medication to animals orally or by injection, you can learn! The interviewer wants to know that you are confident handling large dogs and not afraid to get your hands dirty. They will feel more confident in your ability if you have a positive attitude and a willingness to learn.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I love working with all types of animals, especially dogs. I have an older chocolate lab at home, and I give him his heartworm medication and glucosamine for his hips."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I am sure that I'll be well trained here when it comes to administering medication. As far as large breed dogs, I am very comfortable."
6.
Why do you want a career as an animal shelter worker?
If you enjoy working with animals and don't mind the dirty details, you may like working as an animal shelter worker! The interviewer wants to know that you understand the job description and that you are enthusiastic about the associated responsibilities. Share a few aspects of the job that you are excited about.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I love working with animals, especially dogs and cats! I have always wanted to help with the animal adoption process. It's so important to find a safe home for displaced animals."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I have researched the work associated with animal shelters, and I feel that it could be the fulfilling position I have been looking for, for quite some time. I like to know that I am making a difference in this world and have always been passionate about animals."
7.
Tell me about a situation where you needed to be patient.
Patience is essential, whether you're dealing with a demanding customer or an untrained dog. Your patience helps you to listen to others and deal with the types of problems that can arise with the animals at the shelter. Explain to the interviewer that you able to relax and focus on taking care of your daily duties, even when it means being patient with others.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"When I was working in retail, we often had a lot of downtime in between customers. I filled the in-between by keeping busy, folding clothes, cleaning and making sure that all of the shelves were stocked. I learned that sometimes being patient just means keeping yourself occupied while you wait for the next sale."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"During my time in university, I have needed to exercise a lot of patience as I worked in groups and teams to complete many important projects. I have an above average work ethic which means at times I need to pick up the slack of others."
8.
Due to budgeting, we do not have many back-up staff members. How many days were you absent from work last year?
Animal shelters do not have the luxury of employing excess people so, when you are absent - it is noticed. A part of being a diligent employee is to ensure that you are always on time and present when expected. It's great to even be 10 minutes early rather than just showing up right on the dot. Talk to the interviewer about your attendance and reliability.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I had zero unexcused absences last year. In total, I took six vacation days out of my ten allotted days. I was sick just 2, and those were accompanied by a note from my doctor. Once I was late due to a terrible snow storm, and I always try to be 10 minutes early for my shift."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I cannot recall the exact number, but I think it was around three days total. All absences were excused and with notice."
9.
How will you help match new pet owners with the best animal for them?
When you meet someone who is looking to adopt, it's important to ask them questions about their lifestyle and what they're looking for in a pet. It's also essential for you to be familiar with all of the animals in your shelter so that you know which ones might be a good fit. Talk about how you will get to know the animals and the person who is adopting them.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I always interview customers, in depth, to find out exactly what they're looking for. The more information I have about them, the easier it is to find the right pet for them."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I feel that the better I get to know the potential pet owners, and what their expectations are, the better I can match them with the right pet. Another component of matching will be to get to know the animals on a deeper level."
10.
How would you handle a situation where a dog was facing euthanization?
Some dogs have deep-rooted behavioral problems, and you will have to consider putting them down. These are unfortunate circumstances, but they are a reality if you work in an animal shelter.

Just as you would have to learn to control your emotions after bonding with a dear creature who gets adopted, you will also need to learn how to maintain a professional demeanor in these situations.

Explain to the interviewer that you will do your best to avoid this situation by helping train and adopt out as many animals as you can, but that you also understand the harsh reality of euthanization. You can deal with the stress of this situation and set your emotions aside when you need to.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I have been in this situation before. There is no easy way to handle it. As an animal worker, I understand that some animals are beyond repair. In these cases, I remind myself that they are in a better place and finding the peace they needed."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I cannot imagine how tough this situation would be, especially when you become attached to particular animals in the shelter. I would remind myself that euthanization is not a trivial decision and it will likely be the best one for that particular situation."
11.
Have you ever volunteered at an animal shelter before?
The interviewer wants to find out about your previous experience. If you have volunteered at a shelter before, talk about your responsibilities and what you learned. You may have been responsible for cleaning cages and walking dogs. Perhaps you got some experience handling birds or ferrets! If you haven't volunteered at an animal shelter before, talk about your previous animal handling experience.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I have spent time volunteering at this particular shelter! It was a couple of years ago, but my experience was very positive which is why I jumped on the opportunity to apply here when I read your job ad."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I have not volunteered with your particular organization; however, I do have experience volunteering at animal adoption drives with our local pet store."
12.
What is the greatest challenge of working at an animal shelter?
Many animal shelter workers struggle with the emotional bond they develop with the animals. When you get close to a dog after spending countless hours together, it will always be difficult to say goodbye. The interviewer wants to hear that you have coping skills to deal with these types of experiences. Talk about how you have learned to be hopeful and stay motivated, even when you feel discouraged by the loss of an animal friend.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"It can be unfortunate to be around dogs that have been stuck at the shelter for months at a time. Luckily, I work at a no-kill shelter, but it can be discouraging when the dogs aren't able to be adopted, or when they are brought back by a new owner. I keep a positive attitude and stay focused on the goal of finding the best homes for these deserving animals."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"To me, the most significant challenge will be the emotions that come with seeing broken animals come to the shelter. With that said, I suspect that seeing an animal leave to a good home will make up for the upsetting emotions."
13.
What are your salary expectations?
The best thing that you can do when asked about your salary expectations is to be open and honest about what you are currently earning, and where you want to be in the future.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I can share with you what I am currently earning, and where I would like to be in my next position. Currently, I am earning a base salary of $23K plus an annual bonus opportunity of an additional 10%. Last year my earnings were $25K, and I'd like to earn a bit above that in my next position."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"As I am new to my career and this industry, I am happy to negotiate my earnings based on your typical salary for this role."
14.
What was your greatest cost-cutting measurement you accomplished at your previous employer?
This animal shelter is likely non-profit, operating strictly on municipal funds and donations. This is why the interviewer will want to hear about ways in which you have been able to help a previous employer to save money. Discuss a time when you helped your employer to cut costs.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"My biggest cost reducing plan was to source new suppliers for our animal food and cleaning supplies. By doing some extra research, I was able to bring costs down by 20% in less than one year by switching vendors."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"The greatest cost-cutting measurement that I accomplished at work was in my retail sales position. I made new suggestions for theft prevention. Since we implemented some of my suggestions our loss, due to theft, has decreased 12%."
15.
Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the requirements of the job.
The interviewer wants to know that you are not the type of employee to do just enough to scrape by. You can give an example from any of your past volunteer jobs or your professional experience. Show that you are willing to do what it takes to keep the shelter clean and to keep the animals happy.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I love to impress my employer. I currently work at a pet store and will often stay late to help out a customer who arrives just as the doors are closing. I get to know our regular customers, and even remember the names of their pets! It keeps customers coming back when they feel like they are part of a community."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"When I was waiting tables at a restaurant, I would always roll the silverware and wipe down the tables every time I started my shift. My boss never had to ask me to sweep the floor or remind me of my daily duties because I was always on top of things. People enjoyed working with me because I had such a positive attitude and I worked hard. I always offered to cover shifts and make myself available to my coworkers for support when they needed it."
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25 Animal Shelter Worker Interview Questions
Win your next job by practicing from our question bank. We have thousands of questions and answers created by interview experts.
Interview Questions
  1. How do you handle stress and pressure?
  2. What are your weaknesses?
  3. Can you work evenings, weekends or overtime?
  4. When you suffer a setback, how does that emotionally affect you and your work?
  5. How do you feel about administering medication to large dogs?
  6. Why do you want a career as an animal shelter worker?
  7. Tell me about a situation where you needed to be patient.
  8. Due to budgeting, we do not have many back-up staff members. How many days were you absent from work last year?
  9. How will you help match new pet owners with the best animal for them?
  10. How would you handle a situation where a dog was facing euthanization?
  11. Have you ever volunteered at an animal shelter before?
  12. What is the greatest challenge of working at an animal shelter?
  13. What are your salary expectations?
  14. What was your greatest cost-cutting measurement you accomplished at your previous employer?
  15. Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the requirements of the job.
  16. Tell me about a time when you made a suggestion requesting change in an organization.
  17. Why are you the best choice for our animal shelter?
  18. How do you stay motivated?
  19. What are your career aspirations beyond this job?
  20. How would you handle an issue with a policy or procedure?
  21. Are there any types of animals that you are uncomfortable being around?
  22. Quite often we will have animals come to us who have been very poorly treated. How do you control your emotions in these situations?
  23. What are your strengths?
  24. Tell me about your fundraising experience.
  25. How would you describe your work ethic?
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