There are many great resources for Zookeepers to stay on top of trends and topics in animal care. Talk to the interviewer about the variety of ways in which you continue educating yourself in your field.
"I continually educate myself about animals through the many resources provided by AAZK (The American Association of Zoo Keepers). In addition to this resource, there are many other education tools available online that I visit on a regular basis."
Being a Zookeeper can be a very dirty job.Assure the interviewer that you are absolutely okay with getting messy on the job.
"I have worked at our city's animal shelter for the past 3 years. The majority of the time I am cleaning up after dogs, cats, and bunnies. It's often a messy and smelly job but I don't mind at all because it makes the animals so happy. Rest assured, I can absolutely handle getting dirty on the job."
This is a great time to show the interviewer how passionate you are about animal care. In which ways do you feel that you better the lives of the animals in your care?
"I enrich the lives of the animals in many ways and, in turn, they enrich mine. I improve their quality of life through providing them with a safe, happy place to live where food is guaranteed and their medical needs are tended to immediately. I truly love and care for these creatures in my care."
Volunteering is an excellent way to give back to a cause that you care about. If you have not volunteered at their zoo before, talk about other volunteer experience briefly and be sure to add in your knowledge of this particular zoo. If you have volunteered at their zoo discuss the positives of your experience. If you have volunteered at their zoo: "I volunteered at your zoo last year during the grand opening of your new wildlife exhibits. I worked around the grounds doing general cleanup. It was a great way for me to get a feeling for the vibe here and I liked what I saw. It's a big reason why I am applying to work here." If you have not volunteered at their zoo: "I volunteer with animals regularly, at my local animal shelter. I am passionate about animal care and, although I haven't volunteered with your particular zoo, I have great exposure to a variety of animals."
"I volunteered at your zoo last year during the grand opening of your new wildlife exhibits. I worked around the grounds doing general cleanup. It was a great way for me to get a feeling for the vibe here and I liked what I saw. It's a big reason why I am applying to work here."
It is always a great idea to continually develop yourself professionally. This could include career related courses, leadership workshops or safety training. Tell the interviewer how you have developed yourself professionally in the recent years.
"This past year has been a big one for me in regards to professional development. My current employer has provided me with additional training when it comes to aquatic animals and I have taken two leadership workshops. Also, all of my safety tickets and certifications have been renewed."
What was your relationship like with your most recent supervisor? Assure the interviewer that you are able to take instruction well and that you show respect to your leaders in the workplace. If you have not had difficulty with a supervisor: "My most recent supervisor and I had a strong work relationship and she will be willing to give you a strong reference on my behalf. We did not run into any difficulty while working together." If you did have difficulty with a supervisor: "In my career I have had many different supervisors with an array of personalities. I did have one supervisor in the past who was not the type of leader that I would have chosen for myself. We disagreed on occasion but nothing severe enough to affect my work performance."
"My most recent supervisor and I had a strong work relationship and she will be willing to give you a strong reference on my behalf. We did not run into any difficulty while working together."
Discuss with the interviewer why you are looking to make a change, and how this particular role fits well with the changes that you are seeking. Be sure to give a more in-depth answer than the typical "I am looking for growth" answer that so many interviewers hear. Be thoughtful and draw upon the research you have done on the company.
"I am looking for growth"
Is this particular position a good fit? Is it a step up in your career or - a stagnant move that you are just complacent with taking until something better comes along? Assure the interviewer that this position will be challenging for you, is a step up in responsibilities, and that it fits with your overall career goals.
"My primary goal in my career as an HR professional is to eventually work my way from an Administrator level to HR Partner. I feel that what your organization offers is a strong path towards those goals and I am excited about what this position has to offer."
Working as a Zookeeper is a stressful position and emotions can run high. If you can be encouraging to your co-workers it will make your workplace much more enjoyable. Share with the interviewer how you have created an enthusiastic and encouraging environment in the workplace.
"I am very active when it comes to encouraging my teammates and staff. Currently I oversee 2 summer interns and I definitely make sure to give them words of encouragement and constructive feedback whenever I can."
It's impossible to know where you will be in 5 years but do assure the interviewer that, given all possible circumstances, you could see yourself as a long term fit for their position.
"Ideally, 5 years from now, I would love to see myself growing into a more prominent leadership role within your organization. My career interests align very nicely with your company's goals which helps me to see a great long term fit here."
Before your interview, do your research! Make sure you have questions ready for the interviewer. Review the website to make sure the answers are not obvious. The last thing an interviewer wants to hear is a list of questions you could have found the answers to from simply watching a video on their company site! Think of questions that are relevant to the industry. Did you read something about their care for the environment or volunteering? What interests you most about their mission? Some of your questions may be asking for clarifications about something. Other questions might be delving deeper into something that interests you about their vision or their company culture. Put together a list of up to ten questions so that you are prepared!
This question can be difficult because it requires you to know enough about the company to be impressed by what they do and what they have to offer. The only way to find out is by simply doing research. Review the company website first. If the company is more service or client focused, you can read reviews of customers and find out about their reputation. Sometimes you can even find articles or press releases to give you the low down on their latest accomplishments, innovations or company culture. Pinpoint the highlights. Know the company vision so that you can easily tell them, "I am impressed by your mission and I love how much of an impact you made on the local community." Sharing your knowledge about the latest news at their company is a great indicator that you have a vested interest and know what you are looking for in a company.
"I am impressed by your mission and I love how much of an impact you made on the local community."
We recommend selecting three words that truly define who you are, and the words have no possibility of being taken negatively. "Encouraging" is a great option. "Caring" is a good choice. "Respected" might be an appropriate choice. "Hard-working" is a commonly used choice. "Punctual" is great for those who are always a little early. "Customer service focused" is an excellent selection. Just be yourself, and remember to keep it positive!
The interviewer is hoping to hear about a time that you led that had a positive outcome. Think about the past few times you have led a team. Which one went the best, and what did you do on that team that made it so effective? This is your example! Start off by telling the interviewer about the reason for the team, who was involved, and what approach you took to leading the group. Give a high-level overview of what you discussed or what you did during the assignment that impacted the positive outcome. Finally, be sure to mention why you felt the team was a success!
Do you feel that you should be paid based on tenure, or results? Discuss this with the interviewer and back your answer with an example, if possible.
"I feel that employees should be paid, and rewarded, based on their performance. A new employee would be greatly motivated through being rewarded for performance and it encourages a healthy competition with tenured employees."
The best way to discuss your salary expectations are to use your current earnings as an example. Be open, and honest. Transparency is the best choice when salary based questions arise.
"Currently, I earn a base salary of $45,000 per year plus a potential 20% annual bonus. Last year my earnings were $52,000 and I would like to stay in the same range or slightly higher."
The interviewer wants to learn more about your background by understanding your level of achievement in your career thus far. You most likely know your three greatest accomplishments, and if you are struggling to think through them, don't fret! Think about the times when you were given extra kudos in the workplace or when you received a special award. These make great examples too! Start off by giving the interviewer a 15-20 second overview of each accomplishment including how you achieved it and why it was important to you. Be sure to mention when the accomplishment was achieved and why it still stands out in your mind as one of your greatest accomplishments.
Show the interviewer that you take great pride in your work by discussing a time in your career where you were were especially proud of your work.
"My biggest professional win was when we won the "
As a Zookeeper you will have stressful situations arise that will require you to think quickly and react appropriately. Discuss with the interviewer how you handle stress and pressure and give an example if you can.
"I do work well under stressful situations. In my current position the most stressful situations are when an animal needs to be quarantined. During that time, I remain calm by strictly following the guidelines I am given. This keeps me focused and alleviates a lot of pressure."
Most zoo's will have scheduled weigh-ins for the animals. Talk to the interviewer about why you feel this is an important practice.
"Knowing the weight of an animal gives us very important information about their vital statistics. It assists us in understanding their dietary needs and how to best care for them."
Do you have a favorite animal to care for? Perhaps you are best experienced in the care of a particular animal? Discuss your preferences with the interviewer.
"My favorite animal to care for has always been the penguin. Their intelligence and sense of community is amazing. It's a lot of fun to care for them."
The unfortunate reality is that, even with the best care, animals will sometimes fall ill or experience injury. Discuss with the interviewer any experiences you have had with sick or injured animals.
"I have had to deal with sickness and injury in my career, in conjunction with a vet on site. Most recently we had a virus spreading around the elephant exhibit. After following the zoo protocol and administering the required medication, we were able to get the animals back to full health."
Discuss your post-secondary experience in some detail, highlighting your biggest challenge and also bringing up your biggest achievements during that time.
"I attended Michigan State University where I earned my Bachelor's Degree in Biology with a major in Marine Biology. My most challenging course was Analysis of Biological Data as I am more of a creative, hands on thinker vs. a statistics person. My best course, which I completed top of the class, was Animal Behavior."
Not all zookeeper positions will require a related degree. Talk to the interviewer about any related training or formal education that you have. If you have a post-secondary degree be sure to highlight what your best courses were and discuss any award or recognition that you may have received.
"I have a Bachelor's Degree in Marine Biology and additional training in SCUBA. I studied very hard and graduated with a 3.6 GPA while also working part-time at our city zoo. My education prepared me very well and I feel that I am ready for a more hands on role."
Organization of priorities is key when you are caring for animals. Assure the interviewer that you are capable or prioritizing properly to ensure that safety is put first, and that you are being as productive as possible each day.
"I am sure to consistently stick to my given schedule unless there is an emergency. In my current position I begin with exhibit maintenance and then diet prep which includes weighing out the food and adding the necessary vitamins. Animal observation, and safety, is always priority."
Have you ever had a great idea that a colleague or supervisor absolutely loved? Tell the interviewer about a time that you experienced the acceptance of one of your ideas.
"Last year I made some recommendations to my peers and supervisor regarding a new and more robust composting system at the zoo. Everyone was really impressed with my concept and they implemented my idea slowly over a three month period. The composting system is still in place and working very well."
Work overload can happen from time to time. Talk to the interviewer about a time that you have been overloaded at work. How did you handle it, and what was the feedback from your supervisor?
"Last month my relief zookeeper fell very ill and she went on short term disability. This increased my workload significantly even though my employer tried their best to have others fill in. I handled it all in stride, knowing that this wasn't a permanent situation. I did take breaks to avoid over-exhaustion and was able to get all of the required work done. My supervisor was very thankful and gave me a small bonus at the end of the month to show her appreciation."
What qualities do you possess that make you a stand-out candidate for this position? Convince the interviewer that you are the best choice by highlighting your most unique and strongest skills.
"I am the best Zookeeper for you because I possess all of the experience you are looking for, and more. In addition to my Degree in Marine Biology, I also have a major in chemistry. I bring a full understanding of animal care and am SCUBA trained. Also, I have additional leadership and PR training which means I could very easily be in a customer and vendor facing role in the future."
A zookeeper manages animals that are held captive in a zoo. Zookeepers keep animals healthy and safe by feeding, bathing, grooming, and exercising them. Zookeepers also clean the enclosures (e.g. cages, pens) and watch out for signs of illness or injury. They may be expected to interact with the visiting public. Zookeepers work in a zoo and can expect to be exposed to a wide range of environmental and weather conditions. Because zoos are typically open on weekends, zookeepers may have to work on weekends. The education that's required varies from zoo to zoo, but often include a college degree in zoology, animal science, wildlife management, or another animal-related field. A license or apprenticeship may be required or serve as an alternate route to becoming a zookeeper.
Job openings and internships can be found by going directly to the zoo, and also at other animal-related facilities like veterinary clinics and hospitals, and shelters. The interview will assess your knowledge of animals, your animal-handling abilities, as well as key attributes such as patience and compassion, and physical stamina. A zookeeper's responsibilities are critical to the daily operation of the zoo and the safety of staff and visitors. As such, reliability and trustworthiness are extremely important to demonstrate in the interview. You'll be expected to demonstrate your continuing professional growth, ability to adapt to changes, and your ability to work in a team.
To prepare for the interview, start by reviewing your knowledge of animal behavior and take stock of your experience in handling animals. Continue by thinking about times when you were able to overcome an obstacle to achieve a positive outcome that had enduring benefits. For instance, you may have trained an animal to make the process of caring of him/her more efficient. Think about ways that you made good impressions or positive impacts on someone who is less knowledgable about animals. Finally, look for 3-5 reasons that you'd enjoy working for that particular zoo. For instance, you may enjoy working with the types of animals that are there and are interested in learning more about the other animals that you have less experience with.