Not a single domestic animal deserves to end on the street. And though animal shelter isn’t an ideal place for dogs, cats, rabbits and other pets, it is a temporary home where they get food, water, medication, and also a little caress from time to time, until their new owner arrives, and takes them home. It is a great place for work for anyone who loves animals, and wants to contribute to their well-being in one way or another. Do you also want to work in an animal shelter?

You can expect a relatively easy interview. Animal shelters are typically municipal or non-profit organizations. People working there are either volunteers, or employees earning a minimum wage, and hence you will never compete for the job with many other people. It makes your situation easier.

What is more, the manager won’t ask you any particularly difficult questions. They know that you will learn most things on the job. As long as they see that you love animals, are willing to learn and work hard, they will give you a chance. Let’s have a look at the questions you may face.


Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

No need to stress about the answer at this point. Just tell them who you are, whether you go to school, if you have any pets, what commitments you have, and what activities you enjoy to do in your free time–ideally related to animals.

The key is to show positive body language and enthusiasm from the start. They should get an impression that you are excited about the opportunity to work in the shelter, and cannot wait to get a chance to work with the animals.


Why do you want to work in an animal shelter?

You can talk about the meaningful purpose you see in this work, but try to avoid being emotional. Focus rather on the positives than on the negatives. Without a doubt it is a sad thing to see an animal ending up in a shelter. But with good care, attention, and an effort to promote the animals in local newspapers and on social media, sooner or later some good soul will come and take them home.

You can also refer to your future goals and plans, if the job has anything to do with them. Perhaps you want to study at a vet school, and an experience from the shelter will help you with your application.

What is your availability yo work in our shelter?

Most positions in animal shelters are part time, since most people working there are either still studying, or they have another job, their main source of income. Manager from the shelter will almost always ask about your availability, and you should keep two things on your mind.

First: You should be available for 20 hours a week at least, if you try to get a paid position with the shelter. Volunteers can work even for less than 15 hours, but at the end of the day it is easier for the shelter to have less employees who are more committed to the job than to rotate shifts between 15 different people, each of them working just 8 hours per week.

Second things is flexibility, and willingness to sacrifice something for your work in the shelter. For example, nobody likes to work on Sundays, or public holidays. But animals need to eat, and go for a walk, regardless of the day in the calendar we humans follow. Ensure the people in the shelter that you are willing to take some weekend shifts and holiday shifts, and sacrifice some of your free time activities for the well-being of the animals.


How do you imagine a typical day in the shelter?

You can point out few duties you imagine taking care of, such as feeding the animals, taking them for a walk, cleaning the cages, making sure that every animal is all right and doesn’t need an attention of the veterinarian, and so on.

It is always important to mention the cleaning duties in your answer, because that’s what nobody likes, but it is an important part of the job. Another alternative is saying that you cannot exactly imagine your day, because you do not understand the organization of the shelter and responsibilities of other employees. But you are ready to take care of any duties they assign to you, as long as they benefit the animals.


We experience sad things in a shelter from time to time, such as receiving an abused animal, or seeing one of the animals die. How do you plan to deal with it emotionally?

Ensure them that you are ready for both good and bad things. The shelter should primarily help animals in distress, animals their owners abandoned. Hence you do not wear pink glasses, and know that many animals will arrive to the shelter in a bad condition.

And though it won’t be a pleasant spectacle, instead of dwelling on it, you prefer to focus on what you can do for the animals to make their life better. You may shed a tear here and there, and say some bad words on an address of a person who did a bad thing to an animal. But then you will simply focus on your job, trying to help each animal get back on track, regain their fitness, and start trusting people again.


In your opinion, what role does administrative work play in an animal shelter?

Whether you will be responsible for some paperwork depends on your position in the shelter, and the organization of the place. Nevertheless, you should give administrative work high importance in your interview.

Say them that you understand that for an optimal care, delivered by different shelter workers, veterinarians, volunteers, and other bodies, it is important to have complete documentation for each animal. And it matters for future owners as well. To sum it up, everyone who needs to find out some information about any dog or cat from the shelter, in terms of their whereabouts, health, feeding habits, should be able to find it easily. And that won’t be possible without doing the paperwork properly, and having a good system in place…


Other questions you may face in your animal shelter worker job interview

  • Describe your relationship to animals.
  • Tell us about the most difficult experience you’ve had with an animal in your life.
  • How long do you want to work for the shelter? Do you have any major plans for the next 12 months that might interfere with your availability?
  • Are you afraid of any animals, or particular situations with them?
  • In your opinion, what can we do to make sure that we find a new home for as many animals as possible?
  • How do you feel about taking several dogs for a walk at the same time?
  • After everything we discussed here, do you want to add something or do you have any questions?


Final thoughts

Each animal deserves a decent life, and a chance to find a new home. Working for an animal shelter, you help to make it possible, at least for the animals that end up in the shelter. You do not have to be afraid of facing some tricky questions in this case. Not at all.

Interviews at animal shelters belong to easy job interviews. As long as you show the right attitude to work, motivation to help the animals, and willingness to sacrifice something for your job in the shelter, they will give you a chance to prove your words in the job. I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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