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August 2010

One of the more stressful tasks when opening my new office was interviewing potential staffers. I had templates of questions, lists of topics to mention, and details to go over that could have made each interview last two hours if I wanted (ummmm….No). At some point, I felt certain questions were redundant; I'm sure the interviewee felt this as well. I decided it was time to streamline my interview process and it was one of the best moves I've made.

The Necessary Questions
First of all, I'm not saying don't talk to your potential candidate. In my opinion, it's definitely worth asking about background history, feeling out personality, and seeing how well a person responds to situational questions. This would include questions such as, "What would you do if a patient said/did (fill in the blank)?" or, "How would you handle me (the doctor) rejecting an idea of yours?"

You may want to think outside the box and include current staff to listen to what a candidate says during this portion. I've found that a new staff member is much more eagerly accepted and welcomed to the office if current staffers feel they had a say in the hire. You may or may not agree with their input, but it's the sense of autonomy that is important. This doesn't have to include all staff members, but maybe the key employees from each area of the office.

Demonstrate Knowledge
My inspiration for this next idea came from the disaster hire I made during my second year of business. The totally verbal interview went very well with said employee, and I was told emphatically about 20 years of optical experience and vast knowledge of computer systems (my office is totally electronic). It was only in the couple of weeks after hiring this person that I realized simple functions like minimizing browser windows, searching for something on the Internet, and zipping in and out of my EMR system were



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tasks this person could not do well. She was frazzled, and I was very disappointed.

On top of that, the extensive optical experience chalked up to years of bad habits. I'm not opposed to polycarbonate, but for every single patient? I started noticing unhappy patients who were first-time progressive wearers. Once I explained the lenses to them at their rechecks, all was fine, but where was this education on the front end and at the dispense? Fortunately, this person resigned before I had the chance to let her go because she realized her own shortcomings. However, this sparked the thought, "How can I avoid this in the future?"

The next time around, I had my key optician create a short written test that asked simple questions about which lens materials they would use with certain prescriptions or patients, how to measure a PAL and PDs, definitions of basic terminology, and the like. This helped me determine what knowledge base the candidate had in optical, regardless of "years of experience." The test also included some simple math questions to show ability to apply discounts.

We also created a little optical practical: adjust a pair of moderately out-of-shape spectacles, replace a pair of nosepads, pretend that one of my employees was a patient and style that patient (you could create any sort of prescription you wanted to for this "pretend" shopping).

The final item was computer literacy. We asked candidates to demonstrate simple tasks: open a browser window, pull up a Word document, search for (fill in the blank) on the Internet. This showed us their level of comfort in working with the computer and also how fast they cruised through the requests.

These tests and skill demonstrations were wonderful in helping to weed out those who had minimal skills or whose idea of optical selling/education was not in line with my office mantra. Depending on the candidate, we could either decide to nix them from the potential list or keep them on, knowing exactly where we would need to spend our time training them.

Lesson Learned
The next time I hired a staff member, these few changes to my interview process proved invaluable in helping pick the educated and well-rounded from the not-so-on-the-ball candidates. Hope this helps you in your interview process!

Education and Networking for Optometry Students and New ODs
October 6-9, 2010
Join us for free continuing education sessions taught by the profession's leaders, exclusive networking events in the hottest spots on the strip, and a show floor unrivaled in the US – all this and more in Las Vegas during International Vision Expo West.

Free Session for Students:
21st Century Optometry: Eyes Wide Open to YOUR Future!
Saturday, October 9, 1:00 – 2:30pm, Not for Credit
Patrick Higuera & Rene Soltis

Click here for more information.


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