By Diane Palombi, OD
Feb. 27, 2019
I belong to a women optometrist Facebook group called OD Divas. One of the most-discussed issues of the group is staffing problems. I have read some real horror stories over the past year. This led me to ask the group the question, “What are the most important questions to ask when interviewing prospective employees?”
A former practice owner for 12 years, who is now retired, I got lucky and never had to conduct traditional job interviews. When I opened my practice, I brought my employees with me from the Lenscrafters where I previously worked. I hired my daughter and some friends later on. The only employee I did not have a prior relationship with came from a fellow doctor the next town over. I shared this employee with him for a while before totally stealing her away.
Here are suggestions for questions to ask prospective employees from ODs who do have to conduct traditional job interviews. These questions can help you choose employees who are right from the start, enhancing service to patients, and by extension, the likelihood of those patients returning to your practice and referring others.
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What Do You Do When Confronted With the Unexpected? Some of the questions these ODs ask involve job expectations. Jenet Melton, OD, likes to inquire, “If there are things about the job that are not what you expected, what will you do?”
Do You Understand Our Work Hours Expectations? Megan Thomas, OD, always asks, “Do you understand the hours that you are expected to work?”
How Will You Get Along With Other Employees? Marcia Newberg Emerson, a licensed optician, wants to know, “Was there someone you worked with before, and did not get along with?” Michelle Golembieski Thelen, OD, prefers to ask these questions, “How do you feel you get along with co-workers/colleagues? Are you easily offended?” She recently lost two new employees because they could not mesh with her existing staff. It’s easier for her to be short staffed because at least now her office environment is calmer.
Dr. Thelen is considering letting her present employees decide on her future new hires. This is because the interviewee behaves differently with the staff than with the doctor. The doctor does not see all the snarky stuff. Makenzie Katherine, OD, asks, “What qualities are your least favorite in a co-worker?”
Robyn Fulgham Mangold, OD, has a different take on the same subject. She has the prospective employee sit for a couple of hours with a practice employee doing the job for which they are being hired. It’s a real eye opener. Things surface that were not discussed in the interview process. It’s interesting for her to see if the interviewee is proactive about answering phones and greeting patients. The prospective employee also sometimes confides with the staff, and some revelations are doozies. “They feel really, really comfortable talking with a peer,” she discovered.
What Kind of Relationship Did You Have with Your Former Employer? The interviewee’s relationship with her past employer is also a favorite topic. Asma Alsalameh, OD, has a favorite question, “If you could give one piece of advice to your old boss, what would it be?” Jenny Taylor Elder, OD, likes to ask, “Tell me about your old boss?” Will the interviewee be diplomatic, take some of the fault for past grievances, or shamefully gossip? It’s a good way to look at a candidate’s personality traits, and gauge how they handle conflict. Katherine, OD, asks candidates to describe the worst boss they ever had.
Is Your Personality Right For This Position? The personality of the prospective employee is important to determine in the interview process. Shannon Mihalacki, OD, asks, “What is the most expensive thing that you have bought yourself, not including a house or car?” This is an especially good question to ask potential opticians. It’s a way to discover what motivates them, whether that be time, money, chocolate, praise or something else. Jennifer Stewart Ellison OD, asks, “If your best friend was sitting here, how would they describe you?” Newberg Emerson says to candidates, “Give me three words to describe yourself, and why?”
Jennifer Carter, OD, says, “Tell me about a time you went out of your way to make someone’s day.” She likes to see the interviewee hesitate at first before answering. A hesitation indicates that the person has a servant’s heart. They just don’t spout out wonderful things about themselves. Unfortunately, she finds that the majority of the interviewees come up with a random story. Newberg Emerson inquires, “How did you handle a difficult situation?” She then asks for an example. Jennifer Brady Cook, OD, asks “Why shouldn’t I hire you?” It causes the prospective employee to pause typically. She then follows this with the question, “Well, what is something you find yourself needing to work on?”
Dr. Katherine inquires, “Is it better to be on time and do a good job, or later and do an amazing job?” This doctor also tells the prospective employee clearly when setting up the interview appointment to bring a printed resume, park in a specific spot and bring a random object with them, such as a red-ink pen, without explanation. It shows her not only how much they care about the position, but how well they follow directions. At the interview she gives them a sheet of 10 questions to fill out. If the interviewee asks for a pen, then she knows they didn’t come prepared.
Dr. Katherine always schedules multiple interviews around the same time, so the candidate can see there is competition for the position. She also likes to judge the prospective employee’s patience level. To do that, the candidate is made to wait for 10 minutes past their scheduled appointment time. To be fair, she tells the candidate to reserve an hour of their time for the interview, which usually only takes 15-20 minutes. That way the candidate is not leaving later than expected. Her interview process works well for her. The first year this doctor was in practice, she sent out 24 W2s. Last year it was only one. Dr. Katherine says, “I’ve done a lot of hiring, and I’m learning some great tricks and tips.”
There is no foolproof formula to find the perfect employee, but with the right questions, you have a better chance at securing the ideal mix of personality traits and competencies you need for each job role.
What are the most effective questions you ask job candidates? What questions have you found are better to skip?
Diane Palombi, OD, retired now, is the former owner of Palombi Vision Center in Wentzville, Mo. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org