Staff Management

A Primer on Hiring Techniques: What ODs Need to Know About the Science of Finding—and Keeping—Good Staff

By Daniel Abramson

Daniel Abramson

Optometrists tend to think there is not much to hiring office staff: a few minutes meeting a person, then they can go back to seeing patients.

That is a recipe for having no idea if a new hire is suitable or if there will be problems with a new hire and other staff members. It is not a recipe for success.

Even more troubling, optometrists tend to think they know how to hire. In fact, there is a science and structure to hiring, and both easily can be understood.

Staff: Directors of First Impressions

Your staff members need to be Directors of First Impressions. Hire friendly, engaging people so they have a good experience, and banish the grouchy person who tells people to sign the clipboard and sit down.

The optometric practice is a service-based business very much on the edge of change. If someone has a bad experience in your office, they don’t write an angry letter like one did 10 years ago. They go online (Twitter, Yelp, blogs) to complain. And when you go online, the axiom (“When people have a good experience, they tell eight people; when it’s bad, they tell 16 or more.”) is exponentially true. Online, a bad comment can go viral.

Success starts with hiring good people. The first problem: Most optometrists interview a potential new hire just one time—when a multi-meeting approach provides more information, deeper impressions and greater clarity.

Three-Step Interview Process

An optometric practice needs a structured hiring process. Here is a three-step interview process designed to get positive results.

1. Short Phone Interview. Have a short telephone interview with a candidate. This will give you an idea of how the person sounds when patients call the practice.

2. In-Depth Interview. Have a 35- to 40-minute-long personal interview. Include other staff members at some point during the interview. The staff doesn’t get a final say, but giving them the opportunity for feedback gains “staff buy-in” on new hires.Ask behavioral questions: “Give me an example of a time….” Also ask scenario questions: “How do you diffuse upset patients who waited too long?” The responses to these questions help you to measure a candidate’s soft skills, which are impossible to outline on resumes.

3. Get Second Opinion. Have a 10-minute, second-opinion appointment, which can also include other staff members. Afterward, wait a few days to see if potential candidates send a thank-you note, or call with follow-up questions. You can ask the candidate to come in and meet other staff members because you feel that chemistry, fit, and compatibility are important components to the hiring process. It’s a two-way street.

Hiring Insurance: Survey the Candidate

After seeing candidates through the three-step interviewing process, ODs should winnow the selection down to two serious final candidates. At this point, the finalists should take a personality assessment or survey. It costs about $50 to $60 per applicant, and it only takes about six or seven minutes to complete online. Both the OD and the finalist get copies of the results. The test shows how people operate in work situations and in off-time situations. The survey shows personality styles at work and away from work and demonstrated compatibility and customer-service-oriented traits. It’s always best to administer ths personality survey after the second or third interview to confirm what you’ve uncovered during the face-to-face meetings.

The personality survey is also a helpful tool in managing different people differently. It provides a snapshot of the applicant’s behavior that shows how they might fit in with the rest of the staff. If you have test results for the existing staff, you can compare and determine if the potential hire is compatible with your current staff. Call me for a sample report: (877) 568-2222.

Optometrists are not trained to be managers. That’s something you learn in your practices. Some hiring yardsticks: Hire for attitude, teach technique. Unless you are hiring another OD, you can teach hires what they need to do in your practice. But first, they have to have the right personality to make the chemistry work in your office.

Pay Now or Pay Later

Another pitfall is underpaying staff members. The old days of hiring people for $8.50 at the front desk are gone. Here are some further recommendations for finding—and keeping—good staff.

Pay Enough. In most markets, staffers should get $12 an hour. Hiring the least expensive person because they “don’t do much” is… myopic.

Hire a Decision Maker. Hire someone who can think, who can make good, intuitive decisions, often times with incomplete information.

Pay in Range. Pay staff members in range to avoid getting the same people repeatedly when looking for new hires.

Train and Manage. Once you hire them, make sure to train them, and check up on them over time.

As a bonus…here’s one of my favorite questions to evaluate candidate compliance to the rules. “Give me an example of a time that you had to break the rules in order to get something done” You’ll be amazed with the creativity of wacky answers! (But it’s a great question to see if people stay in bounds regarding the rules of the road.)

Daniel Abramson is president and founder of StaffDynamics, an international staffing firm.
He is author of Secrets of Hiring Top Talent. He speaks frequently to group in the ophthalmic community.
Contact daniel@staffdynamics.bizor call (877) 568-2222 for a quick conversation.

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