By Cheryl G. Murphy, OD
Dec. 23, 2015
Interviewing is a great opportunity for you to scope out an employer, or company, to see if their culture aligns with your beliefs. It is not just a chance for employers to evaluate you as a job candidate; it should be used as a chance for you to assess them as a potential employer.
One of the mistakes optometrists may make when looking for a job is not properly researching the practice before accepting the interview. One may look for an ad, or hear about a position by word-of-mouth, and then call or e-mail to find out more. If you submit your CV and cover letter, and are lucky enough to snag an interview, be well prepared for it.
A good first step in learning more about a potential employer is to look at the practice’s web site.
Assess the hours required.Note the doctor’s office hours and days posted. Would any of these fit the shifts you are looking for, and does it match well with your current work-life balance situation?
Learn about the doctors and staff. Read over the bios of the doctors and staff who already work there. Keep in mind a bio can be biased in that it is usually written by the person whom it is talking about. Ask yourself:Does this seem like a place where you can grow and learn? Usually, doctors who are affiliated with medical schools or optometry schools are used to teaching and are eager to share their knowledge to further develop their staff, which can make the place a great learning environment. Do the other associate doctors there seem well qualified and professional? Does the rest of the staff? Has this doctor ever had another doctor work for them, or would you be the first? If you are the first, keep in mind that they might not have the managerial experience and tack needed to successfully lead another OD.
Evaluate the work pace.Look at the appointment book, or the timing of the available appointments, if the web site offers online booking. Does this pace of appointments seem too fast or too slow compared to what you are used to or how you see yourself practicing?
Assess staff backup.Is there ancillary staff to help you with not only front desk tasks such as making appointments, checking people in and out and billing, but with pre-testing patients and starting charts by scribing case histories, including the medical and ocular histories, medications the patient is currently taking, current Rx, current CL Rx and the patient’s level of satisfaction with their current spectacle or CL Rx? If the ancillary staff is only used to doing front desk work, then you have to be ready to work completely independently and collect all data yourself, which can slow down your exam time.
Check out online reviews.After you have looked at the practice web site,look attheir online reviews. There will always be a few bad ones, but look for an overall theme in the reviews. Did patients seem concerned they were waiting too long for their appointment? Believe it or not, that could be interpreted as a good or a bad thing. While we don’t want to have many patients chronically dissatisfied, or waiting for long periods of time each visit, a few reviews saying there was a long wait time could simply be an indication of the doctor caring enough to take the needed time to properly serve patients who needed extra help. A lot of patients may value that they know this doctor will truly listen to their unique visual needs and will take time to address any questions or concerns they may have about their ocular health or vision.
On the flip side, it could also show that the doctor is backed up and overwhelmed due to over-scheduling or under-staffing. That could be a problem that a newly hired OD would also face while there, and it may not be something that you can change. Implementing change is not the newly hired OD’s job, and what you might think is a friendly suggestion to improve efficiency, may be misinterpreted and unwelcome.
The Interview Evaluation
Once you get to the interview, take a look at the practice. Is this a place you could see yourself working everyday?
Evaluate the commute.Do a trial run and time it.Are you driving into major rush hour traffic near a major city? If so, you may want to drive to the place on a different day than the interview during the time you would be commuting to see if traffic would possibly pile up and make you late. Don’t forget to include your morning routines in your test run. For example, if you tend to go to the gym before work, or grab a coffee, factor in that extra stop, as well.
See how it looks. What are your first aesthetic impressions of the outside and of the practice? Could it use a major makeover? Is it dated? It’s OK if the building and decor are a little dated, but if the building or office is in a state of obvious neglect or disrepair, that could be a bad sign. Are the chairs ripped? Carpet worn or heavily soiled? Paint faded? Wallpaper peeling? Magazines more than two years old?
Sit and listen like a patient. While waiting for your interview you may be asked to have a seat in the reception area. This is a good chance for you to listen and observe. Were you promptly greeted in a friendly manner upon your arrival? Do you hear the front desk staff gossiping or acting inappropriately? Do the patients in the reception area seem annoyed or content? Does the flow of patients seem efficient and organized? Would you be proud to say you work there? Would you be happy to be a patient yourself in a place like that?
Prepare a checklist of issues. While you are in the interview, properly introduce yourself and be prepared to talk about yourself and your education, your relevant past work experience (if any) and any other skills you possess or extraordinary expertise in your field. You should also discuss the days and times you are available, your expectations or special needs. For example, if you would be unable to work on a certain day because of religious beliefs, or lack of child care, you may want to bring that up. You also should address other important details about the terms of your employment such as wage, benefits, salary, incentives or time off. Ask about the history of the practice and get a tour. Note the equipment, and if it seems well cared for and used often.
The decision to take a job often will not be made on the spot at the end of an interview. The employer may want you back for a second interview to introduce you to a partner or to gather more information from you after the first round of job candidates. You should also take this time to “sleep on it.” Did you interview with enough places? Did you cold call and drop your resume off to places that you would like to work, even if they were not advertising open positions? Do you know anyone who has worked there in the past, or who could give you an inside perspective on what it is like to work there?
Again, could you see yourself happily working at the place in which you interviewed? Is it a practice you would be proud to be a part of, or an office willing to give you the flexibility of days and scheduling you need to fulfill your ideal work-life balance?
Even if you accept a position, that is not the end-all-be-all. Take some time in the beginning to find your groove and adapt to your new surroundings. It sometimes can take a few months before you realize that the practice isn’t actually a good match for you after all, and that’s OK. Politely give your notice and don’t burn bridges; you never know when you may want to possibly boomerang back to the practice in the future if things change, or as a fill-in doctor now that you are experienced in how things operate there.
As optometrists, we are all in this together. Life occurs in stages, and circumstances change all the time. We are lucky to be in a profession that allows for flexibility and a wide slew of opportunities.
Somewhere there is a practice that is the right fit for you. Your first job is to find it.
What are your experiences researching potential practices for employment? What advice can you give other ODs?