Staff Management

How We Maintain Our Staff of 50 By Filling Open Jobs in Less than 2 Weeks

Dr. Hammond, top row, far right, with practice partner, Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO, to his left, along with members of the team at Lakeline Vision Source. Dr. Hammond says the practice has developed a system of thoroughly, yet efficiently, vetting and hiring new employees.

By Eric Hammond, OD

June 29, 2022

The Great Resignation has taken a toll on all businesses, including optometry practices. Fortunately, our practice, which has almost 50 support staff roles, has been able to meet these staffing challenges to maintain the employees we need to serve our patients and grow our business.

We have had to hire more staff to accommodate the increase in patient volume we experienced due to strong growth, and we also noticed staff leaving to try completely different fields of work. Some retired, some moved closer to home and others took higher-paying jobs unrelated to eyecare.

Here is how we ensure that open job roles get filled fast–typically in less than two weeks.

Our Recruitment & Retention Challenge
We lost eight staff, whom we had prior to COVID, but have hired 27 people since then to replace those we lost and to accommodate our practice growth.

Our number one reason for losing staff was moving – moved to a different city/state or they had been commuting and wanted a job closer to home. The second most common reason was not making enough money. Some went to the service industry (which they had quit at the start of the pandemic) and others took different jobs entirely.

At the beginning of the lock-down, we helped employees file for unemployment, and held everyone’s jobs for them to come back once we were able to see routine patients again.

Where & How We Find Potential New Employees
Indeed has been our main source for posting for new positions. We also ask staff if they know of any friends or family looking for jobs. We have multiple new employees who are family or friends of staff members who were here before them. We love getting referrals for potential employees from our current employees.

We choose to use the “pay per day” sponsor ad option on Indeed. Typically we commit $50 per day, and keep the ad open for five days. Once we have enough applicants and interest, we pause the ad and evaluate the applicants. After five days, if we have not filled the position, we will post a new ad with a different job title.

Our latest job ad title was, “Optician – Glasses sales, training provided!” Some people don’t know what an optician is, and whether they need to be certified for it or have experience. This title enables them to see at a quick glance what an optician is and that they don’t need experience to do the job. Click HERE to see the full job description.

Pre-2022, I would get 30+ applications within four days for each job we posted. Now, within the same time frame, we get 10-15 applications. Of those, maybe a quarter fill out the additional information I send them to fill out. This information includes a quick aptitude test, typing test, personality profile and computer literacy test. These resources help me weed out the applicants that are applying to multiple jobs indiscriminately, and two, it allows me to make sure I’m hiring quality applicants.

We use a personality profile developed by Culture Index, and HireSelect for the aptitude test and typing skills test. The personality profiling helps me determine if the applicant is the right person for the position they applied to. For example, we don’t want a shy person who likes a single-task focus to be assigned optical sales. Nor do I want a social butterfly with a lack of attention to detail to verify and document insurance benefits.

Aptitude, computer literacy and typing skills help determine if the potential new employee will learn the job quickly, and once they do, if they will most likely be able to perform it efficiently.

What We Look for to Determine Finalists for Positions
I evaluate the effort creating the resume more than the contents of the applicant’s work experience. I also evaluate what types of jobs they previously held, and how long they stayed with each job.

We start with a Zoom interview after the information I send them is filled out. During the Zoom interview we take 10 minutes to ask questions and let them ask us questions, and if they pass that, we move to a working interview, so the staff can meet them and vice versa.  We try to keep the interview process as scientific and consistent as possible. We ask every candidate the exact same questions so that we can better analyze the responses. We want to make sure the candidate is a good fit for us, but we also want to be a good fit for them.

Questions we find useful in interviews with applicants:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Are you in school? Did you go to college? (if so, they may be more likely to move on and do something related to their field of work if given the opportunity)

Are you the primary income earner in your household? (this may speak to how committed they will be to staying in the job after getting hired)

Did you get a chance to look at our website? (I find that candidates who have looked at our website tend to do better in the interview and are more serious about wanting the job)

Have you worked in an office setting before?

Editor’s Note: It is best to vet interview questions with your attorney before asking them of job applicants to ensure you are not violating human resources law.

Make Applicants Feel Special & Keep an Open Mind
We have reached a point where the luxury of us being the picky ones, and the future employee feeling lucky to be interviewing with us, no longer exists. We now feel that we have to “sell ourselves” to potential employees as they have many job opportunities and we have fewer candidates.

We pay our applicants to come in for a working interview (not much, but something.) We also notify the staff about the applicant who is coming in, put the candidate’s name on the schedule and give the staff a quick rundown of who the potential new employee is. The goal is for the staff to make them feel as welcomed as possible. Educate your staff about this! The more the staff makes your office feel like a great place to work, the quicker the staff will get much-needed help.

Don’t be afraid to hire slightly awkward people. Just because the interview doesn’t go smoothly doesn’t mean they won’t be a good fit for your office. We thrive on being a sort of “band of misfits” with many employees who didn’t fit the mold of the stereotypical 9-5 desk job, but found a home with us because we find ways to make the most of their abilities – sometimes even switching their entire job (optician to tech, tech to insurance, etc.) to suit what they are best at and most want to do.

We rarely hire based on experience, if ever. You typically have to pay more for habits an employee acquired at previous eyecare offices that might not fit what you do in your office. I can’t remember the last experienced optician/tech I hired. As they say, you can teach skills, but you can’t teach talent!

Eric Hammond, OD, is an associate at Lakeline Vision Source in Cedar Park, Texas. To contact him:

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