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Amy Alvarez | 7/2/2019

The last time unemployment was lower than it is now was 50 years ago, when there was only .1% less!  Job growth continues month over month, mostly in the healthcare and service industry, and large companies are pulling out all the stops to hire.  Let’s be honest, if you are hiring right now, you are aware of these challenges in the market because you are feeling it in your recruiting process.

When working with members, I often hear “I HAVE to get someone in with experience, at least 2 years but preferably more.”  I am here to tell you, sometimes the experience you think you need hurts your practice instead of helping.  It can happen two ways: either the person with experience doesn’t live up to the hype OR you overlook a great candidate with customer service skills who could have contributed their different experience to your practice’s success. 

I will concede, there are times that hiring someone who has experience in optometry is the best move for your business.  If you are already understaffed or don’t have someone who can offer training to a new employee, hiring someone with experience and an understanding of the industry is necessary.  That is NOT every hire.  Losing an employee may make you nervous that you won’t be prepared, but, even with experience, a new hire won’t know how to do it in your practice.  In fact, they may have to unlearn bad habits or practices before they can really get started.

A Harvard Business Study found that 4 traits lead to employment success – Education, IQ, Skill and Attitude.  Does it surprise you to find that Attitude accounts for 93% of it?  Attitude (The power of positive thinking, the feeling of personal influence) leads to employees who are engaged, capable and open to learn anything.  Nothing about that has to do with 2-3 years of experience.

You want to hire people who are going to be successful in your practice and help your business, not hurt it. Here are a few ways to manage that:

  1. HIRE TO YOUR VALUES: if you haven’t already taken the time to do so, you need to define the purpose for your business. The easiest way to do this is through a Mission Statement and Core Values.  Your Mission Statement is why you are in business and your Core Values are the tools you will use to achieve it.  You should ask questions during your interview related to these this and assess their match and intention overall to ensure a good fit.
  1. TRAIN TO FIT: Every person you hire will have opportunities. Consider your ability to train with every hire. Hiring someone who can be groomed into a long-term contributor to your business will lead to more growth, more work satisfaction and longer retention.  Search for non-teachable skills like attitude, EQ, work ethic, assertiveness, etc. will lend themselves to the employee’s success and yours.  That may mean considering someone new to optometry or with limited experience.
  1. USE DIFFERENT INTERVIEW STYLES: There are plenty of ways you can assess candidate match OTHER than speaking to them in a face to face interview. Two of my most suggested are phone interviews and job shadows. Why invite someone to the practice and take away from your chair time to have them be a poor fit (or worse – no show!)? Phone Interviews allows you to schedule and speak to candidates for no more than 10 minutes to determine if you are interested in moving forward. Job Shadows are a way to see the candidate in a different environment and how they interact with patients and peers.  When a candidate job shadows, you can also involve your staff – increasing their investment in the candidate’s success should you hire.
  1. USE SCREENING TOOLS: We all have biases - assumptions we make about people and who they are. A screening tool is an assessment* or a reference check we can use to gather more information about a candidate that is not clouded by our own assumptions and impressions. When you use screening tools, you ensure you can see more of the individual “intention” to drive success in hiring a good fit. 

Recruiting is a task above the normal needs of the practice. It can feel like JUST getting someone in will solve the problem.  However, the right hire isn’t a placeholder.  The right hire will elevate your business and help you provide great patient care. Every hire should be considered carefully for what they will bring to the table for the practice to succeed. 


*IDOC’s Employee Testing Service provided insights about the candidate’s “non-teachable skills” as well as an interview guide and development plan tailored to that person.  It will give you more information about the individuals you are hiring than a typical assessment while offering you support through the hiring process.  Learn more here: IDOC Employee Testing Service

Amy Alvarez
Human Resources Consultant
Amy Alvarez, SHRM-CP is IDOC’s Human Resources Consultant. Amy has experience in HR in healthcare and retail, management in big box and specialty retail stores and physician recruitment. Through these roles and training, Amy is well-versed in recruitment and hiring strategies for “hard to fill” roles, dealing with low productivity, helping encourage employee engagement, on-boarding, training, day-to-day management in a retail setting, employee relations, and so much more.
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