Optometric Management Tip # 381   -   Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tips for Hiring Staff

Finding the best candidates for employment can be very tricky. You can do the best interview in the world, but you never really know an employee until he or she has worked a few weeks. Here are some innovative ideas to help you through the process.

How to advertise the opening

I use both the traditional newspaper and the electronic media for placing a simple help wanted ad. The ad describes the job, the hours, our excellent benefit package and it specifies any experience or training that is required. For technicians and opticians, we try to find excellent people with optical experience, but it is more important to find the right personality and we will train to develop the skills as needed.

One thing that I do that is slightly unusual is that I put the name of my practice in the ad and it states: apply in person. No phone or fax number is provided. I really don't mind if other eye care providers or the general public see that we are hiring, so I don't use a blind box number for replies. I actually prefer for job seekers to see the name of my practice because it may increase responses.

Other sources

Keep your eyes open for great people when you are in other public environments. If you are in a retail store or restaurant and you are receiving great service, consider giving the person your business card and saying you are looking for someone with the kind of skills she demonstrates and, if she has any interest, to please give you a call.

Patients can be good sources of future employees. You already have some insight into intelligence, personality and current job. The patient knows something about eye care and your office and obviously likes your office. If you or your staff know someone you all love to see, you could call her and ask if she is interested in applying for the job.

I do not believe in raiding the offices of other eye care practitioners (ECPs) for staff members out of respect and professional courtesy. If I run a want ad in the paper, however, and an employee of a local ECP responds, I feel that person is fair game. After all, she was obviously reading the employment ads.

Resumes and job application forms

We certainly receive preprinted resumes by mail and fax, but we just call those candidates and ask them to stop by during business hours and complete an employment application. Preprinted resumes are useful, but the handwritten application gives me much more information. After all, you never know who actually wrote a resume. Consider the information we get when the candidate completes a form in our office. I'll use feminine pronouns in this article since most of our staff are females.

The interview

Typically, my office manager conducts all job interviews and she will often do it on the spot unless the candidate proved unworthy during the quick look described above. If the manager is not available at this drop in visit, our receptionist will take the application, thank the candidate and tell her that we'll call if we wish to arrange an interview. But the manager will often do an interview and then let the candidate go. After we see several applicants, we will call the best ones back for a second interview with the doctor and the manager.

The starting wage

The application form asks for the desired salary and has blank space. This is a valuable bit of information. If it is left blank, the manager or I will press for an answer by saying how much it helps us to determine the correct wage; it's generally not difficult to get an answer. The form also has a place to list the last four jobs and includes spaces to indicate the salary, which would include the present salary if the person is currently working.

In general, once we are ready to offer someone the job, I like to pay the amount requested on the application. I compare the amount desired with other factors, such as the applicant's experience and how desirable I feel she is. I also consider what I'm currently paying my other employees with similar job descriptions and experience. If the wage requested is higher than I wish to pay, I might offer less, but I realize I may not have a completely happy employee and she may continue to look for another job even if she accepts my offer.

I find that most job candidates cite a figure near the lowest acceptable wage, quite often less than I might have offered, because they want to get an offer. While I believe in paying employees well and I know that very bright people will command higher wages, I'm always trying to keep business expenses down.

Probationary period?

When I discuss the hiring process with other eye care professionals, someone often brings up the concept of telling all new employees that there is a 30 day probationary period and employment may be terminated for any reason during that period. I don't really like that practice because I wish to preserve the right to dismiss an employee at anytime. Most states have employment at will laws which allows an employer to end employment for no specific reason, as long as there is no discrimination of a protected class of individuals. To give a 30 day period during which employment may be ended seems to imply that after the 30 day period, dismissal is not as easy. Even if we don't consider the legal aspects, it may confuse the employee.

It is fine to have a 30 day waiting period before health insurance or other employment benefits begin.

Since this week's tip is on hiring staff, what do you think next week's tip will be about?

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management