Article Date: 5/1/2006

reflections
How Not to Hire Someone
Don't let desperation over-ride common sense.
MICHAEL SILVERMAN, O.D.

When my optometric technician gave notice, I called the local newspaper to place a classified ad for a new tech. At that same time, a woman who worked at a local supermarket (call her Sue) stopped in our office. She said she was an ophthalmic assistant and offered her services. Our classified ad, which cost $400 per week, attracted several candidates. Unfortunately, each lacked critical qualifications. In addition, my employees complained about the added workload. I became desperate.

A promising start

So I called Sue for an interview. She seemed bright, cheery, well-dressed and very eager to work. She made a great first impression.

Sue explained that she left the ophthalmology practice because they cut her hours and did not keep promises. She told me that I could call the supermarket for a reference, but that they "hate" her because she's unhappy. She said they also did not keep promises.

I spoke to the office manager at the ophthalmology practice who told me that Sue had done a great job for years but had moved out of town. When she returned, they rehired her but she couldn't keep up with her work. Other employees had to "take up her slack."

Faced with the cost of the classified ad and the stress on my staff, I decided to give Sue the benefit of the doubt and hired her.

The first day

Sue showed up early for her first day of work and brought bagels and cream cheese. I had prepared a work contract that specified her duties and trial work period, etc. She read and signed it. However, within the first half hour:

Sue seemed unable to concentrate on tasks and kept walking around the office.
Sue told employees that my wife (our optician) is "crazy." She also told them that her former employers used to throw staplers at her head.
She made several trips to the bathroom.
She told me that my hair looked like s%#% and repeated the profanity in front of patients.
She called me a liar.

The beginning of the end

Within 35 minutes, I told Sue that she was terminated. Sue then got a bagel. She said a brain tumor made her act strangely and she began to cry. Then she passed out.

When I couldn't revive her, I phoned 911. She woke up when the paramedics arrived. I told them Sue said she had a brain tumor. Sue told them she said no such thing. One of the paramedics noted that her breath smelled like alcohol. They opened her hand bag and found an empty bottle of vodka and a "prescription" type bottle. That was the last time I saw Sue.

What did I learn? Do not let a desperate situation cause you to hire someone who you would not have hired otherwise. The office manager at the ophthalmology office tried to warn me but I didn't listen. We could have cut back the patient schedule to prevent employee overload and to take more time to find the right employee. As for my hair, it probably is too long but that hasn't hurt my thriving practice any!

DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH RENé LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR LUTHER@LWWVISIONCARE.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.



Optometric Management, Issue: May 2006