9 Savvy Strategies for Hiring All-Star Staff

Are you searching high and low but just can’t find the best staffers for your eye care practice? You’re not alone. The hunt for top talent has become more grueling than ever and shows no signs of stopping. Why? Unemployment—especially in healthcare—is at historic lows.

That’s good news for job seekers, but bad news for physician entrepreneurs looking to grow a practice or retail optical. You may be losing your best employees to tasty outside offers, or you may be scrambling to find qualified entry-level applicants as you grow your A-players into new roles. “The talent war is reaching new levels,” said Vistage chief research officer Joe Galvin at a recent gathering of entrepreneurs in North Carolina. A whopping 87 percent of small business leaders surveyed nationwide say that “talent” is the top challenge affecting their business, Galvin added. If you want to grow your practice, you must find ways to identify, attract, train, and retain star talent.

“By 2020, the labor force will grow 0.4 percent annually, where it will level off for decades — limiting the ability of employers to meet growing hiring demands.” — Glassdoor

To help your eye care practice rise to this challenge, we’ve rounded up game-changing advice from hiring and retention experts.

Don’t skip the step of writing a thorough job description.

Practices rushing to fill an open position sometimes skip this step, says Suzanne Rupert of Talent Acquisition Innovation. Everyone thinks they know what they’re looking for, but fuzzy details impair your ability to advertise the job effectively. Also, a well-written job description ensures all stakeholders involved in the hire have the same expectations.

Include not only the education, skills, and experience you’re seeking, but also the job behaviors you’re looking for. Ask yourselves, “What kind of person will be most successful in this position?”

Tip: Forecast what success in the role will look like at the three-month and six-month marks and include that vision in your job description, Rupert suggests. This last step sets clear expectations even before the hire and sets up the new hire for success.

Beware the candidate who doesn’t currently have a job.

The U.S. is so close to full employment right now that you should make sure you understand the backstory for anyone who’s not currently employed, says recruiter Severin Sorensen. There might be a perfectly good reason—such as time in school, a stint caring for family, or an unlucky layoff. But you just want to make sure that the story the candidate is telling checks out.

Administer behavioral assessments as a screening tool.

Do this before you even contact people for interviews, Rupert recommends. You can teach skills for entry-level office and clinical jobs fairly easily, but you can’t teach behavioral preferences. Even employees with strong enough emotional intelligence to stretch beyond their behavioral preferences at work will become burned out on the job if there isn’t good a behavioral fit.

Examples behavioral assessment tools include DiSC and CliftonStrengths (Gallup) and there are lots of other options. Rupert likes Culture Index because it doesn’t take long for candidates to complete it and it’s very difficult to candidates game the assessment by guessing answers they think the employer wants.

Tip: If you had or have several outstanding employees in positions similar to what you’re searching for, use the same behavioral assessment to assess them and compile a behavioral profiled describing the type(s) best suited to the job, suggests Rupert.

Don’t confuse interviewing expertise with suitability for the job.

Some people are really good “relators,” says Sorensen. They are so good at selling their skills and themselves during interviews that hiring managers may be tempted to rush through or close their eyes to parts of the due diligence process. Sure, some of the skills that help people perform well in interviews also help them perform well in certain job roles, but not always.

Organizing the interview process helps prevent skilled relators from “hijacking” the interview, Sorensen says. For example, you should pose the same questions to every candidate for a particular position, and interviewers should record their impressions in a tracking sheet.

Ask behavioral-based questions during the interview.

You’ve outlined the behaviors you’re looking for in the job description, so follow up with questions that help you unpack those behaviors. (For ideas, check out “50 Behavioral-Based Interview Questions” from Lynda Ford.)

“If you pick the right people and give them opportunity to spread their wings—and put compensation as a carrier behind it—you almost don’t have to manage them.” — Jack Welch

Example: If you’re searching for optical employees with strong customer service skills, Ford suggests questions like:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an irate customer. What did you do to resolve the problem and what was the outcome?
  • Tell me about one or two customer‐service related programs that you’ve done that you’re particularly proud of.
  • Tell me about a time when you made a lasting, positive impression on a customer.

Some practice administrators suss out behaviors by conducting group interviews during the first phase, assigning a group tasks, and observing how candidates interact with one another.

Tip: One of Sorensen’s favorite all-purpose behavioral interview questions is “Tell me about the people you’re working with now.” If you hear toxicity, “listen to it and heed it,” he cautions.

Don’t “sell” your practice as an employer during interviews.

In order to outsmart the talent crunch, you’ve got to convince candidates that it’s a good idea to work at your practice, but don’t do this during the hiring process, Sorensen cautions. A study published in the Academy of Management Journal shows that hiring managers are less able to make good decisions when they are simultaneously charged with attracting the candidate. Instead, designate two teams—one to focus on hiring and one to focus on “selling” your practice to the best potential candidates, Sorensen suggests.

Do a snapshot audit to make sure that the ‘facts’ on the resume are correct.

Statistics show that you can be fairly certain that some of what you see on resumes or Linked In profiles is false, warns Sorensen. For example, 26 percent of workers under 40 admitted to fudging the facts in their resumes, according to data from Udemy, and 85 percent of employers surveyed said they’ve spotted fibbing on applicants’ resumes, according to a 2017 report from HireRight. Don’t just call the references the candidate has suggested, Sorensen urges. Spot-check certification organizations and prior employers.

Eyes Open: Don’t interpret a polished resume and cover letter as a sign that the candidate has good writing and presentation skills, Sorensen warns. Many candidates hire professionals to prepare these materials.

Seek outside help.

Smart recruiting takes expertise and work. Even the best practice administrators might need someone to shoulder some of the work and check their instincts. Don’t do reference checks for your own hires, advises Sorensen. By the time you’re at the reference-checking phase, you’ve invested so much that you may be too subjective to see red flags. Give the reference checking job to someone objective who cares about your practice, he suggests. If you don’t have someone, call your local SHRM office and ask them to suggest professional reference-checkers to freelance the job for you.

Eyes Open: One recruiter tells a story about an “ideal candidate” for whom no one would return reference calls. It turns out that the candidate was in the process of suing his previous three employers and they were all on gag orders.


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