Top Tips for Hiring Ophthalmic Techs

If you’re starting to think that capable, experienced techs are as elusive as that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you’re not alone. Many practices struggls with finding and hiring opthalmic techs when they need them, and hold onto them once they’re hired. Why? The market for experienced eye care techs is tight right now. That means that practices are competing for the best talent—and not every practice wins.

What if you’re lucky enough to already have a roster full of excellent techs? Not to rain on your parade, but a market shortage of high performers means that other practices may well be trying to poach your best techs. If a tech takes a job at another practice, that could leave you in a lurch if you don’t have others ready to step into those roles. So keep reading. Our expert advice will ensure there will be sunny days ahead.

Problem: You can’t find experienced techs—or even slightly experienced techs.

Techs are essential building blocks of your eye care practice. But trained, certified techs with the right attitude, skills, and abilities are scarce. Chances are good that you’ll end up compromising on at least a few of your hiring requirements. For physicians and practice managers, that’s a scary concept. Practice revenues depend on the knowledge and efficiency of your techs, and on their ability to move patients through the practice while also providing a stellar patient experience.

Solution: Never compromise on attitude, but experience is negotiable.

Don’t be afraid of hiring techs with no eye care experience, or even a non-tech from a completely different industry. It’s not as easy as finding a ‘plug ‘n’ play’ tech with all the right certifications, but look at the bright side: a blank slate means you can train up a tech who’s suited specifically for your practice—provided you hire the right candidate. “The only way to ensure the success of your program is to hire right from the start,” emphasizes Lisa Miller, COMT, COE, who spoke in-depth about training at last year’s ASCRS·ASOA Annual Meeting. To make sure that happens, follow these tips:

Do Some Pre-Planning

Before starting your search for a suitable candidate, make sure you’ve thought about the following:

  • Job description: Has it been updated lately? A strategic and thorough job description is essential to help you screen candidates.
  • Interview questions: These should be designed to draw out a candidate’s personality and soft skills.
  • Competitive compensation package: Do some market research and find out what other practices in your area are offering.
  • Schedule: Will you consider a flexible schedule? Is there a particular doctor’s schedule that you need to fit?
  • Deal breakers: These are qualities you won’t tolerate, no matter how great the candidate otherwise seems.

Revamp Your Ad

Like most practices, your job posting probably contains wording that’s specific to eye care. That makes sense, because you are hiring opthalmic techs. but you could be losing out on great candidates. Job seekers who might be a great fit for your practice will look at words like “tonometry” and breeze right by. Consider using more neutral wording that helps attract candidates with the inherent personality and skills you need, say Jill White, COA, COE and Jane Shuman, MSM, COT, COE, OCS, CMSS, OSC, who shared hiring strategies at the ASCRS meeting. For example:

  • Instead of using the term “must be able to perform patient work-up,” say “must enjoy working one on one with people of all ages in a clinical setting.”
  • Instead of listing the certifications you require, let job seekers know that while you prefer certified ophthalmic personnel, “if you are the right person we will train you to be an ophthalmic assistant.”

Expand Your Horizons

Finding and hiring ophthalmic techs with both the attitude and the aptitude to fit into your practice is tough, laments Kenneth E. Woodworth, Jr., COMT, COE, FASOA, another ASCRS presenter. Consider where you will post job openings and search for non-traditional candidates. In addition to the usual job boards (industry association career hubs, Indeed, and the like), Woodworth recommends that you try:

  • Posting in relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups.
  • Partnering with career counselors at local high schools and community colleges.
  • Participating in a career fair.
  • Medical assistant training programs.

Also be on the lookout for non-traditional prospects in other customer service-heavy industries like fast food or coffee chops, retail stores, hotels, banks, and airlines, suggests Sharon Brown, COT, COE, who presented alongside Miller. “I find [people] out and about,” says Brown, who often likes to recruit exceptional servers from restaurants she visits. Make a habit of always carrying business cards, she suggests, so you can promote your practice in the community.

Think Through Your Interview Process

The high cost of turnover in eye care practices makes hiring ophthalmic techs smartly the first time all the more important. Hiring mistakes can be costly and demoralizing, but “if you’ve hired the right person, you can create a loyal employee,” say White and Shuman. Whether you are hiring ophthalmic techs on your own, using a recruiter, or using a placement agency, it’s important for whoever is doing your interviews to know exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re using outside help, consider inviting them to clinic for a day so he or she can observe techs in action.

Once you’ve narrowed down your prospects to a final few contenders, ask them to shadow in your practice for an hour or two, advises Woodworth. This is particularly important if you’re hiring a non-tech. It gives them an insider’s view of what to expect if you hire them, and gives the candidate a chance to get a feel for whether or not they’re truly interested in the job.

Eyes Open: Just because you’re fully staffed doesn’t mean you can suspend the interview process. Even if you don’t currently have an opening, leave your job posting up. Never say ‘we are not hiring,’ warn White and Shuman. Conducting regular interviews helps you build a bench of potential back-ups and hone your interviewing skills. Plus, it also keeps your current staff on their toes.

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