Land the Perfect Optometry Career: Nailing the Job Interview
You’ve made it past the first few rounds of the career search. You’ve explored and applied for an open position, there has been some initial contact between you and the employer, and now you’re due for the actual job interview followed by (hopefully) a contract negotiation. You’re doing great, but the real fun lies ahead.
NOTE: Catch the prequel to this article here Crushing Your Job Search Post-COVID-19 that discusses the job search and How to create the Perfect Optometry Resume
Let’s dig in and discover how you can stand out during the job interview process.
(1) Build your brand
There is much to be said about the concept of building your brand. In a nutshell, it involves establishing the personality of your enterprise and highlights how you can help others. Your brand paints how and why you are the person to solve others’ problems.
Building a brand revolves around who you are, what you (or your company) do best, how that service/product is unique, why it’s important, and how you express that to an audience.
Wanting to get a job to collect a paycheck is not going to put you in a position to obtain the best career positions in today’s environment. If you want to shine, you must think and behave like those who crush it and stand out. When constructing your brand, be innovative, think differently, fill a niche, and share your ideas with others.
In a competitive environment, it is of the utmost importance to invent ways to emerge as a prominent job contender. Building your brand and solidifying yourself as the right candidate is the ideal way to do so.
"Building your brand. In a nutshell, it involves establishing the personality of your enterprise and highlights how you can help others. Your brand paints how and why you are the person to solve others’ problems. It revolves around who you are, what you (or your company) do best, how that service/product is unique, why it’s important, and how you express that to an audience"
(2) What can you offer?
What do you bring to the table? What makes you different? What are you willing to accomplish that other candidates aren’t?
Ask yourself these questions to help shape how and why YOU are the right person for the job.
Specifically, think about what unique set of abilities you possess that could directly make a positive impact on a practice. Knowing how to skillfully fit specialty contact lenses could expand an office’s patient base, improve patient care, and boost the bottom line.
A vision therapy vocation can enhance the lives of children (and adults) and provide services that not many other optometry practices offer. The same goes for low vision and other optometric specialties. With the ever increasing competition for inexpensive glasses and contacts eating away at the traditional “bread and butter” of optometric care, it will become of increasing importance to differentiate yourself and your practice from others. Specialty optometric care is one way to do so.
Other skills such as being multilingual or knowing how to bill and code are also great attributes to have. There may be no other way to immediately contribute to profitability besides knowing how to bill and code appropriately for eye exams. Unfortunately, learning how billing and coding works is not often taught in optometry school. Nonetheless, there are a number of terrific resources available for study, If you are not familiar with this, we highly recommend the Billing and Coding book by Dr. Mike Sandy and Dr. Steven Nelson. It’s my favorite resource and I think every OD should read it.
Having a breadth of knowledge and clinical ability is impressive, but ultimately, employers are more interested in how you can help them and how you can build them a more profitable practice.
"Ask yourself these questions to help shape how and why YOU are the right person for the job. Specifically, think about what unique set of abilities you possess that could directly make a positive impact on a practice. Knowing how to skillfully fit specialty contact lenses could expand an office’s patient base, improve patient care, and boost the bottom line."
(3) Put yourself in their shoes
Let’s take this a step further. Try to place yourself in the position of a practice owner. Would it be more impressive to hear a job candidate discuss their skills; or listen to a potential hire explain how they can solve your problems to expand the success of your business?
Here’s an example. Imagine that you are applying to an office that lacks expertise in pediatric optometry. The owner has been wanting to increase the number of pediatric eye exams that the office performs, but the current doctors do not enjoy seeing kids. You could explain to the owner that YOU would be willing to take over this aspect of the practice. Even if you are not thrilled by the thought of pediatric care, you could settle a problem that the owner would like fixed.
NOTE: Conducting eye exams on kids really isn’t as bad as it is during peds clinic in optometry school. In clinical practice, the assessments are much quicker and efficient. Not to mention, there is a high level of satisfaction providing clear vision to young patients.
The counterpoint to this concept is that although you want to fill a need in a practice, you also want to enjoy work. If seeing kids for eye exams would truly make you miserable, it wouldn’t make sense to offer that service. The same goes for any void in a practice that an owner would like met.
Every office has headaches. It’s not helpful to brush them off as simply a part of doing business. Rather, create fixes (or be the solution) that could be incorporated to resolving the issues. In short, be a problem solver.
"The counterpoint to this concept is that although you want to fill a need in a practice, you also want to enjoy work. If seeing kids for eye exams would truly make you miserable, it wouldn’t make sense to offer that service. The same goes for any void in a practice that an owner would like met"
(4) Phone versus in-person interview
Whether the first interview takes place in person or over the phone is up to the applicant and employer to decide. A phone conversation usually takes place first, but in-person interviews may occur based on geography. For example, if you live in New York and apply for a position in California, it would be silly to fly to the west coast without first speaking to the hiring party over the phone. However, if you live down the road from the office you are applying to, you may have an initial meeting with the owner at the practice.
To ready yourself for a phone interview, find space in a quiet place, review your research notes on the position and practice, and have a copy of your resume/CV in front of you in case you are asked to provide more detail regarding what is listed.
In preparation for an in-person interview, dress appropriately (no casual wear), shake hands, greet everyone you meet, make eye contact, pay attention, be early, and bring a notepad. During my interviews, I took a pad-folio with my questions written down on the inside. I was surprised how many interviewers were impressed with this simple act, as it demonstrated effort and attention to detail. Any element that you can incorporate to present yourself as the best candidate will go a long way in the hiring process.
REMEMBER: As illustrated in Section 2 and 3 above, try to shift the focus of an interview from what an employer can do for you to what you can do for an employer.
"During my interviews, I took a pad-folio with my questions written down on the inside. I was surprised how many interviewers were impressed with this simple act, as it demonstrated effort and attention to detail. Any element that you can incorporate to present yourself as the best candidate will go a long way in the hiring process."
5. Interview questions
There is no consensus on what questions would/should be asked to a job applicant, nor on what inquiries should be made to the interviewer. It primarily depends on both parties and their objectives, and is unique to each scenario as all practices and candidates differ.
For example, do you want to buy into the practice? You may be inclined to ask questions geared towards the financial health of the practice (gross, net, etc.). Is your focus on expanding the medical care aspect of the practice? Your questions may cater towards equipment and technology available to provide the highest standard of care.
Nevertheless, here are some questions that you may be asked (or consider asking yourself) during an interview (non-exhaustive list):
Questions that you may be ASKED
Questions that you may consider ASKING
REMEMBER: A job interview is as much about you interviewing the employer as it is about an employer interviewing you.
(6) Follow up
Demonstrating gratitude and attention to detail can go a long way during this time. As our world becomes more automated and communication continues to gravitate towards digital/electronic platforms, what often gets lost in the shuffle is the power of human connection. Taking the time to follow up with a thank you card can pay huge dividends and leave a lasting impression on the interviewer. It portrays appreciation and establishes an amicable relationship. Furthermore, people are more likely to hire someone that they find like-able. Lastly, it requires minimal effort, and almost no job applicant does this! If you are looking for a way to stand out, write a thank you card.
Applying for a career position is a great step forward in the job search process, but the job interview is the “make or break” moment for candidates and interviewers alike. The interview gives both parties a feel for a possible future connection and dictates whether a business relationship will develop or be cut short. In essence, it provides an opportunity for an applicant to enthuse a practice owner and cement his/her position as the best fit for the business. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make the most of it.
Stay tuned for an article delving into the art of negotiating and how to excel where most job candidates don’t!
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