Smiling optometrist and optometric assistant posing inside their practice

7 Tips for Hiring an Optometric Assistant

If your office needs an optometric assistant, the hiring process may seem daunting, especially if you do not have a human resources department available to lead the search for the right employee. Recruiting top talent in the current optometry job market might be tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find someone to help your practice thrive.

Whether you have a strong background in recruiting and know what to look for (as well as the red flags to avoid) or this is your first time leading a hiring initiative, here are seven hiring tips to consider when looking for your next optometric assistant:


1. Find the Best Selection of Candidates

There is certainly strength in numbers when it comes to hiring. Everything from a poorly advertised vacancy that receives little response to the unfortunate mistake of putting your faith in one single applicant can leave you without a strong candidate and leave your practice without the right support.

It can be easy for a job posting to become lost on overcrowded, generic job search sites. Or worse, your ad could produce a large amount of irrelevant applications. Narrowing your search to an industry-focused site will likely generate less submissions but attract more qualified candidates. For these reasons, it’s best to use a range of tools and hiring resources to increase your odds of finding a good match for your needs.


Optometrist interviewing candidate for optometric assistant position


2. Invite them to Ask Questions

Once you’ve identified a shortlist of suitable candidates, the next step is to begin the interview process. Whether you choose to utilize a traditional resume-based interview format, decide to conduct a panel interview, or go with a structured situational interview is up to you.

Although a majority of prospective employees will be prepared for some of the most common job interview questions, it is often very telling how they respond to being asked if they have any questions in return.

After you have completed your chosen questions, invite the individual to ask you about the position. HR managers are often skeptical of candidates who are unprepared to ask any questions of their own, as it demonstrates a lack of preparedness and possible disinterest in the job.

Many candidates will ask about logistic details, such as the hours they will be expected to work. They will likely ask about compensation as well, which is normal and an important step in the hiring process. However, very strong applicants will ask questions that show a genuine interest in you and your place of work.

Candidates who have a clear vision and ask about the culture and dynamic of your workplace—as well as opportunities to grow or climb up the ladder—reflect a strong interest in a long-lasting position as part of their career, and this commitment should be noted.


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3. Consider Their Educational Background

Candidates for this position may come from diverse educational backgrounds. Although there are certificate programs offered at community colleges and other post-secondary institutions, there are many qualified optometric assistants who will not have any more formal education than their high school diploma.

Of course, education is not everything. Candidates with relevant experience and highly specialized skills could prove to be a strong fit for the position. However, vocational training can never hurt an applicant.

If you are unfamiliar with an institution or program listed in the education section of their résumé, it may be beneficial to do a little bit of research. You may be pleasantly surprised by the merits offered by their specific program or convinced that their college is not an accredited institution. Regardless, knowing more about your applicants’ education can only help your hiring process.


Optometrist having a discussion with optometry assistant at her desk


4. Delve into the Merits of Their Experience

Even first-time assistants can bring relevant experience to the table. Obviously, if they have worked as an optometry assistant before, or anywhere in the medical field, that is a good sign.

However, there are other fields where applicants can pick up relevant skills and experience. If they have a long history working closely with customers, it can be a strong sign they will be good with patients. Administration is also a huge aspect of the job, so previous administrative positions are a plus.

Before an interview, take another quick look at your applicant’s résumé. Ask them specific questions about how their experience is relevant to the job, even if it was outside the optometry field. This will enable you to evaluate a candidate’s ability to think on their feet as well as gauge the transferable skills they have to offer.


5. Take References Seriously

Checking candidate references is an incredibly important step in the hiring process. Too many employers do themselves a major disservice by not taking their own request for references seriously. Although they may ask candidates to bring in contact information for professional references, many hiring managers never actually get around to calling them.

If you want to know what your applicants will be like when they aren’t trying to impress you during an interview, references are a window into their everyday lives. Also be wary of some red flags to look out for when it comes to references. It is a bad sign if references:

  • Seem reluctant to discuss a candidate
  • Were unaware they were listed as a reference
  • Are not professional in nature (such as neighbors, friends, or family members)
  • Cannot be reached at the number given


Optometric assistant working patiently with a child


6. Test Their Ability to Work with People

Working with patients is part of the job description, so candidates that are a little rough around the edges may not thrive in this environment. During interviews, take prospective hires on brief tours through your office, and introduce them to staff along the way. You may also choose to invite them to shadow another optometric assistant or a technician for a day to see how they will fit in to the team. The way they interact with staff will provide useful information as to how they get along with people in general.

Of course, your first consideration should be your patients. If you have many children or elderly patients coming in, it’s critical to ensure that all applicants are comfortable working around these populations and accommodating their specific needs.


7. Make an Informed Decision

For many years, a common piece of hiring advice for the optometry field and beyond was to “go with your gut.” Although it’s difficult to argue against the valuable role intuition has to play in making important decisions, recruiting requires more than having “a good feeling” about a candidate.

It’s important to stay objective throughout the hiring process and you should try your best to eliminate hiring biases. This isn’t just about fairness, either. If you make biased hiring selections, you will expose your practice to potential lawsuits. Furthermore, after reviewing dozens of resumes, conducting interviews, checking credentials, and following up with references, you owe it to yourself, your practice, and your patients to be more logical with your final decision.


Once you’ve identified the best fit for your optometric assistant opening, it’s best to extend a verbal job offer so you can snatch this lucky applicant up before someone else does.

By iHire | April 22, 2019