Hiring in optometry is a lot like most industries—certain positions (like optometrists and ophthalmologists) require a lot more training and education than others (like opticians and eye care assistants). For those higher-level roles where a doctorate is needed just to get in the door, experience and expertise are essential. But for optometry customer service roles, attitude is just as important as knowledge.
Which is better, hiring for personality or hiring for skills? This can be a tough decision for practice managers and owners.
In many ways, that depends on your own philosophies as a businessperson and eye care specialist.
Many companies choose to focus on attitude and demeanor during interviews rather than putting a lot of emphasis on knowledge and abilities. In fact, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group swears by this approach and encourages other business owners to do the same.
"Personality always wins over book smarts. Company knowledge and job-specific skills can be learned, but you can't train a personality."
– Sir Richard Branson
If you decide to make hiring for personality your recruiting approach, then having a top-notch training program is a must. By choosing employees based on attitude, you are committing to helping them grow in the role and teaching them the skills needed to succeed in your optical boutique or optometry/ophthalmology practice.
This will require patience and a significant ramping up period to get new hires up to speed. If you are not able to pledge this time or provide the proper level of instruction for these employees to thrive, you will need to focus on hiring for skills instead.
While a lot of organizations like to hire based on personality, just as many companies use skills and experience as the foundation for their hiring decisions. Robert Herjavec of Shark Tank fame is one such employer who focuses on skills and motivation when selecting candidates for open positions.
In a lot of ways, hiring for skills is easier and more objective than hiring for personality. There are a number of skills-based exams that can be administered throughout the interview process, and many employers choose to conduct working interviews where they can see a candidate’s skills in action. However, concentrating solely on a candidate’s experience and abilities when making hiring decisions ignores culture fit, which plays an important part in employee morale and can be a key contributor to turnover.
As mentioned above, certain eye care roles require significant training and licensure or certification. For other positions, on-the-job training is more than sufficient. The education necessary to gain certification as an optician is just a start, and many practices have particular processes that they prefer to train new employees on, which makes temperament and disposition a bit more important.
In the case of optician hiring—as well as recruiting for assistants, receptionists, and other optometry customer service roles—a lack of previous eye care experience or industry skills is simply not as critical, especially if the candidate in question has a great attitude and is willing to work hard and learn.
The cost of a bad hire can be surprising. When it comes to an eye care practice or optical boutique, however, hiring a person with insufficient skills can put patients at risk and hiring a person with the wrong personality can drive away customers. Ultimately, the decision to focus on skills or personality depends upon your needs as an employer and your willingness/ability to train new hires.