These are exciting times for optometrists, as shared healthcare models, and thriving stores in both the multiple and independent sectors, create new opportunities for professional development and a satisfying career.
But this energetic market holds challenges. Recruiters can choose from a mass of candidates with equally impressive qualifications and experience, and if that dream job is in a popular geographical location (city centre near one of the qualifying universities) then only stand-out candidates will be shortlisted.
So how do you measure up? If a recruiter had to choose between you and a fellow optometrist, with similar qualifications and experience, would they feel compelled to make you a job offer? Our top five tips should boost your prospects
1. Frame your success: prepare well
Even before you draft your job application it pays to prepare, and to understand the culture and environment you would be working in, as Victoria Taylor, head of professional recruitment UK at Specsavers Optical Stores, explains. “Before you apply, do your research. Look at our careers website [for example] and visit a store.”
Be prepared to talk about your career history and motivations from an early stage in the application process, as telephone screening is widely used by both the multiples’ in- house recruitment teams and by consultants working for the independents.
2. Polish your CV
All optometrists’ CVs are expected to show clear career progression, and of course, professional registration with the General Optical Council (GOC). Next, consider those other details which will really grab attention, says Maria Georgiou, managing director of Match2Match Opthalmic Bespoke Recruitment Specialists.
“A great CV would show that an optometrist is both clinically minded and commercially aware”, she says.
Candidates should also demonstrate that elusive quality - being “a team player”. At the College of Optometrists, lead assessor for the scheme for registration Ruth Brough recommends that CVs list specific initiatives you supported at your existing practice. “Show that you have been involved in staff training or in informing colleagues of changes, for example”, she says.
3. Focussed first interview
Make a good impression as soon as you walk through the door. This is a customer-facing role, and so your dress and demeanour should demonstrate to the recruiter that you are a smart, professional-looking clinician. Proffer a confident handshake and a warm manner.
Exceptional optometrists add value: in terms of clinical expertise, maintaining relations with local healthcare professionals, and in customer care.
“So, in an interview show how you have gone the extra mile for someone”, says Victoria Taylor. “Have a real-life example ready to explain this. Essentially, we know that a qualified optometrist has clinical ability, but going above and beyond expectations shows they would fit our service ethos and be a valuable team member.”
4. Pin-sharp second interview
Second interviews are the opportunity to show that you understand the culture and aims of the practice. Expect a practical element to this stage of the process (perhaps a trial day) and in-depth questions about points covered in the first interview.
If you are in-store then make sure that you introduce yourself to others when appropriate. "Show a willingness to co-operate and interact with the team”, says Stephen May, director at Vivid Optical consultancy.
Both multiples and directors often invite candidates to a coffee with the practice director, but despite the supposed informality do not drop your guard. “However relaxed the atmosphere becomes, never forget that you are on trial”, says careers expert Ros Jay in her book Brilliant Interview.*
5.Visualise the future
Even if you land that dream job your efforts to be an outstanding candidate must continue.
Keep an eye on your future prospects by updating your skills base.
At the College of Optometrists Ruth Brough explains that as well as maintaining your GOC registration (with 36 hours of CPD over a three-year period) it is important to expand your skills base, and become involved in the changes being implemented across the healthcare landscape, such as the move to shared care, or the referral of less standardised optometry services from hospitals to optometrists. There are new opportunities in areas such as low vision, glaucoma referral refinement, diabetic screening or independent prescribing, which will complement this experience.
“There is so much learning that you can do online”, she says, pointing out that Cardiff University, for example, offers online postgraduate training and that tests such as Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE) can be held locally.
*Brilliant Interview by Ros Jay, published by Prentice Hall, 2002.