Published in Non-Clinical

Optometry Interview Red Flags: Uncovering Poor Practices

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6 min read

Discover five key red flags to keep in mind when interviewing for optometry jobs at new practices.

Optometry Interview Red Flags: Uncovering Poor Practices
Attaining your dream job isn’t always easy. In the midst of the search, you may even start discovering some serious red flags that put a pit in your stomach.
In this article, I’m sharing five red flags I’ve either seen or personally experienced in the interview process so you can steer clear and aim toward the finish line.

Red flag #1: The “quick hire”

While it’s completely understandable that practice owners have a need to fill their associate positions, you may want to avoid practices where it feels like they’re looking for a “quick hire.”
In the interview, it’s important that the practice owner gets to know you as much as possible—asking, “So when is your ideal start date?” doesn’t count! Comparatively, a more stable practice will talk about the specific needs of the practice and their plans to address them.
Perhaps they opened a new location or are looking for an associate to lead a new specialty, which they already have or would like to implement and are willing to financially back. It’s important for you to be more than just an “easy fill” for a position. If you feel the employer is overly anxious to fill the position, it could be a key indicator that they haven’t had success in the past, which brings us to our next point.

Red flag #2: High associate turnover

What happened in the past doesn’t always STAY in the past, and that can be especially true when it comes to the ghosts of a practice’s past: former associates.
Quick turnover could be a key indicator of managerial issues, a lack of opportunity, or fractured relationships. While a bit direct, I encourage interviewees to ask practice owners what the relationship was and currently is like with their former associates. You may not always get an honest answer, but if something feels “off,” it may not be a bad idea to also get the perspectives from staff or reach out to the past associate directly.
I once interviewed at a practice where the associate who was leaving insisted I take their number “to assist with ANY questions I may have.” In a private conversation, they divulged much more information and saved me from a practice I would not have been well suited for.

Red flag #3: Low offers or offers with strings attached

It can sometimes be hard to know if you’re on the receiving end of a low offer. However, as you continue to interview and talk numbers, your radar becomes keener on where the mark should be. But that doesn’t make it less jarring to be on the receiving end of a low offer.
I once interviewed at a large ophthalmology group practice. In several other discussions, it became evident that they would aim to take a portion of outside work (i.e., moonlighting, honorarium for ad boards, earnings for creative content) if it exceeded $5k.
The rationale given was that “these activities distracted practitioners from their work at the practice.” Of course, these special strings attached gave me the instant “ick,” but I kept it to myself until we started to discuss salary.
When the starting offer was revealed at $110k compared to a more appropriate $120 to 130k for North Carolina associates, I knew I had to confront this red flag. When asked if I would accept, I simply stated, “I can’t entertain that offer, especially given the stipulation on reducing additional opportunities for revenue.” I never heard back from the practice but knew I had not only avoided a red flag, but I had also dodged a bullet.

Red flag #4: Build your patient base

I was always wary of contractual agreements that make it sound like you have to build your own patient base. Especially when production-based models typically depend on a fuller patient schedule or bigger sales and a higher capture rate per patient.
When reviewing a contract with one of my co-residents, we each discussed our perspectives. Needing to build up a patient base as an associate may not be as much of a red flag IF the practice is willing to help!
My colleague noted that while their contract had a similar contingency, their practice was willing to help with advertising and sharing their patients if other doctors were out of the clinic. Ultimately, my co-resident was up to speed at 6 months, and 2 years in, they are coasting steadily.

Red flag #5: Difficult or stagnant negotiations

If the negotiations are tense, you may need to consider your options as it may be telling of how subsequent encounters will unfold. Working with a difficult negotiator could create future employment disagreements regarding raises, paid time off (PTO), and other requests that come up down the line.
Additionally, stagnant negotiations or stalling decisions can be a major red flag. I once had a prospective employer blame their manager one week and a family situation the next when I inquired about the pending status of my contract. I never understood the true nature of the deferral, but it’s truly water under the bridge.
We still see each other from time to time and wish each other well. I firmly believe that what’s meant to be WILL BE!

Final thoughts

Finding the right practice is a process. Even with all the information on hand, it's of utmost importance to remember that one person's red flag may be another’s white flag, indicating it’s safe to proceed forward and onto negotiations.
The ultimate decision comes down to you and your gut feelings. But if you stay true to yourself and your goals, the right job will come along.
Emilie Seitz, OD, FAAO
About Emilie Seitz, OD, FAAO

Dr. Emilie Seitz is a North Coast native from Cleveland, Ohio. She studied Biology at The Ohio State University. Following her undergraduate studies, Dr. Seitz obtained her doctorate degree in 2020 from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University in Philadelphia, PA.

She completed her optometry rotations in 4 different states: Ohio (Cleveland Eye Clinic), Pennsylvania (Nittany Eye Associates), Kentucky (Danville Eye Center), and North Carolina (South Charlotte Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center). After graduation, Dr. Seitz completed her residency in ocular disease at the WG (Bill) Hefner VAMC in Salisbury, NC, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emilie Seitz, OD, FAAO
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