Career advice

Inside…R Woodfall Opticians

Practice owner and principal dispensing optician, John Fried, discusses what he is looking for in an optometrist as he seeks to fill a full-time vacancy

People on an escalator

How can prospective employees apply for a position at R Woodfall Opticians?

We welcome direct applications from interested optometrists, who I would encourage to ring our head office practice in Sydenham, South East London, and speak to me personally. I would also be pleased to receive a CV through the post or by email on [email protected]

What is the internal process after an application is made?

I would initially have an informal chat on the phone. I want to hear how the applicant sounds – I am obviously looking for a friendly, approachable person who can communicate well. We would like to employ ‘PLUs’ (people like us) as it is much easier for like-minded people to fit in to our ethos. Following that initial chat, I would invite the candidate for a mutually convenient meeting with myself and, possibly, my operations manager as they would be working closely together.

What is the interview process?

It’s not complicated! As I am the principal of a small, independent group, I would probably invite candidates to come with me to visit the branch where they are likely to be working,  to see the practice or practices for themselves.  

I try to be as open as I can during these discussions as it is important for the candidate to have an understanding of the way we work in our group. For instance, we are looking for optometrists who like a more relaxed work/life balance – we finish at 2pm on Saturdays and we don’t work Bank Holidays. 

I believe in the “try before you buy” maxim. We invite potential employees to do two trial days, which are paid of course, to see how they find us. This has been very successful in finding the right kind of people for all types of staff, including dispensing opticians and receptionists. In addition, I like to let candidates know that they will be supported by fully-qualified dispensing opticians in all of our branches.

What makes a CV stand out?

I would like to see a candidate that has done more than just qualified and completed the necessary ongoing training. This is because they will often be the only optometrist in branch. Across the practice portfolio, we are involved in a range of shared care schemes, so all of our optometrists are MECS or PEARS accredited. 

Examples of professional and personal development are pleasing, together with an interest in caring for patients rather than a high refraction rate.

Finding someone who has had experience in an independent is getting more difficult, but if potential applicants only ever work for multiples and aren’t willing to try the independent sector, it doesn’t bode well for the future of the independent sector. We are happy to support applicants in making that change in setting.

What are you looking for in a cover letter and why?

Good, clear, neat handwriting is important, plus correct contact information. A convincing and individual reason as to why they particularly want to work with our team is also desirable.

How should a candidate prepare for an interview?

I would like to think that any candidate wanting to work for us would check us out. Look at our branches and their locations and have some questions about us to ask that are not the usual run of the mill questions. Dress smartly as you would intend to do should you be successful. Be on time and try to relax.

What three interview tips would you give a candidate?

Try to relax and smile. Look at me when we are talking and ask me lots of interesting and possibly difficult questions. Focus on your professional training and scope of practice we allow you to offer, rather than focus on salaries.

What are your interview “pet peeves”? 

Candidates who have not taken the trouble to find out about our location in advance, especially those who are therefore late for the interview. If the advertisement says we are looking for someone based in South East London, don’t be surprised when you realise there isn’t a tube station nearby to our practices.

"I believe in the “try before you buy” maxim. We invite potential employees to do two trial days, which are paid of course, to see how they find us"

What are the benefits of working at R G Woodfall?

We believe in a good work/life balance, which is why our working hours, such as closing at 2pm on a Saturday, not opening on a Sunday and no evenings or Bank Holidays, have been established. While salary may not match everyone’s expectations, we believe that these benefits more than make up for it.

We have eight part-time and full-time optometrists in the group, most of which move around between our practices rather than being based in a single practice for a whole day.

Optometrists will perform between 10 and 12 tests a day, with around 30 minutes allocated for adults, 40 minutes for patients over the age of 75 and 20 minutes for children.

Sum up your ideal candidate in three words?

Enthusiastic, professional, passionate.

R Woodfall Opticians is currently seeking a full-time optometrist to work across its six practices in South East London. The position is 35 hours a week, excluding Sundays. The group closes at 2pm on Saturdays and a day off in the week is given. 

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