“We’re always looking for people who love to engage with customers”
Nimesh Popat, director of Specsavers professional recruitment and retention UK & ROI, and Alan Gregg, head of recruitment services, share their advice on joining the multiple
11 July 2021
What is the one piece of advice that you’d give to someone who wanted to work for the company?Alan Gregg (AG): One of the key things is that we’re a people business, so we’re always looking for people who love to engage with customers and their colleagues, and really have that customer-first mindset.
Nimesh Popat (NP): That is what we are great at: people, looking after our customers in our local community with all of their eye care or hearing requirements. We are looking for somebody who's got a real passion for going that extra mile for us, for our customers.
When you’re shortlisting candidates, what's the very first thing that you look for?AG: Past experience, and what they’re passionate about. We've got many businesses, so we’re able to tailor people towards the type of store that would suit them best. Also, anyone who takes an active part in their own learning. Anyone who is looking to further themselves professionally, and people who want to go the extra mile, to deliver the highest customer service. It all comes back to the customer for us, always.
And how important is the cover letter in applications that you receive?AG: It’s not important at all. We wouldn't require a cover letter from an optometrist. We have a specialist team that does nothing but speak to optometrists, all day, every day, so we make it as easy as possible for them to express their interest. We’ll unearth everything that you might put in a cover letter – we'll have that conversation, and we’ll make sure we're getting all of the information out there so we can pass it on to the store partners to find the best possible fit. Certainly, putting pen to paper is not necessary.
We’ve got many businesses, so we’re able to tailor people towards the type of store that would suit them best
We’re also just conscious that we’re talking about time poor individuals who are busy all day. Everywhere you go on our career site, you’ll find a button that will say ‘quick apply for clinicians.’ We want to speak to people, so the sooner we can get people on the phone the better.
NP: We’re very mindful that it's a candidate-led market. Making things as easy and as convenient as possible is really key to any application.
What's the biggest mistake that someone can make in an interview?AG: I think one of the biggest mistakes is probably around placing emphasis on things that aren’t always the most important. So, that’s probably talking mainly about things like remuneration above other parts of the role. If a candidate is making it all about money, then it’s probably not going to be the right role for them. I think people should be taking into account other things: progression, whether there will be opportunities to become a senior clinician or even a partner, and the flexibility on offer within our stores, rather than concentrating purely on salary. That would be probably the biggest thing.
NP: There is a range of roles for optometrists. You could be refracting, you could be a pre-reg supervisor, you could be a Wales Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre (WOPEC) accreditor, you could be a joint venture partner. There’s so much more to it.
I would say, come to the interview with an open mind. With over 1000 businesses, we have a range of vacancies. We would say ‘come and talk to us, and let us talk to you about what we offer.’ And we will try and tailor-make a package and a role that suits you. We want to give maximum flexibility, whether somebody wants to work school hours, part-time hours. Whatever it may be, the likelihood is we will have a vacancy because of the size of our estate.
We will try and tailor-make a package and a role that suits you. We want to give maximum flexibility
How do you go about ensuring fairness and equality in your hiring process? Do you have specific programmes in place to ensure that?AG: The recruitment team speaks to everybody. Because of the 1000 plus businesses that we have across the UK and Ireland, it allows us to help tailor the right role for the right person. Every store is run by their own directors, and so everyone will get to see every candidate, and every candidate would get to see the store that would suit them best. It might be that you want to work in a big city centre store; or you may want to work in a small store in an outpost somewhere, or it could be that you want part time, full time – all of those things can be taken into account to make sure that you see every possible role. The flexibility that the partners have in terms of what they can add and put into contracts make things flexible and supportive for each individual. So, whether that’s supporting future development courses, if it’s working around particular hours or days – that can all be completely accommodated.
NP: Joint venture partners have got the ability to be creative with their bespoke job offering to meet the requirements of that individual. We’ve got colleagues who want to work from 9am until 2pm; we’ve got colleagues who want to work four long days. And for the right people, joining our team with the right skill set and the right attitude, we will work around that. At a local level, our joint venture partners can do that quite easily.
A new employee is preparing for their first week at Specsavers. What tip would you give them to be successful?
AG: We’ve got a first-class induction programme for new colleagues. The advice would be to absorb all of the different ways our business model operates, because it is unique. And even if you’ve worked in the industry before, our systems and processes could be different from what you used in the past. Because our businesses are operated locally by joint venture partners, it is important to understand the family of the store you join, and what part they play in the community.