My career advice

“We are there for our customers, but we’re also there for our colleagues”

Stuart Parr, national healthcare manager for optical, pharmacy and medicines at Asda Opticians, explains why the multiple is committed to removing barriers to recruitment and why flexibility will always be key

office desk
Pixabay/Ovidiu Tepes
Stuart Parr
Stuart Parr

What is the one piece of advice that you’d give to someone who wanted to work for Asda Opticians?

Go and visit a store and meet our colleagues. It’s a different environment from working in a High Street practice. There’s a lot of buzz around, because there are people doing their shopping. Asda invests time in training colleagues, so they’re quite knowledgeable. It’s good for candidates to go in and have a chat.

What kind of things do you look for in terms of attitude?

Our patient base is very broad. We have a typical supermarket shopper: everyone, and all age groups. Lots of kids come in with their families, and lots of elderly people do their shopping and look for reassurance and advice when it comes to their eyes and for clinical support at the same time. So, I’d look for someone who is going to embrace the challenge of having a different person every day. We have a broad spectrum of people that come to us, and that’s the first challenge for everyone who comes in, which makes it quite rewarding. People trust the Asda brand, and because of that they trust Asda Opticians as well. Thankfully that trust is something we can provide.

How important is work experience?

At the moment, we don’t have a pre-reg programme. As a business, we’ve got very comprehensive standard operating procedures that adhere very closely to the General Optical Council (GOC) guidelines, so our structure is very supportive. We also have a strong compliance team that supports anybody who joins the business, and we have induction training with new hires for four or five days before they start. We don’t expect them to walk in and start immediately. We've got support, and we do things like annual clinical audits, following National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines in relation to the type of examinations that we do. We give recent hires feedback, to make sure that they’re going in the right direction. If there’s anything they’re missing out, we can give them proper support. So, experience is important – but we’ve got a network in place where we can support somebody who is new to the business, and most people are new because we don't grow our own. We expect people to come in with a fresh outlook, and then set them up properly so that they succeed.

We expect people to come in with a fresh outlook, and then set them up properly so that they succeed


How important is the cover letter?

We’ve just changed our application process. Candidates apply online, through Asda Jobs or Indeed. We’ll look at the cover letter and look at the CV, because they’re both things that we ask them to upload. The cover letter gives us an indicator of what their experience is, and what their outlook is. So, it’s beneficial to include, but ultimately, it’s just one part of the review and interview process. We will speak to the candidate anyway, so I wouldn’t say that they have to spend hours on it. A brief outline of where they are and the kind of person they are is ideal.

What’s the biggest mistake that someone can make in an interview for Asda Opticians?

If there was something that a candidate said that was untoward, we would always explore that as part of the process. The follow-up after the recorded interview is first person. The only way to find out who somebody is is to have a conversation with them, so if there was a red flag, we would explore that to make sure we understood fully what they meant.

How do you go about ensuring fairness and equality in your hiring process?

We have criteria that we’re marking people against, and that’s inherent in this new process. The questions are the same, and we relate them then to the roles that we’re looking for. It doesn’t matter about age, religion, or experience. We’re really looking for behaviours and ability within the individual.

As mentioned, we have the opportunity for the candidate to go in and view the store, to see the environment they’ll potentially be working in. You can spend a lot of time with line manager and the team as part of the interview process, which is a good thing. That’s fair, because it helps the candidate understand the environment they’re coming into, and also what the business looks like.

It doesn’t matter about age, religion, or experience. We’re really looking for behaviours and ability within the individual


We always follow up: what did they enjoy about the experience, and what did they perhaps miss? We make sure that we can answer as many questions as we can before we complete the interview cycle.

A new employee is preparing for their first week at Asda Opticians. What tip would you give them to be successful?

Be open to your experience. We have a number of online training modules that bring new hires into the company, so they understand what makes Asda Opticians tick. All our stores look forward to taking on new optometrists, because a new optometrist brings a whole new way of working: whether with the equipment they use, the way they deal with our customers, or the service they provide. The teams are keen to take on and support new people whenever they can. So, my advice would be to be open to new training, be open to the culture that Asda has, and be ready to be welcomed with open arms.

How important is employee wellbeing at Asda Opticians?

100%. You’re joining the Asda family. We have lots of benefits that support the individual on joining: discounts on pet and travel insurance, on cinema tickets, on shopping. These are all available to you. Asda is all about keeping people within the fold, and making sure people are safe and looked after.

We are flexible. People might think that working at Asda means you have to work late nights, weekends, or Sundays. But we’ve got a raft of options when it comes to temping, working part-time, extended breaks, weekend working, and rotas that do or don’t include weekends or late nights. The store is open 24 hours on a lot of occasions, but our optical department is not. We are there for our customers, but we’re also there for our colleagues. We don’t expect them to work horrible hours. I think people maybe have a bit of a preconceived idea about supermarkets, that they’ll find themselves working until 10pm. But we’re aware that: we want a balance between work and life, both for our customers and the people who work for us.