Young people (and not only they) spend in average dozens of hours each week looking at some screens. TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone–the device doesn’t make much difference when it comes to vision problems, which are, and will be, ever more prevalent. We have to face this reality and many would say it is not one of the biggest problems we face in the 21st century. But everything relates to everything, and it is foolish to believe that this generation will save the world…

At least you, with an O.D. degree, can find something positive about this otherwise sad trend. Your career outlook is good, they need you, and you won’t typically have to beat twenty other people in the interviews to get the job. So what will happen?

They will start with typical questions about your career choice, and education (just to briefly explain where you studied and so on). Then they will continue with some questions about your expectations when it comes to the job (not only in terms of your salary), and questions about certain situations you may experience in your practice. For example, a client does not want to pay, or a child is afraid of the examination, or someone accuses you of a bad service, and so on. Let’s have a look at some of these questions, one by one.


Why do you want to work as an Optometrist?

Just do not say that you want the job because you’ve earned your degree in Optometry (and spent a lot of time and money in the process). Such an answer would indicate a must, while you want to show a desire to have this job. And a desire has nothing to do with your past, with what you studied or did before…

You can focus on a couple of things here. First one is the meaningful purpose of the job. Just as I described in my slightly philosophical opening to this article, US public needs you, because our lifestyle and diet cannot lead to a healthy body, eyes including. People will need glasses and contacts in the decades to come. Humans are visual beings, sight is our most important sense, and you see a meaningful purpose in helping people to effectively diagnose and address their sight problems.

Second thing is your love for this type of work. You enjoy working with people and the sophisticated devices you’ll have in your office. It is a clean job, in a nice environment, salary is great, and you can barely see a reason why someone would not want to work as an Optometrist.


Can you tell us a bit more about your education in the field of Optometry?

No need to recite the entire curricula. Just tell them where you studied, names of the leading professors, and perhaps the key things you learned at school. It can be anything from modern diagnosis methods to interpersonal skills, which you will undoubtedly need in your work.

Another good idea is referring to your thesis, explaining the subject you examined, and the conclusions you came to. Try to speak with some enthusiasm. They should get an impression that you enjoyed your studies, love your field, and cannot wait to start practicing it with the patients. Of course, you should also briefly mention any hands-on experience you obtained during your studies (residency).


What do you expect from working here as an Optometrist?

Again you have a couple of options for a good answer. First one is saying that you simply seek daily satisfaction from a well-done job, knowing that you tried your best with every client, and that you are actually helping people. No big goals or dreams, no thinking about career growth. You just want to be a good optometrist, someone who makes a positive difference in the lives of their patients, and enjoys their daily job.

Second option is talking about a learning experience. Perhaps this is your first job application. You studied well, did what you could to get ready, but certain things one just cannot simulate outside of an Optometrist’s practice. Now you have your degree, but you know that your journey is far from over. On the contrary, you hope to learn a lot in the job, not only when it comes to diagnosis of various sight problems and prescribing collective lenses, but also when it comes to interactions with the patients, and other areas related to the job.

What are your salary expectations?

The average optometrist salary varies greatly depending on the state, and you should do your research. Luckily enough, almost everything is online nowadays, and you can easily find a figure you can refer to in your interviews. Do not forget that the average salaries you will find online often include benefits as well, so you should take it into consideration when describing your expectations.

Another alternative is saying that you will accept the standard starting salary they pay their new optometrists. You will hardly end up underpaid in one of the private clinics or hospitals. What’s more, saying that you do not mind (and will accept their standard offer) is a clear indication that salary is not the deciding factor for you, and you aren’t in only for a big salary (which you will earn anyway).


A child starts crying in your practice, being afraid of the examination. What will you do?

Most doctors love to work with children, but it doesn’t go without some peculiarities. You can start by saying that, if you work with children, you will try to make them feel safe right from the start. Maybe having a teddy-bear in the office, or some other toys, or giving them a candy together with a warm smile as soon as they enter. You will try to make a good connection immediately, to help them alleviate the fear they may naturally feel (as they would do with any other doctor).

If it doesn’t work, however, you can say that you’ll repeatedly ensure them the procedure isn’t painful, or even come up with some gamification ideas. For example including some scores and rewards in the process. If they behave well and can read this or that, they’ll get a candy (or a piece of fruit if prefer more healthy rewards). One way or another, ensure the interviewers that you have your ideas and remedies, and won’t find it hard working with children.


A patient comes to your practice saying that they experience vision problems, but lost their job during the pandemic and are out of funds and cannot pay for the examination. What will you do?

Interviewers care mostly about your attitude. Of course, you would hardly keep your practice operational if you treated people for free. What’s more, examining one patient without asking for a payment can easily backfire. Other patients may find out, and since so many people struggle with money nowadays, soon everyone is asking for a discount, or even for a free treatment, and your practice ends up in red numbers. Can you afford such a risk?

Try to demonstrate that you see all facets of the problem. Sure, you will not refuse to treat someone. But you will try to work out a repayment plan with them. And if they really do not have any money and likely won’t have them in the future, you will try to give them some suggestions: maybe they can ask their family for financial help, or take a medical loan, etc.

At the end of the day, you will do the examination, but you will also try your best to eventually get the payment, helping the patient to figure out a way how to get some funds.


Other questions you may face in your Optometrist job interview

  • In your opinion, what are the latest trends in Optometry?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years from now? Do you want to start your own practice eventually?
  • Do you have any shadowing/volunteering experience? If you do, what is the most important thing you learned during your experience?
  • A patient storms into your office accusing you of a bad service, because the lenses you prescribed them do not help them. How will you react?
  • Many places are looking for Optometrists nowadays. Why did you pick our clinic?
  • Does your academic record accurately reflect your capabilities?
  • After everything we discussed here, do you want to add something or do you have any questions?


Final thoughts

Having an O.D. degree will take you a long way in this interview, because it in a way guarantees that you can do your work. Hiring managers have no reasons to doubt your education and readiness for the job. On the other hand, healthcare has become much more sophisticated in the last decades. Optometrists should not only excel in their field. They should also provide great customer service to the patients, making sure they will return and recommend their place to their friends.

That’s why you can expect questions about certain situations you may experience in the job, such as having a conflict with a patient, someone accusing you of a bad service, or having to deal with a crying child who’s afraid of the diagnostics. Make sure you get ready for the questions and avoid an embarrassing silence in the interviews. I hope you will succeed, and wish you good luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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