Customer Service

Focus on soft skills

When hiring a new employee, ask the right questions.

When hiring a new employee, managers face the challenge of identifying the right candidate. During the interview process, they often focus on the candidate’s skills, knowledge, and abilities learned and demonstrated at previous positions.

While it is important to concentrate on essential job requirements, managers also need to search for candidates who display the right attitude and “soft skills” or interpersonal skills for patient care. However, identifying these qualities in an individual can prove challenging. Managers can improve their hiring success by asking soft skill questions that reveal a candidate’s personality and to understand how they respond to stressful situations.

Ophthalmic professionals may wish to develop an interview guide that includes the following queries related to customer service, team orientation, and flexibility.

Customer service interview questions

With a few brief questions, managers can identify how a candidate may handle customer service issues. These questions can help when hiring for positions that directly interact with patients. Managers can focus on the candidate’s ability to demonstrate self-awareness and self-control.

The prospective employee also should be able to provide examples that show capacity to recognize and meet patients’ needs.

Examples of customer service questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you went out of your way to give excellent service to a patient or customer. Were you able to exceed that patient/customer’s expectations?
  • Describe a difficult time you have had dealing with a patient or customer. Why was it difficult? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a situation in which you “lost it” or did not do your best with a customer. What did you do about this?
  • Tell me about a time when you asked for feedback on your customer service skills from your manager or co-worker and then used that response to improve your work.

What you need to hear:

  • Listen for a candidate’s ability to identify a patient issue and resolve the problem, with or without assistance from management.
  • Pay attention to examples of how a candidate exceeded customer expectations.
  • Focus on a candidate’s ability to take feedback and improve their interactions with patients.

Team-oriented questions

Ophthalmology offices require a team approach to patient care. Each area in the practice impacts a patient’s experience in the office. Hiring employees who can work well in a team environment is critical to maintaining a positive culture.

In addition to asking questions about team orientation, managers may also ask other staff members to interview candidates. This process can help to ensure that everyone on the team agrees with bringing the new person on board.

Examples of team-oriented questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you were part of a great team. What was your role in making the team effective?
  • Tell me about the most useful contribution you have made as part of a task group or special project team.
  • Tell me about a time you pitched in to help a team member finish a project even though it “wasn’t your job.” What was the result?
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker. How did you handle the situation?

What you need to hear:

  • Listen for responses that display teamwork and collaboration.
  • Ask follow-up questions to reveal the candidate’s level of self-control.
  • Pay attention to possible issues of a candidate failing to accept responsibilities for mistakes.

Flexibility questions

Today’s ophthalmology practice is fast-paced. Regardless of position, ophthalmic professionals must be flexible and “light on their feet.” Superior customer service often requires that staff members change gears quickly to take care of patient needs.

Examples of flexibility questions:

  • Give an example of a time when you tried to meet a deadline but were interrupted and ultimately did not make the deadline. How did you respond?
  • Suppose you are in a job where deadlines and priorities change frequently and rapidly. How would you handle it?
  • Your shift is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. At 4 p.m., the office receives a call from a patient who has a chemical burn in his eye. The manager asks for volunteers to stay late and help the patient. How would you respond?

What you need to hear:

  • Listen for the ability to be flexible, even in times of extreme pressure.
  • Identify whether the person has a sense of humor and can help deescalate stressful situations.
  • Take notice of a candidate’s unwillingness to be flexible during medical emergencies.


Managers can improve customer service by focusing on the right questions during the interview process. The most suitable candidates may not have ophthalmology experience, but they should have the sufficient soft skills to take excellent care of patients. Managers can always teach eye care to a person who fits into the practice’s culture. OP