The Perfect Candidate

Behavioral interviewing tells us a lot about a person – especially their perceptions of themselves, their actions and experiences. In a behavioral interview, the interviewer asks probing questions and the way they are answered can often be the best way to predict a candidate’s future job performance. In other words, what you see and hear is a sort of preview of upcoming attractions.

Questions are framed to uncover and understand the candidate’s past job behavior, work experience, intellectual capacity, interpersonal skills and what motivates them. It’s difficult for a candidate to avoid answering as each question is designed to be open-ended, and a simple “yes” or “no” just won’t do.

Believe it or not, there are self-perceived ‘perfect candidates’ lurking amongst us. These are the candidates that can’t seem to recall anything that would portray them as less than perfect. Really? That would be correct. These candidates attempt to strategically dodge each and every question, often never admitting to any mistakes they have made or incorrect actions they took. It’s not realistic nor believable for anyone to not have the self awareness to admit that they have made mistakes during their career. Let’s face it – that’s how many of us learn. Stepping up to the plate and admitting a shortcoming or bad decision shows that yes, you are human, you made a mistake and grew from that experience. It’s ok.

In behavioral-based interviewing the candidate is often asked how to describe an activity that centers around their experience, technical capability, leadership/management skills, analytical skills, interpersonal/writing skills and other critical areas important to the role they are seeking.

I challenge you to prepare and practice examples of moments during your career where you know you made mistakes. Don’t try to “reach for an answer” during an interview. It comes across disingenuous and downright phony, and can also disqualify your candidacy.

Develop the answers now so you will be prepared for questions like the ones noted below:
Tell me about a time when you had to take the initiative and drive a project for your team that was not going well. How did you use that experience to coach and mentor?
Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult provider during an implementation. How did you handle the situation and what was the result?
Give me an example of a challenge you faced in your current role and elaborate on how you solved it.
Tell me about a time when you had to handle a very difficult leadership situation. What did you do?
Give me an example regarding a conflict with a coworker and how you resolved it.

While these are not rocket-science questions, they deserve genuine and honest answers to help demonstrate your value to an organization that may be placing high bets on you and the future of the establishment.

Listen to the question, pause and think about the answer for a few seconds. Be yourself – be honest and above all – don’t candy coat the answer. We are all human.

Top 6 LinkedIn Candidate Debacles

Social media has certainly been a game-changer in today’s competitive job market, and LinkedIn is a very important part of a candidate’s virtual representation of their career accomplishments. With over 135 million members and two new accounts signing up per second, LinkedIn is becoming an ever more important professional networking and job search tool. If you think having a stellar resume is the way recruiters or future employers will evaluate and vet you as a candidate, think again. Your resume, while still a key requirement when seeking a new employer, is only part of the hiring equation. I’m baffled when I talk to an outstanding candidate who has an incomplete LinkedIn profile or a profile that’s… let’s just say is less than flattering.

Try to avoid (at all cost) falling into the “disqualified” category and make sure your Linkedin profile does not negatively impact your ability to land a new gig. Here are some tips from someone (that’d be me) who looks at hundreds of profiles every week:

Profile Photo– Stay away from unflattering photos of you having a beer with friends. It’s just not smart. Also, lose the outdated (by 20+ years) photo of yourself in your attempt to convince the world that you’ve found the Fountain of Youth. Most importantly, use a photo of yourself – not some silly cartoon avatar. We live and work in a professional world so make sure your photo is current and represents your professional self! It’s fine to have a casual photo of yourself as long as it is in good taste.

Work History– Make sure your work history is an accurate mirror image of your resume, especially in terms of its chronology of the Who, What and Where you’ve been during your career. Make sure any between-careers gaps are reflected with a consulting role (if you’ve had one). If you took a sabbatical, it’s ok to list that both on your resume and LI profile. Be accurate and disclose, disclose, disclose…

Contact Info– There is a section in your profile that gives the reader Advice for Contacting you. Make sure you use that field to input your e-mail address. The actual place to input your e-mail on your profile may vary depending on your LI subscription – but find a way to make your e-mail visible.

Interested In- If you want to be contacted about new job opportunities, LI has a specific place for you to “Opt In”. This section gives those sending an InMail way to contact you that matches the things you are most interested in. For example: Tim is interested in: Career Opportunities, Consulting Offers, New Ventures, Job Inquiries, Expertise Requests, Business Deals, Reference Requests, and Getting Back in Touch. If you turn this feature OFF, you are also limiting people from contacting you. Make sure you understand the importance of this feature.

Stay Current- Make sure your latest role and title are current with where you are today. So many candidates start a new job with a new organization, new title, new geography and perhaps more responsibility and forget to update their LI profile to reflect the changes. Make sure you check your profile for accuracy, and add any new content including educational courses or certificates you’ve earned.

Recommendations/Endorsements– This becomes important when a recruiter or hiring manager has a relationship or knows the person who wrote your recommendation, whether it’s personal or through the HCIT industry. Make sure people who write a recommendation for you have actually been an eyewitness to your work! Having no recommendations… it’s not recommended!

Hope this helps.

RELO on the Cheap?

Earlier this year we were engaged to find a senior executive for a leading healthcare organization which would likely involve relocation. Relos have somewhat declined in our practice post-economic meltdown, largely due to the upside-down equity that many Americans have in their home values. That, in turn, forces a very geocentric talent search – starting out in the area the client is based and usually expanding state-wide, then regionally and eventually nationally. We’ve certainly done a number of relos in the past few years and employers, while interested in having a broad slate of candidates to choose from, still seem to be stuck in the fall of 2008 – afraid to make the relocation investment to find the perfect candidate.

I was asked earlier in the year to conduct a national search, but to make sure the candidate understood that the client was offering a relocation-lite. Less filling – got it! So exactly what does that mean? To some it’s a U-Haul and a Chick-Filet sandwich, while others put a cap on actual expenses incurred for moving expenses only. Both send a very clear message to the new recruit about the value they’re place on them – leaving the new hire to deal with the massive losses they’ll likely incur trying to unload the old address while hoping they’ll see upside on their new home. It’s a very delicate issue, but one that needs some careful thought and consideration to keep from sending out the wrong message.

One way to accomplish this is take a broader look at the hiring process of someone who will require relocation.

This includes:
A salary adjustment (if the cost of living is higher in the new location).
At least two trips to the new location so the family can visit the area and select the right neighborhood, find a home, schools, and make sure everyone (really) loves the new town.
Hiring and paying for a professional relocation to manage the many details of the new employee’s relocation on behalf of the company.
Reimbursement expenses like packing, materials, insurance and transportation to the new location.
Temporary housing, if required (I’ve commonly seen 3-6 months).
Some financial off-set to aid the employee in selling their old home. This may include making a fixed number of mortgage payments or paying a relocation flat bonus amount in an effort to help the new employee. Most organizations no longer buy homes as the risk to far too great in this (still) declining real estate market.
Some organizations offer low interest (recoverable) loans to help with down payments or if the new employee has to show up at the closing table with a check in order to sell their underwater home.

It’s still a bit dicey out there, and employers have to be creative and compassionate when it comes to dealing with relocation issues. While the offer of the U-Haul and Chick-Filet are appreciated – Relo-lite tastes bad in so many other ways.

4th Down and Ten…

Originally posted on Healthcare Informatics

As in most sporting events, if my team isn’t in the big game this Super-Bowl season, I usually pull for the underdog. I like to see David slay Goliath, and I think most of us do. I’m talking about teams who are down by 7 points with less than a minute to play. It’s a 4th down and 10 yards to go – just to have a chance to win scenario. The real winners dig deep and find a way to win regardless of the odds they face. The odds of getting a first down and allowing your team another 4 plays to score just aren’t great.

To win the interviewing game, you have to play smart. I encourage candidates to be a bit more game-ready when preparing for an interview. Spend the time getting ready by running these 4 plays before you show up for your interview:

Know Your Audience – Make sure you spend some time researching the people you’ll be meeting with well in advance of your interview. Preparation is everything here. Ask your recruiter or sponsor inside the company to spend some time with you going over the backgrounds of each individual and try to get a flavor of how they deal with people – what they like or dislike. This will allow you to avoid any potential land mines. Knowledge really is power.

Use LinkedIn – Look up each person on the interview team and try to learn more about their background and who they’re connected to. What you find out may surprise you. You could learn you’re connected to another employee in the company or even to some of the people who’ll be conducting your interview. Once you find a profile, research other employees who are with the same organization or were with previous organizations earlier in their career. Again, if they can check out your background through people they know, it may give you the upper hand.

Formulate Intelligent Questions – The very worst thing you can do at the end of an interview is not have any questions. It’s an unspoken warning to the interviewer that you may think you’ve got all the answers, or worse – you’re just not prepared. Think about 3-5 really well thought-out questions you can ask during the interview that will demonstrate your critical thinking skills, and make sure you allow the interviewer plenty of time to answer them.

Maintain a High Energy Level – Like football players, to stay on top of your game you have to have a high energy level. To some, having a high energy level means being overly “enthusiastic and bubbly” – to me it’s being alert, having the right body language/projecting the right attitude, and listening to the interview questions and providing good solid (succinct) answers. It means engaging with the person you’re talking to and communicating in a way that demonstrates your natural personality. It means a firm handshake when you first meet them and another handshake when you wrap up. It also means projecting and communicating your desire to work for the company if you like what you see.

I wish you well on your next interview, and if by chance you slip and fumble – pick yourself up and keep forging ahead. You can still win the game!

Blow The Whistle…

Originally posted on Healthcare Informatics

Quite frankly, I don’t care if it’s a whistle/horn/megaphone or just a simple e-mail or phone call. If, as a hiring manager, you engage in a search assignment (internally or externally) and something significant changes on your end, you owe an explanation to the organization you represent as well as your search partner and the candidates (they have rights too). You-the-hiring-manager will look (really) bad if something has changed that could impact your hiring decision and you just bury your head is in the sand and don’t tell anybody. It’s just bad business, period. Collaboration is the key here.

Things happen – I get that. The game-changer could be budget, new management, or something more significant like a merger or acquisition that will directly affect the people involved in the hiring food chain. I’m not saying you need to share confidential information, but you do owe formal notification to all of the stakeholders. Tell them that you are delaying/making major changes to the search – sooner rather than later.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a couple of situations, and not knowing where things stand is no fun. Quite frankly, it’s (totally) unprofessional – it makes the candidates nervous and sends the wrong message about your organization to the marketplace. While you may just be the messenger (router) through which the information flows, DON’T HOLD BACK.

Bad news can be good news if it’s delivered early enough, but late-in-the-game bad news is always negative. That’s my two cents…

Top 5 Characteristics of a STAR Healthcare IT Candidate

Originally posted on Healthcare Informatics

While this frequently-asked question has plenty of reasons why some candidates rise above the rest, it really boils down to 5 critical characteristics that’ll put you in the best possible light when we begin reviewing resumes and candidate profiles before we schedule a phone screen for a new search assignment:

Broad Expertise – This includes both your understanding of several leading healthcare IT vendors as well as workplace experience of various healthcare systems over a number of years. Not all HCIT vendors are built the same, and your knowledge and relationships with a variety of vendors is a huge advantage. Being at the same IDN for 20 years – while compelling – limits your exposure to a variety of workplace cultures and management styles. Exposure to different types of leadership helps prepare you for a new role and is important when you’re compared to a “lifer” who’s been drinking the same corporate Kool-Aid for decades.

Career Progression – Demonstrating how you advanced your career over a long period of time is always a good way to convey your expertise. If you held the position of CIO and also participated in working closely in some operational role, that’s a plus. On the other hand, it could spell trouble if you scaled your role to the position of CIO and later became VP of IT without a solid way to explain the change of title. Employers want to see you’ve been promoted during your career and have held multiple positions.

Success Metrics – I talk about this quite a bit. It matters. I like to see how you moved the needle in each role during your career. List your metrics by order of importance to the reader. It’s great that you served a major role in a local civic organization or helped raise money for a charity, but those shouldn’t be the first things on your resume for that period in your life. What’s crucial is where you migrated from one system to another, or if you consistently ran your department under-budget or increased satisfaction levels for users of your department’s technology. Perhaps you led the integration efforts in a merger with another healthcare system. That’s a key metric.

Tenure – If you’ve found a way to build good tenure over the course of your career, that’s huge! If, on the other hand, you’ve had five different employers in the past ten years – that could be a challenge. If you’ve moved around more that you wanted to, make sure you can easily explain the details. Also make sure your references can help tie down your story. During the dot-com era, many of us jumped to chase that elusive pot of gold called stock options. Most employers will give you a mulligan for that.

Education – That advanced degree or M.B.A. can be the real differentiator. An undergraduate degree is required for most management roles, and our clients usually prefer someone with broader educational credential. It’s not required in all situations but definitely helps. Demonstrate that you are a life-long learner who has taken courses to further your education and increase your knowledge in certain areas that could benefit a future employer.

There are countless other characteristics we look for when sizing up a great candidate, but before scheduling a phone call when initially screening candidates, this is my Top 5 list to begin a search to find an HCIT STAR!

Keeping Your Emotions in Check During a Job Search

Originally posted on Healthcare Informatics

Let’s face it – we all like to win. It’s part of how most of us are wired and for some of us – it becomes a score-card. Losing is, well, never fun. Especially – when your emotions are in play during a job search. You go through the entire interview process, meet your (potential) future boss and members of the search committee (some include employees you will likely manage). It feels right and you feel very good about the entire situation. All you need now is for the phone to ring to let you know – you won!

Yep – just if you could only get the offer out of the way you could begin planning for your new job, environment and a fresh start. Mentally you are there. It’s sort of like counting your strokes in golf – standing on the green just before you make that final putt. And then you miss. oops!

The phone rings and you can hear the word I’m SORRY but…in the callers tone. “I’d like to thank you for your time” blah, blah, blah – but my client has decided to move forward with another candidate. You freeze. Mentally you are saying to yourself – WHAAAAT? How could that be? We connected in every way and they liked me. I don’t understand. WHY is the next question? All of the sudden your emotions take a different turn and you need to be careful on how you handle the news.

Make sure you think about the following before you react to the news:

Relationships Matter – You have a natural tendency to become upset with the search consultant that you have been working with. Don’t. Trust me – it’s not their fault. The employer (hiring manager and the interview team) decides who wins and who does not. You don’t want to burn a bridge with the search firm by displaying your emotions. They will either call you back on the next opportunity – or they won’t. I recommend you keep strong relationships with people that are genuinely trying to advance your career. BOTTOM LINE: Don’t shoot the messenger!

It Ain’t Over Until it’s OVER – Blue Ribbon winners don’t always work out. Yep. There all sorts of things that can go wrong post offer/acceptance. The candidate that accepted the offer could still turn the other cheek and accept a counter-offer. Family situations could change and all of the sudden the successful search has the potential to blow up at the very end. Make sure you have handles yourself in the most professional way possible – and you may get another call with better news!

Follow-Up With a Thank You Note – You heard me. Gwen Darling agrees. Even if you don’t get the nod, be gracious in the way you handle the news. Remember, the client, their team, the search consultant and their team invested their time and energy in interviewing you, talking to your references and other activities to support your candidacy. Let them know that you appreciate their interest. It’s amazing to me how some candidates revert back to their childhood behavior and just “lose it” and let their emotions get the best of them. Not smart. NOPE!

Losing is never fun – I get that. Losing and then tanking your reputation and future chances with a search consultant or their client is well…like losing twice. That’s dumb. Really dumb!

The “Stalker Candidate”…

Main Entry: Stalk
Function: verb
intransitive verb 1 : to pursue quarry or prey stealthily 2 : to walk stiffly or haughtily transitive verb 1 : to pursue by stalking 2 : to go through (an area) in search of prey or quarry 3 : to pursue obsessively and to the point of harassment

OK – I’m the first to admit this is a bit weird.

We are conducting several key IT searches and it looks as if this economy is bringing out the worst in some of us:-(

When a candidate goes through the interview process several things are apparent to all parties involved. There is of course the initial screening – followed by an in depth interview – followed by a series of other engaging activities in the search process. We speak to and communicate with hundreds of candidates each month. We use a search process that is designed to screen and find the best person for a search in the least amount of time. Many candidates stand out based on their stellar resume and career accomplishments while some never seem to rise above the noise.

Then there is the exception to both of the above scenarios. It’s what I refer to as the “stalker candidate”.

It’s the candidate that calls you every single day (ok maybe every other day) while you are conducting a search assignment (for weeks). C’mon. Things don’t change dramatically (by the minute) in a search. Can you say desperation? I am amazed at the “reasons” a stalker gives to justify every single “touch point”. It’s unreal.

I’ve heard it all. It could be ” I have 2-3 offers on the table” or “I am leaving town tomorrow and just wanted to “check- in” or worse ” I just wanted to call you today to check on the status of my candidacy”. “I need a status update”. What? Again? I thought we already covered that on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday! Let’s face it – to day is Thursday and guess what? Nothing has changed today either!!!

Pleeeeeease. Some candidates just don’t get it and for some unknown reason they feel like if they call EVERY SINGLE day their odds of being selected will somehow increase? I want to help each candidate as much as I can. And I do feel sorry for the stalker candidate when I encounter them.

Trust me – calling (I mean stalking) a recruiter every single day does not help your odds to land your dream job. Thank God for caller ID!