Check your EGO at the Door, Please

I hear it from clients all the time – candidates who apparently do no wrong, can part the Red Sea and can literally (if needed) ‘walk on water’. Why? I’ll never know. When dealing with candidates’ large egos, I lose interest quickly. Life’s too short.

And guess what?

I’m not the only one who’s turned off by this sort of behavior.

Organizations need team players to fall in line, embrace it’s strategy, and deliver services and technology – and do it with a high degree of quality. Organizations also need leaders to lead by setting a good example and by driving the strategy in a professional and positive manner. What is NOT needed is a bunch of EGOMANIACS either on the team or leading it. These individuals have an inflated sense of self-worth and know no other way to behave. If there is an organizational morale issue – it’s clearly never their fault.

Without trying to be cruel (ok, maybe I am), I just have low (zero) tolerance for people with big EGOs. They are destructive to building high-performance teams, and a big reason why great talent goes looking elsewhere for employment. It’s ‘their way or the highway’ as they rarely contemplate making a mistake or – heaven forbid – admitting to such an atrocity. C’mon people! Who wants to work for (or with) someone like that? I once had the unpleasant experience of working for an egomaniac, and it absolutely killed the entire team’s morale. I spent more time looking for a job than focusing on the trivial tasks this knucklehead doled out.

During the hiring process, employers and recruiters should evaluate and assess candidates in the pre-screening process to determine how inflated an individual’s head really is. If they can’t check their ego at the door, it’s best to shove them out the door early-on. Hiring BIG EGO employees has a very predictable outcome. And it’s never good. Trust me!

Please Don’t Put Me On HOLD

At times I like to give career and coaching advice to this audience. Other times, I just have to RANT. This (I warn you) will be a RANT!

When you are on a phone interview, please try and remember to (ok, always) ignore any and all incoming calls. Just yesterday I took an unscheduled call from someone I didn’t know and was totally blown away by what transpired. First, she calls me out of the blue with no resume, no e-mail and no warning. That was her first mistake. I took the call and attentively listened to her job-hunt-related plight – she sounded very bright and highly qualified – just apparently lacking basic business skills and common courtesy.

She went over her background, and we were having a nice, warm conversation when I heard her phone beep, alerting her to an incoming call. “I need to put you on hold – it shouldn’t take long.” WHAT?! Actually, IT should never have happened. How rude and inconsiderate! I wish I could say it was the first time this ever happened to me – but I can’t. It just baffles me that anyone would be so bold and just plain rude during a brief phone screening. This (by the way) was not a scheduled interview – and the chances of ever scheduling one with her are slim. Sorry. Not to be rude herebut I can’t help myself. I figure if she does that to me, I can only guess what might happen during an interview with one of my clients.

Just forget about incoming calls during an interview UNLESS it’s critical, and you know that before the call ever starts. Also, inform the person you are speaking with about the situation, and that you may receive an urgent call during the interview. Most people will be pretty understanding about it, while others may want to reschedule. Whatever the case may be, when they do call you back try not to put them “on hold.”

EVER!

(This article originally appeared on HealthcareIT Today)

Always Listen Before Speaking

It’s crazy to be writing on this topic as this issue is all about something we learned as kids – hopefully from a very early age. Some call it etiquette, while others just refer to it as “good manners.” Whatever you call it – make sure you’re practicing the art of listening and hesitating before you start interrupting anyone during a conversation – especially during an interview. Let them finish their thought and wait for a break of silence before jumping in. Interruptions are just plain rude and sends all kinds of mixed messages to a potential hiring manager. C’mon people – get in the game.

For some of us, we just can’t help ourselves. Our brain is already spinning with ideas and thoughts we feel we must “blurt out” before we forget what’s on the tip of our tongues, while others just like to take charge and drive the conversation. They need the floor! Whatever your reasons or excuses are for interrupting someone during an interview or raising your voice and decibel level to make a point – you’re downgrading your value each time you exhibit that sort of behavior. It’s akin to a loudmouth door-to-door sales guy who wants to sell you something before he knows what your needs are. Not good.

Develop your own technique to delay that urge to interrupt if you just can’t control your urge to barge in on someone during a conversation or an interview. If you can’t help yourself, at least use your manners. I coach candidates on pivoting all the time, especially when I detect or experience interruptions during our interview. Let the person finish their sentence – wait 2-3 seconds to gather your thoughts before responding to a question or adding to the conversation. It’s really not that hard, but you’d be very surprised at the number of very well paid professionals who just don’t get it. They’re too busy trying to finish sentences for the people they’re talking with or attempting a “one-up” by having a more interesting or compelling story to tell.

The basic rule of thumb here gets back to my first point – just remember what your parents said when you were a young child: it’s rude to interrupt. Your parents were correct – it is rude!

Interviews and “F” Bombs – A Lethal Combination.

I am often asked by candidate’s good (and important) questions about interview etiquette.

Let’s go over a few no-no’s…shall we?

Q. Should I bring up compensation during the interview?
A. Never. Once you get to the offer stage compensation will be discussed. To try to weave it into your interview and you send too many mixed signal to the hiring manager.

Q. At dinner, if the hiring manager orders a drink – should I order one too?
A. Never. Loose lips sink ships and your boat is still on dry land at the interview stage. Tonic – with a twist of lime- if you feel you must. Order iced tea, soda, water with a lemon or coffee – but never any booze. If you are hired there will always be time for having a cocktail with the boss in the right setting. Let’s make sure you get the job first!

Q. At what point do I tell the hiring manager why I hate my current job, boss, company (you fill in the blanks)?
A. Never. Refrain from making any disparaging comments – you may come across as whiny or worse they may detect a major character flaw in you and paint you with being a negative person. Not good. Take the high road at all times.

Q. Should I let the hiring manager in on some secrets from the competition (your current employer?
A. Never. They will see what you are doing and never hire you because they will not be able to trust you. Dumb move.

Q. What if the hiring manager drops a few ‘F” bombs or tells a story or joke that’s off color? Should I jump in with a few of my own?
A. Never- Never- Never! Under any circumstances. There is NO room for that in any business setting – especially with someone you don’t even know. Professionalism will always be in vogue. Take the high road here too! You will be glad you did.

OK. It’s your turn now! Ask me any question you have on your mind about what’s in play and what’s off limits during an interview.

Don’t be shy….

The Last Business Book I Read Was…

During a recent interview with a CIO I took him through our typical search process which includes asking lots of questions to better understand his qualifications as a viable candidate. This was a very smart guy – no doubt! I was truly impressed in many ways by his answers to my questions as he shared details about his current role and how he had “moved the needle” with some very interesting initiatives he implemented. So far so good. Now another part of the test…

I asked him (a version) one of my (question #5) killer interview questions. “Tell me which recent business book you have read”? Simple enough question – right? I was floored! His answer went something like this: “Well (very long delay) it was probably that Ummm…The 7 Habits book…you know which one I’m talking about – right”? Yes I do. 1989 vintage… I said “recent”. Oh boy. I asked him if he was speaking about the great classic by Steven Covey and he nodded his head… clearly annoyed by his (very weak) answer. “Name another one I asked”. Ummm well, (still thinking) it was probably “The Greatest Secret in the World”. Ouch. Wrong answer. Cell phones were not even around when Og Mandino wrote that book. Great book – wrong answer. It was amazing that a “C” senior level executive could not name a business book he had read in over 20 years! WOW!

As CIO you should need (and want) to stay current with current business trends and issues. Make a commitment to yourself to adopt a continual learning strategy and become a life-long learner. READ! Especially since you are a “C” level executive, the technology leader of your healthcare enterprise with huge strategic responsibilities, an educated IT staff, and the steward of the operating and capital budgets for your IT organization. It’s not that hard! C’mon! READ!!! If you are not currently reading business books on a regular basis – take action now! Develop a plan and commit to read current business books when you are traveling, on weekends or as an alternative to watching TV (every night).

Reading 2-3 business books a year is a layup! It is not that hard to accomplish. You will learn a ton of new information, stay current with today’s business strategies and be a better technology executive for your staff and your employer.

So…I will ask you “What is the most recent business book you’ve read lately”?

Please Give a 90 Minute Talk as Part of Your Final Interview. What???

The interview process requires solid preparation a chance to highlight your career accomplishments, discuss why you are the best candidate for the position and yes… sometimes a chance for our new employer to evaluate your public speaking skills. YIKES! More and more of our clients are asking our candidates to participate and lead a 60-90 minutes discussion on a modern healthcare technology subject to 20-30 other executives (total strangers) to really understand your public speaking capabilities. You may also be asked to discuss how you will spend your first 90 days as the new CIO.

It’s not the only indicator of selecting the right CIO – but your public presentation skills do matter and shows how you respond to pressure – and how well you rise to the occasion. Don’t panic – develop a few strategies to help you nail your big presentation. Here are a few tips that might help you if you are asked to do a PowerPoint presentation as part of the interview process:

  • Bring your own laptop and download your presentation on a memory stick as a back-up in case there are any technical challenges.
    Know your material – and know it well. This is not the time to “wing it”.
    Have an agenda on your topic so your audience will be able to follow your talk.
    Practice your material to make your key points and your slide transition more natural.
    Make your material “topical” by inserting relevant clip-art for each slide. Otherwise it could be “death by PowerPoint” for those listening to your talk.
    Always use complimentary colors for the background and font colors – and always use large fonts so your audience can clearly see your material.
    Time yourself. Make sure your material and your talk allow you to finish at the end of your allotted time.
    Inject some humor into your presentation to break the ice several times during your talk. This could be done by inserting a funny slide (or slides) to help you make your point.
    Never –Never just read your slides (This will be a slow death for you and everyone in the room).
    Make eye contact with your audience by picking someone near the center of the room that you can focus on during your talk – but pan the room frequently.
    Make your talk interactive – this engages your audience and puts you at ease.
    Get someone to give you a “10 minute warning” so you can begin to wrap up in time.
    Ask your audience at the end if anyone has questions.
    Relax and try to have fun!

“Peeling the Onion” on Compensation

To get to home plate on a search assignment we have to verify many aspects of a candidate’s past. One key item of course is compensation. On occasion I get feedback on the compensation question that creates uncertainty and doubt – or shall I say sometimes I just don’t understand the candidates’ math. Clients want to be competitive when making an offer and we need to have the baseline on the candidates’ current compensation package to craft an offer or make any recommendations to our client. It’s a fairly simple question – right?

The answers we sometimes get from candidates makes me want to stop and scratch my head. Some are worse than others. I once had a CIO candidate of a 160 bed facility explain to me that his base salary was between $175K and $250K + bonus. WHAT? That is a severe (wide) gap – like $75K. The salary is what it is. C’mon. He went on to tell me he preferred to give me a range on his salary as he did not want to put himself in a (compensation) “corner” and he wanted to see what the client would be offering before he was willing to give me an exact salary number.

Great – OK – thanks. I don’t get it.

There is plenty of sufficient CIO and CTO salary data that we recruiters use to benchmark where the market is – including by geography. It is a colossal waste of everyone’s time to play games with what should be a fairly straightforward question and answer. I do understand that 95% of the professionals reading this piece DO NOT operate that way. It is worth taking note that more and more facilities are using current salary data and comparing that to industry data when formulating an offer. So the next time a search firm asks the question – just understand that they will be peeling back the onion a bit to validate your answer.

It puts me in tears just thinking about it

The Art of the Video Interview

The costs of travel in today’s economic environment have increased the number of video interviews we do when compared to previous years. I actually think it’s here to stay. More companies are becoming comfortable with the idea of conducting a video interview as it reduces out of town travel expenses and really serves as a great tool to evaluate a candidate by having a visual interview.

There are a few things that a candidate needs to be prepared for in advance of the actual interview.

1. Make sure you know are familiar with the location of the business that will be conducting the interview in or near your city of residence. Take a quick drive over the day before to make sure you are allowing enough time to be on time. Then…BE EARLY! Arrive 15-20 minutes in advance of your interview time. Ask for assistance if you’re not sure how to use the equipment. It’s good to ask for a quick overview if in doubt.

2. Get a rough draft of the questions from the recruiter if possible. They will not give you specifics – but should be able to give you good idea of what questions will be covered.

3. Dress for Success. Look the part in your video interview. It is very important that you make an impression with your appearance. Wear what you would normally wear if the interview was in-person.

4. Know your audience in advance. Do as much research about the company and the person conducting the interview that you can. Ask the recruiter for help if you are unable to find out what you need to know on-line. Try to connect with the person early – but get the “small talk” out of the way and let them drive the pace.

5. Keep your answers “on point” as most of the video interviews are scheduled for an hour or so. Don’t drag out your answers and stay on topic. Clarify that you have answered the question if you have any doubts. Ask how the interview is going.

6. Avoid moving around and try to be as natural as possible. Moving around may create audio noise. Be natural. Maintain eye contact. If you look nervous – it will come across in high definition color to the person on the other end. Just be yourself and relax!

7. Thank the person conducting the interview and ask about next steps in the process to let them know you are interested (assuming you are).

Video interviewing is here to stay and you should embrace this method of interviewing as it will only get better and more mainstream as we look ahead.

If You Accept a New Job – Please Show Up!!!!

It’s truly one of the most dreaded realities in the search business.

Although this phenomenon happens rarely – it does happen.

Search consultants engage in a retained search assignment and perform the search execution flawlessly. The profiling, sourcing and identification of the perfect candidate for a critical senior level technology opening is performed …by the book. The initial screening goes well, the candidate interviews also go well and the candidate is more than just mildly interested. Then it’s on to the position questionnaire to further test their commitment and once again – they deliver. They take part in the requisite client driven psychometric testing with no hesitation whatsoever. Let’s not forget the battery of interviews with multiple executives, lunches and dinners and more testing and reference checks to further qualify this seemingly stellar candidate. It’s a love affair on both sides of the table. Perfect!

The “trial close” of the candidate goes as planned. You further qualify them and their family on the relocation – everything appears to be “all systems go”. The verbal offer is made and presented to the candidate. Once again – everyone is “all good” and this search appears to be on “final approach” and coming to closure. Finally, the written offer is delivered to the candidate and he/she nods their head north and south and they happily execute the offer letter with enthusiastic anticipation of starting their new career and joining the new organization. The prospective new employer makes preparations for their new arrival. Internal (sometimes external) communications are drafted, offices are cleaned while business cards, laptops, PDA’s and cell phones are all ordered so the new executive can “hit the ground running” on their arrival.

Then all of the sudden something strange happens – and you feel it in your gut. You follow-up (as you always to prior to the start date) multiple times with the candidate just to touch base and something just feels different. It’s in their tone of voice, their energy level, interest level or enthusiasm. Or… worse…you leave multiple voice mail messages for this individual to follow-up with no return correspondence. OUCH!!! Something is wrong here…

Finally you get an e-mail or voice mail (they are scared to death to talk to you by phone or in person) from your star candidate letting you know they have decided to stay with their current employer and withdraw their name from this search. UNREAL!!! Often, it’s the classic self-serving method some candidates use by negotiating with the written offer (they have in hand) with their current employer to increase their compensation or position in the organization. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of fear or it could be family reasons or personal reasons that they decide to opt out. In any event – it is a painful outcome. Just painful.

If you EVER get to the point where you are not 100% committed to accept an offer, change your career and SHOW UP on your first day to commence work – let someone know as early as possible. You really owe it to the company and the search firm that invested so much time and money pursuing you as their candidate of choice! So…. PLEASE PLEASE inform them EARLY in the process if you decide not to continue as a candidate. Never at the last minute! It is bad form – and just the wrong thing to do.

Healthcare IT has two…maybe three degrees of separation – at best. Someone knows someone else that knows you. Remember that the next time you attempt to “float a trial balloon” with a search firm or a prospective new employer unless you are serious about your intentions and you plan to “SHOW UP!!!

Now…that’s not too much to ask is it?

Testing the Candidate’s Communication Skills…

Originally posted on Healthcare Informatics

Most of our clients retain our services to profile, source and find the best possible candidate for a critical position opening. While tenure, educational pedigree, career accomplishments and experience are all important criteria in narrowing the candidate pool – so are communication skills. The ability to face the market and other executives in the organization with solid communication skills is paramount in employers making the right hiring decision.

We always screen each candidate and interview them by phone and in person multiple times before they become a finalist for a given position. We also have each candidate complete a detailed candidate questionnaire that is relevant to the position they are interviewing for. My advice to any candidate that is asked to complete a candidate questionnaire is to take your time and think thru each question and your answer. Write your answers down on paper, read each question out load and make sure you are articulating your thought process with as much detail and logic possible. Short answers to detailed questions are a non-starter.

This is NOT the time to take shortcuts.

Your answers show the prospective employer how you think, communicate and the thought process you put into answering each question. My suggestion is to take your time. Clients tell us that many candidates that are successful and receive the job offer over others are tied to how well they did in showcasing their communication skills. Do not let the search firm you are working with force you to complete the questionnaire until you have time to do it right!

In the end – you will be glad you took the time to make sure the prospective employer sees you and your skill set in the best possible light.