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)

Cheap Recognition is Worse Than No Recognition

Recognition programs are used by employers to drive performance and achieve certain goals that are important to the overall success of the organization. Done correctly, a well-defined recognition program can drive extra effort from employees who love recognition, and see it as a way to track their personal performance. Set a high watermark and watch in amazement as your team’s competitive spirit reaches new levels – to win! It actually makes the day-to-day work much more enjoyable when there is a “pot of gold” at the end. Even a simple and inexpensive plan to publicly recognize employees for a job well done can make a huge difference in performance and morale. It creates and ignites that competitive spirit that pushes us hard to win. It’s a good thing. We love to win!

Unfortunately, it works the opposite way as well. Recognition plans with no specific performance metrics yield, well, nothing. In fact, a lousy recognition plan or the absence of any plan just sends the wrong message to the troops. Poorly defined plans that are loosely tracked create distrust, loss of productivity and just sends the wrong message. Let me help translate the unspoken message:

NOBODY CARES!

That’s not the outcome any organization wants to experience. I’ve seen examples of both and know firsthand the importance of a well thought-out, easy-to-understand plan. Recognition plans need to be clearly written and easy to understand and track. I especially love plans that are specifically designed to accomplish a goal that promotes encouragement by management and by peers. And yes – the actual award and the way it is given needs to mean something. To get the best return for the organization and the award recipient(s), it needs to be a very big deal.
So the next time you think about giving some cheap low-value award to an employee who outperforms your expectations, wins and makes a difference in your organization, don’t be surprised the next time you try to implement a similar plan and get the same message:

NOBODY CARES!

It’s NOT All About the Money

Looking for a new job is truly a full – time endeavor. You need to focus and have clear goals as to what you are looking for. The culture, the people and the person you will be reporting to all matter – as does the role you will have. That being said, it’s amazing to me that so many candidates still focus on the almighty dollar. Show me the money! Yep – you heard it. Finding the perfect gig for you should include checking ALL of the boxes – not just the compensation box.

Your value equation and how you are paid for your knowledge, experience, educational credentials all matter. I get that. What I don’t understand is when candidates try to make a career decision solely on the basis of increasing their W-2. To me there is a fine balance that you must have when weighing out a new opportunity. I suggest that candidates look at the entire opportunity. Stand back for a day or so and make sure you are signing an offer letter for ALL the right reasons. Sure, if you know people who work for the new company and they can vouch for the culture, management and other important details about the company – that’s great. But, while it may be great for them, it may not be great for you.

I suggest you take inventory of ALL the things that matter the most to you and create a score card when faced with an important career decision to join a new company. Measure what matters as a whole – not just the income piece. Score categories in a score card as honestly as you can. Try this scorecard on each opportunity the next time you have to pull the trigger on a job offer:

New Opportunity Score Card

Category Score (1= Low 2=Good 3=Awesome)Culture
Career Progression(upward mobility)
Chemistry (with hiring manager and team)
Compensation (salary, bonus , benefits)
Work/Life Balance
References From Current Employees
Comfort Level w/ New Role
Gut Feel
TOTAL OPPORTUNITY SCORE

Create the categories that matter the most to you. However, do yourself a favor when evaluating a new opportunity. ALWAYS include the Four C’s – Culture, Career Progression, Chemistry and Compensation. If your score is close when measuring multiple opportunities – use the “gut feel” category as a tie-breaker. Your gut feel usually is a great barometer for big life decisions.

Always score each opportunity! You will be glad you did. Promise!

It’s NOT All About the Money

Looking for a new job is truly a full – time endeavor. You need to focus and have clear goals as to what you are looking for. The culture, the people and the person you will be reporting to all matter – as does the role you will have. That being said, it’s amazing to me that so many candidates still focus on the almighty dollar. Show me the money! Yep – you heard it. Finding the perfect gig for you should include checking ALL of the boxes – not just the compensation box.

Your value equation and how you are paid for your knowledge, experience, educational credentials all matter. I get that. What I don’t understand is when candidates try to make a career decision solely on the basis of increasing their W-2. To me there is a fine balance that you must have when weighing out a new opportunity. I suggest that candidates look at the entire opportunity. Stand back for a day or so and make sure you are signing an offer letter for ALL the right reasons. Sure, if you know people who work for the new company and they can vouch for the culture, management and other important details about the company – that’s great. But, while it may be great for them, it may not be great for you.

I suggest you take inventory of ALL the things that matter the most to you and create a score card when faced with an important career decision to join a new company. Measure what matters as a whole – not just the income piece. Score categories in a score card as honestly as you can. Try this scorecard on each opportunity the next time you have to pull the trigger on a job offer:

New Opportunity Score Card Category Score (1= Low 2=Good 3=Awesome)

 

 

New Opportunity Score Card

 

 

 

 

Create the categories that matter the most to you. However, do yourself a favor when evaluating a new opportunity. ALWAYS include the Four C’s – Culture, Career Progression, Chemistry and Compensation. If your score is close when measuring multiple opportunities – use the “gut feel” category as a tie-breaker. Your gut feel usually is a great barometer for big life decisions.

Always score each opportunity! You will be glad you did. Promise!

Budget Bonuses: Shoe Money

A few days ago I talked to a great HCIT candidate we’d placed years ago, just to catch up. We chatted – did the small talk thing for awhile – and finally got the real reason for the call. I knew it would eventually come out and boy, did it.

The conversation turned to compensation (as it does) and she told me about her deal. The base salary sounded fine when compared with her role and responsibility… and then I asked about her variable compensation or annual target bonus. There was a long pause, followed by (ok, me too) loud laughter at my question. “What bonus?!” she asked. “Oh, you mean my ‘shoe money’? Shoe money? She explained that for the past few years her company had decided to award small bonuses (i.e. $1,500-$2,000) at the end of the year. Her implication (which I get) was that after she pays taxes on the small amount of money, what’s left barely pays for a newly touted “staycation” or perhaps a trip to the shoe store to buy a few pairs of nice pumps.

• That’s it?!
• Are you kidding me?!
• C’mon – why bother?!

Unreal.
The company clearly needs to take a hard look at their compensation package and their 1% – 2% target annual bonus plan. It’s a little low for this hot market. It’s a plan that just sounds bad and will never keep and retain the best talent in the company. I can see it now: “Work hard and meet all of your objectives and I see a trip to the shoe store in your future.” Actually, they’d be better off not paying anything. How demoralizing. What a joke!

Retention is a very big deal in the markets we serve and the battle for talent is already here – that train has left the station. Find a way to keep great people or risk a void in your starting lineup. It’s not all about the money, either. People want to be rewarded for this hard work, but recognition, new and exciting challenges, teamwork, a great collegial culture also matter.

But getting back to the shoe-money…
What are your thoughts? Want the shoe money or should they just pass altogether? I would love to hear the opinions of the readers of HITT and…
I’d like to start with you Ms Darling.

Tell me how you really feel…. I already know you will!

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!

How Will You Spend the 1st 90 Days in Your New Job?

(Post originally appeared on HealthcareIT Today)

This question comes up more often than not during interviews, and it’s important for candidates to not only understand the question, but be able to N-A-I-L the answer without hesitation. I’ve seen some answers that were nicely thought-out and…well, some that were really pretty… interesting. ‘Awful’ might be a better way to put it. Companies want to evaluate your experience, education, and skill set to find out if you’re going to fit in with their culture, and once they’ve gone round 3rd base with your candidacy, they’ll want to see how you think on your feet. Plain and simple. No need to fear the reaper – with the right preparation you will do fine.

The fight for talent in our space is fierce, and it’s going to get much more competitive as the weeks and months continue. Many of our clients aren’t just asking candidates the ’90 day’ question – they’re asking that final round of candidates to give the management team a presentation on exactly how they’ll spend their first few months on board. These presentations, while scary to some, are a great barometer on how you present to an audience, handle pressure, and think on your feet.

Knowing a candidate will be able to hit the ground running is top of mind for the hiring manager. They need productive teams, so each new team-member needs to be “up and at ‘em” from day one. Let’s face it: in the HCIT marketplace there are very few companies with a multi-national and/or multi-billion dollar status. In the HCI Top 100 (HCIT companies ranked by revenue), there’s a – fairly telling – HUGE revenue cliff after the top 10 or 15 companies. What does this mean, exactly? Most of the companies in this space are made up with early stage or start-up companies and have little to no training or on-boarding. That means it’s critical to find people that can scale with little or no day-to-day hand-holding. They all want skilled, ready-to-go-to-work talent!

The next time the ’90 day’ question comes up, make sure you are prepared with an answer that speaks to your conviction and passion. It could make the difference between receiving an offer… or not.

Go get ‘em!

Don’t Fall In Love On The First Date

(Originally posted on HealthcareIT Today)
I’ve seen this movie over and over. Candidates have their first interview with a client and like a first date, they fall madly in love. A perfect match! The new benchmark has been set and all other candidates are marked second best over Mr. or Mrs. Wonderful. In some cases, the client is masking the blinders they’re wearing because – to them – it’s game over. They want to move immediately towards making an offer to this great candidate NOW. Like ‘forbidden fruit’, they want what they see and they want it PRONTO!

Not so fast, please. Let’s not put the proverbial cart before the horse. After all, we’re still on the first date. I’ve found that in many search assignments, clients tip their hand too early and set off all kinds of alarms with the very person they’re trying to hire before all of the vetting has been completed. I use the term “all that glitters is not gold“, and in many cases, this concept has proven true – until all the hiring boxes have been checked, falling in love too early during the search process often has a different ending.

The risks are obvious and include:
Giving the candidate an inflated sense of their perceived value (higher earnings expectations)
Ignoring some of the other talent options and risking that talent opting out by focusing myopically on “the chosen one”
Big Hat – No Cattle. The candidate you love turns out to be a non-performer, falsifies their resume or has terrible references

I could add plenty of other risk factors – but I won’t. Just fill in the blanks and the possible setbacks that lie in wait if you make the wrong choice too early will be obvious. Yes, I know most clients want to have their superstar on-board sooner rather than later, but acting on pure instinct and emotion may prove to be costly when you fall in love with a candidate on the first date.

Are You a Good Boss?

Originally posted on Healthcare Informatics

It’s a fair question but one I’m not sure we ask ourselves enough. One of the telling questions you should ask (or pay an outside consultant to ask) your people this simple question: “What is it like to work for me? “ Some of us will never ask the question. It’s not our style, we don’t want to know, we don’t care or we just never stop to ask. I think it’s a huge mistake!

I just finished reading Good Boss, Bad Boss which is a book every healthcare CIO and every executive leading an organization should read. It will stop you in your tracks as author Robert I. Sutton peels the onion on the different management and leadership styles of executives and how they either create high performing teams or do a great job increase the turn-over rates in their own organizations by being an awful leader. Sutton points out that each of us in a leadership role determine our success or failure based on the way we deal with employee relationships and in the way we lead.

I met with a CEO recently that will remain unnamed. We started talking about the organizations greatest asset – their employees. Well, that’s what I thought. The subject moved to on-boarding and the type of culture they were building. Their answer floored me. I mean absolutely floored me! Are you ready for this? “I have people that handle the employees and my main job is to deal with the board”. What? How does that work. It certainly sends a (very) loud shot across the bow to the troops that in the CEO’s eyes – the rank and file don’t matter (that much). OUCH! It makes a guy like me cringe on one hand – but also forces me to think about the types of organizations I want to help build world-class teams. This is a model (and organization) that decided to pass on. How do I explain that to a potential new hire? I like to tell candidates about The Good – The Bad and The ugly. Good grief! What an EGO!

So, let me ask you again, are you a good boss or a bad boss? I think you need to know and I think you need to know today, tomorrow and every day that you call yourself a leader. I’m not trying to get in your face as much as I’m trying to make a very compelling point to those that want to build world class – high performance teams that can (and want to) achieve and exceed your expectations every time.

Do some soul-searching and start to think about when you plan to ask your team what they think about working for you. Start by taking a look in the mirror. I hope you are pleasantly surprised. I really do!

Asking the WHY Questions

Originally posted on Healthcare Informatics

Here’s a job/career tip the next time you are interviewing for a new position: Before you start thinking about an offer, you should do some soul searching. Make sure you really want to join the organization you claim you want to work for. Trust your instincts – but verify it’s not your emotions driving your decision.

Ask yourself the following WHY questions and try to answer each one as honestly as you can. After all, it’s your life and your decision, and it’s you who will have to live with the uh-oh consequences after the fact.

WHY is this company the right organization for you? List three or four solid reasons why you want to work for the organization you are interviewing with. Is it just about the paycheck, or do you like the culture, the leadership or the chance to do things you’ve never done before? Be sure you know you’re joining up without emotion and based on really good reasons. Please check all of the boxes before you go ALL IN.

WHY is this decision a smart career move for you? Are you scaling your skills or learning a completely different skill by accepting this job? Make sure you understand all of the reasons that make this move the right one right now, and list three or four good reasons as to how your career will grow as a result of the decision to move forward.

WHY do you like the people? This one is really important – I mean, who wants to wake up every day and go to work for a jerk? But how do you know what it will be like to work for this new manager once the dust has settled? I recommend meeting the new boss one-on-one before you declare your intentions in a non-interview setting. Lunch or coffee one morning in a neutral setting always works. Now that the interviews are over, get to know this individual as a person. Talk to others in the company and ask the tough questions about the hiring manager’s style. Their honest answers will surprise you if you ask the right questions.

WHY is the organization’s culture appealing to you? Do you know? This very important question is probably one of the toughest to gauge. Again, you have to ask a lot of questions. I like candidates to ask one simple question to a potential hiring manager: What’s it like to work for you? Their answer should speak volumes about what you should expect. Then again, this is another example where you need others to help bifurcate their story. How does the company incentivize employees to become successful? Is there real camaraderie with the troops? Ultimately, are people having fun working there and do they like coming to work every day?

Once you get through the WHY questions, is the compensation package a fair value exchange for what you have to offer? Nobody wants to leave money on the table – ever. When evaluating the compensation, step back for a minute and make sure you’re looking at the entire package. That includes base, incentive compensation, equity and their benefit package. What’s the upside, and how much of it can you control?

Too many candidates start and stop looking at a new opportunity using the base salary ONLY – a bad move and potentially a huge mistake. There are too many other important questions to ask.

So let me ask you again: WHY?