John is an executive recruiter & speaker sharing his thoughts on healthcare, recruiting, digital technology, career management & leadership. 

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Michael Lewis: Boomerang: Travels in the New Third WorldMichael Lewis: Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World Next up on my reading list. Lewis, author of Liar's Poker, The Big Short and Money B
7 November, 2011 Posted by John G. Self
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27 October, 2014 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Recruiting
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Words of Success

Posted October 27th, 2014 | Author: John G. Self

I love being a recruiter for many of the same reasons that I so enjoyed being a newspaper reporter in my earlier life.

Sure, I like the research — preparing to begin an executive search engagement by doing a deep dive into the client’s organization, understanding the job, the people/working relationships, the performance expectations and the hurdles to success and the culture — but it is the candidate interviews that I enjoy the most.

I love listening to them tell their personal and professional stories, from the interesting tidbits about their earlier life that help me gain insight into who they are today, to understanding how and why they lead people. I benefit so much from that engagement and the ensuing conversations about issues and experiences.

In our firm, we call this three-hour in-depth interview the FtoF, or face to face. We sit across the table — never on videoconference or Face Time or Skype (we use those earlier for get acquainted sessions) — and ask the candidates a myriad of questions covering six areas. This is the time when candidates can demonstrate that they are up to a specific challenge — putting words to success. We aren’t just listening for technical expertise, competence and a record of success. We want to get a clear understanding of who they are as a person — a sense of their confidence, style, values and whether they can adapt to our client. If there is a place in the process for the candidate to brag, this is it. But candidates must learn you have to do it in the right way. Delivering overpowering, excessively boastful and/or rambling answers is not the right way. That kind of response signals a lack of preparation or a deficit in self-awareness, both significant warning flags in most searches.

In today’s evolving healthcare environment, it is not enough to efficiently and factually tell the recruiter where you have been and what you have done. You need to be engaging, smoothly selling yourself, connecting the dots of your successes with the needs of the client. And you need to close the deal in a very uplifting way that differentiates you from the 10 to 15 other candidates who are competing for the same job.

In a recent interview with a candidate that I really liked, personally and professionally, I kept hearing him talk about his successes in business development, forming joint ventures, and successfully creating and expanding new service lines. When I asked him a softball question, “You seem to be very adept at building business but you did not mention that as a key competency, he stopped and instead of offering a deal-closer response, he used words not of success, but of surprised recognition, “Well, I guess you could say that I am.” There were so many positive things he could have said, but he suddenly became a little too modest and lost the moment to build on his asset base for this position.

As I have frequently written over the past several months, being prepared to tell your story — to sell yourself — is so important in the recruiting process. Some candidates seem more concerned with image/damage control — age, employment status, number of short tenures — that they fail to effectively employ words of success.

Boards are pressing recruiters for true leaders, not just successful managers who produce positive quarter over quarter results. This is the impression candidates should focus on leaving.

© 2014 John Gregory Self

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24 October, 2014 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management
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Posted October 24th, 2014 | Author: John G. Self

If only…

If only I had done this or that…

If only we could get through our careers without making mistakes or without missing a performance target, our best intentions, our best efforts notwithstanding?

But alas…

“Hell is not merely paved with good intentions; it’s walled and roofed with them.  Yes, and furnished too.”  While there is a whiff of truth in Adolphus Huxley’s seemingly rueful assessment, as CEOs work to tighten expenses, the operating and financial metrics are becoming tougher and more important and the executives are facing increasing pressure to perform or step aside.

First, some perspective:  30 years ago, most hospital administration graduate students got residencies and job offers in an operational role.  The majority of the good ones moved on to enjoy a career, with varying success, as vice presidents, COOs, CFOs, CNOs and CEOs of hospitals.  That pathway is no longer an easy road to navigate.

Which brings us to this unfortunate but realistic truth — only a small number of hospital management graduate students today are wired to be successful operational executives in this transformative phase of healthcare.  Fewer still will have what it takes to make it to the top.

There is no better time to stop, look at your career, and reassess your future.

Anecdotally, I have met more erstwhile executives than I care to count who are struggling to work their way up the career ladder but have had a series of short tenure positions.  They always seem to be on the reduction in force short list. Sadly, for the second, third or fourth time they accept a termination plan, engage an outplacement coach and begin the search for a similar job in a new town.  Most outplacement counselors go through the motions — they focus on retooling the resume and they work to craft a scenario, a storyline to help the candidate achieve that goal.

Stop! Executives should not keep repeating the same career management mistakes.  They should not allow themselves to be trapped and marginalized, their career brand to be stained with the image of being a job hopper or, worse, an inept manager.

Stop!  Look for someone who can help you assess your skills and understand your value so that you can find a new pathway to success and happiness.  There are going to be plenty of healthcare jobs in the future, just not as many in the acute care management arena.  It is time to stop and rethink your career path.

© 2014 John Gregory Self

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22 October, 2014 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management
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Putting Your Best Foot Forward — From the Start

Posted October 22nd, 2014 | Author: John G. Self

“Put your best foot forward” is the kind of parental advice given to their impressionable teens beginning to make their way in the world from school events, college interviews or that search for the first job.

The origin of this tried and true idiom was first recorded in the second edition of Sir Thomas Overbury’s poem, A Wife, circa 1613.  Sir Thomas could not have possibly wildly dreamed of today’s exceedingly competitive job market, but his phrase rings loud and true.  With respect to the poet, I might add the phrase, …or you may not get another chance.

It would seem, based on what we all see, that a lot of candidates treat the resume as a necessary evil, almost an afterthought, when they decide to pursue a new job.

At a recent meeting with some of my colleagues at the annual American College of Healthcare Executives roundtable of executive recruiters, I repeatedly heard — in private conversations — how badly most resumes are.  From poor organization to a lack of examples detailing a candidates’ potential value, today’s resumes are not a very good example of career brand management.

Consider these points as you begin a job search, or as you tweak the resume you have trying to improve your chances:

  • The resume is your first interview
  • Just because Microsoft selects a default type does not mean you are required to use it. Recruiters and researchers who spend their days looking at resumes prefer a clean look. An easy to read typeface with some white space helps everything being equal, surveys show
  • .99999999999999999 percent of all resumes will be viewed the first time on a computer screen. If a recruiter’s initial impression is a cluttered mess of mumbo jumbo, your resume probably will probably end up at the bottom of the pile, or in the trashcan
  • Include a mailing address and designate your telephone numbers if you provide more than one. With regard to the latter, recruiters try to protect your confidentiality.  They like to know where they are calling to avoid an inadvertent mistake
  • Include your personal job search email address and your LinkedIn URL. First, major companies have email scanning programs that could create an embarrassing problem for you if you are using a company email address to respond to recruiters.  Secondly, in-house recruiters are relying on LinkedIn given that most corporate recruiters in healthcare do not like to call competing hospitals and “steal” their top performers.  I am not sure why, but they don’   LinkedIn is one of the better places to be to attract the attention of those post and pray recruiters
  • Using a small typeface trying to sequence the full story of more than 10 years of career successes on two pages is not helpful. I do not know who started this cockamamie idea but seasoned candidates who follow it do themselves a big disservice more often than not
  • Forgetting to turn off the paragraph symbol which shows the various paragraph and spacing marks, only clutters up the first impression on the screen
  • Failing to list the city and state of an employer, or an explanation of what they do, is a common failure. You may know where you worked and what your scope of responsibility was, but most recruiters will not, especially if you come from a smaller, secondary market
  • Use dot points for your quantifiable accomplishments, not a description of your duties. What you did is important, but summarize that in two or three sentences and focus on what value you produced for your employer.
  • It is not about you. So many candidates think that the job search is about them, but it is really about the client — researching, understand and meeting their needs.  I know, you have heard that from me over and over but I am going to keep pounding away on this point until we see an improvement.  Get ready, we have a long way to go

© 2014 John Gregory Self

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