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

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7 November, 2011 Posted by John G. 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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17 October, 2014 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management, Recruiting
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Will Your Resume Make The Front Of The Line Or The Trashcan? 

Posted October 17th, 2014 | Author: John G. Self

Wow, that person has accomplished a lot!

That is music to any recruiter’s ears.

It is certainly so much better than, this candidate has a lot of experience.

All else being equal, or nearly equal, I am going to focus on the candidate whose resume provides a great picture of success based on quantifiable accomplishments versus someone with all of the bell and whistle credentials, perhaps with even more experience, but whose resume is more of a roadmap to where he/she has been, or a list of previous employers with dot point lists outlining responsibilities.

That latter version of the executive resume might have worked as late as two or three years ago, but not any more.  Clients need and expect more.  So, unless you were one of the top four or five healthcare CEOs in the country, and if you want to put yourself at a disadvantage in a competitive search, send an old school resume that focuses on experience and responsibilities.  The candidate who gets the job will probably be the one who has the experience and a documented list of relevant, quantifiable accomplishments.

The C-suite turnover rate is rising due to retirements and an increasing number of CEOs are making strategic missteps, but there are a lot of people out of work.  Some are certainly not top-tier performers but their flood of voices, and resumes only makes a hyper competitive job market more hyper and more competitive.

For those executives seeking help with career management/career transition, know this: getting someone to rewrite your resume is the worst first step you can take on the road to re-employment.  The really good healthcare transition coaches, and they are few and far between based on the dismal quality of the resumes several executive recruiters report seeing, do NOT start with the resume.  The good coaches begin by helping you understand where you excel and then defining your value.  They teach you how to tell your value proposition in a more compelling manner.  A very savvy turnaround CEO currently working in Washington, DC for Huron, said this: “When a candidate tells me they excel at a certain skill or function, I ask, as evidenced by…?  Show me what you have accomplished that will confirm that claim.  I need executives who can deliver results, not managers who have been around a long time.”

To make it easy for recruiters — most are covered up with resumes and the average “first look” at your resume is between 15-20 seconds — explain your scope of responsibility in three or four metric-rich sentences and save the valuable dot points for your quantifiable accomplishments, with the most impressive at the top of the list.

Most resumes ARE NOT structured in that manner.

For those arrogant executives among us who think you know better, good luck.  Let us know how that is working for you because I am betting that unless you know the recruiter and he/she is familiar with your accomplishments, sending an old school resume is not going to push you to the front of the line, your graduate degree(s) and professional fellowship notwithstanding.

In a competitive search, the front of the line is a much better place to be than the trashcan.

© 2014 John Gregory Self

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  1. Marvin Todd says:


    Your blogs are a valued resource to me. I trust you to keep me in the moment; e.g., what worked 2-3 years ago but not today targets directly what I need to know. The purpose of the resume remains the same – to move you to the top of the list of candidates and an interview – but the method evolves. Thanks for the insight from the inside.

    Keep up the good work.


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13 October, 2014 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Healthcare, Leadership, Recruiting
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METRICS:  Too Much Of A Good Thing? 

Posted October 13th, 2014 | Author: John G. Self

When I entered the healthcare industry there was a dearth of emphasis on the detailed management metrics that we now use to evaluate performance.  Today, quantitative analysis rules supreme.

But, like so many other things in life, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

“It’s very easy for CEOs to become transactional and focus on the numbers and quantitative analysis, and that can create an emotional detachment,” says Brian Chesky,chief executive officer of Airbnb, the home sharing service.  “I was searching for my identity…and I found it through industrial design.  I think it helped me become a good CEO because it teaches you empathy.  It’s like method acting; you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes,” Chesky explained in Adam Bryant’s New York Times Corner Office column in the Sunday editions.

His comments struck a chord.  It reminded me that one of the many hard things about being a leader is maintaining perspective and striking the right balance.

The investor-owned hospital industry has contributed much to the way we manage healthcare organizations today.  They brought a certain discipline that was lacking among many not-for-profit hospitals which for years were more focused on mission than stewardship. History shows that approach was not sustainable but neither is a manic obsession with performance metrics without the emotional energy that a true leader can bring to the table. A hospital with a leader who does not understand that balance is an organization without soul.

As a recruiter I am constantly surprised by how many resumes I received from CEOs who previously worked in the investor-hospital management business.  It seems as though the desire for some companies to please Wall Street is more important than their stated mission and values…and seemingly their patients.

One of the most common refrains I hear from these talented leaders are words to the effect, regardless of how successful we were, it was never enough; we are told that we could have, we should have, done better.  

I am not saying that profitability is unimportant or should take a backseat.  Hardly.  As Sister Irene Kraus, the former CEO of what was once known as the Daughters of Charity National Health System, said on more than one occasion, “No margin, no mission.”

By contrast, I am not trying to lump, through guilt by association, all investor-owned hospital CEOs into one pot. Yes, there are some really bad actors  in the  corporate and hospital leadership pot and it would do us all a big favor if they would change careers but there are good and bad leaders on both sides of the healthcare business model aisle. One’s profit status should not be an issue.

Perspective and balance are important attributes that we look for in the senior leaders we recruit and I am concerned that we are slipping a bit in this department as the financial pressures mount.

As the healthcare industry begins a journey through one of the most consequential times in its history, it is important to keep ourselves in check, not to lose sight of our values or our emotional commitment to the greater good.

© 2014 John Gregory Self

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