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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30 July, 2014 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Recruiting
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The Buyer and the Recruiter

What is the difference between a recruiter who asks questions to gain information and a  recruiter who does the homework and then asks questions to gain understanding?

It is about the same as the consumer who buys what he or she likes versus the corporate buyer who stocks the store with merchandise that others will buy.  The good buyers do their homework, track emerging trends and scrutinize market research.

The reason the national average two-year turnover rate is high for candidates who have been recruited from outside an organization is that most recruiters just ask questions to gain information, not understanding.  They want to check off a box on some form and move on to the next job order.  To do otherwise could be problematic and the “problem” is that taking the time to achieve that understanding increases the probability that the placement will be a lasting, cost-effective one.

This is not intended to be a cute play on words.  A candidate’s ability to fit and flourish within an organization can be measured by his or her understanding of as many aspects of the position as possible before being hired, and the problem is, that takes time and effort, and far too many recruiters approach the process of finding a manager or an executive as a transaction.  Their approach amounts to don’t ask/don’t tell recruiting.

Yes, I know recruiters cannot afford to take the same amount of time and effort in recruiting a housekeeper or dietary assistant as they would with a manager or department director, or a director versus a vice president or member of the C-suite.  In-house recruiters argue that this “understanding” approach to recruiting — I prefer to call it transformative — is not practical when you are being held accountable for the cost and the time it takes to fill a job order.  They have a point, to an extent.  The truth is that they are working within a system that is transactional in nature — filling job orders in a timely and cost-effective manner.  Rarely is the recruiter, or his or her boss, held accountable for the turnover rate.  The incentives are not geared to the right outcome.

For the retail buyer at the corporate headquarters who stocks the shelves with merchandise that does not “fit” with the consumer’s expectation, there will be adverse financial consequences for the business and, more than likely, its sales associates when commission checks are issued.

Companies with a turnover rate under 10 to 12 percent are probably getting something right.  Everyone else needs to step back and re-look at how the recruiting is being done.

Turnover costs an organization real money.  It also creates real pain, especially when it occurs because the recruiter and the hiring authority made the wrong choice.

© 2014 John Gregory Self

1 comment

  1. Interesting. I never thought about the analogies of recruiting to the challenges we are dealing with in healthcare. It seems to me that the same fee-for-service mentality that drives volume of services in healthcare causing physicians to see how many visits we can pack into a day regardless of the outcomes is the same perverse incentive that drives a recruiter to just check the boxes and move on to the next job. On the other hand, you have adopted the value-based model that most of us are striving for in healthcare. Thanks for leading the way!

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28 July, 2014 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management, Recruiting
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The Trickiest Part of An Interview

I have interviewed hundreds of senior executives in my more than 20 years of executive recruiting, and I have come to understand that the part of the process that trips up many candidates is  the first part of the face-to-face interview.  It is what I call the get acquainted segment.

First, we would not be talking to the candidate if they were not academically and professionally credentialed and have the requisite types and years of relevant experience along with quantifiable examples of their success across several dimensions.  So the question then is, what are we looking for?

Warren Buffet famously said that you hire people for their brains, their energy and their integrity.  If they do not have the third piece of that formula, they can kill you.

So, I am looking for people who have the experience and the record of accomplishment, as well as integrity in how they treat and deal with the customers, their colleagues and their employees.  I am looking for the people who have their heads screwed on right regarding how they act, what they believe in and whether they are a boss or a true leader.  When the candidate thinks this is about them, then we are all wasting our time.

Here are some of my strategies as well as frequently used questions for this part of the interview.

I always go down to the lobby of the hotel of the meeting facility we are using.  Once we have made the initial introductions, I usually stop for coffee.  I watch to see how they interact with people at the coffee bar, on the elevator and at the front desk.  If we have lunch, I watch to see how they interact with the wait staff — are they engaging, courteous ?

In terms of questions, I ask a variation of the “tell me about yourself.”  Lately I have asked people to do that in two minutes and to tell me what makes them tick.  I am not looking for the elevator speech reciting their career because I am looking at their resume.  I am listening for the stuff that tells me who they really are.  I have had people ramble on for 20 minutes with an almost incomprehensible life story delivered in such a rapid-fire style there was barely a second for a comma, a period or a breath of air.  That is not impressive either because they apparently were not listening to the instructions.

Here are some of the other get acquainted questions I like to use:

  1. Tell me something about yourself that is NOT on your resume and that will help me understand who you are.
  2. What do you think about my client?
  3. What do you think this job is really about?
  4. What are your top three priorities in life?
  5. How can you make a difference for my client?
  6. How curious are you?  What are you curious about?
  7. If our professional lives are about constant learning, how do you go about learning in addition to the various professional association meetings?
  8. What is on your bedside table in terms of reading?
  9. How important is gaining the support of your colleagues and all of those who work for you and how do you go about building relationships during the first 90 days?
  10. What is the essence of being a good leader?

In this new healthcare environment, we need leaders, not bosses, who are at the top of their game and who can produce the necessary results.  If they are not a balanced, ethical leader who treats his or her people with respect, their leadership tenure will not be sustainable.


I once heard a very wise person say: the right vision, values, strategies and beliefs do not mean squat without the right actions.

© 2014 John Gregory Self

1 comment

  1. Wow! Talk about transparency! This are incredibly helpful insights for all those who may be starting or in a search process. I don’t know any other search consultant who has been so open about how they source candidates. The sad thing is that this advice is out there, but a lot of candidates will not bother to take it, thinking that they know how to do this.

    Thanks for sharing!! In fact, I think I am going to steal some of your interview questions.

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25 July, 2014 Posted by Becky Pearce Posted in Healthcare, Recruiting
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Pardon My ‘Self-Serving’ Moment

As healthcare providers, large and small, move toward accountable value-based reimbursement and population health management, those of us who serve those companies are preparing for change as well.  Like our customers, we, too, must be prepared to be more accountable — own the outcome, share the financial risks in what we do or recommend and, above all else, be flexible in responding to changing market demands.

JohnGSelf logo_colorBusiness as usual is not a solution for health systems, hospitals and other providers or for the companies that support them.

We believe that the old model of executive recruiting is nearing the end of its useful life cycle; 50 years is a long time for a business model to survive.  We are talking to clients who want more accountability to ensure they receive full value for the fees they pay, flexibility and convenience in how we help them address their talent acquisition needs and, most of all, innovation to help them stay out in front of the transformational curve when it comes to human capital issues.

I rarely talk about my Firm in this space.  But today, I am going to share with you some of the things we are working on.  I beg your pardon in advance for this self-serving moment, but frankly I am kind of excited about what we are doing, and very proud of some very bright people, our partners that work with us to make a meaningful difference.

Innovation, a willingness to try new things, is part of our DNA.  A hospital CEO once told me that if important industry change was occurring in the middle of a crowded freeway, he expected to see me there, dodging the cars, trying to understand it and drag it off the freeway where it can be useful to others.  I am not sure about his example, but I have always been that guy who is excited by change.  I will run to it rather than away from it.

We were one of the first executive search firms to offer clients a three-year placement guarantee for executive level personnel.  We are one of the few executive search consultancies that videotapes our interviews with recommended candidates so that clients can make a more informed selection of which candidates they want to interview on site, and we are one of the only search firms that offers a team-building workshop with the new candidate as part of our search fee.

Here is a brief summary on our changes:

  • Name Change – We have changed our name from JohnGSelf Associates, Inc, to JohnGSelf Partners, Inc.  This is more than cosmetic.  It is more than trying to capture a current fad in service company branding.  We are strengthening our links with valued strategic partners to bolster our service offerings to clients and executives.  This includes the addition of career transition services — outplacement to many of you — team building workshops, and unbundling of our recruitment and candidate screening resources for clients who do not need a full search.
  • Transition Coaching/Outplacement – We now offer a highly successful and cost-effective online executive and management corporate outplacement service that allows us to efficiently scale the transition coaching for one senior executive, with personalized service, or 250 managers.  Our team provides on-site support for HR departments as the reduction in force begins.  In one corporate takeover, our Practice Leader handled 250 senior executives and managers.  Everyone landed in a new position.  The JGS+ Partners program includes social media consultants to help candidates tap into the power of Internet recruiting.
  • Team Building Workshops - As part of the JGS+Partners professional fee, the Firm leads a half-day workshop, helping the new hire integrate with other members of the team.  Clients have praised the effectiveness of the JGS+ Partners approach.
  • Physician Recruitment Management - We help you reduce a client’s physician recruitment costs by offering an efficient one-source project management.  The value to JGS+ Partners’ clients is that we can source candidates from our internal resources as well as by using a co-broker/management process that means clients only have to talk with one recruiter, rather the 10 or 15 who call each week, without fear of losing access to those candidates.

We are determined to be the light at the end of the tunnel, not the onrushing freight train.

© 2014 John Gregory Self

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  1. Bob Rahal says:

    Great points John!

    I think, in any industry, there are opportunities to better a process or possibly a behavior. Once we get to the status quo, we wade into dangerous territory. Remember to old addage, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Something doesn’t have to be broken before looking for improvement. Don’t get me wrong, things are broken all over the place. I’m saying, we don’t have to wait until they get that way, before we look for ways to do things better. Nice read and way to stay out in front. Thank you!

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