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Leading Healthcare with Healthcare Leaders

MSA Search BlogInsights from over 30 years of Healthcare Executive Search

A Look back at 25 years in healthcare executive search

by Jane Groves, Managing Director & Senior Advisor, Gallagher MSA Search

As 2015 comes to a close………..A look back at 25 years in healthcare executive search…….

Five things that have stayed the same………

1.  Personal presentation and professional communication set the tone…..and are the price of admission for high quality candidates in the executive search process.

2. Everyone has a “story” or a “caveat” to their candidacy that occurred somewhere along the way in an executive career path…..being open and transparent and willing to discuss what was learned from the experience is highly valued by an executive search consultant.

3.  Talking too much; getting off track when providing answers or examples, is a fatal flaw when spending time with a search consultant; whether the interview is scheduled for one hour or four hours.

4. Exhibiting too much confidence, arrogance or lack of humility during any phase of the executive search process works against an executive.  Understanding impact when communicating with others in an interview is essential.  

5. Character is a core component of an executive’s leadership brand.  Self awareness goes a long way in demonstrating this.


Five things that have changed notably…….


1. Access to potential candidates has grown exponentially through technology and social media… along with it comes an exponential increase in the need to do careful vetting and screening.

2. Client organizations who say they want to do a retained executive search are often really interested in fast and cheap candidate identification ….. speed has trumped quality in more instances than twenty or even ten years ago.

3.  Social media has dramatically blurred the lines that previously existed between the  professional and personal life of executives; exposure, biases, prejudices etc.. find their way into the vetting conversation more readily.

4. The “ideal age” or the definition of “career stage” has gone up every five years.  It is not uncommon to have top candidates on an executive search slate be well into their 60’s today.

5. Dealing with the purchasing or supply chain division at a client and treated as a vendor rather than a trusted advisor/consultant during the sales cycle is much more prevalent……  and typically cumbersome and impersonal.

Fast forward to today… as we start the 2016 business year, we look ahead with the renewed commitment to provide the maximum value to our clients for the investment that they make in partnering with us to conduct a high quality executive search with optimum results.  While many of the changes that have occurred in our industry and our relationships with our clients over the last twenty five years have been positive,  we believe that items #2 and #5 in the list above are problematic, and ultimately work against a trusted relationship with a long term ROI  for our clients…… both of which we hold oursewlves accountable for and believe that our clients expect also.



What Not to Do When Interviewing for a Job

By Brad Veal, Senior Consultant, Gallagher MSA Search

From David Letterman to Buzzfeed, Top 10 lists are ingrained in our popular culture.  If you throw out click bait like “Top 25 BBQ Restaurants” to “Worst Movies of All-Time,” you’ve got me hooked, which possibly explains why our I.T. guy is always mad at me.  With two decades in executive search, I have accumulated a lot of candidate stories, most of which are positive experience, but there are a few that just make you shake your head and laugh (or cry).  With that, I thought we’d take a more light-hearted approach to this month’s blog:

Top 10 Things to Avoid When Interviewing for a Job   

10.  Do Not Treat the Interview Trip Like a College Spring Break – no, it’s not OK to ring up a $200 dinner bill when you are traveling alone.  I realize that the 24 oz. filet and top shelf scotch are delicious, and a third drink is even better than two, but this is not the time or place.  Clients do review interview expenses. 

9.   Salary Discussions Are Not an Icebreaker – we all like money and want more of it, so compensation is certainly important, but any direct conversations around this subject with your potential employer are better suited to second interviews or benefit discussions the further you get into the process.  However, if you are working with a search firm, be honest with them, so they can navigate these waters with you.

8.   The Application and Background Check Forms are not the time for creative writing – if you are concerned that something will potentially be uncovered during this process, tell the truth, for it will come out at some point.  The farther into the process that it does, the more embarrassing it is for all involved.

7.   Divas are Fine in Show Business, but Not Healthcare – when nothing is quite right, from the car to menu to the hotel to the airline, and you require specialized boarding and background music for your Jack Russell, the term “high maintenance” inevitably makes its way to the decision-makers. 

6.   Ignore Support Personnel at your own peril – in many organizations, a “no” vote from the administrative assistants is enough to curtail a candidate.  Also, in smaller communities, your interview continues at the hotel and in local establishments.  The way you treat people both inside and outside the hospital will surely get noticed. 

5.  Positivity is Encouraged – the interview is not the time to air your grievances, a la Festivus.  Resist the urge to speak negatively of any colleagues or your employer, no matter how strong the temptation or how much they may deserve it. 

4.    Self-Initiative is Imperative – please take the time to proactively research the hospital, community, and interview team as best you can.  You can find amazing things from simple online searches, I never cease to be amazed by Google.  When you show up without having done even cursory research, you become a very easy candidate to bypass. 

3.    Arrive Armed with Questions – this is a major life decision, and any rational organization expects a candidate to take notes and ask multiple questions.  So when a candidate interviews without a pen and notepad, it is a definitely red flag. 

2.   Dress for the Part – we all love our jeans and sport coats, but avoid the urge to forego formality.  Unless specifically directed by the employer to dress down, expect to wear a dark suit with shined shoes.   No gaudy jewelry and keep the perfume/cologne to a minimum. 


1.  Do Not Fall Asleep During the Interview.  Yes, it happened, and shockingly no, the candidate didn’t get the job.  Please get a good night’s sleep before the interview.   

I hope you have been entertained by these and wish you best of luck in your upcoming interviews. 




Applying the 8 Characteristics of Resilience to the Job Search Journey

 By John Lenihan, MBA, SPHR, Senior Consultant, Gallagher MSA Search

I recently attended a Wellness Series presented by Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri at a national HR association meeting that discussed The 8 Characteristics of Resilience.  This thought provoking and informative presentation highlighted how to implement resilience to practice in your everyday life.  Since we in the executive search field are always having conversations with individuals looking for a new job, I decided to take the core message of The 8 Characteristics and apply them to the job search journey:-

·         Optimism: Envision positive outcomes!  Whether you are having a screening interview over the phone, interviewing with the hiring executive for the first time or taking an executive assessment as part of the interview process, your chances of a desired outcome are increased if you visualize success going into it.

·         Flexibility: Think big!  If you are just starting the job search process, challenge yourself to broaden your search and your thinking.  There’s nothing wrong with seeing yourself as a functional or industry specialist, but don’t limit your job search without giving it the appropriate reflection and consideration on the front-end.  Flexibility can also come into play when consider elements of an offer package or a geographical relocation you may not have otherwise considered. 

·         Perspective:  Try “underreacting” for once!  Take the extra few minutes to consider setbacks in a larger context.  Realize that job searches at this level are typically marathons not sprints, and that there are lessons to be learned from most disappointments.  Simply put, the big picture allows you to see more. 

·         Acceptance:  The dreaded “there’s nothing’ you can do!” Come to appreciate that some aspects of a job search are bound to fall outside of your sphere of influence and sphere of control.  If you are Type A (like me) it can be extremely difficult to accept that important factors are out of your hands.  But if you accept this fundamental truth, you can focus on factors you can control, which is undeniably a better use of your time and energy. 

·         Self-Confidence:  You got in the door for a reason!  I often give this advice to candidates who are in later stages of interviews but can also be applied to early stages and even phone screenings.  Remind yourself that you have made it to this stage because there is a stated interest in your knowledge, skills and abilities. Sometimes just getting to that stage is half the battle. 

·         Insightfulness:  At the interview stage specifically, be sure to pay attention to what people are really saying, ask questions that will provide valuable answers (stay away from the “yes or nos”), notice nonverbal cues in conversations about certain topics, even pay attention to pauses!  These are all examples of how you can employ intuitiveness in an effective way.   

·         Perseverance:  Convince yourself that you have an edge over other candidates for a position because you have faced adversity and you carry the lessons of those difficulties with you as an advantage. 

·         Humor:  Seeing and appreciating the humorous side of adversity – as difficult as it may be at times—will only cultivate a stronger ability to demonstrate many of the above characteristics themselves.  







Getting Back in the Game: 10 Job Interview Etiquette Tips

By Patricia McCollum CIR, Recruiter, Gallagher MSA Search 

Part of our job as executive search recruiters and consultants is to prepare candidates for phone and in-person interviews with our client organizations.  Having successfully placed hundreds of executives, we occasionally have candidates at the Director level - identified through our SearchDIRECT practice - who may be interviewing for the first time, or have not interviewed for many years.  For those individuals, following are some "best practices" job interview etiquette tips by Job Search Expert Alison Doyle. 

  1. What to Wear to a Job Interview: When you are dressing for a job interview, the image you present is really important.  Your image is what makes the first impression on the interviewer - and that first impression is the one that sticks- so it's important to dress appropriately when interviewing.  Regardless of the type of job you are interested in, you want the first impression to be a great one.  When dressing for an interview for a professional position, dress accordingly in business attire.
  2. When to Get a Job Interview: ARRIVE ON TIME!  It's important to arrive a few minutes early, or on time, at the latest, for a job interview.  Know where you are going, how much travel is needed, and how to get to the interview location.   Check out the logistics ahead of time so you ensure that you are not late.  Giving yourself a bit of extra time will give you an opportunity to stop in the rest room and freshen up, if need be, to make sure you don't have any hair, make-up or wardrobe malfunctions.  A few extra minutes will also give you an opportunity to catch your breath and stay calm.  An interview is even more stressful than normal if you are rushing to get there on time. 
  3. What to Bring to a Job Interview:  It's important to come prepared to a job interview.  Bring extra copies of your resume along with a list of references to offer the interviewer.  Also, bring a list of questions to ask the interviewer.  If you're interviewing for a tech or web job and you want to show examples of your work, it's fine to bring your laptop or tablet to show the interviewer what you have accomplished.  What should you NOT bring? Don't walk into a job interview with a coffee or bottle of soda or water, or anything else to eat or drink.  Your cell phone should be turned off and out of sight.  You don't want to be the applicant whose text messages or calls disrupt the interview.
  4. How to Greet the Interviewer:  When you arrive at a job interview, introduce yourself to the receptionist, if there is one.  Let him or her know who you are scheduled to meet with.  Greet your interviewer with a firm handshake and introduce yourself.  Be prepared for a little small talk, but don't overdo it.  Follow the interviewer's lead and let them guide the direction of the conversation.
  5. Responding to Interview Questions:  Listening is as important as talking during a job interview. When you respond to interview questions, listen carefully to the questions, take time to phrase your responses, and ask the interviewer to repeat the question if you are not sure what they are asking.  Be brief and don't ramble when you respond.  However, do be sure that your responses answer the questions, are focused, and highlight the skills you have that are relevant to the job.  Keep in mind that your responses are your sales pitch.  You are selling the interviewer on yourself as the best candidate for the job, so be sure you focus on your relevancy, i.e., why you are a good candidate, how you can do the job, what you can contribute, and how you will benefit the company if you are hired.  
  6. Telephone Interview Etiquette:  Phone interview etiquette is just as important as in-person job interview etiquette when it comes to getting hired.  That's because, regardless of whether you interview on the phone or in-person, a successful interview will get you to the next stage of the hiring process.
  7. Dining Interview Etiquette:  Dining with a prospective employee allows employers to review your communication and interpersonal skills, as well as your table manners, in a more casual environment.  Good manners can give you the edge over another candidate, so, take some time to brush up on your dining etiquette skills before dinner.
  8. What to Give the Interviewer:  Bring extra copies of your resume with you, in case the interviewer needs a copy or you end up meeting with several people.  Have a list of three references printed out, including contact information for each reference, ready to offer at the end of the interview.
  9. Closing the Interview:  Toward the end of the interview, let the hiring manager know that you think the job is an excellent fit and that you are very interested in the job.  It is appropriate to ask what the next step in the hiring process will be and when you might expect to hear.  Finally, thank the interviewer for the time they spent with you. 
  10. Follow Up with a Thank You Note:  Taking the time to say thank you not only shows that you appreciate the interview, it also gives you an opportunity to reiterate your interest in the job.  In addition to saying thank you, refer to anything the interviewer mentioned that enhanced your interest and summarize why you think the job is a good match and why you are a strong candidate.  

Knowing proper job interview etiquette is an important part of successful interviewing.  How you dress, what you bring to a job interview, how you greet the interviewer, and how you communicate can all make a big difference in the outcome of the interview.  Review these 10 etiquette tips for before, during, and after a job interview, to ensure that your job interview etiquette is up to speed and you are making the best impression.

Sharpen the Saw: How to Make Yourself a More Marketable Candidate

By Brad Veal, Senior Consultant, Gallagher MSA Search


With our ever changing world and increased pace of life, gone are the traditional structured lifestyles of many of our parents and grandparents.  This is especially true in our professional careers.  People no longer go to work out of high school or college and remain with the same employer until their "gold watch" retirement.  The statistics vary, but studies show that Americans will hold an average of ten to twelve jobs over their lifetime.  For millienials, that number is expected to nearly double.  That means, like it or not, we all better be prepared to market ourselves.

That discussion could branch off into a myriad of topics, but for today's purposes, we are going to concentrate on interview preparation.  As this blog is geared toward healthcare executives, we are working under the assumption that the pre-interview, low-hanging fruit has been picked:  hospital and health system websites have been combed, interview panel members have been researched, 990 reports reviewed, and communities and markets studied. We will discuss mock and traditional interview experience.

Practice May Never Make Perfect

Before you go through a formal interview process, you should work through several "practice runs".  This can easily be done with family members or professional colleagues.  Take the opportunity to direct them to make it very uncomfortable for you - ask the tough, probing questions.  Video the encounter so you can see yourself through your potential employer's eyes.  And then repeat as necessary, so that you can develop confidence and comfort.  Practice may never make perfect, but this type of tough preparation is very likely more painful than the formal interview itself. 

Case Study - Interviews AFTER the Job? 

We work with a large health system in the Midwest, and one of their top executives encourages his leadership team to annually interview for positions outside the organization.  He believes this instills an ongoing self-development mentality, where leaders look to improve their skills and enhance their experiences in the present, as opposed to delaying until a potential job search in the future.  The caveat is that he will lose good people this way, but he views it as a two-way street, where the employer must do their part to engage the employee so that leaving is unlikely.  This is certainly an unusual, yet progressive, practice that requires a great deal of trust as well as a non-punitive culture.  While many organizations aren't quite this evolved, this can benefit both the employee and the employer, as individuals look for constant growth and development opportunities that will consequentially enhance their organization. 

I interview candidates every day and fully understand that looking for a new job is generally not viewed as one of life's pleasant experiences.  However, I have also found that the dread of the interview process is almost always much more painful than the actual practice.  People seek to make a connection, whether employee and employer, and can all relate to the person sitting uncomfortably across the table.  The more you prepare and practice, the better chance you have to establish a rapport and make a favorable impression.

Unprofessional Resumes

By Patricia Neds, CIRSenior RecruiterGallagher MSA Search

If you want to be taken seriously when you apply for a job, you need to put some polish on your resume, cover letter, and everything contained therein. In addition to having your resume reviewed, make it easy on the hiring agent to see your LinkedIn profile. Hyperlink it on your resume, so all they have to do is click one button. Here are some additional aspects of creating a resume that will help in making sure it is professional and ready for the next phases of the hiring process.

Email addresses

Unprofessional email addresses are just one way of sending the wrong message. Email accounts are free. There is no reason not to sign up for your own. Many professionals share an email account with their significant other generating unprofessional addresses such as bobandpat@yahoo.com. Also, stay away from cutesy addresses like chimpsarecute@yahoo.com. You can always share your admiration of cute apes with colleagues after you’ve been hired. The same goes for offensive or flirtatious email addresses. Use an address that incorporates the name you use professionally on your resume and cover letter.

Failure to proofread

It is amazing how many people submit resumes that contain several typos. Even better than spell check, you should ask a friend to review your resume and cover letter. Make sure your dates are consistent and that you don't confuse your story with overlapping timelines.

Unprofessional voicemail

If your resume is strong enough to convince the recruiter to reach for the telephone, be sure what they find at the other end of the line represents you in the best light—that means your voicemail or whoever might answer the phone.

Lazy words

The use of “etc.” on a resume is a sign of laziness. This says that the job seeker can't even take the time to list out all of their duties. Another no-no is saying “same as above” anywhere on a resume. If you had similar functions at a couple of your jobs, summarize the responsibilities and then bullet out some of your accomplishments. Other examples include spelling out the name of an employer or school (“BYU” instead of “Brigham Young University”) or not providing a city or state for an employer or school. Make sure you provide all the information to clarify the correct organization and/or school.

A resume is your first impression. What is your professional brand? Lead with it, and get their attention right away. An average resume review lasts 7 – 10 secondsmake it impactful! Your professionally written resume and cover letter is what will get you in the front door for an interview.

Conducting a Successful Video Interview: the Do’s and Don’ts

By Kim KueserSenior Consultant, Gallagher MSA Search

The use of video interviewing is on the rise. With shrinking HR budgets and increasing pressure to fill positions more quickly, video technology is becoming a common business practice for small and large organizations across industries. More than 70% of organizations currently use live video interviewing and that number is growing.

Are you in a position to put your best foot forward? Here are some do’s and don’ts in conducting a successful video interview: 

Do a trial run with a friend to ensure that your equipment is working and that the bandwidth in your home or office is adequate.

  • Is the audio clear?
  • Is the video clear? Are there glitches?
  • Is the lighting and angle of the camera appropriate?

Do your homework.

  • Prepare no differently than you would for a personal interview
  • Research the company and the position
  • Keep your resume handy so that you can recall specific dates

Check the aesthetics.

  • Clear your desk of clutter and ensure the background is tidy
      • A view of your messy bedroom never makes a good impression!

Ensure you will have a quiet environment.

  • Send the kids and the dogs away
  • Turn the ringer and your answering machine off
      • Overhearing a message from a bill collector does NOT make a good impression!

Create a positive impression.

  • Look at the camera...not the screen
      • This will feel awkward and take practice to perfect
      • Use the Picture‐in‐Picture feature to make sure the camera angle is on point and the video is clear

Dress professionally.

  • If you elect to wear pajama pants with your suit jacket, make sure you do NOT stand up!
  • If utilizing a service such as Skype, create a professional username.
      • Fluffy24 will NOT make a good impression!

Tips for Better Résumé Organization

We've all seen the statistic that a recruiter only takes 5 to 6 seconds to review a résumé, so we know that résumé first impressions count! I see so many résumé styles come through that I found it necessary to develop a simple list of tips to better organize your information. This won't guarantee that a recruiter will spend more time looking at your résumé, but at least they will get the information and it will potentially earn you that great first impression that's needed within the time they're reviewing. 

Résumé Organization Tips

  1. Pick an easy to read layout or format, and stick with it. Remember, this is a professional representation of you and you are being evaluated on the information provided. Be consistent with clear fonts, spacing, and overall organization, and include dates of employment with each position (example: 05/00-03/15) 
  2. Make it easy for us to reach you—give us your digits! Did you remember to provide your cell phone number and/or home phone number? Email address? If you're on LinkedIn, supply your profile URL. We like reading the information you provide and any recommendations you may have. 
  3. Organize your résumé in reverse chronological order—we want to see your most recent position first. Include detailed information (6-8 bullet points) for the last 10 years of your employment; anything before that can be condensed (3-4 bullet points). 
  4. Include appropriate and relevant accomplishments and responsibilities with each position listed. This is your opportunity to brag on yourself and we LOVE to read it, so ham it up! What was the scope of your role? Were you involved in any special projects or initiatives that lead to increased patient satisfaction or improved survey results, etc.? Are there specific needs listed in the job posting that you have experience with? Add them to your résumé so we can see you have that experience! 
  5. Outline your education and credentials clearly. Include the name of the institution, degree/certification/licensure earned, and year of completion or expected date of completion.

These tips may seem basic, but when you're an experienced leader with many accomplishments and/or positions to share, it's easy to get lost when updating your information. Remember not to make your résumé too lengthy. This is a snapshot of the most important pieces of your career history, and you'll have the opportunity to share more details when you're interviewing. 

Good luck with your revisions, and hopefully some of these simple adjustments will help to get you in front of more recruiters, and ultimately connected with hiring managers!

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