Leading Healthcare with Healthcare Leaders
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.  







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.

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!

So You Want To Be a Healthcare CEO?

by Roger Samuel, Executive Vice President & Practice Leader, MSA Executive Search

In virtually every hospital or health system CEO search that I’ve been involved with in my search work, there is either an internal candidate aspiring to advance into the top spot, or an external candidate we’re presenting who isn’t a “sitting CEO,” but in our opinion, has what it takes to become one.  If these “non-CEO” candidates make their way through the Search Committee interview process, it will inevitably result in a discussion around the Search Committee table about the risk associated in hiring a candidate who’s untested in the CEO role.  So, what is that risk?

In addition to having all of the skill sets, leadership qualities and experience necessary to serve as the institution’s top executive—meaning the leadership experience and qualities, the accounting/business/finance acumen, a solid understanding of hospital operations, an encyclopedic knowledge of the current healthcare landscape,  and a passion for great patient care—I believe there are four areas that truly distinguish an effective CEO from all other executives:

The ability to work well with a Board of Trustees:  This may seem obvious, but it’s a completely different experience to work for a diverse set of personalities than it is to be responsible to a single “boss.”  Experience that really helps the non-CEO candidates convince us that they can handle this transition is a track record of high performance in heavily matrixed environments, where the definition of success is a moving target.  In other words, we’re looking for effectiveness to “serve many masters.”

A desire to be the external face of the organization:   We’ve met many candidates over the years who absolutely love hospital operations, and are visible in every corner of the healthcare enterprise at all hours of the day and night.  But when it comes to serving on external boards, speaking to the local Rotary club, being involved in healthcare at the state and national level, and eating the proverbial rubber chicken three nights a week, no thanks.  Well, guess what?  You’re not going to enjoy being a CEO because you can’t escape—and frankly shouldn’t delegate—this vital part of the job.  There are some extremely effective “internal leaders” who are just that—invaluable resources to their organizations, known for “keeping the trains running on time.  We just don’t recommend you aspire to the CEO role if you don’t love the external part of the work as well.

The ability to deal with medical staff issues 24/7:  As anyone who works in healthcare knows, physicians have a proclivity to go to the top with their issues and concerns.  The successful CEO goes beyond just grudgingly accepting this as part of the job.  If you truly embrace your interactions with physicians—good and bad—you may just have the stuff to be a good CEO.

A “the buck stops here” mentality:  A good friend and mentor who just retired as the CEO of an academic medical center after an illustrious career once told me he was paid to make only a few decisions a year—but they were the tough ones to make.  You likely didn’t get this far in your career without developing an ability to build consensus and make good decisions.  But to this point you’ve always had the CEO to go to when called upon to make that particularly difficult or controversial decision.  In this regard, a good CEO is a bit like the 9th inning closer in baseball—it’s that “give me the ball” attitude we’re looking for!

If you ever get to the point of being in an interview for a CEO role with one of our consultants, you can expect a line of questions that tries to get to your both your readiness for and a desire to do the work articulated above.  What we want to make sure of is, do you want the work or do you want the title?


Ensure Your Resume Ends Up In The "Yes" Pile

By Roger Samuel, Executive Vice President & Practice Leader, MSA Executive Search

 As an executive recruiter, I often seen resumes whose first pages are consumed with some type of executive summary and maybe a “Career Objective.”  A little secret into what those of us who review dozens of resumes a day look for first—experience and accomplishments.  We will pretty much ignore these editorial comments you’re writing about yourself on our way to ascertaining:  what are you doing now?  How long have you been in your current role?  And, what have you accomplished in this and past  roles?  If that information peaks our interest, we’ll keep reading.

The best resumes, in my opinion, tell a story of your career progression.  What I’m looking for after that initial scan is how long a candidate has been in various roles, and just as important, with various organizations.  I highly recommend that if you’ve been promoted one or more times with a particular organization, you list the total years with that organization before articulating various roles within.  I love to see internal promotions; it tells me that you were (or are) good enough at what you do to warrant a promotion. 

I also recommend that you add a sentence or two describing the various organizations you’ve worked for.  How many beds, net revenue, and a brief descriptor of the significant moving parts of the organization (one acute care hospital, seven ambulatory sites, and a 47-provider multi-specialty practice, for example).  Again, this will end any guessing on our part as to whether or not you’ve done work at the scope necessary to succeed in the position we’re recruiting for.

One of the absolute keys to getting your resume into the “yes pile” is to focus on your accomplishments.  Even at the most senior positions, I still see resumes that are a laundry list of items taken from a job description.  Believe me, we know the key responsibilities of a CFO…or a CNO.  What we’re interested in is, what have you done to add value to the organization?  And the more specific and measurable you can be, the better.

Finally, I like to see a strong, well-written cover letter accompanying the submission of a resume.  In fact, I often counsel candidates to take the career objective paragraph out of your resume, and instead, make a strong case in a cover letter why this particular position is attractive to you, and why you feel you’re uniquely qualified for the role.  This letter accomplishes quite a few things.  First, it articulates for me why this, why now for you. Second, it helps me prepare for our initial call by covering the why this why now question.  Third, it gives me a brief example of your ability to write well and make your case. And finally, it shows me you’re doing more than just fishing your resume…that you’ve taken the time to personalize a cover letter specific to a particular position.

My final piece of advice is to ignore the old adage that your resume must be a certain length.  Face it, the longer your career, the longer your resume should be.  Tell your story!


Candidate Behavior with Executive Search Firms

Brad Veal, Senior Consultant, MSA Executive Search

The meteoric rise of social media over the past decade has dramatically altered our personal and business communication styles and methods, and forever changed how we look for new jobs and how companies acquire talent. No longer do we see a job posting in a newspaper or journal, and reply by mailing a formal cover letter and hard copy of our resume. Now timelines are compressed—everything is electronic, and face-to-face or telephone conversations are usually reserved only for top candidates.  Therefore, it is vitally important to stand out among your peers both on paper and online.

First, it is imperative that you have a professional presence on LinkedIn. This is the primary go-to resource for recruiters across most industries. If you can’t be found on LinkedIn, most won’t have the time to dig deeper to locate you. I highly recommend that you include as much information as you can regarding your career history, education, and professional skills and interests so your profile can be found running LinkedIn’s specialized filters. Also, a professional photograph is necessary and helps create a small level of familiarity in the mind of a recruiter.

Obviously, nearly everyone has some sort of personal social media presence, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, or one of the latest Silicon Valley start-ups. Personally, I consider the rise of these to be among the most significant innovations of the early 21st century. It is important to remember, however, that even though your personal updates and opinions on these platforms are often off-the-cuff or snarky comments (guilty!), they may carry with them a lifetime electronic signature. We’ve all heard the stories of someone losing a job or not being hired because of something controversial they had posted on a personal page. Also, some companies are requiring their employees to provide access to their personal social media passwords. That alone is worth a blog topic, but for right or wrong, it’s the world we live in and we must play by the rules.

So, what can we do to minimize potential problems? The most logical answer is to refrain from posting or commenting on political, religious, or other “hot button” issues. If you wouldn’t espouse your view to a total stranger, then don’t do it online. The same goes for posting “party” pictures. If you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see it, don’t post it. I realize, however, that we aren’t robots and the world would be a pretty bland place if this conservative thinking ruled every decision. So if your voice can’t be silenced, I highly encourage you to lock down your privacy settings so that only friends and confirmed followers can access your posts. Always remember the new take on an old adage, “Think before you post!”

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