Leading Healthcare with Healthcare Leaders
Leading Healthcare with Healthcare Leaders

MSA Search BlogInsights from over 30 years of Healthcare Executive Search

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!

How We Handle the "Declines"

By Denise RiebeRecruiterMSA Search

As a recruiter, it's always exciting to interact with candidates in the initial stages of a search, which includes sourcing, reviewing resumes, and conducting interviews. Then we get the privilege of introducing the best of the best recruits to our clients from setting up client interviews, to conducting reference calls, to setting up assessments with those candidates the client agreed to meet with. Oh what fun for everyone involved...but, what about those candidates that didn't make the cut? At what point do you let them know they weren't chosen for the next step, and how do you do it? 

At MSA Search, we have a commitment to our candidates to keep them informed, even when it's bad news. We never want to just send them the canned email saying, "Sorry, it didn't work out," or be remembered as the "slow-no" search firm. You never know when that candidate might be a client of yours or when you may need them for another position. All candidates would much rather receive a personal brief note or have a conversation to be notified of the news as soon as possible. It might be a bit awkward for us, but we owe it to all candidates. It's necessary to give them substantial feedback while keeping in mind we need to respect our client's confidentiality. Most candidates will appreciate the personal contact and won't push back. They just want to know so their next endeavor will be successful. 

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!


Categories of References that Matter

John Lenihan, Consultant, MSA Executive Search 

One of the most helpful parts of our candidate vetting process is the conversations we have with professional references. While opinions on the validity and objectivity of professional references can vary, they are an integral and non-negotiable part of our vetting process that carry significant weight as hiring executives consider candidates. As search consultants, we spend several hours interviewing each candidate so we can render an objective, professional opinion on qualifications and the all important “fit." Speaking to references, however, provides a unique glimpse into what it’s like to work with the candidate day in and day out. 

Simply put, references matter. Some candidates come to our very first conversation with several references ready to share with us. Others are much more cautious and guarded about providing references; usually with confidentiality being the key concern. Of course, when dealing with a currently employed candidate, we understand the confidentiality piece and always emphasize discretion when speaking with references. Oftentimes, candidates will ask me for guidance on who they should provide as references. The categories of references I like to see are: 

  • Current/former supervisor: rarely are we able to speak with a current supervisor, as that would indicate the person has disclosed to their boss that they are looking at a new role. The more likely scenario is one in which we are able to speak to a recent, yet former supervisor. This is arguably the most valuable reference as it gives the hiring executive a firsthand account of what it would be like to have the candidate reporting to them.
  • Current/former direct report: somewhat similar to the above example, most candidates aren’t comfortable providing a current subordinate or member of their staff to serve as a reference for the same reasons they wouldn’t want to provide a current supervisor. But if the position in question is a leadership position, chances are the organization looking to hire you will want to get a sense of what kind of leader you are and what people who have worked for you would say about your management style.
  • Peer: Anyone who reports to the same executive, sat at the same “table” as you, or served on the same team or committee in a peer-like position should be able to speak to your ability to work in a team-oriented and collaborative fashion. 
  • Internal customer: As our firm operates in the healthcare space, an example of an internal customer would be a physician leader who can share his or her perspective on the candidate’s ability to build relationships with medical staff, or a nursing leader in a similar manner.
  • Other: depending on the position, other examples could include board members, vendors, clients, community and/or political leaders, and colleagues from professional associations. 

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!”

The Forgotten Clients

By Denise Riebe, Business Development & Marketing Specialist, MSA Executive Search

What I’m referring to is our internal clients—our fellow employees.

This internal customer can be someone you work for as well as someone who works for you. At first, you may think that because they work for you, you might always be their internal customer. Wrong! While the support staff is dependent on the leader to get them the right information and training so they can do the best job possible, the leader is just as dependent on their support staff to assist with their responsibilities.

If we are truly committed to maintaining the highest level of external client satisfaction, people in all roles within the organization must understand how their work impacts the level of customer satisfaction. If we assist our colleagues with doing their jobs more successfully, our organization, as a whole, will be more successful.

No organization wants its employees to think that their only job is to do what others instruct them to do. Employees should be made aware of their coworkers’ and leaders’ roles, and how their own position affects the success of that role. With that knowledge, employees will have a sharper understanding of their importance to the organization and why their efforts are necessary. 

In the end, a simple, genuine "thank you" goes a long way in creating an atmosphere of team collaboration and contribution more than one could imagine. Even when an assigned duty is part of a person's role, tell them "thank you.” Let them know how much they are appreciated and how the work they do contributes to the overall success of the organization.

Social Media and Employment Matters: Developing a Positive & Professional Online Presence

By Kim Kueser, Senior Consultant, MSA Executive Search

Do potential employers make hiring decisions based on social media? How can you ensure your presence doesn’t harm your chances of landing your dream job?

Social media sites rank as the number one Internet activity worldwide. Several of the most popular social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, Flickr, and YouTube. Approximately 70% of all US Internet users are active on one or more social media sites, up from a mere 8% in 2005. More than 65% of the US population uses Facebook, and Twitter is growing 80% each year.

What does this mean for you as a prospective candidate? Your potential employer is likely active on social media sites as well. Nearly 50% of recruiters state they have rejected candidates based on inappropriate content found through performing Internet research. See below for some tips on how to use this to your advantage.


  • Post inappropriate pictures or comments—This includes information regarding drinking and/or drug use, profanity, and more. Instead, present yourself in a professional manner.
  • Write negative comments about previous employers—This will portray you in a bad light to a potential employer. Instead, keep it positive.
  • Use improper grammar—Poor communication skills result in a negative impression.
  • Share your opinion on controversial subjects—Strong views on politics, religion, or discriminatory remarks are terrible ways to exclude yourself as a candidate.
  • Contradict yourself—Be honest on your resume and social networking sites such as LinkedIn.


  • Your LinkedIn profile is of the utmost importance—Make sure your online presence presents yourself as someone who is knowledgeable, and up-to-date on industry trends and topics.
  • Research—Use popular social media sites to learn more about the hiring manager, recruiter, and anyone else you may be interviewing with. This will often allow you an opportunity to discuss common interests (sports teams, alma maters, etc.) or to compliment them on an article or blog they have published.
  • Google yourself—You may be surprised by what you find. Savvy recruiters can often uncover photos and comments from years ago.

Five Key Questions Hiring Executives Should Ask When Beginning a Search

By John Lenihan, Consultant, MSA Executive Search

How can talent acquisition professionals prevent candidate misfit scenarios (refer to Common Reasons for Candidate Misfits) from happening to ensure a successful hire and long-term placement? The first step is a thorough conversation with the hiring executive to understand as much as possible at the beginning before diving into the recruitment process.

 The following are five examples of questions the hiring executive should be prepared to answer when starting a search along with a tip for each.

Question 1: Why is this position vacant?

- Tip: As obvious as this question seems, the answer is not always so simple. Whether the predecessor was terminated or voluntarily left the organization, it is important to take a step back and examine the factors that led to this vacancy in an open and honest manner. 

Question 2: Whose input is most important when describing the “ideal candidate?”

- Tip: Have conversations with stakeholders immediately to obtain their input before starting the search. Ideally, there will be consistency in the feedback, but it can also be helpful to uncover any disharmony or gaps in perception between stakeholders.  

Question 3:  What will success look like for this position?

- Tip: Identify several goals and objectives based on the areas of first-year emphasis for the position and department.

 Question 4: What are the obstacles to success for this position? 

- Tip: Determine roadblocks that may exist that would hinder the interviewee’s ability to achieve his or her goals in alignment with the identified goals and objectives. 

Question 5: What do you want to stop, start, and continue?  

- Tip: This question asks us to look at the past, present, and future of a position. Use it to identify problem areas from the predecessor—areas in which the predecessor performed well that you’d like to see the successor continue, and new strengths you’d like to see the successor acquire.

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