Leading Healthcare with Healthcare Leaders
Leading Healthcare with Healthcare Leaders

MSA Search BlogInsights from over 30 years of Healthcare Executive Search

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. 

Résumé and Cover Letter Advice to Tell Your Story

by Roger SamuelExecutive Vice President and Practice Leader, MSA Search

As an executive recruiter, I often see résumés that feature an executive summary and maybe a "career objective" on the first page. A little secret into what recruiters look for first when receiving dozens of resumes a day: experience and accomplishments. We will pretty much ignore these editorial comments you are 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 role as well as previous roles? If that information peaks our interest, we'll keep reading. 

The best résumés, 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 within a particular organization, list the total years you were with them 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.

I also recommend you add a sentence or two describing the various organizations you've worked for. How many beds, net revenue, a brief description of the significant moving parts of the organization (for example, one acute care hospital, seven ambulatory sites, and a 47-provider multi-specialty practice). 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 résumé into the "yes" pile is to focus on your accomplishments. Even at the most senior-level positions, I still see résumés that are a laundry list of items taken from a job description. Believe me, we know the key responsibilities of a CFO or 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 résumé submission. In fact, I often counsel candidates to take the career objective paragraph out of their résumé, and instead, make a strong case in a cover letter as to why a particular position is attractive, and why they feel they're uniquely qualified for the role. This letter accomplishes quite a few things:

  • Articulates for a recruiter why this position and why now
  • Helps a recruiter prepare for the initial call with you by covering why this position and why now
  • Gives the recruiter a brief example of your ability to write well and make your case 
  • Shows a recruiter you're doing more than just fishing your résumé—you're taking the time to personalize a cover letter specific to a particular position

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

Creative Recruiting Strategies- The War for Physician Executive Talent

by Brad Veal, Senior Consultant, MSA Search

The rapid growth of the physician presence in executive leadership capacities has led to a war for talent previously unseen throughout healthcare.  As hospitals, health systems and large medical practices seek physicians for their leadership teams, whether it be CEO, COO, or a Dyad-administrative partnerships, it is readily apparent that the demand for these experienced physician executives far outpaces the supply. 

Obviously, from a self-serving standpoint, I would always recommend a partnership with an executive search firm.  Healthcare-specific search firms will possess access to information, databases and other candidate data that the traditional hospital or health setting does not.  However, this is not a sales pitch, so we will not go down that path. 

While there are no “silver bullets” in the physician executive recruitment world, there are several behaviors that organizations can model to enhance their position for both the short and long-term success.  First, be nimble.  Nearly every physician executive on the market is mulling multiple opportunities, so you must do something to make your organization unique.  Certainly interview timeliness and availability are very important.  Practicing clinicians often find it difficult to get away for interviews, so we have seen some clients that have traveled to the candidate’s site and held initial interviews there.  Also, “weeks” and not “months” should be your goal for an interview timeline. 

Second, creativity is a must.   Quality physician executive candidates are in a strong market position and are on the right side of the negotiation table.  Often, these physicians are leaving a highly lucrative practice to transition into full-time leadership, so whether it be unique practice opportunities (another topic in itself for physician executives) , top of market compensation models, bonuses or other perquisites, organizations must look for creative solutions to stand out from the crowd.        

Third, seek and develop talent within your organization.  There are thousands of practicing physicians that are looking for change, and it’s a given that you have some in your organization. These professionals no longer desire the traditional physician practice of thirty years of service and a quiet ride into the sunset.  Instead, they are dynamic learners and view their practice as a springboard to bigger and better things.  You should work to identify those talents and support them by offering educational assistance, nurture committee involvement and encourage other gateways to the leadership suite.   

We expect that the market will correct itself over the next several years, particularly with the increase of accelerated advanced degree programs tailored to physicians.  However, that equilibrium is ultimately many years off, and organizations can and must take aggressive steps now as the market for these physician executives only grows tighter.  

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?

 

Five Ways to Mistakenly Say that You Are “Just Not Into the Candidate”

by Jane GrovesExecutive Vice President, MSA Executive Search

You are an executive for a Medical Center or health system with an excellent reputation in your state, your region, and even nationally in some areas of your operations. You have an opening for a critically important executive on your senior leadership team, and you have retained and A-list executive search consultant to conduct a national search. The consultant just presented an excellent candidate slate, and you are feeling really good. The rest is easy…… Right?...... Maybe not…..

In my 25 years as a healthcare executive search consultant, with the opportunity to serve hundreds of client organizations across the country, I have witnessed some surprising and disappointing “events” when candidates travel to meet on-site with the client. The following examples are all true stories. Do you agree that they scream “We are just not that into you!” to an executive candidate?

 

#1     The hiring executive (often the CEO) is late for the interview, cuts the interview short, or cancels the interview completely.

#2     The interview agenda changes dramatically the day of the interview; people are late and unprepared when they eventually meet with the candidate.

#3     There is an interview over a meal where the candidate is “drilled” with questions and never is given time to eat.

#4     There is not an ounce of hospitality extended during the visit. No one hosts the candidate, tours them, or offers breaks or refreshments.

#5     The last interview of the day ends, and the candidate is free to leave; no wrap-up or closing meeting with the hiring executive or the HR executive.

 

Do any of these sound familiar? You may be saying that certainly this would never happen in your organization, and if so, congratulations!  Or you may be saying that it is the candidate looking for the job and they need to be able to “go with the flow” during the interview process; if that is the case, I disagree, and suggest that hospitality and common courtesy should drive your interactions with an executive candidate who has traveled to meet with you.

It bears repeating that the onsite interview experience is a two- way street.  The A-list candidates are evaluating your organization, while you are evaluating their potential fit.  The professionalism  and courtesies that you extend  throughout your direct interactions with a candidate are a critical factor in assuring that the executive remains engaged in a process that can often stretch out over several months.  Even if you have decided that the candidate is not the right fit for your organization or the position, the impression that you leave them with should matter to you.   

 

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!”

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