John is an executive recruiter & speaker sharing his thoughts on healthcare, recruiting, digital technology, career management & leadership. 

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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System
7 November, 2011 Posted by John G. Self
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15 June, 2017 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Recruiting
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The Importance of Recruiter Preparation for Interviews

Posted June 15th, 2017 | Author: John G. Self

To be prepared, or not.

If you are a candidate I don’t see that as a relevant question. Yes, you should be prepared, really prepared.

If you are conducting the interview, there is emerging debate about whether advance preparation is beneficial. Really?

Barbara Corcoran, whom I have written about before, is a serial entrepreneur, new business investor, and a judge on the wildly popular and award-winning Shark Tank reality television show. She comes down on the side of less is more.

In an interview with Adam Clark, a New York Times editor who compiles the twice-weekly Corner Office CEO Q&A, Corcoran explained it this way: “When I hire people, I just look for the light in the person, to see what’s good about them. I can spot it a mile away.

“And I never read a résumé until after the interview because you never know who wrote it, and you can be fooled by it. If you read a résumé, the interview is nothing but a business small-talk session confirming stuff you just read.”

That is an interesting if not counter intuitive perspective but, apparently, it works well for her purposes.

While I can see/appreciate her point of view, I do not agree. I am a firm believer in comprehensive preparation. At our firm, our preparation begins when we are conducting the due diligence site visit on the front end of the search process.

There are four categories we review:

  1. Job Description. The official job description is typically of little use in the candidate selection process with the exception of the minimum requirements. So in our interviews with the principals to the search, we expand this to cover all functional responsibilities and preferred/required skill sets with the necessary experience in each set.
  2. Performance Deliverables. How success will be defined for the chosen applicant. This section usually covers several dimensions and we explore each one.
  3. Challenges/Hurdles to Success. This is important information. Has the candidate effectively overcome similar challenges?
  4. Organization/Community Culture. This is critical and so we incorporate questions on this subject in every site visit interview. In a smaller towns, the community’s culture can be as important as the organization’s profile.
  5. DISC© Profiles of Direct Reports. This information is incorporated into the various interviews to determine candidate compatibility/the ability to build an effective working relationship.

We expand this information into interview forms with multiple questions in each category. These questions are prioritized and then assigned to various stages of the interview process — initial candidate screening (telephone), the Skype interview (prior to meeting the candidate in person) and the face-to-face (F2F) interview, a three-hour session that includes video taping of select questions that is then incorporated into our presentation of recommended candidates.

Initial preparation for the candidate interviews includes a thorough review of their resume, social media profiles/posts as well as any information that may be found on professional association websites. We look for professional/experiential strengths and weaknesses for special attention at each step of the process. Interviewers are constantly updating their candidate knowledge as more information comes into their file.

Prior to the F2F interviews, the Engagement Partner will review the entire folder, and then add additional questions to flesh out areas of interest or concern.

While the video questionnaire has five to seven core questions that each candidate will asked, additional questions designed specifically for each candidate will be developed.

With a three-year placement guarantee for C-suite/senior leadership positions for the firm and the steep cost of a mis-hire, we believe this level of attention to detail is important.

In interviewing, the goal is not to miss something that could screw up the obvious.

© 2017 John Gregory Self

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14 June, 2017 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management, Leadership, Podcast
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Are You Doing the Work You Love? If Not, Why Not? [PODCAST]

Posted June 14th, 2017 | Author: John G. Self




Today, three subjects. We begin by asking an important career question: are you doing the work you really want to do, and if not, why not?

Second, we will talk about the 9 essential elements of your personal brand management….

And we will end with a short essay on the dangers of business travel.

I have a strong belief in the concept of paying it forward. One of the ways I exercise my belief is by providing pro bono advice to a wide range of professionals – from graduate students and early careerists, to leaders who want a perspective check and to those making career transitions.

The first question I always try to ask is this: Are you doing what you really love? Are you really passionate about being a CEO, COO or VP of Operations or Marketing, or are you in a job because it just happened – career progression by happenstance?

You might be surprised at the number of executives who are trapped in jobs they really do not like, with people they do not respect because of the financial trap – they are making too much money and have decided that changing a financial lifestyle is far more traumatic than suffering through a job they do not love.

When I ask that first question, the dead giveaway that there are major problems in the person’s career is based on what I call the torture index rating; how tortured is their answer? The callers try so hard to be passionate, confident and professional, when all the time you know you are hearing the artful dodge, or their struggles to believe something they think they should say.

Unless you are five years or less from retirement and have no intention of ever working again, you need to know that it is OK not to punish yourself any longer. Really, it is never too late to follow your dreams, to pursue your real passions in work and life. Do not find yourself in the place of the bright young law partner I met several years ago. He was making more money than he could ever spend, but he was obviously painfully dissatisfied with his job and his life. “I only have to do this for 20 more years and then I can retire.”

How tragic an answer.

That answer blew the top off my torture index rating.

I have a refrigerator sticker that I look at every morning that I am in Dallas. It asks this important question:

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

Consider this: The last time I checked, we have only one life to live. If you are not happy, the angst and the challenges of changing jobs and/careers is a lot less painful than a long retirement chock full of deep regrets.

Have courage.


Nine Elements of Career Brand Management

Executives and managers hoping to navigate the turbulent economy with a minimum of disruption must develop excellent career brand management tools.

Here are nine elements to consider.

  1. Discipline: This is the cornerstone of effective career management. The greatest lament of executives who suddenly find themselves out of work is that they wish they had spent more time on developing a bigger network, boosting their presence on social media, writing articles for professional journals, etc. The second most common thing I hear are excuses – reasons why they didn’t devote more time to enhancing their career brand.
  1. Personal Vision Statement: Writing a vision statement is important. This statement should define who you are, what you believe in, how would you want to be perceived, and what you want to achieve. Like a strategic plan, this, too, will have to be updated periodically. I strongly suggest you revisit this statement annually. Then have the discipline to tie every thing you do or say to it.
  1. Know Who You Are: Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. A weakness will never be a strength. Be honest with yourself. Not everyone is destined to be a CEO or senior executive. Use this assessment in preparing your personal vision statement and in making career choices.
  1. Social Media: The Internet has forever changed the landscape for career brand management. Today we have a host of sites including LINKEDIN, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Next week, next month or next year, there will be a new “latest and greatest” tool that can be used. Learn the “dos” and “don’ts” now. LINKEDIN, the largest of the professional social media platforms, has quickly emerged as a key tool for executive recruiters to track and identify talent. Having a profile page is not enough. You must add content and actively connect with others, sharing ideas and information. Social media is vital to establishing and maintaining a relevant brand.
  1. Build A Network: If you do not develop and maintain a robust and focused network of professional contacts, you are making a big mistake. Again, your efforts here should tie back to your personal vision statement. “I am too busy” is the most common excuse I hear on this subject. My response is that if you are not actively engaged in building the type of quality network that can add value to your career, you are limiting your potential and probably prolonging the time it will take to find a new job.
  1. Deliver Results: Delivering positive results is the backbone of a professional career brand. It may not guarantee you uninterrupted employment but people with an excellent track record typically can find a new job much faster than those who have an uneven record.
  1. Maintain Career Journal: This is very important. The journal should include details of each employer, each job, supervisors, compensation, dates of employment and, this is very important, quantifiable accomplishments. It should also include thoughts on performance – a replay of events and decisions — to determine where improvements could be made. Regulated thinking – also known as gamefilming, a replay of events with a more detached perspective – is a vital tool for personal performance improvement.
  1. Exit Strategy: Always have an exit strategy. Include your family in this plan. A mentor once told me that there are two types of executives: “The ones who have been fired, and the ones who are going to be.” In this new economy, the executive who can navigate an entire career without a termination or two, is going to be extremely rare. Given that 40 percent of new recruits as well as managers who are promoted from within quit, are fired, or forced out in 24 months or less, it is foolish not to have a plan for this career certainty.
  1. Be Flexible: Executives who limit themselves geographically will prolong their job search. In an industry like healthcare where over the last two years the average executive transition has ranged between six to 14 months, limiting a job search to one city or even a region will probably extend the time it takes to find a new job by four to six months, or require a career change and probably a reduction in income.


The perils of traveling — I wrote about this experience in 2012 but I can assure you the flying experience has NOT improved.

Traveling for work has always been hard but now it is becoming increasingly more dangerous. Just ask any executive who travels regularly, a term defined by more than four or five flights per month.

The danger of flying is not in the 35,000 altitude or navigating nasty storms. I have found that the really dangerous part is defined by the phrase “sitting in an aisle seat.”

This phenomenon has nothing to do with homeland security, long lines, marginally effective air conditioning in the crowded gate “lounges” or that most US airlines have adopted the Greyhound bus model for boarding and seating passengers. And I pause to offer my apologies to Greyhound for the comparison.

No, it has to do with two seemingly unrelated things: technology, to wit “smart” phones, and the overwhelming amount of stuff people bring with them on planes, down narrow aisles that were apparently not thoughtfully designed to take into consideration that there is an epidemic of obesity in this country. I have discovered that to sit in an aisle of an airplane — especially a “regional” jet — requires the same level of alertness for potential injury that is required if you sit behind the third base dugout at any major league baseball park.

Whack! Right across the face. I had let my guard down. I was shielded by another traveler and did not see the danger lurking in the aisle. It was a woman with a huge “tote” bag over her shoulder, her arms clutching more magazines and books than anyone could possibly read during a 4 hour flight. She was holding a large coffee drink with gobs of chocolate drizzled whipped cream, a beverage, given her size, was probably not something she should be consuming, but to each their own. Now is the where things got dicey: Her “smart” phone was wedged between her shoulder and her ear, holding it in place by crooking her neck at a very odd angle. She was talking on the phone! I did not hear a lot of what she was saying, but enough to know that this telephone conversation was not was not that important. If you think drivers are dangerous when they talk on the phone, beware of airline passengers during the boarding process. The woman turned quickly in an attempt to slide step down the aisle and that is when her oversized tote bag hit me in the face, full on, knocking my glasses onto the lap of the startled passenger sitting next to me. The woman didn’t have a clue her bag had just molested a passenger.

My fellow travelers — witnesses to the attack — were apparently caught between the emotions of being shocked at the woman’s lack of consideration and a strong impulse to laugh. Not two minutes later, when a fidgeting, very grumpy and tired two-year-old in the arms of his father kicked me in the face, they yielded to the temptation. “These are nice glasses,” my seat mate said, as he retrieved from floor against the cabin wall. “Maybe you might want to hold on to them until the barbarians have boarded.”

For someone who has been traveling for business since the mid-1970s, I have no illusions about the decline in service. Most have mediocre service. Even the domestic airlines that excel like Virgin America, their best efforts can be hampered by wayward passengers — the occasional traveler, the amateur who is clueless about airline travel today. I am betting that the woman with the aforementioned tote bag and half of her public library’s book and magazines falls into that amateur traveler category.

For all the road warriors who yearn for a return to days of better service and decent food forget about it. The airlines will be providing less and charging more because they can.

If you have two choices for the future of airline travel — hope springs eternal, that service will improve, or grin and bear it, I believe option two is the safer bet.

Thanks for listening. Remember to visit us tomorrow at JohnGSelf.Com for our latest blog post and on Saturday for the next installment of John Self TV — a short video with insight and information regarding career management.

As we close, remember this:

Good leadership depends on a trusting relationship with your employees and your customers. Without truth there can be no trust.

Truth is not a value of convenience.

And if you don’t believe me, just ask the little boy who cried wolf.

Thanks for listening. I am John Self.

© 2017 John Gregory Self

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13 June, 2017 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Healthcare, Leadership
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Balanced Leadership

Posted June 13th, 2017 | Author: John G. Self

Chief Executives and other senior executives who think that the keys to the kingdom of success and job security is to consistently “make their numbers” — revenue, expenses, contribution margin — may want to consider a reset.

There are a surprising number of CEOs looking for work who did exactly that, at least for some period of time: they made their numbers. But in the end, that was not enough. Based on interviews with some of the aforementioned CEOs as well as executive coaches and other recruiters, I have come to this conclusion:

Sometimes as leaders we cannot get out of our own way. We get locked in (read: fixated) on a certain approach and we quickly forget there is more to successful, sustainable leadership than the object that blinds us — metrics.

In my career I cannot tell you how many times I have heard “if you can’t count it, you can’t manage it.” CEOs and their teams seem to think that they live or die with their numbers. Clearly no executive or manager wants to answer tough challenging questions from their board or the boss about missing their numbers. In some cases this failure to make the numbers could mean the loss of their job so there is plenty of incentive for survival to expend a great deal of energy and angst over the hourly, daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and quarterly metrics.

When the management-by-the-metrics philosophy arrived on the scene in health care in the 1970s, it replaced an approach that I like to describe as best effort management. The former emphasized a new laser focus on accountability, the latter, I believe, due to a surprising number of hospital administrators across the country who actually took their not-for-profit tax status literally. Not to defend the indefensible but I should point out here that healthcare management information systems at the time were fairly primitive so there was, up to a point, a reason for what today would be considered lackadaisical management. When I moved into healthcare, I did not get my department’s monthly financial reports until the third week of the following month. By then the horse was out of the barn and running loose three counties away. There just were not that many variables — metric points — to be managed or that could be managed in a timely or cost-effective manner.

So, over the years hospitals refined their ability to use metrics to improve performance. They enhanced this management tactic in the 1990s with the introduction of the Balanced Score Card approach that broadened the number of metric points monitored.

But oh how that has all changed today, from daily expense and revenue reports and flex staffing based on census and/or patient acuity, to the number of reportable quality instances that occur within a 24-hour period, we all are held to a higher standard.

This is a good thing, until it isn’t.

What was, and remains, an important accountability tool, has become a be-all, end-all for many CEOs. It has become all about the numbers.

I once heard the minister of a large Methodist church tell his parishioners that anything taken to excess, including religion, is a sin. While I am not qualified to debate the theological basis for his pronouncement, I can say that his statement, when applied to the discipline and art of leadership, is absolutely true.

As I was thinking about this issue I was reminded of a story that a CEO told me. In his annual business plan presentation to his company’s divisional President, CFO and several analysts, the CEO was discussing his emphasis on employee engagement and development. As the CEO explained his strategy, the division’s CFO became noticeably agitated. Finally he could not contain himself and slammed his hand on the desk and with no lack of exasperation ask:

“You do know that we are running a business here?”

Clearly this CFO was a metrics man and he apparently saw this investment in employee engagement as nothing more than an expense that would dilute the unit’s EBITA contribution (and maybe his bonus potential). The CEO saw it as an investment that would ensure sustainable success. Happy, educated and appreciated employees, he reasoned, would help him meet or exceed his ambitious business goals.

He was right, the CFO’s emotional outburst notwithstanding. This CEO’s business unit was number one in the company across every major category, from profits to customer satisfaction.

A balanced approach between the discipline of metrics and employee engagement, it would seem, has real merit. Sometimes we take this thing we call leadership and confuse it with command and control management because it is easier.

Good leadership is hard. Just as in a successful marriage, it requires a balanced approach for it to survive. If you are only focusing on one thing — the numbers — you can, and probably will, miss the reason your performance is not better than it is.

Leadership is about so much more than numbers. Yes, the numbers are important but CEOs or other senior leaders cannot succeed in a sustainable way using the “strong man” model, surrounding him or her self with compliant workers who will accept the grinding harangues about the metrics and who, more than likely, will not be invested in the success of the boss or the business.

As the transformation of healthcare moves forward, and as the feds and the commercial payers reduce what they are willing to pay, and as more of the work is shifted to value-based reimbursement payment formulas, a metrics discipline approach will be essential. But we should avoid the temptation to become obsessed with the numbers and ignore the real key to success: our employees. It must be balanced.

© 2017 John Gregory Self

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