Why am I an executive recruiter? 

That is a question that I am frequently asked, given my background — from being a newspaper reporter and the first director of Hermann Hospital’s acclaimed Life Flight program and national marketing manager for the aircraft company, to running a wholesale home infusion therapy pharmacy and the largest private EMS system in Texas.

I always begin my explanation by saying, “It makes perfect sense.”  It does, really.

What's your story?

I like to inform people.  That is why I took up with those very smart, hard drinking, fast living reporters and editors at three daily newspapers in Texas.  For me, it has always been very rewarding to provide people with information that they need or want to know.  From the grisly details of a double murder or a chemical plant explosion that snarled traffic for hours, to the unconventional workings of a highly successful skid row detoxification center.  I enjoy the whole process of learning — gathering facts observations — and telling the story.

That is how I approach the executive search process.  Many of my long-time clients believe that is why I have been so successful in matching leaders with healthcare organizations. 

It all begins with the site visit.  New clients are a little startled that I want to interview so many people, to look at so much data.  Why? Organizations are complex, particularly hospitals.  In every successful search there is an important story to be told.  If an organization is struggling; why, and can the trends be reversed? They all have what I call the great, the good, the bad and, hopefully, very few of the ugly qualities.   If the culture is so unique that only a certain type of candidate personality profile will be successful working in this type of environment, then the candidate screening process is probably the least embarrassing time for him or her to understand this dynamic. Part of my job is to tell the client’s story to the qualified candidates.  Knowing this story, helps me decide which candidates should hear this story and which ones the client should meet.

Candidates have their own interesting stories to tell, their own complexities to understand.  Sometimes they can be a little less forthcoming than even those clients who are skeptical of the in-depth nature of the JGSA search process.  While most candidates finally got the memo that you should not lie about your professional or academic credentials, there are still more than a few candidates who feel they can be creative with their professional accomplishments without getting caught — a form low-risk image enhancement.  Without going into great detail about the ethics of this questionable career management strategy, let me state the obvious:  mediocre operational, clinical or financial leaders cannot make themselves any better — as a candidate or employee — by distorting the truth.

My job is to trust but verify.  The vast majority of the time I can get to where I need to be with a candidate’s story without resorting to third-degree interrogation methods; friendly but probing questions wrapped around a 3.5-hour friendly conversation usually does the trick.  The majority of candidates tell me what I need to know, most without realizing how candid they have been in the interview.

In addition to the interviews, we use background investigations, DiSC profiling and 360-degree referencing, drawing on the assessments of primary and secondary references. 

I am always humbled when my clients — and the vast majority of our candidates — laud our approach and the professionalism of the JGSA team.  What we do really is not rocket science but the praise for our work and the compliments regarding the quality of the JGSA team is nice to hear. 

In the end all I am doing is something that I love — learning the facts, making observations and informing my client.  

© 2012 John Gregory Self