I am lucky in life and I have been especially lucky in my career. Well, maybe the word luck is not the best stand-alone explanation. I have been lucky and fortunate.
Over the years I have worked for some interesting and talented people in the fields of news, healthcare, aviation and consulting. I had several excellent mentors who were supportive, instructive, and most of all, encouraging. When you add in all of that with the fact that I have completed assignments in seven countries on four continents, it is easy to see why I feel I have been blessed. Yes, I have some great relevant skills and I had access to a good education, so those are certainly supportive factors, but I am lucky and fortunate.
I feel especially lucky – and fortunate – to be where I am today: doing something I love to do- executive search, career coaching and consulting – in an industry that is not overly fond of change but one that is beginning to experience the foundation jarring, wall rattling transformation of its business model. Once one of the safest career choices healthcare is now anything but stable, career-wise. There are fewer leadership jobs available and if you do not have a track record as a top performer, it is increasingly difficult to find the well-paying senior leadership jobs that were plentiful in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Employers are becoming more demanding and selective in their recruiting process. Some are making use of new technologies that allow them to give candidates a cognitive ability test as a way of narrowing down their selection. They can afford to be selective, given the ever increasing pool of candidates from which to choose. From a recruiter’s perspective, finding candidates is the easy part. Finding the right candidate for the environment is the real challenge.
Which brings me to one facet of my career that I love: interviewing, one the most critical aspects of the executive search process. For me it is both challenging and rewarding. The challenging part is to construct questions that will let me see the candidate for who she or he really is in terms of their values and style – how they lead. The rewarding part is that I get to hear the candidates’ stories – how they share their experiences in life, specifically on the job. This helps me evaluate how they will fit an organization’s culture and produce the desired results. Since we offer a three-year placement guarantee, my in-depth interview with candidates vying to be on the panel of recommended executives, is crunch time in any search.
Some search partners leave the in-depth interviews/research to their junior associates. I have had candidates share with me that they never met the search firm partner in person prior to visiting the client’s site. I do not believe that delegating this essential part of a search to a junior associate who may not even have even visited the client’s facility is the right approach. Using a video conference interview can never be an effective tool for in-depth candidate interviews.
I come by my love of interviewing honestly. I began my career as a crime writer, editor, and investigative reporter before shifting to the world of healthcare. I loved the work and the experiences I had interviewing people, from the powerful to the disadvantaged, to those who lived an exemplary life to those who were below sea level in terms of their values and behaviors and life’s choices.
Compared to many of my earlier interviews in the news business, interviewing executives is an extremely uplifting and rewarding experience.
I am often asked, given my reporter’s background, if I am an adversarial interviewer. The answer is, rarely. I like the conversational approach. I find that I get more authentic information when the candidate is feeling comfortable as opposed to feeling threatened, as in being “Mike Wallaced”, a term used to describe the challenging style of interviewing used by the late 60-Minutes correspondent. I have found that is the rare exception. The obfuscators and the outright liars typically get eliminated in the first interview – the resume review.
Here are some of my favorite questions that I frequently use in our three-hour final candidate interview:
- Tell me something about your early life – anecdotes about mom dad, brothers, sisters or experiences – that shaped the values that reflect who you are today?
- How many times a week do you address the issue of improving quality of care and patient safety?
- How do you engage your employees and patients when you are making facility rounds? What are you looking for? What are listening for?
- “How” questions – such as how did you achieve such impressive results on a specific project? Walk me through the process using three or four key points that led to your success. Or, how do you hire, what questions do you ask?
- How do you define success at the end of each year – what key metrics do you use to determine whether you and your team have been successful?
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