LITTLE ROCK — I like clothes, I value a good merchant and I appreciate a beautiful, well designed store.   But even though I have more than 20 years of executive search experience, I am not qualified to lead a search for the CEO of a national retail clothier.

Why?  I believe I am an excellent recruiter.  I will put my process and track record against anyone but I should not be on point to find the next Chief Executive Officer of this or that clothing chain  because I lack the industry experience.  Search consultants with experience in retail, those who know the top players in the sector, will do a much, much better job. 

Just as a retail clothing chain would not hire a consultant who specializes in healthcare, outplacement-shutterstock_382604548so a health system should not hire a firm that specializes in identifying and recruiting college athletic directors and football coaches to find a new President for their flagship hospital.  Sports people may think they know healthcare but they do not know the top players.  It is just not their sweet spot.

So why do hospitals hire outplacement firms and consultants some of which recognize a hospital only two out of three times?

They are not doing their departing executives any favors.  Hospitals that force their former executives and managers to a certain national “name” brand to achieve a “volume discount” even though they lack depth and breadth of healthcare industry knowledge, are sending a terrible message:  get out, we’ve arranged for outplacement support even though the people you will be working with probably do not know much about our industry or the of specific kind of information and help will really work for you. We’ve done our part, here is your box to pack your possessions.

Here is a case in point.  You may think this is a little thing but I do not. And it is most assuredly not an isolated example.   A national health system in the Midwest sent a departing executive to a national firm with which they had an outplacement agreement that is not known for their experience in the healthcare services space.  The firm designed a multi-colored resume that did NOT include the fact that their client was a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE).  In our particular search the requirements listed the FACHE “strongly preferred”  credential.  The outplacement consultant, unfamiliar with healthcare, buried it at the bottom under a category called memberships and associations, three or four entries down. 

Now here is the sad part.  After his name, instead of FACHE, they added MBA. They thought that was more important.  Wrong.  You are not supposed to list a master’s degree after your name unless it is a terminal degree in a field of study.  An MBA is certainly not a terminal degree in healthcare.  His resume was almost put aside  during the first resume desk review because it seemed he lacked the Fellowship credential.

Moreover, the outplacement firm’s expertise on social media included mentioning there was something called LinkedIn but offered no guidance on strategy.   The candidate said this was not all the outplacement consultant from this national, prestigious transition agency did NOT know.   The candidate is now reworking his own resume to emphasize his value proposition.

So much for all the good value he got from his former health system’s designated outplacement provider.  Clearly that health system thought their meant they should use a big national outplacement firm, that the size of that company and quality they claimed to deliver were the same thing.

Clearly they were not.

Candidates should demand the right to select their outplacement firm.  The firm should meet certain standards of experience, they should, at a minimum, be able to demonstrate that they have a track record and, finally,  that they have a deep understanding of, and experience in, the field they are representing. 

In this case, the System’s  $7,000 payment amounted to little more than guilt money for all the good it did their former employee.

Graphic Credit:  Shutterstock