Candidates can look to many sources for job change information — most notably the recently published Tyler’s Guide: The Healthcare Executive’s Job Search, fourth edition, authored by company Chairman and CEO J. Larry Tyler. But sometimes it’s easier to learn from what others have done wrong.  And in its almost 35 years in business, Tyler & Company has seen a lot of candidate behavior that provides teachable moments for others. Here are some of the company’s best stories, shared by consultants and research associates (RAs):

Misrepresentations: Candidates most often mislead or mis-state on their resumes. There are many “lies of omission”— candidates have been found to exclude short stints at jobs they would rather not talk about, instead bridging two other jobs. We have also identified candidates who have fabricated educational histories. Sometimes candidates add a credential early in their career that they thought would enhance their chances at one of their first job opportunities. They won that position and carried the fake credential forward on every subsequent resume. Sooner or later, such candidates are caught, usually during a search for a position for which the credential in question wasn’t required.

Sometimes the fabrications on resumes are more extensive. One RA told of talking to a potential candidate with whom Tyler & Company had worked in the past. An old resume was on file, but since it was several years old, she requested an updated version. When the new resume arrived, she was surprised to see that it was substantially different from the one on file: positions and dates worked had changed and did not coincide, and some positions on the former resume were not included on the new resume. When the RA reached this candidate to inquire about the discrepancies, he said he would have to call her back but never did.

Remember, background checks are standard now — done by both retained executive search firms and client organizations during the final stage of the hiring process. Odds of sliding false information through this process are slim to none.  Moreover, old information is still sitting somewhere. Be careful and be honest.

Cover letters used as creative writing exercises: Once the resume is prepared, the cover letter should be a simple and straightforward part of the process. Many consider it to be their chance to stand out in the crowd, as the following real-life example demonstrates (the author’s name has been changed):

Dear Mr. Tyler:

Long ago, high up in the mountains of California, hardworking men searched for the gold that would make them rich. They panned the water and mined the earth without ceasing, in their search for gold. Very few ever found what they so steadfastly sought, yet they persevered in their mining for gold. These gold miners never doubted that they would ultimately find the priceless mineral that would change their lives. They toiled in the hope of someday striking gold.

Perhaps you are wondering at this point what the golden nugget is in this letter. Very simply, it is my resume. This document is just what you have been looking for. It gives you a golden opportunity to interview an individual who has proven to be invaluable to all of his employers.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,
John Gold

Resist the urge to demonstrate your writing prowess and be catchy in a cover letter. You don’t want to appear eccentric to those conducting a search.

Too much information: Beware of sharing too much information, especially early in a search process. A candidate recently e-mailed her resume to one of our RAs, saying she would be a great candidate for one of our searches because she was open minded. This candidate supported this statement by saying she had learned to be this way from her daughter who was bisexual and bipolar. As you get to know your search consultant and the hiring organization better, you will find the right time to share this type of personal information. The introductory e-mail is not the right time.

Apparel-related faux pas: Appearance counts. Even though it is cold outside, jeans and a V-neck sweater are not appropriate attire for an interview in healthcare with the executive search consultant, let alone the client. The same goes for warm-weather apparel.

Making room in his holiday travel plans for an airport interview with one of our consultants, one candidate appeared in shorts, a T-shirt and Docksides. Brownie points earned for the scheduling accommodation were immediately lost.

Simple, dark suits are best. One candidate (who had dressed appropriately for his consultant interview) wore brown pants, a plaid jacket, patterned shirt and mismatched tie to his client interview. The search committee was so distracted by this candidate’s clothing that its members didn’t hear a word he said.

Plain jewelry works best too. One candidate presented to our consultant with multiple rings on every finger. Though every other aspect of the interview went well, the rings showed a lack of judgment that couldn’t be overlooked.

Interview gaffes: Come to an interview alone. A Tyler & Company consultant told of meeting a candidate who brought a dog to their interview. She found the candidate was training the animal as a service dog, which is admirable. But the only time a dog should accompany a candidate to interview is when the candidate uses a service dog.

Dilemma at the very end: Every part of the search process is serious, and candidates should report any concerns they have to their search consultant as soon as they arise. Several years ago, a candidate who accepted a client’s job offer called Tyler & Company a few days later to withdraw. Why? She had reflected on her two interview trips and decided she was attracted to the organization’s CEO, who would be her boss. If the candidate had disclosed this concern earlier, she could have been released before the client invested resources required during the second interview, and they could have pursued other candidates who remained in the process at that time.

Tyler & Company doesn’t keep a file of these stories; they are simply memorable! Some of these “no-nos” will earn an admonition; others may earn candidates a spot on the firm’s (or a client’s) “Do not call” list. Please be the candidate who is memorable for the right reasons.

For advice on putting your best candidate-foot forward, order Tyler’s Guide, via ACHE’s Health Administration Press at  www.ache.org/hap or calling the fulfillment center at +1 301.362.6905. Request ISBN 13: 978-1-56793-361-1, order code: WWW1-2163. Price: $68.