Win favorable notice and outshine your competition

By J. Larry Tyler, FACHE, FHFMA, FAAHC, CMPE | Chairman, Tyler & Company
770-396-3939 (T) | ltyler@tylerandco.com (E)

As published in Healthcare Executive, January/February 2015
Reprinted with permission.

An outstanding healthcare executive job posting just caught your eye. Not only is it in an attractive location, but the role also would be a promotion from your current position, likely resulting in a higher salary and more benefits. Time to e-mail your resume ASAP, right?

Unfortunately, most resumes submitted for an open opportunity fail to meet the basic specifications unless the criteria are so broad that almost anyone could qualify. Generally, specifications for healthcare executive opportunities are narrow and weed out the majority of submitters.

Whether you’re a passive candidate (one who isn’t looking but has been contacted to entertain a new position) or an active job seeker (one who instigates the job search), it is important to differentiate yourself from other contenders at every opportunity. This includes each time you make contact with the hiring manager or recruiter — via your cover letter and resume — and during the interview process.

Qualification and Presentation

Your qualifications and how they are presented dictate your advancement as a candidate. Fortunately, it’s a two-way street. Candidates must meet a minimum set of requirements to be considered for a role. Employers realize, too, they will have to compromise based on who is available in the market at that time.

In our experience, it’s rare to find a candidate who meets every specification and competency. As a rule of thumb, if a candidate meets 80 percent of the given specifications, he or she will be considered for the role. For example, if the position calls for five years of experience as a CEO of a similarly sized organization, those who have four years will be reviewed. To a certain extent, size does matter during a resume review, not in terms of number of pages but in terms of organization size in your work history. For instance, it’s a stretch to jump from an organization with $50 million in revenues to one with $550 million. In general, you are likely qualified in this criterion if your current employer earns at least 50 percent of the revenues of the organization you’re considering. It’s much better if your current employer is within the 80- to 90-percent range.

It’s important to note that the law of supply and demand applies. If the supply of highly qualified candidates is great, specifications will become more stringent, and the most qualified will receive priority.

Concessions sometimes are made if the position is extremely hard to fill (e.g., there are only a handful of candidates in the country who meet the specifications) or if there is an internal candidate the employer would like to advance. Once you have thoroughly reviewed the job specifications, have determined you meet the 80/20 rule and are interested in the role, it’s time to take action.

The Cover Letter

A cover letter should entice an employer to review the attached resume. Because the majority of resumes are submitted electronically, treat your e-mail message as a condensed version of your attached, straightforward, professional cover letter. Surprisingly, most candidates send generic cover letters/e-mail messages, failing to realize these materials initiate the formal review process.

Analyzing the situation and job requirements is essential when crafting a cover letter. When writing the first paragraph, explain the purpose of your contact. For example, you heard about A (job opening) at B (organization) from C (person) or D (an advertisement). In large organizations, this opening sentence advises the recipient of where to route your message.

In the second paragraph, differentiate yourself by highlighting the ways you are qualified for the position and match the organization’s needs through your accomplishments, experiences or abilities. I once had a candidate who included the job requirements in his cover letter and wrote an accomplishment alongside each bullet. To this day, I have not forgotten about that application.

Moving forward, the third paragraph should include a call to action. Indicate your intent to follow up, and make sure to follow through. While differing views exist, consider including the salary level you seek. In this fashion, you don’t waste your time and can focus on realistic prospects.

The Resume

Depending on the role, the senior research associates (recruiters) within my company testify they review anywhere from dozens to a couple hundred resumes or CVs for a given healthcare executive or physician leadership assignment. This means you need to stand out.

Reflect on the job specifications and the employer’s unique needs and wants. Does your resume clearly highlight the accomplishments that qualify you for the position and make you attractive to that organization? Are metrics (e.g., statistics, percentages, benchmarks) featured? Ensure your resume is organized and appealing, and reverse chronological (not functional or narrative) in nature.

A well-prepared resume should include your full name and contact information; education; experience, i.e., responsibilities and accomplishments; professional affiliations; personal information (optional); outside interests; and a note saying references are available upon request.

Keep in mind a resume is merely a facilitation tool; it is a first step and not an end in itself. Make your resume informative and attractive but put any extra time into preparing for the interview, which is far more important.

The Interview(s)

Preparation is crucial if you intend to surpass other candidates who may match you in ability and experience. By doing your homework, you not only learn about your potential hiring manager and employer, but also yourself. Because of the interview’s importance, it baffles me how many potential employees arrive unprepared — both physically and mentally.

A video first interview has become much more popular as an alternative to the traditional in-person meeting. These interviews offer another depth of perception for both parties. It hints at several behavioral skills, including the ability to embrace certain types of technology and newer modes of communication, comfort level in showcasing personal space such as the room you are in (if applicable) and the ability to keep a level head if there’s a technical malfunction. In light of these, planning, familiarizing yourself with interview applications — such as Skype, Zoom and FaceTime — and testing are in order.

Treat a video interview the same as you would an in-person meeting. Research interviewers’ backgrounds. Thoroughly study your potential employer and the organization’s website. Modern Healthcare, ACHE’s member directory, the American Hospital Association, Google and GuideStar — a company that reports on nonprofits — are also good places to start.

Write down questions to ask and anticipate common ones, including, “What makes you the best candidate for this job?” Weave in the experiences and accomplishments that best qualify you for that particular position and employer. Practice, practice, practice so you can answer questions in a confident, natural way. As always, arrive on time, look your best, be polite to everyone, don’t smoke, limit alcohol consumption, test your handshake and stay on
your toes, even if the interviewer is easygoing.

Other Ways to Stand Out

Candidates who are remembered in a positive light respond to questions rapidly and directly, provide information in a timely, organized fashion, abide by the process, show their interest without being a pest and brief their references on why they are uniquely qualified for the opportunity. If they decide to withdraw, they do it early.

While employers should do their best to attract leaders, they favor qualified, turnkey executives who are perceived to be good cultural fits. Take advantage of each stage of the process to promote why you are a great match for your potential employer, and you’ll substantially increase the chances that you’ll be in the final running.

J. Larry Tyler, FACHE, FHFMA, FAAHC, CMPE, is chairman of Tyler & Company, an executive search firm that specializes in healthcare executive, physician leadership and academic medicine/health science executive recruitment. He can be reached at ltyler@tylerandco.com. He is also the author of Tyler’s Guide: The Healthcare Executive’s Job Search, Fourth Edition, published by Health Administration Press. To order, contact the HAP/ACHE Order Fulfillment Center at (301) 362-6905.