CEO to Clinician: 5 Ways to Showcase Culture During the On-site Interview

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CEO to Clinician: 5 Ways to Showcase Culture During the On-site Interview

By Tony Stajduhar, President, Jackson Physician Search

The on-site interview is a make or break experience in the healthcare recruitment process, whether you’re recruiting for the top leadership role of CEO or you’re trying to fill an unexpected vacancy in your physician group. And, because it often involves travel and a time commitment of two-three days for candidates and their families, the pressure is on for healthcare organizations to make a great first impression that leads to more accepted job offers by your top-choice candidates.

Candidates Typically Accept a Position After Only One Interview

In addition to the logistics required to mobilize key stakeholders and to arrange travel for a follow-up interview, it’s important to understand that the odds of recruitment success take a nose-dive after the first interview. According to a 2020 survey commissioned by Jackson Physician Search, 69% of all respondents had accepted their most recent job after just one interview. Additional survey data indicated that second and third interviews aren’t nearly as impactful. 

Plus, with metrics carefully monitored in nearly every facet of healthcare operations, multiple interviews drive up your cost-per-hire, prolong the time it takes to fill the role, and negatively impact your interview-to-hire ratio. This, ultimately, puts increased pressure on your existing leadership and clinical teams to meet patient demand, achieve critical safety and quality measures, and hit revenue targets.

Lead with Culture 

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Boiled down, that’s culture. It’s the development and proliferation of a shared set of beliefs, values, and behaviors. Culture lays the foundation for how an organization’s employees and management interact with others internally and externally, and it has an enormous impact on the organization’s success.

Harvard Business Review article reports, “Culture is a form of protection. It prevents ‘wrong thinking’ and ‘wrong people’ from entering the organization in the first place. It says that organizational culture functions much like the human immune system in preventing viruses and bacteria from taking hold and damaging the body.” When you think of it this way and in terms of who you hire, it should engender new meaning to hiring for cultural fit. 

Critics who think culture is “just a buzz phrase” or that it does not make a difference in recruitment and retention are sorely mistaken. Studies clearly show that physicians are much more likely to accept a position with an organization whose culture and values are aligned with their own. This also holds true in healthcare executive recruitment whether you’re looking for a leader with MHA/MBA or MD/DO pedigree. Additionally, Gallup reported a direct link between staff understanding an organization’s purpose and culture and the achievement of quality healthcare, further building a case for prioritizing culture throughout the entire hiring process. 

Failing to Hire for Cultural Fit is Costly

Not surprisingly, one of the top reasons physicians and physician leaders leave a job is a lack of cultural fit – not compensation. Since recruitment costs can add up quickly when you factor in sourcing, interviewing, relocation, and sign-on bonuses – as much as $250K for a physician and up to 33% of the first year’s compensation package for a C-suite executive, failing to hire for culture fit is expensive. 

5 Ways to Highlight Organizational Culture During the On-site Interview

Candidates come to the on-site interview looking for the fulfillment of their needs at three levels: informational, emotional well-being, and alignment of values (culture). Let’s review the ways you can ensure their needs are met, while also showcasing your organization’s culture throughout the process thereby increasing the probability of a long-term match.

1. Conduct a single, comprehensive on-site interview and include the significant other.

A well-organized, personalized interview experience is essential. It’s your first chance to demonstrate how your organization functions as a team, as well as the efficiency within your operations. A chaotic experience will do little to assure candidates that they’ll be able to focus on priority strategic initiatives and best care for patients. And equally troubling, a generic interview experience won’t convey how invested you are in the candidate as a whole person. Make the effort to tailor the interview to this person’s likes and hobbies – making your candidate feel special goes a long way in recruitment success. Next, set expectations before the interview by understanding your candidate’s requirements in a new role. Also, strongly advise the candidate to bring along his/her significant other if an accepted offer requires a relocation. Not only does it show that your organization cares about the well-being of its employees, it’s nearly impossible for a candidate to make an employment decision without this person’s involvement.

2. Engage your A-team.

During the actual interview portion of the visit, it’s critical to include all key stakeholders – Board members to CEO to colleagues. This is the time to assess the candidate’s operational, clinical, and philosophical fit. Assuming you wouldn’t have invited the candidate for an on-site interview without some level of certainty that there’s a cultural match, be sure to select your best advocates and influencers for individual interviews. They’re most able to engender feelings of excitement and a sense of being welcomed in your candidate – two factors of emotional well-being that heavily drive offer acceptance or rejection.

3. Clearly communicate shared values and mission.

Arrange for the candidate to have ample time to meet with your CEO. Or, in the case of CEO searches, the candidate should meet with members of your Board, hopefully some of which are part of your search committee. Selling the vision and clearly communicating shared values is critical. Specifically, demonstrate how your organization’s culture reflects the values in everyday decisions, clarify behavior and performance expectations on both sides, and highlight the organization’s impact within the community and what role the candidate plays in building that.

4. Tailor the community tour to the candidate and any family members.

Additional research from Jackson Physician Search about the interview experience uncovered that only 56% of candidates received a community tour, but 82% said it was important to their decision. How can you display your organizational culture during this part of the site visit? You likely value balance between work and life, so showcase the lifestyle a candidate can expect to enjoy. Provide guided tours that address any concerns the family may have and arrange time for the entire family to socialize with leadership and colleagues, as these people will likely be their first social lifeline.

5. Leave no questions unanswered.

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Make certain that the candidate has all the information needed to consider a potential job offer, including position expectations, compensation, professional connections, and lifestyle. A strong culture rests on clear communication, so spell out next steps and follow through.

About the Author

With more than 30 years of experience in healthcare strategy, Tony Stajduhar is the industry-recognized leader and innovator in the recruitment of physician leaders, physicians and advanced practice providers for hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers and medical groups across the United States. As President of Jackson Physician Search, he leads the most respected firm in the nation known for exceptional customer service and searches powered by a proven, 100% digital recruitment and sourcing process. Contact Jackson Physician Search to learn more.

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