Monday, October 24, 2011

When NOT To Apply

We're all busy.  If you're like me, you get to your desk in the morning and immediately start trolling through your emails.  Usually there are dozens waiting.  Whatever your chosen profession, you must zip down through the subject lines to determine the order of importance in regards to response. Normally you immediately delete the junk, open the urgent notices and categorize the rest. Being a Recruiter, the top of my priority list goes to resumes that were submitted the night before. (and of course, anything from my boss)

Since Recruiters often use the major job boards to post opportunities, many of the resumes we receive will come from people submitting through the specific job board they use.
Unfortunately there is a growing trend of submitting a resume for a job even if you do not match the requirements provided in the job description.  I mentioned this briefly in a previous blog but I am going to elaborate here. 

Lately, if I receive 50 resumes from the job boards, a full 50-75% of them will not match the required qualifications of the job.  Due to the economy, there are so many people that are desperate to find work that in their desperation it appears they review a subject line without reviewing the job description and apply in hopes of obtaining any work.  A few years ago I was taking the time to email each person thanking them for their resume and explaining they did not have necessary qualifications.  Sadly, now I just delete these resumes because I do not have time to respond to them all.

This process is a major time-suck both for Recruiters and for applicants.  If you are not qualified for the position you are applying to, you are wasting time that could be spent applying to appropriate opportunities.  If a Recruiter has to wade through dozens of resumes to get to the one that has the desired qualifications it is a waste of their time as well. 

Here are a few suggestions to navigate the job boards: 
1.  Be VERY specific when you are searching for jobs.
     a.  Make sure to use key words when you search, even if you are searching a specific geographical
     b.  Set up searches so that any new positions matching your qualifications will be sent to your
          Sometimes you might be using a keyword that means different things in different industries
          so by reading the full job description you won't mistakenly apply for something that isn't
          a match for your qualifications.
3.  When in doubt, add a cover letter.
         If you have found a job posting and you aren't 100% sure that your qualifications are a match.
         Add a cover letter when you submit your resume providing an over-view of your experience
         and inquire if the position might be right for you.

A perfect example would be when I posted an opening in the Dallas market for Healthcare Technology Trainers.  The job description clearly stated that prior Healthcare Technology Training experience was a requirement, yet 99% of the resumes I received were Dallas area school teachers.
Had the respondents read the entire job description they would have realized that the position was not Teaching but was Technical Training in a healthcare environment.

If you find a position that is not a fit for your qualifications but is in a similar industry and you would like to find out if that company might have an opening that is a match for you.... DO NOT submit your resume to that position via the job boards. DO... visit the company's web site to review their job openings.  That way, if they do have something that is a match for you, you can apply directly to their site.  If not, I suggest emailing your resume directly with a cover letter stating your qualifications and your desire to be considered if they have any opportunities arise in your area of expertise. 

Some job boards offer automatic resume submittal.  Basically, if a job is posted that ticks specific key words you've chosen, your resume will automatically be submitted.  I strongly recommend against this option because it is not a fool-proof method and most of the time your resume will be sent to positions that are not a match for you.  The best way to find new employment is to dedicate a few hours each day to scouring the internet, newspapers, local and national staffing agencies.

Remember that Recruiters want to fill the job openings as much as you want to find a job... so with patience and attention to the details, you will find what you're looking for!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tracking your Employment Processes / Gotta Love Those Spreadsheets! UPDATED 2016

Since we are still in a time of great activity in the Healthcare Technology space, it is extremely important to track your application / interview process while you are on the hunt for your next position, whether it be a consulting gig or permanent employment. 
There are a number of reasons to keep comprehensive notes on your process: 

>So you are not duplicating your efforts. 
>So you don't appear haphazard by accidentally applying to a place you've already interviewed.
>So you don't miss an important interview or the opportunity to follow up with the right person.
>So you do not risk being submitted to one position by multiple firms.
>For your own sanity!

Once you have created your eye-catching resume and updated your linkedin profile to showcase your qualifications, you will want to create a spreadsheet to track your progress.  (If spreadsheets aren't your thing you can create the same format on a legal pad)

From Left to Right you will want to create the following columns, making sure to provide enough width to the column so you can clearly see the data entered.  (this makes it easier to print as well)
1. Date Today's date
2. Company/ Client Name    This doesn't require much explanation.  Enter the name of the Company that you have applied to.
3.  Firm Name If you are applying to the job via a recruitment company
4.  Location This is important if you are considering relocation for a perm job or will be required to travel for a contract position
5. Source This is optional, but can be helpful to list if you found the position through an online job board, a referral etc.
6.  Date Submitted to notate the date your resume was presented to the client
7.  Name of Contact who did you communicate with about the position?
8.  Contact Info  email, phone number etc of the contact
9.  Job Title Title of the job you applied for.
10.  Follow Up notes on any follow up you made after you applied
11.  1st Interview track the dates and method (phone, video, onsite) of your initial interview.
12.  2nd Interview " "
13.  Notes it can be helpful to have a large column for any important notes.

The above is just a suggestion, you might have the need for more or less columns or prefer a different order.  This is your personal tool to keep your process clean and simple. 
By tracking your activity you will limit the risk of mistakenly being submitted multiple times to the same client or re-applying to a job you previously interviewed for. 

A great alternative to creating your own spreadsheet is using this free online tool: JibberJobber
You can learn more at

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Initial Interview! Do's, Don'ts and Definitely Do Nots!

I thought of naming this  "How to talk your way out of a job" due to some previous experiences, but I want to provide a broad scope of examples on what do to and not to do during your initial client interview.  Since most initial interviews in our industry are conducted over the phone, I am going to focus on that format. 

All my life people have had the tendency to tell me everything about themselves.  I often feel like I have a blinking sign on my forehead that says "Talk to ME! I want to know all about you!".  I can't count how many times I've been innocently standing in the grocery line waiting to check out and if by chance my eyes meet with the person standing behind me they immediately strike up a conversation.  In a matter of minutes I am learning about this person's family, medical history, current employment situation and what they're planning for dinner.  Fortunately I like people and I normally find their stories interesting or thought-provoking.

I've found that people also have a tendency to become overly comfortable during a phone interview and discuss things that probably wouldn't be a topic of conversation were they face to face with their would-be employer.  Am I interested in how many EMR Implementations you have been involved in?  YES!  Am I interested in your recent colonoscopy?  NO!

To follow are some real life examples of what NOT to do in interview:
1.  Be mindful of the time.  Most people that tend to chatter KNOW they tend to chatter.  If you're a chatty person, prior to your call write down notes on the important points about your qualifications that you want to make sure you cover and questions you want to ask as well.  Have these notes in front of you and get a timer!  Keep an eye on that timer... if you are talking non-stop for more than 3 minutes you will want to think of a way to wrap up.  I'd like everyone to stop reading for a few minutes and stare at the nearest clock for 3 entire minutes..... I'll wait.......humming the theme from Jeopardy quietly to myself while I wait............
You didn't last the entire 3 minutes did you?  Get bored?  The pace of a typical conversation is 140 - 180 words per minute*.   You do not want to exhaust the interviewer with a constant stream of blah blah blah.
1a. Don't speaksofastthatnoonecanunderstandwhatyou'resaying... if you're asked to repeat yourself more than once there is a barrier.  Whether it has to do with language, your talking speed or the phone connection, slow down...repeat yourself and then ask the interviewer if that was better.

2.  Don't go off on rabbit trails.  Stick to the topic at hand.  You are on the phone to discuss your qualifications for your (potential) next career step.  At no time should you discuss medical issues, family issues, how many cats you have... etc.  By law the person interviewing you cannot ask you about your health, family/marital status/children, religious preference or ethnicity.  You should not bring these things up in your interview process unless absolutely necessary.  The interviewer is allowed to ask if you are able to complete the tasks that are required of the position, if for some reason you have a disability that may not permit you to perform all the requirements they can ask you how they might accommodate you.  I am not saying that you shouldn't develop a rapport with the person on the other end of the call, however you do not want to bring up topics that might be used to discriminate against you. 

3.  No matter how much of a jerk-wad your previous employer was, keep it to yourself.  I've conducted numerous interviews where people have vented to me about their previous employer.  That never leaves a good impression.  If you're that disgruntled with your ex-employer... seek therapy, but remove that anger/resentment/frustration from the interview space!  Inevitably you will be asked why you left your previous job(s).  Keep the answer short and simple.  "There were some professional differences between my boss and myself" is a good example. Fortunately and unfortunately this is a tight knit industry where news travels fast.  If you had a conniption fit at your last job, threw your coffee mug across the room and stomped off, it wont take long for your potential employer to hear about it.  On the other hand, if you are always professional and were working at a facility for a notoriously difficult to work for IT Director, and you chose to resign, people will know that as well.  No one wants to work with a hot-head.

4. Definitely DO NOT use the restroom during the call**.  You read that right...  In the age of the "BlueTooth" where you're no longer stuck in a central location while on the phone, people seem to forget what they're doing while they're actively having a discussion.  Never mind that it's a distraction for the people trying to peacefully use the facilities if you're in a public place but... WE CAN HEAR YOU!  Yes... we can hear you as you relieve yourself, flush the commode, wash your hands (hopefully) and exit the facilities.  (I often wonder how many people have forgotten about their bluetooth and have hopped in the shower with it in their ear)

5.  For God's sake.... don't yawn!  Ok, so there are interviewers that may have some of the bad habits I've mentioned above... but even if they're boring you to tears... mute the phone to giggle, yawn, sneeze, etc.

6. Don't waste your time! Wanting to end the interview prematurely:  If the person you're interviewing with is completely unprofessional, rubs you the wrong way, or something you've heard has indicated this job isn't what you're interested in... best to politely interrupt and say something like "thank you for your time, due to what you've just told me, I realize this job is not a fit for my career desires" and end the call.  Keep in mind if you're interviewing with a Recruiter or going through a technical screening you may want to hold your judgment since you probably wont be working directly with those individuals and admittedly Recruiters don't always have all the information on a position.

7.  Don't keep them waiting.  Be on time for your call.  If you schedule an interview be courteous and call or answer on time.  If you must cancel or reschedule send an email or call to notify the interviewer as far in advance as possible.  If you miss a call and don't provide notice... unless it was nothing sort of a catastrophe... you will probably not get a second chance.  It's worse than being stood up for a date.

8.  Don't take it personally. On occasion you will be interviewing for a position that is not a fit for you or your current qualifications.  Its not easy for a Recruiter to tell you that your qualifications are not up to the expectations of the position (trust me).  We want you to be a fit as bad as you do.  When you are turned down by a potential employer do not take it personally.  If it was meant to be, it would've been.  There are so many job opportunities in the Healthcare IT industry you will be sure to find the right position with a bit of do-diligence.  If you are turned down for a position and you truly believe you had the skills the employer was seeking, write an email thanking them for their time, letting them know you have continued interest and express any skills you feel they may have mis-understood or over-looked.  Then ... let it go!  Keep in mind it is the employer that knows what they want.  Writing scathing emails or yelling over the phone is never the way to end an interview process.  As I mentioned before, news travels quickly and you always want to walk away leaving people with a positive impression.  Let's be honest, if you are repeatedly being turned down for positions that seem to be a match for your qualifications, it might be time to consider how you are coming across during the interview process, talk to a Recruiter you can trust and get some interview counseling. 


1.  Ask questions.  Always have a list of questions prepared for an interview and make sure they're answered before you're off the phone.  Each of us want to be happy with our career choices.  Its in your best interest to be fully informed about the opportunities on the table.

2.  Eliminate background noise.  Try to find a quiet place without outside distractions. Barking dogs, children yelling, TV, Radio, Wind etc. can be a distraction and can turn-off a would-be employer.

3.  End the call on a good note. Thank the interviewer for their time and inquire what the next steps will be so you are prepared.

4.  Send a quick follow-up email. The following day you should send an email thanking the interviewer for speaking with you, reiterating the next steps you're anticipating "I look forward to scheduling my next interview with the Department Manager as we discussed" and providing your contact information again.

With these tips in mind you should have successful, productive initial telephone interviews.  If you interview over the phone and do not hear back from the interviewer within the timeframe they discussed with you, always pick up the phone and call that person to follow up.  If a Recruiter told you they would call you by Friday COB and you've not heard from them by Monday at 8am... pick up the phone!  By keeping a spreadsheet to track your interview processes you can greatly increase your chances of landing a position.

Happy Chatting!

Tim Tolan of HCITCentral fame recently penned a blog about a less than successful interview from a recruiter's perspective:
*(source) Science News / Science Daily
** This actually happened to a colleague of mine.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Posting Your Resume to the Job Boards

After you have created your eye-catching resume you will want to post it to the job boards for everyone to see.  There are a number of things to consider and remember when utilizing internet job boards.  Having your resume on the internet is a great way to get noticed and get broad-based exposure if that is what you’re looking for.  If you want to keep your job search confidential, posting on the job boards is not advised.  Even though it says “Confidential” it doesn’t take a nuclear engineer to figure out who you are.  Consider instead, opening a Linkedin Profile if you don’t already have one.  You can make numerous industry contacts and have employment discussions under the radar of your current employer by using Linkedin.

Which Job Boards to use??  The top 3 are:

Dice will be more focused on Technical careers while the other two have opportunities across a huge variety of industries.

Here are two Healthcare Technology related job boards that I recommend:

And finally, while not a job board,  this site was specifically designed to match HCIT Consultants with the right industry recruiters:

(I am not provided compensation from these sites)

Posting your resume to the job boards is simple.  Just register by following the new user information and the steps for uploading your resume.  Each site varies on the amount of information they would like you to supply for your “profile”. 

What information should you supply???

That depends on how much you want to give.  Some information is mandatory, if you are uncomfortable providing certain information skip-it, if you cannot skip it you can sometimes fill in the blanks by using zeros.  (ex: Address 000 Main St, or phone 000-000-0000)if that doesn’t work, use another site.

If you do not want to provide your telephone number, make sure it is not listed on the resume you upload to the job board or it will be visible there, same goes for email address, name, physical address etc.  If you do provide your phone, its best to list what times you are available to take calls.

I’ve said this before but it’s worth saying again: when naming your resume document, use a combination of your name or name and date.  (ex:  CLester2011.doc) Keep in mind that not all people have Adobe, so you should stick to uploading your resume in word.doc form whenever possible.  Before uploading your resume make sure all the dates and information is correct and there are no spelling errors!

Key Words:  Key words are words that Recruiters frequently search for that are related to specific industry knowledge.  For instance, I regularly search for Epic Systems Analysts, so I will use key words that relate to the specific module and knowledge that ideal candidates would have: Epic, Ambulatory, Implementation, build.  Make sure you are using key words in your resume so it gets noticed. 

(Side note on key words: Some people actually do not list the EMR Systems they have had experience with because they are concerned it will limit their opportunities.  Actually, the truth is quite the opposite!  If you have spent the last 5 years on a Cerner Implementation you want to make sure you put Cerner in your resume and every module you worked with in your job. See my blog about resume building for more info.)

Title:  When filling out “Title”  ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS put your desired job title or current job title in that line.  Be generic if you want to but do not leave it blank or put things like; the date, your name, some catch phrase, etc.  Recruiters look here when searching the job boards for specifics.  If you leave it blank or use unrelated information your resume may get over-looked

Salary expectations:  This can be a sticky subject.  In some instances providing a desired salary could eliminate you immediately.  I’ve seen some crazy expectations that have caused me to simply pass on a candidate.  In the HCIT industry a Clinical Analyst that has been working 1099 may have been making 150K + every year… however if that Clinical Analyst wants to transition into a permanent role with salary and benefits 150K might be unreasonable.  The flip side of that scenario is under-selling yourself.  If you are a Clinical Analyst for a hospital and you’ve been making 65K, but you could be making 100K as a traveling consultant you may not get fair market value for yourself if you list your current salary.  Best bet is to leave that blank and have that conversation with each potential employer after doing industry research and hearing what they have to offer.

Education:  This is similar to the last paragraph, it may help or hinder you depending on the position and the recruiter reviewing resumes.  If you have a high level degree and are seeking a high level position, by all means… list your degree!

Travel  - Yay or Nay:  If you do not want to travel make sure you specify  that on your profile or you will get numerous calls inquiring if you will.  If you are open to 50% travel or more I would suggest you put “road warrior” to improve interest in your qualifications.  If you are willing to relocate, make sure you list that and the cities you are open to moving to.

Employment Status:  This space allows you to show if you are interested in Fulltime permanent employment, Contract, Per Diem etc.  Normally you can select more than one option. Each site is slightly different but the break down is normally understood as the following for our industry.

Permanent- fulltime employment as a salaried employee 

Contract or Project – this could be W2 Hourly or 1099 for a specific amount of time

Per Diem – this could mean part time, paid for the time in which your services are required or term engagement

References:  I highly suggest you never list references on the job boards or on your resume.  That puts the cart before the horse.  There is no need for references to be conducted until after the interview process is complete.  Listing references on the job boards or your resume also opens up the people you provide as references to unsolicited phone calls regarding their own qualifications and career interests.

Interests & Hobbies:  Your interests and hobbies do not belong on the job boards unless they directly relate to your career.

Job Searches:  You can set up a search on the major job boards for opportunities that match your criteria.  That information will be sent to your email regularly depending on how often you want to be alerted.  This is a very useful tool!
When using job boards to search and apply for positions DO NOT apply for positions you are not qualified for.  Pay close attention to the required qualifications when reading job postings. It is a waste of your time and the recruiter's time if your qualifications are not a match for the position posted.  If you have had 6 months of experience in go-live training  and you send your resume to a position that requires extensive clinical application build experience and certification, that is not a wise use of your time and energy.  Focus on the positions that are within your skillset or slightly above your last job responsibilities to more quickly find your next engagement.

When to remove or update your resume:  If you find the career of your dreams, remember to go back to the job boards and remove your resume.  I often run searches for resumes that have been on the boards for 6 months or more to drum up candidates that may not have been called in a while.  If you are a consultant and tend to leave your resume up on the boards, remember to update your resume with each new engagement so it doesn’t get stale.
Keep in mind that Recruiters sometimes look at hundreds of resumes a week, the more precise you are when filling out information on the job boards the more likely you are to be contacted.
By carefully and responsibly using the job boards and Linkedin you should be able to get the exposure you desire to land your next great opportunity.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Tips for Video (Skype) Interviewing

Recently there has been a trend toward Video Interviewing.  In the HCIT Industry this can save Hospitals and Consulting Firms big money by eliminating the travel costs of an onsite interview.  Below are some do's and don'ts for video interviews and some tips as well.

1.  Make sure your laptop or desktop is compatible with skype technology  (some companies are using other providers such as AT&T online for video interviews) There will normally be an application that you will have to download to your computer.
2.  Check to make sure you have a camera on your computer or you have a fully functional web cam that you can attach to your computer.
3.  If your computer is not compatible you might be able to use your smart or droid phone instead.

With the technology piece out of the way....

4.  Do a trial call with a family member or friend.
5.  Make sure you are in a well lit room.  NO BACK LIGHTING!  If you have a light source behind you it will cast a shadow over your face and make it very difficult for the viewer to see you and your expressions.  Preferably the light should be in front of you and not so bright that it whites out your face. (an overhead light will cast shadows under your eyes and nose which can cause you to look ill or tired)
6.  The camera should be at or slightly below face level.  Anything else creates an awkward perspective for the viewer. (The camera should be arms length from your face... 3 to 4 ft)
7.  Clear the clutter from behind you.  Locate yourself in front of a blank wall or one with minimal artwork.  DO NOT HAVE A WINDOW BEHIND YOU (see #5)  Having sports memorabilia or family photos in the background is fine but less is more. 
8.  Keep pets and children out of the room.  This is an interview, you should imagine you are in someone else's office.  You wouldn't bring your kids or your cat to an onsite interview.
9.  Focus on the computer screen and the person or people speaking to you.  Looking around, out the window, etc can show disinterest on your part.
10.  Wear something presentable, wear a medium colored professional shirt.  White can wash you out and dark colors can disappear into the background. (you dont want "the floating head" appearance :) ) While you can get away with only looking professional from the waist up... my suggestion would be to dress professionally from head to toe.  God Forbid you have to stand up for any reason during the interview and the potential employer sees you're in sweats or your tighty-whities!
11.  Do your hair... treat this as you would any interview and make yourself presentable.  First impressions last and they can be the make-it or break-it of the job opportunity.  Ladies... if you normally wear make up and you have a light skin-tone, consider wearing slightly darker base.  Remember to do a practice run to see how you appear to the viewer prior to the actual interview.
12.  Be in a quiet place.  You want as little background noise as possible.  If this means you have to go to a hotel room or friends house... do it.  Kids yelling, dogs barking, dryers buzzing etc is a huge distraction. (the bathroom or your car are not good options)
13.  Its always good to have a copy of your resume in front of you as you may have to refer to it to answer specific questions.
14.  TURN OFF YOUR PHONES!  This is obvious but you'd be surprised how many people forget to do this. 
15.  Once you've made introductions, ask the viewer if they can see you clearly, make any necessary camera, lighting or situational adjustments at the beginning of the interview.
16.  Relax and enjoy the interview, but be mindful of your posture, facial expressions and attention span during the call.  Act as if you are sitting in front of the viewer in the same room.
17.  If possible turn the section of the computer screen off that allows you to see yourself.  Many people get so distracted by how they look or how they're presenting themselves that they don't behave naturally. Doing that trial run prior to the interview will help you to become accustomed to how you appear on camera.
See my upcoming blog on General Interview Tips for hints regarding the interview process.

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