Friday, September 21, 2012

Your Mug-Shot on Professional Networking Sites

I have to admit, I'm often intrigued and sometimes curious as to how people choose their profile photos.  One would assume that whatever profile photo you apply to Linkedin will not be the same photo you use on Facebook or any of the multiple dating websites.  However.... lately I've seen so many sultry looking photos on Linkedin that I'm starting to think people are using it for purposes other than business!
I'm sure you've seen them: those campy photos of women, taken at home, often in the bathroom, shyly looking up into the camera through a vail of thick lashes, throwing that "come-hither" look, hair flowing, cleavage showing...and while these images certainly will work in the person's favor on, is that really the image you want to project into the workplace?
I suppose were I twenty years younger - I might've thought it appropriate (probably not)... but now that I'm in my late 40's trying to look sultry is the least of my worries. I'm pleasantly surprised if I appear awake and chipper in my photos.
I'm sure there are a few men out there that will disagree with me, however if women want to be successful in business they must also gain the respect and support of other women in their marketplace.
I'm not stodgy by any means. A cute picture of you and your dog will pass if you don't have anything businessy. Here are a few other examples that you may want to steer clear of:

1.  Photos of you with your children: Actually this one can go either way,  showing you're a family person is great but it can also be used against you if you're seeking a job where some employers will make assumptions that you can't be dedicated to your job due to your personal responsibilities.
2.  Glamour Shots:  Those of you in your 30's and older should remember these.  They were the height of fashion and coolness in the early 90's...  now they're the fodder for talk shows like Ellen.
3.  Beach bikini shots:  unless you're a model which most of us aren't
4.  Party(ing) Photos: Nothing says professionalism like photos of you and your friends completely sh*t-faced. (Nothing says professionalism like using the term sh*t-faced, but it seemed to fit)
5.  Photos of your Car, Boat, Mc-Mansion, Motorcycle:  If you aren't a car/boat/real estate dealer, a financial motivational speaker or a MLM guru.. it just looks plain egotistical.
6.  Pics of your pets: If you're in the animal industry by all means, if not and your potential employer thinks that your breed of dog (or cats in general) are the devil's spawn... you know where I'm going with this....
7.  No Pic at all:  This is the second best option.  If you don't have a good professional picture opt for no picture at all.  This might also be the best option if you are missing your front teeth.
8. Cartoon Characters: If you work for Pixar or Disney this is completely acceptable.
10. Government Party Affiliations: (or religious symbols etc) Many people are inspired to put their party's symbol or candidate's picture in their profile.  While this is fine for facebook, any site you utilize for business should be void of your political opinions unless your job is directly involved with politics and the same goes for religious affiliations etc.
11. The Out of Focus TOO CLOSE pic: This is the type of pic that people question if they forgot to put on their glasses.  The photo is out of focus, often the subject is blurry or too close to the camera. 
12.  The (I cut other people out of this photo- )well mostly: You've seen those photos where the ex or friends or co-workers or family has been hastily cut out, usually their arm or part of their face still lingers in the photo.  It always leaves me wondering who the person was and how they feel about being hacked out of the photo.  If the only great photo you have of yourself is with others, either include them or have more photos taken of yourself.
13. The 1980's Pic: This involves any picture that is more than 10 years old.  Your college graduation date and/or prior work history on your profile clearly give away your age,but your photo is a picture of you when you were 20 yrs younger... the polyester suit and turtle neck are also a dead give-away.
14. Random photos of mountains or flowers or wild animals or or OR: Everyone loves nature but putting these pictures in your bio when they aren't somehow related to your profession makes it look like you're part of the witness protection program and trying to remain incognito.
15. Fishing, Jogging, Hiking, Biking, Yoga Poses etc:  Unless you're a physical trainer or an outdoors man (woman) don't include exercise photos.  It's like you're trying to make the rest of us that are tied to our desks feel inadequate.  No, that isn't my inadequacies talking. 
and finally: 
16.  The "Guns & Ammo" Photo: Unless you're in the military or one of our "nation's finest" - having a picture of yourself at target practice or grippin' your AK like its your girlfriend is likely to get you investigated - not employed.

Good Ideas for Social - Business Networking Profile Photos:
Company Logos, Professional Pictures, Work related Photos (that do not involve alcohol - see #4), Industry related icons, no picture at all.

And for gosh sakes... SMILE!  If you look angry, grumpy or sad in your photo who is going to want to do business with you?

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Interview Preparedness (Pt 1) - The MOST IMPORTANT step of all in the employment process.

While a well designed resume can open the door to many an opportunity NOTHING can solidify or ruin an opportunity like the outcome of an initial interview.  Last week I had 5 candidates call me post-client-interview to tell me they "didn't think it went so well".  While that is an unusually high number for a one week period, it re-surfaced the point of how interview prep is the most important part of the employment process. I'm actually going to break this topic into 2 parts:  Part 1 for the Interviewee and Part 2 for the Interviewer. 

Over the years I've witnessed candidates with very few of the necessary technical requirements land jobs easily and I've also witnessed candidates that are Spot-ON for the technical requirements repeatedly miss out on employment.... why?  Because the candidates lacking in requirements knew how to CRUSH the initial interview and candidates with excellent qualifications were (for whatever reason) unable to adequately express their knowledge during the interview.  Below are some tips to assist an Interviewee on how to be better prepared and hopefully more successful in the interview process.

Since at least 90% of the initial interviews conducted in the Healthcare IT industry are over the phone, the tips below mainly pertain to telephone interviews but also can translate to in-person or web interviews.

1.  Be prepared for ANYTHING:  Its become very apparent that most employers have not refined their interview process.  They don't necessarily know what to ask or how to ask it.  They don't consistently have the same people conducting the interviews.  They often are pressed for time and they sometimes don't even have a firm understanding of exactly what qualifications will be a good fit for their current needs.  I've sat in on interviews where the interviewer has interrupted, excused themselves and had someone else take over mid-interview.  I've sat in on interviews where SURPRISE! there was an impromptu panel interview and there were 5 people on the phone from the employer side.  And... I've unfortunately sat in on interviews where the employer didn't even know what position they were interviewing the candidate for.  With this over-whelming lack of consistency being the "norm" the interviewee must be prepared for anything and be able to "go-with-the-flow" without getting flustered and tongue-tied.
2.  What to do if your time is limited: Telephone interviews customarily last between 30 minutes and 1 hour.  Even if you are provided with a meeting invite that sets aside an hour, be prepared to express your qualifications in 30 minutes or less. 
1st: Make sure you have a job description of the position you are interviewing for. 
2nd: Prepare notes in advance of the interview listing examples of how your qualifications/experience are a match for the job.  With those notes in front of you, you will easily be able to recall your most important talking points. 
If the interviewer is interested in you but they have to cut the interview short SPEAK UP!  Say something like: "I appreciate your time, however I feel I wasn't able to adequately explain my qualifications, could we schedule more time to speak later this week"  Also since your time is limited, don't go bouncing off on rabbit trails.  Stay focused.
3.  Know how to express your qualifications and experienceMost people have a firm understanding of their experience but they don't know how to explain it.  Being able to explain your qualifications is key to landing your desired jobs, particularly in our industry.  If you have a specific technical ability, know how to translate your on-the-job responsibilities into words.  For instance.... if you are a EMR Trainer be ready to explain Where you've trained (classroom?, shoulder to shoulder?, locations) What you've trained (Epic Optime? Cerner SurgiNet? Allscripts? etc) How you've been involved (curriculum build? Principal or Lead Trainer? Go-Live Support?) Who you've trained (Physicians, Nurses, end-users, how many?) and then be ready to explain the details of your understanding of the technologies you have trained.  By having notes in front of you with all the details you should be easily able to explain the most important aspects of your knowledge and abilities. 
4.  Be prepared to answer open-ended questions: A good interviewer will not ask many Yes or No questions, they will ask open-ended questions that require more detailed answers from the interviewee.  One such question is: "tell me more about yourself".  This question leaves many interviewees completely stymied.  It is always best to have a prepared statement for this question.  Keep it simple, not too long-winded and too the point.  Point out your professional timeline such as: "I entered the Healthcare industry 14 years ago after graduating with a degree in Nursing, and over the years have transitioned from nursing into Clinical Information Systems, my focus for the last few years has been in EMR Implementation Project Management." "On the personal side I enjoy (and name a few hobbies or interests here) STAY CLEAR of any discussions about your family life or health issues which might lead to discrimination.
5.  Do your research and ask questions: Prior to an initial interview with any employer you should have a firm understanding of who they are and what they do.  If you're working with a recruiter, gain as much info from them as you can and then go to google!  Research the potential employer!  It is a good idea to prepare a short list (5 or so) questions you want them to answer in interview.  Normally the last question they will ask is "do you have any questions?" and you don't want to hang up the phone and then snap your fingers and say "Damn! I forgot to ask...."  Have a list in front of you!  If the questions are answered during interview cross them off, as more arise, jot them down.
6.  Know the job you are wanting to fill: If you're working with a recruiter request a full job description, if they don't have one get as much information as you can and then check out the employer site for a job listing.  If there isn't one available there, make sure one of your first questions during the interview is "I'm not sure I have a firm understanding of the responsibilities of the position, could you take a moment to discuss your expectations?"  Always have the job description or whatever info you have on the job directly in front of you.  Unfortunately I've seen quite a number of candidates over the years get into an interview and confuse the position they are interviewing for with another role they applied for elsewhere.  This makes the candidate AND their recruiter look bad.
7. Be relaxed and be yourself: There is no reason to become nervous during an interview.  Relax, remember to breathe and enjoy the process.  Even though the interviewer cannot see you, they can definitely FEEL you and if you're nervous they're going to pick up on it.  Also, try to concentrate on what they're saying, not what you're going to say next.  If you are busy mentally preparing your next statement you're going to miss important information.  Do away with any unnecessary distractions during the call (including your own over-active thought processes).  I've conducted interviews with candidates that are so busy talking over me or mentally preparing their answer that they've missed important information like: who the client is, what they pay rate is, what the job responsibilities are and this will be a detriment in the future.
8. PRACTICE - PRACTICE - PRACTICE: I will often run "mock interviews" to help candidates prepare for their initial client interview. If you don't have a recruiter to assist you, get a friend that understands your industry and have a practice interview with them.
9. It's OK to call the whole thing off: If at any time during the interview information is provided that is not in line with your employment desires, wait for a break in the conversation and express your concerns.  If it is something that you feel the potential employer might be able to modify make that request, if an agreement cannot be met, thank them for their time and end the call early.  No need in taking up more of your time and theirs if it isn't a fit.   Along that same vein, if for any reason the client seems to be interviewing you for the wrong job, stop them and let them know.  If you applied for an analyst role and the client starts discussing a project manager role with you, let them know right away which position you are interested in.  (I've seen this happen more than once)
10. Panel vs One on One Interviews: Normally the initial interview is a one on one conversation with a decision maker but more and more frequently employers are conducting "panel" interviews.  This means there will be a group of people all interviewing the candidate at once.  This can at times be overwhelming and confusing.  It's virtually impossible for the interviewee to recognize the various voices just from the quick introduction and sadly on occasion introductions aren't even made.  Normally a meeting invite will be sent that will include the names and titles of all the attendees but sometimes a panel interview will be conducted without the candidate's prior knowledge.  I call these the SURPRISE! Panel interviews.  The panel usually consists of one or more hiring managers and one or more "team-mates".  They will be hoping to learn if the interviewee is the right personality fit for their team and also if the interviewee has the right qualifications for the role.  Be yourself... you don't want to be hired to a team of folks that is expecting something different when you show up for your first day on the job.
11.  Don't embellish!: If you do not have the qualifications for the position, don't try to expand your experience and "fake" your way through the areas you aren't familiar with.  You might be able to fool a recruiter, you will NOT be able to fool your peers in the industry.  If you do not have some of the requirements for the position and you somehow manage to make it through the interview process, it won't take many days on the job for your new employer to figure out you're not as knowledgeable as you lead them to believe. 

Learning to easily and fluently express your abilities is the most important part of the interview process. By following the steps above and with some practice you should master the initial interview.
Being able to talk about your knowledge, milestones and qualifications is an asset.  Who is going to "sell" you better than YOU?  If you lack confidence this will hurt you deeply in the interview process.  To gain perspective, talk to prior co-workers and ask them what stands out about your work to them.

If you're in a position where you regularly conduct interviews, review the "Part 2 Post"
Best wishes in your career endeavors! 
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Interview Follow - Up. The interview is over - Now what?

So you've taken the time to create an impactful resume, you've submitted your resume to a position that is a strong fit for your qualifications and career path, you've gone through the interview and now what?

I'm a bit old-school or at least that's what my 20-something-yr-old children tell me.  I remember when you had to look for employment opportunities in the local newspaper and had to actually mail (US postal service snail mail) or fax your resume to a potential employer.  Back when there were no cell phones, linkedin, emails etc.  At that time it was common for everyone that was fortunate enough to go through the interview process to send a Thank You note.  We've now graduated to the speed of light.  Everything is moving faster, and with this rapid movement it seems that some of the professionalism of the past has been lost.  I would estimate that of every 100 people I interview, 10 actually send a follow up email thanking me for my time and interest.  Whats worse is that fewer than that send follow up emails to thank the client when they've finished an interview with the Manager from the client site.

I know when people I've previously interviewed read this they're going to think "Oh Crap!, did I send a Thank You email?  Am I the reason for this blog post?", and the answer is maybe.  No one in particular started my wheels spinning about this topic, it was the result of noticing a pattern over time.  There are a vast number of reasons why people have gotten away from the habit of a follow - up thank you... some of which are:  lack of time, applying and interviewing for multiple opportunities at once, lack of knowledge, and lack of interest.  By "lack of knowledge" I mean that some individuals don't know who to Thank or how to go about Thanking them.  We'll cover that shortly.

There are times when a Thank you note is not necessary:  If you have had a particularly negative interview with a recruiter or manager, if you were turned down for the position during the interview or you turned down the position during the interview.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't bother, it just means it isn't expected or necessary.

Who to send the Thank you email to can depend on the situation.  If you are interviewing directly with your potential employer you will probably have the interviewer's email address, in which case a "Thank You" email within 24 hrs of the interview is appropriate*.  You might experience multiple interviews within the same company, and the same rule applies:  a "Thank You" email within 24 hrs of each interview.  If you are starting the interview process via a staffing company (search firm) then a quick email to your recruiter after your initial interview is appropriate.  Thank you notes for subsequent interviews with the staffing firm's client should be sent to your recruiter to be forwarded on your behalf to their client.  If the interviewer from the client site has provided you with their contact information then any thank you email you send to them should also be CCed to your recruiter.  This keeps the recruiter up to speed on how the interview process is moving along so no miscommunication transpires. 

This process is a two-way street.  In general Recruiters will send an interview follow - up email if the person they have interviewed is moving on to interview with the client or if the person might be a potential fit for future opportunities.  If the person is moving forward to interview with the client the Recruiter's Thank You email should supply the following:  A quick Thank you for your time, a full (or at least as full as they have) job description, the name of the client, and any information about next steps in the process.  I will be honest in saying that there have been times where I've dropped the ball on this process.  I might hang up the phone after an interview, prepare and submit the resume to the client and then get side tracked.  We all have those days.  If you haven't received confirmation from a recruiter that has stated they are sending your resume to a client.... ASK FOR IT!  You should always have a communication trail and record of what positions you have been submitted to. 

I wonder what Emily Post would think if she were alive today?  Miss Manners writes about this topic occasionally, but she tends to be a bit rude and condescending... which leads one to believe she's also lacking some manners.  The rule of thumb for Thank you notes should be "when in doubt, send it out".  It never hurts to show appreciation.  I've provided example content below.

*when interviewing directly for a potential employer for a C-Level position or a position you are extremely interested in, sending a Thank You card in the mail is a great way to stand out and show your interest.

Example Thank You for a recruiter:

Hello (Recruiter),
Thank you for your time on the phone today regarding the XYZ role at XYZ Company. Per our discussion, my qualifications seem to be an ideal fit for this position.  I look forward to the next steps in the process.  If there is any additional information you require, don't hesitate to call or email me.


Example Thank you for Direct Manager: has a great section on Thank you letters with examples:

One last piece of advice:  try not to be TOO flowery.  There is a tipping point between professional and sappy.  Some executives might be looking for a brown-noser but is that really the type of person you want to work for?  Don't use words like EXCITING! EXCELLENT! SUPERB! AMAZING! and don't over-sell yourself.  Even the above example from Monster made me a bit queasy.  Make references to how your skills and experience fit with the touch-points from the interview, but stay away from telling the reader how to do his job ie: "you won't find a better fit for this position" or "I am your ideal candidate for the job".

A simple Thank you can go a long way..... (in all situations)

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Negotiating Salary or Hourly Rates - Updated 2015

Recently I received a request to write a blog post about negotiating salary and/or hourly rates.  I've avoided this topic until now because the financial aspects are always a complicated and touchy subject.  I'm certainly not giving away any trade secrets when I say that consulting firms and staffing firms make their money by placing Healthcare IT Professionals at their client sites for either contract work or permanent placement. 
Placing someone into a permanent position is usually a cut & dried affair.  The firm will source, approach, screen and present qualified candidates to their client, if one is chosen and agrees to employment the firm will receive a % of that person's first year's salary as a "finders fee".   The industry standard is 20% but it can be higher or lower depending on the type of position being filled and the rates agreed upon by the client. 
With regard to contractors, the firm follows the same scenario as above but the candidate will be retained for a specific amount of time to complete a specific project.  Regardless of the employment method the consultant chooses (1099, corp to corp or W2) the firm will bill their client at a higher rate than they are paying the consultant to increase their bottom line.
A firm determines the client bill rate by considering the following factors:  the consultant's desired hourly rate, the "burden" to carry that consultant (man hours spent for recruitment, any necessary care the consultant will require during the contract, cost of pay rolling, any benefits provided, liability insurance and how long the contract is expected to last etc.) and X amount of dollars for profit.  The rates charged to clients vary a great deal in this industry, in particular; large consulting firms tend to charge higher rates than the smaller staffing firms. 
There are a number of general differences between "Consulting Firms" and "Staffing Firms", the easiest way to sum them up is:  Consulting firms are larger organizations that can provide groups of consultants at one time to their healthcare clients to assist with large scale implementations or system upgrades etc.  Generally consulting firms will hire industry consultants as permanent employees, pay them a salary with benefits and provide performance bonuses, they will also utilize W2 hourly consultants and corp to corp, 1099 consultants when necessary. A staffing firm will usually be responsible for filling gaps and will provide services to both healthcare / hospital systems and consulting firms.  Typically, staffing firms do not hire permanent salaried consultants.

So, what does all that mean when it comes to negotiating rates? 
> Well, if you are seeking a salaried position your rate is going to be whatever yearly salary you have come up with that makes sense to you.  Your recruiter will ask you up front for a figure and I suggest you give them one.  If you're needing $120K and their client is only willing to pay $80K for the role, then you are aware immediately it isn't a fit and you aren't wasting your time.  Always be up front about your salary demands and try to be reasonable.  If you want an idea what the industry standards are in a particular geographical area for your qualifications... check out:
>Being an hourly contractor is a bit more complicated, some contractors are tuned in to their qualifications and the industry shortage of qualified contractors so they feel they can ask for the moon and the stars and they're going to receive it.  In part, this is true, but if you aren't a seasoned pro, or your social skills are lacking, don't assume the client will keep you around just because finding a replacement will be difficult. 
The best practice is to be flexible with your rates, but have a hard stopping point.  Also, take into account other benefits of a particular engagement and adjust your rate accordingly:  does it offer remote work (come down in rate a bit), does it require coast to coast travel (come up in rate a bit), is it a long term engagement - 12 months or more (come down in rate a bit), will you learn new skills (come down in rate a bit), are there difficult tasks associated with the role (come up in rate a bit) and so on. 
Below I've listed some industry averages for various roles and also a few reasons why you should work through a consulting firm or staffing firm instead of trying to work directly for the healthcare / hospital system. Keep in mind these rates are just an example and can vary quite a bit due to numerous factors.*   And, as always, your comments are appreciated!

Go-Live Support Analyst -  $40 - $60  / Hour
Trainer -                               $55 - $75 / Hour
Certified Trainer -                $65 - $95 / Hour
Principal Trainer -               $75 - $100 / Hour
Junior Analyst -                   $45 - $75 / Hour (varies wildly depending on product knowledge)
Analyst -                              $55 - $85 / Hour (varies wildly depending on product knowledge)
Senior Analyst -                   $65 - $110 / Hour (varies wildly depending on product knowledge)
Project Manager -                $75 - $150 / Hour (varies depending on background & product exp)
Project Director -                 $95 - $175 / Hour (varies depending on background & product exp)
(the above rates do not factor in travel expenses)
*The rates above can increase dramatically if you have a clinical background, particularly an RN, MD or Clinically related PhD.

Reasons to seek contracts through consulting or staffing firms:
1.  The firms have direct contact to the internal hiring managers and can communicate your strengths directly to them.
2.  The firms can offer healthcare benefits during the engagement
3.  The firms will continue to negotiate extensions for you.
4.  The firms will work to find you future engagements

Reasons to seek permanent employment through staffing firms:
1.  The firms have direct contact with the internal hiring managers and will present your resume directly to them, on the other hand, when applying via a hospital web site your resume often falls into a "black hole" or it has to be processed through HR before the IT hiring manager ever sees it.
2.  The firm will negotiate your salary requirements (and it's in their favor to get you higher pay)
3.  The firm can often present your resume to multiple clients
4.  The firm may have a number of roles that are not posted online
5.  The firm normally has developed a strong working relationship with their client and might be aware of upcoming roles that would interest you but have not yet been announced.

Changing Trends: 
Throughout 2014 and into 2015 the industry as a whole has been trending downward where hourly rates and salaries are concerned.  Additionally healthcare clients are seeking more Contract to Hire individuals and not as many contractor/consultants, and more local candidates than travelers. While the rates above are still accurate, the trend is now on the lower end.

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