Wednesday, November 14, 2012

When Should Qualifications Trump the Almighty Degree

I find myself somewhat speechless - which makes it incredibly difficult to blog about a topic when you're rendered speechless.  Frustration is usually what prompts my posts although necessity and requests have driven quite a number as well.  I try to give each post the "24 hour rule".  I will write the post and then let it marinate for 24 hrs before I re-read it, make necessary changes and post.  This allows me to tamper down my rants from a boil to a simmer before releasing them to the universe.
Today I'm going to just wing it and see if I can potentially get some response to my quandary.

Recently a colleague of mine had an outstanding candidate turned down solely because this candidate did not carry a college degree.  The candidate met and exceeded all the other requirements and this candidate also had some very rare and difficult to come by industry certifications - however since he/she didn't have a college degree the client refused to even speak to him/her.  This is a candidate with over 15 years of industry experience, not to mention an exceptional track record and solid references.

Over the years I've had similar situations with some of my own candidates as well.  These decisions leave me flabbergasted.  In an industry like Healthcare IT where the market is tight and highly experienced candidates are difficult to find, particularly candidates that are open to relocation, I sit with my jaw dropped - wondering what the client (s) are thinking.  How can a piece of paper be that important?  To clarify I am not referring to requirements for a medical degrees - some positions require a BSN or other medical degree and that is completely acceptable, these are clients that don't really care what the Bachelors degree is in - just that the person has one.

For instance, XYZ Hospital calls their staffing vendor and explains they have a need for an Epic Optime / Anesthesia Certified Analyst with at least 2 years of build experience etc and part of the job description includes - Bachelor's Degree Required - ideally the client would prefer a degree in IS or Medical but technically any degree will do.  The client would also like this person to accept a salary of $85,000 and be willing to relocate to their area.

Since Epic severely restricts Epic certified consultants and their clients with their Non-Compete clauses - and the need in the market place for Epic qualified consultants is so deep, just finding someone with the desired Epic experience will be a challenge.  Add on to that the challenge of finding a consultant that would be willing to take a permanent role and relocate with a salary that is well below what they could make as an independent consultant or an employee of a consulting firm the likelihood of filling this position quickly is very slim.  As luck would have it, the recruiter finds a candidate with 15 years of Healthcare IT / EMR Implementation experience and over 5 years of Epic Optime experience including the required certifications.  This candidate comes highly recommended from a well respected IT Director and the candidate is excited about the idea of moving to the specified location so they're open to considering the pay rate.  However, after reviewing the candidate's resume the client immediately declines the candidate due to lack of degree.  They tell the recruiter that "it's a deal breaker". 

These situations leave me scratching my head.  Does the client not have a firm understanding of the industry?  If anyone has an answer, I'd love to be clued in.  In the current climate - thinking "outside the box" is a huge benefit.  The clients that are open to considering highly qualified individuals that do not carry a degree, or providing a competitive salary or being open to allowing a new hire to travel on site and/or work remotely as opposed to having to relocate are the clients that have a high rate of successful placements and can boast very low turn-over rates. 

As always your thoughts and opinions are appreciated!

(additional note - this week I had a professional candidate with over 25 years of Director and Project Management experience over both large and small HIS implementations - along with a clinical degree get passed over for a permanent Project Management role because he lacked a PMP certification.  Also take into account that this candidate was willing to accept the salary range AND was in the process of relocating to the city in which the hospital system was located.  The candidate had stated to me that he was willing to immediately obtain his PMP certification upon hire - and I made that clear in email to the client but they wouldn't speak with him.  This position has been open for months - still speechless)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Interview Preparedness Pt 2 - What the Client / Interviewer should know.

Anyone that has ever conducted an interview is well aware that some are fantastic, some are amusing and some are down-right scary.  One thing we, as the person conducting the interview often overlook is what it feels like to be on the other side of the table (or end of the phone).  Over the years I have listened - sometimes in amazement - to a candidate's interview experience with a client during a post - interview follow up call.  One thing that all Interviewers must remember is that it is their responsibility to leave the person they are interviewing with a good taste in their mouth.  That means: never let them walk away with a negative impression - EVEN IF that candidate is not someone you are planning to hire.  Why?  because word of mouth travels very quickly and that candidate just might be friends with someone you would desperately want to hire.  If they leave their discussion with you feeling slighted or disrespected you can assume they will tell up to 10 people about their negative experience.  Since you represent your company - their feelings will extend to your company as well.  Simply by turning one person off you can literally turn a dozen or more people off in one fell swoop.  The lesson here is to treat everyone the way you would like to be treated.

This post pertains mainly to telephone interviews since they are used most frequently in the initial interview phase.

Here is a short list of additional points that are imperative to a successful client / candidate interview process: 
1.  Time is of the essence:  If you are going to be late or need to reschedule a candidate interview make sure you reach out to the candidate or to the recruiting firm that provided the candidate and make them aware of the necessary changes.  Every one's time is important.
2.  Know who you are interviewing! (and vice versa)  Learn about the candidate prior to the interview by researching their resume, their linkedin profile etc.  This knowledge will provide you with good questions to ask.  Also make sure when you begin the interview to introduce yourself and provide a brief over-view of your role and responsibilities so the candidate has a good understanding of who they are talking with.
3.  Be prepared!  Make sure you know which position the candidate you will be interviewing has applied for.  This might sound ridiculous but I cannot express how many times I've had a client call me to say the candidate wasn't the right fit for the position only to find out the client had not paid attention to the submittal form and was interviewing the candidate for the wrong role.  When you have multiple positions to fill and you are conducting multiple interviews it is easy to become confused. A solution may be to set aside blocks of time or a full day to only interview candidates that were submitted to one particular role.
4.  Don't put the cart before the horse: It is important to be confident there is a need for the candidate's qualifications and budget approval has already been provided.  In the Healthcare IT Industry good candidates do not stay available for long and many talented resources have been lost to another opportunity while waiting on budget approval.
5.  The early bird catches the worm:  If you receive a resume of a highly qualified candidate, make time to interview them within 48 hrs.  As stated above - highly qualified candidates are typically being courted by multiple employers and will not stay on the market for long. 
6.  Don't leave them wanting:  Once you have conducted the interview provide feedback within 48 hrs.  ('thank you but we have decided not to move forward' or 'thank you we are interested in taking the next step in the interview process' or 'thank you, we appreciate your patience as we determine our next steps' are all acceptable responses)
7.  Set aside ample time for the interview: While you may be able to determine that the candidate is not the right fit in less than 15 minutes, if the candidate IS a potential fit it will certainly take longer to determine their technical knowledge, communication skills and personality type.  30 minutes at the very least, should be set aside for each interview.  If you are working with a recruiter that is "pre-screening" candidates this will likely eliminate some of the questions you will need to ask, but never rely on recruiters to fully tech screen a candidate.
8.  Don't gang up: It's always nice to have others on the team assist in making a hiring decision but the initial interview should be one on one or two on one.  Throwing a candidate into an impromptu panel interview with multiple team members can be over-whelming for even the most seasoned professional.
10.  Ask the right questions:  After explaining the role / expectations to the candidate in detail you will want to gather the following information - Why are they interested in the role? 
Why do they feel their qualifications are a fit? 
Why are they leaving their current position? 
When can they start a new role? 
How do they deal with challenges? 
Are they interviewing with other companies? 
What, if anything might cause them to decline an offer if you extended one? 
Do they have any concerns? etc.
11.  Don't assume anything or you make an Ass out of U & Me - Occasionally I've had a client come back to me and say "the candidate looked good on paper but they couldn't explain their experience well enough".  This could mean that the candidate beefed up their resume or that they were unable to articulate their qualifications - but more often than not it is a failure on the part of the interviewer because they didn't ask the right questions. 
Frequently less-than-stellar candidates will be hired because they are exceptional at slam-dunking the interview, while highly qualified people get passed over because they didn't express themselves well enough.  (particularly with "techie" people that are used to dealing with computers and codes and not being "social butterflies"). 
As the interviewer, it is your job to get to the heart of the matter - regardless of the topic.  If you see 20 years of Project Mgmt experience on the candidate's resume but you aren't hearing enough about their Project Mgmt experience ASK more specific questions! Ex:  "I see that in your last position you were the Meditech CPOE Go-Live Project Manager - can you discuss more about how many people you managed, when you came into the process and whether or not you were responsible for budgetary projections etc etc etc"   Asking questions like "So tell me more about your Project Management experience" to someone with multiple years and multiple projects under their belt can leave the candidate stymied because they don't know where to start.  By being more specific you will learn more about their qualifications.

In our current tight market with so few highly qualified healthcare IT professionals, many believe that it is all about the salary / pay rate and less about the environment, but that is completely inaccurate.  While salary does play a part in the decision making process on the candidate's part, the general consensus is that "people go to work for people".  As important as money or location, more important than benefits or timing - having the opportunity to work in a great culture with a positive and respectful team is one of the biggest draws to a new job.  That impression starts with the first interview.  Never assume that the person you are interviewing should feel privileged to come to work for you, feel as though you should feel privileged to have their time and potentially their interest.

With the right attitude and the right list of questions almost every interview should provide you with the answers you are seeking to make a qualified and informed decision.

(For more information on Interview Tips for the Candidate / Interviewee - please see my previous "Pt 1" post)

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