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Candidate Pushback

April 24, 2014
by Tim Tolan
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How the tough economy has changed the mindset of the even the best job candidates
Tim Tolan

The world has changed over the past six years or so, and so has the hiring game. Passive candidates that are gainfully employed are less likely to engage in a search unless the opportunity is very compelling and has other built-in intangibles that help them mitigate risk. There are multiple reasons why it’s more of a challenge to engage candidates in a new search in 2014 than in years past. This by no means indicates an inability to generate interest and for them to have a conversation about a new role. It just means that we all have to have an understanding from the candidates’ point of view on the “Why” box they need to check before proceeding with a new search.

A few common examples of candidate pushback include:

Too Much Risk: Job seekers are not the risk takers they used to be. Some were burned during the Great Recession and found themselves out of work for longer than they ever dreamed possible, creating hardship for their families. Before the downturn, many candidates would simply bet on a new job because it paid more or for other reasons, such as less travel, better benefits, etc. Now, candidates spend more time checking out a new employer, and it’s very important for them to get the facts before making the plunge. That includes you as the CIO and your plans for long-term employment. Recently, U.S. News & World Report estimated that the average tenure of a hospital CEO runs less than three and a half years, and most are involuntary exits, according to Black Book Rankings. When the CEO leaves, it’s common for chief financial officers, chief information officers and other executives to exit as well. Once they exit, all bets are off for the team once the new CIO is on board.

Compensation Expectations: Many candidates have an inflated sense of self, meaning they believe they are worth and deserve more than the market rate. Salaries did not go up at the same annual rate for many over the past six years, and they are attempting to get whole in their next move. If an HCIT employee is earning $100K base salary, they may demand a salary of $125K-$140K because they feel they are worth the additional compensation in today’s market. Companies hiring tend to look at historical compensation as a yardstick before making an offer to a candidate, and they won’t pay huge increases to an unknown until they can demonstrate they are a high performer. Pay-for-performance is the model of choice for many employers.

Previous Unemployment: For candidates that have spent months and months looking for a new opportunity, their risk meter has probably changed in a big way forever. The longer they were out of work the more risk adverse they’ve likely become. I get it. It’s a painful experience to have steady employment for years and years and then, (in most cases) through no fault of their own, become unemployed. The economic nightmare of living off of savings and vivid memories surrounding the fear, uncertainty and doubt of the unknown lingers for a very long time. There has to be a compelling reason for candidate’s to make a change including learning a new skill, learn a new application or perhaps moving into a management role or why bother. You have to understand where they’ve been and make sure the opportunity is convincing.        

Hospitals and health systems are still hiring, and while the HCIT labor market is tight, you can still find that superstar you are looking for as long as you understand the market dynamics and have something interesting and compelling to offer a new recruit.