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Put Your Best Foot Forward

April 22, 2011
by Tim Tolan
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Tips For Making Sure That Your Interview Produces the Best Outcome
Tim Tolan
Tim Tolan

If you are like some CIO candidates we talk to, you probably have great tenure and have not moved frequently from one job to the next. Some have by choice or other circumstances, and as a result have more experience when it comes to interviewing. Regardless of your own work history, the next time you prepare to go through the interview process you might think about the following tips to help you have the best outcome possible. These suggestions are in no particular order:

Commitment: Make sure you are committed to making a career change, and if your commitment to make a change is not 100 percent, don't waste everyone's time. Organizations make a significant investment in both time and money in hiring executives like you. If this is simply a fishing expedition to test the salary market, you should opt out. Make sure you are fully prepared to engage in the entire search process. This industry has two, maybe three degrees of separation, and your reputation and brand equity is everything.


Tell Your Story: Some candidates change their personality to adapt to the new environment or organization they are contemplating working for-like a chameleon. I think that is a mistake. Be yourself and relax while you are being interviewed and don't be afraid to tell your story. Have your facts and metrics, but make it real. Explain how your team accomplished a specific goal and what that meant to the organization as a whole. Show your true colors as you discuss the how and the why of each success when the opportunity presents itself. Be succinct and to the point, but make your points with your own personality.

Prepare for the Tough Questions: At some point you will be asked a question that makes you think about your answer and you may become a bit uncomfortable. Make sure you've done your homework on the organization and each person you will be meeting with. Relax and pause after each question is asked and answer them as honestly as you can. Some questions may force you to show emotion or to defend a previous decision you made. Never lose your cool or let them see you sweat! Never. What are your weaknesses? You can bet that question will definitely rear its ugly head at some point. Be prepared to answer that and other tough questions. Once again, be yourself. And, you do have weaknesses!

Do the Math: Know the key dates of your employment history and be prepared to quantify any success metrics noted on your resume. If the interviewer asks you a question about your own resume that you struggle to answer, it may raise concerns later. Some people use the resume as their only data point when meeting with you, so get your facts straight. Be prepared to explain any gaps in your employment history including the three-month sabbatical you took 10 years ago. This is not the time for ambiguity. Please, just the facts.

Maintain Energy: I can't count the number of times hiring managers have told me that a candidate had no energy. It's a real problem. This starts with the way you greet the person you are meeting with, to the way you sit in your chair and includes the body language you present to your interviewing audience. It's the enthusiasm you demonstrate regarding your career and what motivates you to lead and achieve great things. It also includes avoiding gaps or long periods of silence during an interview. Finally it's the way you present yourself to each person you meet with to discuss your background and why you are interested in joining their organization.

Putting your best foot forward does not require weeks of preparation. It does require that you are committed to go through the entire search process and that you do much more than just show up.

Tim Tolan is a senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice. He can be reached at or at (843) 579-3077 ext. 301. His blog can be found at Healthcare Informatics 2011 May;28(5):48