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Hiring Top-Shelf Talent

November 23, 2011
by Tim Tolan
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Want to Attract Top Talent? Here are Tips for Getting a Superstar on your Team
Tim Tolan
Tim Tolan

Everyone wants to believe that they have the best talent in the land working on their team. In many cases they are probably correct, but not all that glitters is gold. I'm a big believer that by recruiting a superstar and adding top shelf-talent to your team, by osmosis your B players can upgrade to the B+ or A level. We all aspire to a perfect world where we add only A players to a high-performing organization-but landing these superstars is not as easy as it looks.

Here are a few ideas you might consider implementing to convince Mr. or Ms. Wonderful to join your team.

Candidate's arrival: I suggest that as CIO, you meet with the candidates when they arrive at the facility. It's ok if you plan to officially interview them later in the visit. Give them a little background on each person they will be meeting with, to augment whatever information they has learned already on their own. If they are top-grade talent (and have left their ego at the door), they have already visited LinkedIn or other websites to learn everything there is to know about each person they will be meeting, and has four or five questions already prepared. Make sure, as the IT leader, that you are the first and last person your candidate sees that day. Impressions matter here…a lot!


Interview process: The process you have in place for interviewing candidates face-to-face should not change dramatically. I'm a big believer in process, and you do need to be consistent in your hiring and vetting practice. However, what you can't afford to happen when an A player is scheduled to interview are misfires that can occur in the day-to-day scheduling, which could blow up if you are not totally prepared. I suggest that you meet with the interview team in advance and then follow up the day before the candidate is supposed to be onsite, just to make sure there are no last-minute changes in the schedule. If there is a change, by all means find a suitable replacement to fill the gap. Make sure the replacement knows how important this interview is, and provide him or her with the candidate's resume and with the same information the rest of the interview team has. Avoid gaps between interviews and make sure there is a smooth hand off from one interviewer to another.

Follow-up: Providing immediate feedback to the candidate or the search firm you are using is so important. I have seen firsthand scenarios in which it took weeks to get feedback from the hiring manager; as a result, we had nothing to share with the candidate. No worries: candidates form their own opinion after a few days of silence, and it's usually not favorable to your organization. It's really hard to recover when you drop the ball on follow-up. A few business days are acceptable-a few weeks are inexcusable. Get feedback from the interview team and (good or bad) make the call. It's not that hard.

Executive involvement: If you have superstars in your candidate pool and you want to make a real impression, schedule time for them to meet with other executives in your organization. Explain to the executives why the candidates' background is so important, and make sure they are familiar with the background before they meet. Get the executives to help you sell the organization's culture, and why they joined and stayed. It helps candidates to know why people join your organization and why they stay.

Meet outside the office: Take your star candidate to lunch or dinner when you know you are ready to make an offer. Get a chance to know more about the candidate, and meet in a neutral and casual place outside the walls of your facility. Make sure the candidate knows why you are interested in having him or her join your team and leave time to answer any and all questions he or she has. Wrap up with a warm handshake and a final confirmation that you are looking forward to having him or her on your team.

Tim Tolan is a senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice. He can be reached at tjtolan@sanfordrose.com or at (843) 579-3077 ext. 301. His blog can be found at www.healthcare-informatics.com/tim_tolan Healthcare Informatics 2011 December;28(12):80

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