When HCIT candidates engage in a search opportunity, we progressively learn more about their backgrounds and experiences and quickly find out they have their own list of questions. Sure, they want to know about the specifics of the opportunity-culture, compensation, benefits package, and scope of the job-but they also have a more important question to ask: What is it like to work for you?
How should you answer? I always ask CIOs and other hiring managers this question, and it usually provokes a quick laugh or a brief pause in the conversation. Let's face it: it's a very direct question that forces many of us to stop and think about the answer. I share the candidates' desire to better understand the DNA of the person calling the shots. No need for a flippant answer, or to move to the next question. This is the time to tell it like it is, before you hire the candidate. Think about the way you'll answer this question the next time it comes up. Try to put your answers into “buckets” that really describe you and your management style.
Start with categories such as:
Overall Style: Are you truly a mentor/coach? By this I mean, do you prefer to hire really smart people, give them guidance and a road map and then get out of their way, or are you more hands-on and prefer to roll up your sleeves and dig in? Either answer is acceptable as long as it provides a clear understanding of your style. Be candid so there are no misunderstandings later on. Your overall style will either resonate with the candidate or save you both time and frustration later on. You are who you are, so make sure you talk openly about your style up front.
Communication Style: How will you communicate your expectations or your feedback on performance? Are you direct in your approach with verbal feedback, or do you prefer to document everything-cross every “t” and dot every “i”-along the way? Are you accessible when issues come up, and do you prefer a phone call, written memos, face-to-face meetings, email, IM, or text messages, or all of the above? Most leaders today use every tool available, because not all of us are wired the same way.
Accountability: Employees want to make sure they are doing a good job, and having a yardstick to measure performance is important. I love metrics, timelines, deliverables, and overall pre-defined goals to give employees a target to aim for. Regular weekly meetings or conference calls to keep your team on track are vital-both for you and your employees. The importance of accountability should be made very clear during the hiring process and once they are onboard. Most people want to know where they stand and confirmation that they are doing a good job.
Recognition: This is the biggest challenge for many hiring managers. Recognition is usually driven from the top-down; but as the leader of your own team, there are lots of workarounds. Recognition can be very effective in team meetings-just give one of your team members a chance to be recognized in front of their peers. Taking the team out for dinner or to a ball game or to some other outing is another way to demonstrate your appreciation for a job well done. Recognition is a very big deal to most human beings, and many experts argue that is more important than the almighty dollar!
As leaders you need to be clear about who you are. Potential employees need to know your style and what it will be like to work for you. There is no right or wrong answer here, but upfront candor and honesty will eliminate any surprises down the road.
Tim Tolan is a senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (843) 579-3077 ext. 301. His blog can be found at healthcare-informatics.com/contributors/tim-tolan. Healthcare Informatics 2011 October;28(10):48