Healthcare IT job seekers often write me asking for resume’ advice: how’s the format, the length, the content? True, as a first impression, a resume’ is an important culling tool for a busy CIO or hospital HR department searching for the next “perfect” hire. But let’s be honest. A resume’ is usually only as good as the hired gun who was paid to write it. In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s critically important to look beyond the resume’. Allow me to tell you a little story…
About ten years ago I attended a two-day “International Commerce” workshop in Memphis. At the time I was at the helm of a national skin care company, and we were interested in expanding our market overseas. The workshop was an intimate, exclusive (read that insanely expensive) event, with a very impressive lineup of distinguished and internationally successful speakers and panel members from companies such as Auto Zone, Wal-Mart, Tyson, and a hugely successful pizza conglomerate we’ll call … Pizza Shack. The representative from Pizza Shack was a tall, beautiful, extremely articulate, very well-dressed woman in her mid-40s. She literally traveled the world, overseeing the installation of pizza ovens in restaurants spanning 80 countries. As she deftly fielded questions from the audience, I overhead several people whisper, “Wow, where’d Pizza Shack find her?” Of all the presenters at the workshop, she was, hands-down, the one person I wanted to meet, and so I was excited to find her seated next to me at the first day’s luncheon (as were the four others who joined us at our table).
The conversation, as expected, was stimulating and thought-provoking, and I barely took notice when our salads were brought to the table. I had turned to answer a question from the gentleman on my right, when suddenly I heard a sound coming from my left that can only be described as the noise you’d imagine a pig might make if starved for a month and finally led to an all-you-can-eat slop buffet. Ms. International Success Story was bent over her salad, holding her fork and knife like a pair of oars, shoveling the food into her mouth while alternately slurping and smacking and (I swear I’m not exaggerating) . . . snorting. The conversation came to an abrupt halt, as we all tried to make sense of what we were witnessing. Obviously unaware of the impression she was making, she looked up and around the table with a mouth full of lettuce and onions and croutons and, with her mouth gaping open, said, “What?” I won’t go into the disgusting details about how she slogged through her chicken marsala and peach cobbler while discussing the finer points of NAFTA, but I’m sure you get the picture.
She may have been an experienced professional – a well-traveled go-getter with an impressive resume’ and credentials, but in those few short seconds she lost the attention and respect of everyone sitting at our table. And what’s worse, not only did she lose her personal credibility, but she erased the almost visionary impression we had begun to form about the company who hired her. “Wow, where’d Pizza Shack find her?” suddenly took on a very different meaning.
I’ve shared this story many times over the years when working with companies to develop a corporate brand. What can we learn from it? Employers need to keep in mind that every employee is a brand ambassador for his/her company – whether it’s a hospital, a non-profit, or an internationally recognized pizza empire. In other words, your hospital will be represented (and judged) every time your ambassador interacts with others and shares his/her place of employment. Since that memorable lunch in Memphis, I’ve included a meal as part of the interview process any time I’ve been in the position to hire an employee who has even a remote chance of interacting with a current or potential client or customer. Look (and listen to!) the person sitting across from you. Would you feel comfortable with this person representing your interests, your hospital? And Healthcare IT job seekers…remember that the interview does not stop to take a lunch. You are still auditioning for the part of brand ambassador. Oh, and unless you want people dissing you for the next ten years, listen to your mother and don’t talk with your mouth full.
Note: Need a business table manners refresher course? Here’s a great review from About.com.