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11/8/2012
05:05 PM
Paul Cerrato
Paul Cerrato
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Health IT: How Not To Get Hired

Brains aren't enough to land that dream job. Humility and a willingness to learn are just as crucial.



8 Health IT Certification Programs Offer Career Boost
8 Health IT Certification Programs Offer Career Boost
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During InformationWeek Healthcare's recent CIO Roundtable discussion, several of our advisory board members brought up the "talent war" in health IT.

Stephanie Reel, CIO at Johns Hopkins University, said that in order to attract and retain talented IT managers "... it's important to pay attention to your employees and ensure them some rational quality of life if you can." Similarly, Dan Drawbaugh, CIO at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, discussed UPMC's retention effort whereby special technology training programs, off-site work arrangements, flexible workweeks, employment contracts, and redesigned working environments "are all being aggressively pursued and implemented."

So why do so many healthcare IT job candidates say it's hard to break into the specialty? One obstacle is the insistence of many hiring managers on limiting their searches to technologists who already have a background in health science.

The debate revolves around one issue: Is it easier to teach an IT generalist the clinical principles needed to work in a hospital or practice, or teach a clinical specialist the general IT principles? Although there are legitimate arguments on both sides of this debate, in my mind if an IT pro has drive, a high IQ -- and an affinity for healthcare -- there are almost no limits on what he or she can accomplish.

[ The debate on which qualifications an IT job candidate needs to work in a hospital or medical practice rages. Read Do Health IT Hires Need A Clinical Background? ]

But let's assume for the moment that a job candidate either has lots of experience in health IT or can convince a potential employer that his or her experience in another industry is enough to quality for the position. Is that enough to land a coveted position?

Not really. There's still the issue of personality fit. And that's where some IT brainiacs fall short. There seems to be an inverse relationship between deep analytical skills and social adeptness -- or what psychologists now refer to as emotional intelligence. Granted, I'm over-generalizing, but some technologists pride themselves on being mavericks and trail blasters. Unfortunately, hiring managers might interpret that independence of spirit as arrogance and an inability to play well with others.

That perceived arrogance can begin with the cover letter and resume. Take, for example, a cover letter mentioned in Resumania, a syndicated column by Max Messmer. One job candidate boasts: "Mark is the absolute best at what he does. Mark is an entrepreneur. Mark is a scholar ... Mark is a big picture thinker." As Messmer points out, "Mark is off the mark with this cover letter."

Here's another socially clueless cover letter: "I have guts, drive, ambition, and heart, which is probably more than a lot of the drones that you have working for you." And how about this one: "I'm not a people person. I'll take dealing with a computer over a person any day of the week."

Somewhere along the line, those job applicants got the impression that presenting themselves as self-confident and driven is enough to win the day. It's not.

Self-assuredness needs to be balanced with a measure of humility and a willingness to learn. Without those traits, even the brightest IT specialist just isn't going to fit in.

InformationWeek Healthcare brought together eight top IT execs to discuss BYOD, Meaningful Use, accountable care, and other contentious issues. Also in the new, all-digital CIO Roundtable issue: Why use IT systems to help cut medical costs if physicians ignore the cost of the care they provide? (Free with registration.)

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