On Being Recruited: Making it as a Finalist

On Being Recruited: Making it as a Finalist

[Kurt Scott & Elsie Koh, MD share advice on creating your best chances of becoming a finalist in a leadership position interview.]

Getting to the Top 3 Finalists

(Hint: It takes a lot of work)

My last article was written to help organizations look at a new process to help them evaluate their top three finalists. This time, let’s look at it from the candidate’s point of view. How do you as a candidate create your best chance of getting into the top 3 finalists?

Seriously, I’ve had candidates show up to the interview:

  • missing their top front teeth
  • wearing a toupee, sitting on their head like a hat (you could see under it)
  • in shorts, flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt
  • And my personal favorite, chest hair flowing out over their dress shirt like a dickie… yup

So forgive me if some of what we talk about seems like a no-brainer, but given my long history, I feel compelled to cover it all!

It starts with sincere interest

“Tire-kickers” are pretty easy to spot and even worse, those using your position to better their own current situation, be it a higher salary, more responsibility or new title etc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard candidates say “I always like to keep my options open.” This is a surefire way to get cut from consideration early on. In my opinion, it’s disrespectful to the organization’s time, effort and money invested in your candidacy. Enough of that. Just don’t do it!


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard candidates say “I always like to keep my options open.” This is a surefire way to get cut from consideration early on. Click To Tweet


How to Show Sincere Interest (this is where the work starts)

Do Your Homework

One of the best ways to show true interest is being able to demonstrate you’ve done your research. This will be evident with the recruiter and hiring manager when conducting your initial phone interviews. These are the things you should research:

  • Organization’s website
    • Structure
    • Leadership
    • Culture
      • core values, organizational vision and mission
    • Locations
    • The “Players”
    • Department, Division or practice you will lead
      • Physicians and other providers in the practice
        • backgrounds, training etc.
    • Areas of interest
      • Services provided
      • Academics/teaching
      • Research
      • Outreach
      • Supporting Specialties
  • Google Searches
    • Look for anything that would help you get to know them better
  • Chamber of Commerce website


There are a few things that are what they are. Please, evaluate these to make sure they won’t be future obstacles or even deal killers. Here are 3 things that are not going to change: (at least in the short term and for the purposes of your interview)

  • The Organization
  • Location
  • The Community and its size

The last piece of research I want to mention is bringing your spouse, partner or significant other into the discussion from the get-go. It’s been my experience that at the end of the day, no matter how much the candidate may want to position, 99 times out of 100, if they say no… it’s going to be a hard no. I’m not saying they have to be jumping and clicking their heels together from the onset, just open to the idea.

Thoughtful Questions

This is one of the best ways to show interest! Use your research to develop a list of questions to further your understanding of the organization and the position. Don’t wing it; write them down so you hit them all.


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Strategy and Goals for Each Step

Your strategy throughout the process is to gather as much information possible for the purpose of:

  • evaluating the position against your skillsets
    • If at some point you determine the position is not a fit for you… this too is a win!
    • Sometimes we shy away from a position because we don’t feel like we have all of the skills required.  Don’t back away. Most candidates do not have all of the skills needed. It’s how you present yourself for the position and are willing to learn.  Be upfront and say “these are things I know I can do.  And these are the skills I know I can do with some assistance.  My strengths are these…I am motivated to help you accomplish these goals if you can provide me with the support structure.  I’m a fast learner and extremely motivated.”
  • Possible development of your vision statement or business plan (this is critical)

Steps & Goals


  • Cover letter
    • Make it custom for the position you are applying for
    • One page, no more
    • Include why you are interested and how your experience will benefit them (What you bring to the table)
    • GOAL: Get them to read your CV/Resume and connect with you


  • Resume or CV?
    • I personally like both together in your packet sent to the employing organization’s representative.
    • The resume should have accomplishments you are particularly proud of and hopefully showing it will fill the needs of the position you are applying for.
    • NO GAPS
      • If there are periods of time that look like a gap, it’s a big fat red flag!
      • Simply describe what you were doing during that time so they know.
    • The CV needs to be tailored to the position you are going for. If this is clinical and academic, keeping your research and manuscript profile makes sense.  If this is for a leadership position, you need to cut out the clinical, and focus on the administrative duties/skills on your first page or one page.  Your speaking engagements and publications will matter far less. Instead, what leadership skills do you have, how have you used that to help the organization forward, what have you been recognized for, what are your interests, what are your strengths in leading people, for instance?
    • GOAL: To make you a compelling candidate, motivating them to set up a phone interview.


  • Phone or Zoom Interview
    • Remember, you are not only selling yourself but you are also buying them. Keep some balance. Make sure you incorporate your asks to what they need. For instance, if they want you to lead a change management project, tell them that in order to accomplish this big initiative, you are requesting a personal assistant.  Change management is a process that involves multiple parties; in order to be successful, you are inquiring on what support structures or project managers are present to help streamline the process.  There isn’t one?  Have they considered getting one?  Have that written down in the contract.
      • Have your questions written down and make sure you get them answered.
    • Don’t be afraid to let your personality show. However, keep any emotional highs and lows out of this.  Take time to visualize the process going smoothly and them wanting you to join. I’ve found this piece to be invaluable in having myself show up with confidence and a great attitude.  Nothing is worse than having a candidate show up nervous, scared, and unsure of himself/herself when, on paper, that person appears to be perfect for the job.
    • GOAL: Motivate the employing organization to invite you to an on-site or virtual interview with the stakeholders.
      • Secondly, gather intel to help you in your decision making process as well as have the basic foundation information you need for your vision statement.

The Face-to-Face or Virtual Interviews

Look the Part

First impressions can make, or break your chances of progressing through the process. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Wear your teeth, own your baldness, dress professionally, and for goodness sakes, tuck that chest hair back in where it belongs!
  • Show up with enthusiasm and a nice portfolio notebook with your next set of well thought out questions already written in it and take notes.
  • Be on time no matter what. (I prefer 10 to 15 minutes early. (My Dad drilled it into me that when you are late, you are telling the other person your time is more valuable than theirs)
  • Clothing clean, pressed and shoes (and heels) polished.
  • If there is an evening meal, limit your alcohol or just drink coffee
    • I’ve seen many interviews go south at this point
  • Relax, be yourself and let your personality show through
  • Be aware of the chemistry factor (or lack of)
    • The number one stated reason physician leaders leaving their positions: lack of chemistry with their colleagues and peers
      • The number 2 reason? Issue relating to the spouse…
  • GOAL: Gather the info needed to make an informed decision and get them to invite you further into the process with a second round interview.
Second Round Interview

This is where you will not only be interviewed but where you can start sharing some of your ideas on the future state you see creating.

  • Answer questions fully and completely (no dodging)
  • Share just enough info about your ideas to create interest on their part and test their reaction to make sure you are on track with their thinking and philosophy.
Share just enough info about your ideas to create interest on their part and test their reaction to make sure you are on track with their thinking and philosophy. Click To Tweet


Share your level of interest

The number of candidates I’ve seen put “on the back burner” because the organization’s leaders felt in the dark about the candidate’s level of interest is astounding to me.

  • Don’t go overboard with telling them how interested you are (it can make you look desperate) but make sure they know you are interested in continuing the process.
    • Of course, only if you really think their position is a fit.
  • At this point, tell them you having been gathering the info needed to put together a “Vision Statement” or business plan and would like to start that document to share in the final steps of the process. This is KEY!
    • In that document, you will provide them a 1, 3 and 5 year outlook as to what you want to do with the department, division or site you will be leading. Make sure these align with the organizational core values, mission and vision.  Be open-minded and say “these are just initial thoughts and, of course, these ideas would need to be presented to and discussed with the team leaders.”  No one wants an outside dictator to come in and push his/her ideas on everyone.
      • Resources needed to make your vision happen
        • Staff
        • Facilities
        • Equipment
        • Budget
        • Revenue projects over that period of time


It has been my experience that few to no candidates do this, in this detail, unless asked to do so by the organization. To do this proactively? Unheard of. This final piece will set you apart from the rest of your competition. BTW… there’s always competition.

This is just a summary of the information but hopefully will be enough to make your wheels start to turn!


Note: Part II of this article can be found here).

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