MAR 20, 2012 3:31pm ET

Are Superstars Needed? Re-think the Spec

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I could have titled this, “The Lesson of the Gray Striped Flannel Pants” because the analogy is unmistakable. One of our recruiters told me this story as we were helping a client develop a spec for a newly created position. We had a good relationship with the client and the conversations were spirited and candid. Our recruiter’s story:

His sister, a teenager at the time, asked for gray striped flannel pants for Christmas one year. His mother looked everywhere but could not find a single store that carried them. Finally, frustrated by her fruitless efforts and disappointed by her inability to surprise her daughter with the desired gift, she asked her daughter where she had seen the pants. She replied, “Oh, I haven’t seen them anywhere. I just thought they would look really nice.”

Back to our client and the job spec. While we always encourage our clients to set the bar high for candidates, this one was getting a bit carried away…okay, more than a bit. He was clearly looking for a superstar, someone with the experience, skills, and accomplishments that we had never seen packaged together anywhere near his budgeted compensation. Finally, I had to ask the client to name a couple of people he knew who fit the bill, so we could get a better picture of his envisaged candidate. His answer – somewhat predictably - was that he couldn’t think of any. Neither could we.

Building and sustaining a high performing organization is an ongoing, complex challenge. The first ingredient is good, strong people, those with talent, motivation, maturity, integrity, and other positive traits. But if you find yourself looking for a Superman or Wonder Woman, take a step back and re-think the spec.

Healthcare I.T. hiring has been on a tear for several months now. The labor pool is tight and will likely remain that way for some time. Revising a spec to bring it more in line with the realities of the talent pool is not settling for less or compromising. It’s being smart and it’s good business. Failing to do so will usually cause anxiety and frustration for you, your team, and your search firm.

Sometimes you need to raise the compensation level. This is a common, but usually painful, reality to accept. Yet, other times you need to remember that you’re looking to hire a human, not a superhero that no money can buy.

The Lesson of the Gray Striped Flannel Pants is this: if you have an important position to fill, do it right. Don’t go “chasing a ghost.” If you’re working with a recruiter that specializes in healthcare I.T., he or she ought to know the market, such as what types of people are available at what compensation levels. The recruiter should be able to provide valuable guidance. Take that advice. You’ll both be glad you did.

Jim Gibson has been in health care for over 25 years. In 2002 he founded Gibson Consultants after several years in healthcare I.T. and group health insurance. Gibson Consultants is a national search firm specializing in healthcare I.T. companies.

 

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