7 Steps for Successful Critical Access Hospital Recruitment


Healthcare unemployment currently stands strong at 0.00%. 

Earlier this week I had a great conversation with a Hospital’s Board Member to which we previously completed a CEO search. Our Client was a financially solvent Critical Access Hospital with a new campus and a devoted community. The hospital’s CEO was coordinating physician recruitment, exclusive of a firm, and HR was coordinating recruiting for over 15 open positions. The candidate result was typical of the majority of rural hospitals in America – very few and far between.

Rural America hospitals can no longer depend on the old methods of recruitment for successful results.

The Board Member and I reviewed the hospital’s website during our call and after doing a random comparison to other rural facilities; it was evident that there was an absence of “Maslow Base” for Rural America Recruitment. Thus, here are the go-to Steps for Rural Healthcare Recruitment:

  1.    Provider Recruitment – This is the most expensive recruitment protocol, whether it is internal or external. On the home page, there should be a 1-click process to connect a prospective provider with detailed information and a “click to connect” process. Keep it simple, don’t give every detail away and share the contact information of the individual who will ALWAYS return calls the same day and on weekends. The process for a  physician to click the home page, find more information, and execute an action step should take less than 60 seconds.
  2. Build a Staff Pipeline – Every hospital in America has an ongoing need for employees ranging from Staff RN’s to Medical Technologists. While every position may be filled today at a CAH; with 2-3 candidates retiring or resigning; small vacancies can become big recruitment problems overnight. The option to apply for future opportunities should be a recruitment constant. Build a mini-application wherein a Staff Candidate can apply online or express interest in less than time than it takes for a coffee break. When the inevitable turnover occurs, HR has an immediate starting place to fill the positions.
  3. Be responsive – If your HR department doesn’t have the bandwidth to return calls from baseline qualified candidates THE SAME BUSINESS DAY- adjustments need to be made. Set different priorities, involve the hiring managers or outsource to a firm that can run a 360 search or offers RPO services. If you can’t respond in the same business day you’ll never capture top talent on time and in budget.
  4.  Lead – If you want to hire top talent or acceptable talent, you need to lead the conversation. Know your objective every time you get on the phone, close the conversation by either going to the next step or stopping the process. If it takes more than 1.5 conversations to get to a Skype or an onsite, your “talent” is either desperate to be hired or you’re losing your best candidates because HR isn’t’ leading the process. Never get off the phone without scheduling a follow-up call in 2-5 days.
  5. Social Media – The most constant and unnecessary error is that CEO’s and Director’s of HR don’t have up to date LinkedIn profiles or have hospital Facebook’s that haven’t been updated since last Christmas.  Recently I noticed a CAH CEO’s profile that hadn’t been updated since she accepted a new CEO position over a year ago – And, she was spearheading physician recruitment. Your social media needs to be pristine, accurate, informative and timely. Nothing less than we would expect from top candidates.
  6. Reign in the Sacred Cows – My late Father was a hospital CEO. He later founded his own retained search firm in Seattle becoming a leader in healthcare recruitment for Rural America. He had a breathtaking office in Kirkland overlooking Lake Washington and an impressive team of 50+ employees. One of his consistent “bull pit” speeches was managing the search process on the lookout for the Client’s “sacred cows.” The sacred cows are the long-term employees, a board member and sometimes the wife of a CEO who has a disproportionate amount of leverage to his/her position. Their opinion carries an excessive vote and as the sacred cow goes so does the vote to hire or not hire great talent. Sometimes it’s subtle; the longtime and beloved Staff RN who can influence groups with a just a few words, a physician who is underperforming yet the CEO is nervous about disciplining or quite often a potential peer who sees the potential hire as a threat not as a valued colleague. People’s insecurities can tank the best candidate interview to hire processes. Hospitals who can manage the influence of the sacred cows will build a more diverse, dynamic and ultimately successful group.
  7. Know when to hire a firm – And do it quickly. So you need to fill a Director of ER position requiring a BSN and preferring a TNCC in less than a month… Do you post and pray? Do you have a pipeline of candidates? Do you know the cost of 1 onsite or 2 to interview candidates? Do you know how much overtime you will have to pay to fill the position internally for the duration of the search process? Does HR have the capacity to do all of the above and manage the marketing efforts to recruit viable, interested candidates?

75% of first time Hunter Ambrose clients retain us after exhausting other efforts and spending more money than the cost of retaining a firm.

Hunter Ambrose is a retained, flat fee firm with an average fee of 12%. Run the numbers when you have an open position – 100% of the time unless a hospital is hiring internally, the organization will spend more than 12% of salary midpoint in time, over time, unsuccessful on sites, advertising and quite often hiring a less than stellar candidate because they weren’t working with a national firm who can offer a dedicated, national search process. 

Recruitment in healthcare needs to be a process that is constantly re-evaluated and improved upon to compete with the most renown hospitals in America for talent.

5 ways to get your resume read

5 ways to get your resume read

white paper with be yourself everyone else is already taken print

  1. State your intentions

Are you open to relocating? Only open to relocating to Dallas? Never intend to leave Chicago? State what you want and where you want it below your personal information, (and never include your address- Name, City, State, Cell Phone and email ONLY).

Objective: Seeking a leadership opportunity in the Pacific Northwest in a Quality / Risk Management position with an acute care healthcare organization.

If you want to manage your job search instead of it managing you, state your intentions where the reader can grasp the information the first 10 seconds.

2. Just the facts

Writing one’s own resume is difficult. You think you’re amazing and maybe you are- Yet what you believe to be great about you may not resonate with a prospective employer. 

  • Include accurate month / year of each position– Omitting this information is always suspect
  • Location- Don’t forget to add city and state of each position
  • Lead with – Overview of the organization and title (not name)of the person you reported
  • Be specific- Use starting and ending facts to paint a picture of what you inherited and what you accomplished
  • Know your numbers– Include the size of your budget, how much did you save, how much did you earn for the organization. If you’re in a clinical staff position- What were your patient ratios, who was your typical patient, what EMR did you use, etc.
  1. Be a Tease –

What are you most proud of? Is it the clinical outcomes of your unit, migrating your EMR system, leading your organization through a M&A, recruited and retained 10 providers in 3 years?

Each position you list should have one  “tease” mid paragraph to entice the reader to “take notes” and calendar a call with you.  Creating a tease is a conversation starter to demonstrate your qualifications and develop rapport with the stakeholders.

  1. Answer the Unasked Questions – Too many unanswered questions can result in your resume never getting a second look. Review your resume to include:
  •  Interim or Perm- Be sure to specify
  • Remote or onsite? If it was remote- Add it
  • Last bullet – why did you leave the position, be brief and don’t include anything personal
  •  Promoted during your tenure? Include what you did to garner advancement
  • What EMR system did you use
  • Leadership training, relevant conferences and continuing education

5. Show a little Personality- Even a CEO candidate should limit their resume to two pages, (.5 margins, Arial 10). You can show a little personality by including:

  • Add a LinkedIn icon next to your name and link it to your profile
  • If you served on any interesting fundraisers or professional related community endeavors add it as a close to last bullet per position
  • Close your resume by adding: Community Involvement and Interests- Keep it wholesome and professional. Did you lead your son/ daughter’s Scout Troop? Raise 10k for a 10k walk? Or perhaps you’re a 3x Tough Mudder participant
  • Including a few bullets points  insight into who you are as an individual and what you have to offer

Do you need a Professional Resume? Hunter Ambrose has Resume and Coaching Packages starting $495.00. Call 855-245-05090 or email us recruit@hunterambrose.com to learn more

Hunter Ambrose | Celebrates 12 years – 5 Business Lessons for Success

Hunter Ambrose | Celebrates 12 years – 5 Business Lessons for Success

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I started Hunter Ambrose in 2006 I was working  at  Aya Healthcare for Alan Braynin, CEO. Alan is not just a maverick in the industry but one of the most  dynamic leaders in America. I’d been at Aya for a year and as a solo parent with 3 school age children- Something had to give. 

John Martins, who is now SVP at Aya was instrumental in his support to “do it on my own.” I needed to create a future, (and certainly a road less traveled), where I could earn more, have a flexible work schedule and create opportunities worthy of the risk I was about to embark upon.  

Since 2006 Hunter Ambrose has completed over 5,000 retained placements in 40 states and placed thousands of candidates at Critical Access Hospitals and tertiary facilities from Hawaii to New York. We are a leader in Rural America and I’m honored by those relationships and every search we’ve been trusted to complete for the past 12 years.

Within the past few years Hunter Ambrose has created ClaraVita.com, (a healthcare job board), the TAP / RPO program, an executive coaching service and in February of 2018 we launched Rural America Roundtable–  A podcast hosted by Retired General Todd Plimpton.

In appreciation for the past 12 years- Here are the 5 Business Lessons for Success we embrace at Hunter Ambrose.

  1. Put Yourself First.

Only by putting yourself First can you serve others. I share this with every new hire and again with every team member who is experiencing low production, (before I threaten to lock them out if they don’t take 24 hours off).

Putting yourself first is the WHY behind what we do. Our team can routinely work 7 days week between 4 time zones. If we’re not taking care of ourselves (First), our families, our fitness and our finances, (the 4-F’s),  on a daily basis – We’re a crash and burn firm.

Having a team that puts themselves First has resulted in Hunter Ambrose growing every year- Even by double digits after the impact that healthcare reform and the recession had on the recruitment industry. By expecting my team to put themselves First I never have to question if they’re being pushed too hard, doing too much, sacrificing too much- They’re adults and I don’t make assumptions.

At least once a year a team member goes through crisis – A divorce, break up, illness, a move, family member in crisis, etc. And I’d rather have that person take 2 weeks off and give us a “Honey Do” list of tasks than half-ass his/her way through the quarter trying to work past whatever chaos he/she is experiencing. Put yourself First. Ask for help from your team when you need it, know when to step back and when to step up.

The result? Everyone at the firm sets their own hours and with that our Clients and Candidates get virtually 24 access to us. And with Client retention at 91% – I’d say it’s working.

  1. Be Obsessed.

Remember your high school crush?  The car you had to have that you worked two summers in a row to save for? That kind of sophomoric obsession is a baseline for success as a business owner. Business owners who don’t go to bed thinking about the firm, wake up wanting to attend to it, have anxiety separation when not working – They don’t have a business, they have a hobby. And God bless – We all need one.

Owning a business needs to be an obsession you attend to daily and certainly after 5pm. It’s not something you set aside and ignore 48-hours a week (known as a weekend). Being obsessed about your firm will push you to produce meaningful work product, read, listen, absorb, self-reflect  and make imperfect decisions on a daily basis at a higher level than your competition.

If you aren’t obsessed with what you’re doing, the services you’re providing, the satisfaction of your clients, the growth of your team, the opportunities you’re providing – Find something else to do tomorrow morning.

Of course; the challenge is finding a team that embraces your level of obsession. And, it’s fiction to believe that 100% of your team will 100% operate at level of self-sacrificing devotion.

Andrea Usher has the longest tenure of anyone at HA, three years this fall. She’s the template for OBSESSED. While her job is VP of Recruitment – She’s the one to wake me up on a Sunday morning because our CEO candidate may be backing out and she’s already read the email sent at 6am.  She takes the initiative to review quarterly projections on a Friday night and expects me to discuss Saturday am before I’ve made coffee. She never hesitates to tell me when to give her the “Honey Do” list and step back for 24 hours because I’ve clocked 10,000 frequent flyer miles in the past 10 days and I’m not sure which city I’m waking up in.

If you’re lucky enough to find team members who can sustain an OBSESSED work ethic for not just a month but for 3 years – Do EVERYTHING you can to nurture, respect, retain and reward that person. They deserve it and your firm will thrive as a result.

  1. Earn.

Maybe it’s my Italian sensibilities but everyone at the firm needs to Earn. You’re either making money for the firm or you’re saving money for the firm. Any company under 10 million a year needs to have a team 100% dedicated to the bottom line. We don’t have the luxury of not being as efficient as possible. Any business owner / CEO who isn’t working the business, (EARNING),  at least 4 hours a day is doomed and will never be taken seriously by their team.

I’ve had amazing, highly credentialed people join the firm (with the false promises of being a relationship builder and closer) and their hesitation to ask for new business, to pick up the phone, to close a deal left me irritated and disappointed.

Building the business relationships required for any business to thrive is hard work. You get rejected, people can be rude, entitled and it’s a thankless task; until you get the right person on the phone at the right time.

If you believe in what you’re doing, if you’re obsessed with your firm; building a business relationship and asking for the business / contract should come naturally. Anyone hired as a Consultant in your firm who can’t or won’t do BD is a liability – Not an asset.  They’ll be full of good ideas and little to no results. I’ve learned that I need to be a better coach to transition the low performers to BD superstar’s – It’s my firm, therefore it’s not them, it’s me if they don’t succeed.

And while our Admin Team is not BD focused; they’re always looking for ways to save money, reduce waste and duplication of services.

Everyone Earns. Period.

  1. Build a Team that Challenges You.

When I look back at the team members I’ve worked with over the past 12 years – Over 75% of them received more education and more professional experience than I pursued. Former and current team members include physicians, attorneys fresh out of law school and hospital CEO’s.

Why? I know what I don’t know. And I gravitate towards people who challenge me, occasionally piss me off, engage in meaningful conversations with complex questions and can bring more to the table for our Clients and Candidates than I can alone.

In 2017 I received a phone call from  Todd Plimpton, an attorney in Northern Nevada seeking a CEO search for his Client, a Critical Access Hospital. After 5 minutes of pleasantries the conversation pivoted to discussing what we believed to be unlimited possibilities in Rural Healthcare across the country. We had mutual agreement that there was nothing but OPPORTUNITY in Rural America with the right leadership. He was full of statistics and insight that I was unaware of and I found myself taking copious notes.

What should have been an 11-minute conversation lasted over an hour. From that search he joined the firm for key projects, (to include CEO searches, strategic planning and board coaching), much to the benefit of CAH’s in several states. And in February of this year we launched the Rural America Roundtable podcast.

Your best collaborators, team members, advisers and partners are the people who challenge you, annoy you and teach you something every time you talk to them. They should be the smartest people in the room- Not you. If you want the best team you can build, check your ego, stop talking, stop having the last word, listen and surround yourself with the leaders you respect.

In short – Be open to the unexpected conversations, opportunities and people who are the game changers. Engage in conversation outside of your current walls. And, if they make you uncomfortable (if they don’t have immediate or even long term buy-in of your stakeholders); pivot and embrace the opportunity regardless. Those are the “open door” moments we need to walk through  to avoid complacency and propel us towards success.

  1. Be Prepared.

The Boy Scout motto is one to live by for any  firm in America. As a business owner I know there will never be enough money, clients, resources or opportunities. And the moments we have had, “enough” and I exhaled for more than an hour- Reality knocked down the door with a mighty kick. It’s just business.

If you want to be the competition, if you want to have a business in this country for one year much less a decade;  You have to constantly be prepared to lose your best clients, lose the resources or people you can’t live without. You have to see your choices through a lens of opportunity and unavoidable failure (why you need people who think differently than you and are smarter than you) on a daily basis.

And more importantly, you have to strategically innovate and create better products and processes to better serve your clients. You need to anticipate what they need before they need it. You need to create the white space to hear about their bad days, what’s working and not working in their professional lives to learn how to create and innovate.

One of the recurring themes we’ve been hearing from potential and existing clients is that they’re losing candidates repeatedly before the offer stage. The Why? HR is an 8-5 business and the recruitment cycle and healthcare industry is 24/7.

Our solution? Effective Monday Hunter Ambrose recruits 7-days-a-week, 7am- 9pm PST. We need to connect with Candidates on their schedule in order to present to our Clients tomorrow and for the next 12 years.

Thank you to the Hunter Ambrose team, our Clients and Candidates for the past 12 years. And with enormous gratitude to  to John Martins, SVP Aya Healthcare, Gabi Collins of the Whole Person, Leslie Mahoney, RN, Founder of SavvyOntheSom.com, Andrea Usher, MBA and Todd Plimpton, JD.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself before starting a Job Search

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Looking for a new position is one of the most stressful, life changing decisions we embark upon. Some people have jobs longer than they have marriages and it ranks as one of the most pivotal decisions we make due to the stress, opportunity and risk involved. 

Before you embark on a job search- ask yourself 5 Questions.

  1.       Are you a Serious Man? (or Woman?)

To whom much is given much shall be required. And, for executives or new grads seeking a Serious Life; a  life well lived, a career of relevance, worthy compensation and contribution- You need to be a Serious Man. As your career should be planned with the same intent, strategy and desire to add value as you approach your relationships, finances and fitness- Your career needs to be approached from the same level of mindfulness.

So often we encounter candidates who are approaching their job search and their careers with less planning than they would give a holiday weekend. If you desire a Serious Life- Be a Serious Man before starting the pivot to a new position.  

This requires having your Life in Order. Can you afford to relocate, can you sell / rent your house with ease, are you mentally, physically and emotionally ready to throw yourself into professional limbo and rejection? Is your social media and online presence private and pristine? Have you cultivated your references and are you wardrobe ready? Hopefully if you’re a Serious Man leading a Serious Life; all these boxes have been checked. If not, take 30-90 days to get Interview Ready before starting the job search.

  1.       Who are your Stakeholders and Who is Driving the Train?

Every candidate has Stakeholders. Often, they’re a spouse, children in high school, elderly parents, the significant other who won’t move, a disabled child who is receiving great care locally or just the company we keep acting as over-reaching influencers in our lives. Know your stakeholders before starting a job search and only start the job search if you’re driving the train. Do you have the full support of your stakeholders even if it requires your stakeholders to sacrifice? Will your spouse joyfully pack the house up, find a new job and put your career first for the next 12 months to support you through the transition of a new position? Have you considered the contingency plans required for the family members you’re responsible for? Schools, medical care, daycare, rebuilding a social network?

Are you prepared for the probing questions your influencers ask to create doubt or reaffirm your intent during a job search? If you aren’t driving your own train and neither have the support of your stakeholders or can set firm boundaries with your stakeholders- Don’t even start the process.

Launching a job search requires you to be driving your own train and with the support of your stakeholders.

And, if your stakeholders won’t support your job search, take the time to clean up your side of the street, set firm boundaries or find new stakeholders.

  1.       Money, Location or Opportunity?

Now that you’re a Serious Man with your Stakeholders fully supporting your job search- It’s time to ask the fun question- What’s really motivating you?

A job search needs to be prioritized by what you’re after. Is it the money, do you want to live in a certain location or is it the opportunity?

One factor will rise to the top of the decision-making process. For candidates who have been working at a struggling non-profit or have owned their own business for a decade- Quite often they’re ready for a jump in compensation and the money will be the primary factor.

We’ve had candidates who have met the love of their life online and the candidate’s “new friend” lives in Tampa, Florida with aging parents (unmovable stakeholders) and he/she needs to find a job in that city.

And, then there is opportunity. The most desirable candidate for any position is the one seeking a position based on opportunity. The candidate has managed their money and can take a cut in pay if needed. They’ll live anywhere because they are driving the train and their stakeholders are packing up the house, running the relocation and supporting the candidate. The candidate seeking a position based on opportunity is a strategic professional looking for a position, an organization and a team to lead (or contribute to), to add value, to learn from and to ultimately to achieve.

Candidates seeking Opportunity over Money and Location may only stay in a position for 2 years- However, they will consistently be the top performers, most trusted and most valued team members of an organization.

  1.       Do you know what you don’t know?  

Even a lateral move in your career should expand our intellectual and professional horizons. We should consider new positions which will challenge us in new ways to grow, contribute and add value. However, too often candidates through arrogance, low self-esteem and lack of self-reflection interview for positions thinking “they know it all.”

And, even if they’re overqualified for a position the attitude is not lost on the decision makers  the during the interview process. For candidates who think they’re overqualified for a position or have the attitude of, “That’s a perfect position for me.” I offer the following scenario. You get the job. It’s the first week. Through a series of unforeseen yet probable events, (government regulations, the loss of top clients, embezzlement, a strike or loss of your executive team, etc.), what would you do in crisis mode and what would do you 6 months out to ensure the rebuilding/ re-branding/ longevity of the organization?

Candidates who think they’re overqualified for a position need to do the homework required, (often a SWOT analysis of the organization) to have a self-aware moment and create questions to ask during the interview process to better evaluate if they are the right candidate for the position, what will they require from their team to fill in the gaps and what skills will they need to acquire for success.

  1.       Do you have the Grit to say Yes?

I need the weekend to think about it. I need to talk to my lawyer. I want to pray about it for the next week. I want to talk to my spouse about it. These are the phrases I’ve heard a thousand times from candidates who will never have the grit to say yes to the opportunity they’ve finally received after making all the right choices.

Candidates who have successfully worked through 1-4 say yes within the hour. Candidates who are ready to sign when the offer letter is received are the candidates who are our best leaders, best team members and the people I’ll always prefer to work with.

Candidates who make excuses and create barriers and self-doubt after getting exactly what they asked for are the candidates who will refuse to make imperfect decisions in business. They will seek perfection to the determinant of their achievement and overall happiness. And while they may enjoy the process of being courted in a job search, ultimately, they will never commit.

So, when you get the offer, even if it’s not perfect (because it never is)-

Just say Yes. Have the Grit and the courage to say yes to the opportunities that are presented and  the opportunities that will provide you with a seat at the table of a Serious Life.

The Spousal Interview

The Spousal Interview.

The majority of executive’s transition to a new position from May to October. As the job search season heats up, leadership candidates will be traveling for the interview process and over 75% of those candidates will be invited to bring their spouse / partner. While this is commonly perceived as a courtesy; it’s an interview practice essential to hiring the right executive candidate.

My first spousal interview was in 2000. I was 30 years old and at the time married to a man who had built a successful career in the country club business. He had landed a final interview with a country club in the Bay Area that at the time had the most expensive membership in the United States; $750,000.00 for a golf membership. The club was home to the elite athletes of the area, the tech giants of Silicon Valley,  C-Suite’s of Fortune 500 organizations and global titans who perhaps visited the club a few times a year. We had 3 small children and as he was interviewing for the #2 position at the club; we would have social privileges and there were certain social expectations. Thus, the Spousal Interview.

The Spousal Interview can elevate the candidate on the cusp of a hire and at times tank the best of candidates.

Last year we had a candidate who was the “holy grail” of candidates for a CEO position for a non-profit position in Chicago. His credentials were impeccable, his job history layered upon public successes, his challenges translated into whitepapers that other organizations used as gospel. He was charming, genuine, well-read and an exceptional listener. When it came time for the final onsite interview; the Board of Directors requested a weekend interview to include a second panel interview, a dinner at the Board Chair’s home and a brunch with key staff members. And, the spouse was invited.

The problem was that our A candidate was in relationship transition. Post-divorce just 1 year; his most constant companion was a woman 15 year his junior who worked in service industry. It was an accurate assumption she didn’t read the same papers he did, had never had an executive spouse whose time is not his own, and have not interfaced in these types of professional and social circles. In short, she wasn’t on the path to being an executive spouse and didn’t reflect who he was, or who he wanted to become on the next leg of his professional journey. It was a difficult yet honest conversation sharing our concerns about his intention to have her accompany him on this most important meeting.

My spousal interview was interesting…It was a cold, rainy Sunday evening when we arrived for separate tours of the Club. I spent 90 minutes “chatting” with the Director of Sales, Executive Assistant to the General Manager and the Vice Chair of the Board. Over a bottle of Montrachet in the Fireplace Room I quickly understood this was not a Sunday social visit- I was being interviewed. The polite conversation was anything but; what did I read, where did my children attend school, where did I attend school, tell me about your parents, what boards did I serve on, what were my favorite charitable causes, did we have vacation plans abroad that summer.

Every question was the first layer of the more pressing question; did we travel too much, were we living within our means, were my children in private school (because that was going to be impossible on his salary and with the high cost of living), did my political interests align with the community, did I have a life but too not too much of a life, would my ambitions compromise what was needed of my husband at work, and so on.

All of these questions subtly centered around their pain points: Did I understand and was I prepared to have my husband work 6 days a week, 12-14  hours a day? Was my husband’s career the top career in the household, did I have the social experience to attend events on the arm of my husband and did I know my place in this executive world?

In short, was I an asset or a liability?

Who we choose as a partner is a reflection of ourselves.  They are our confidant, who we have constant dinner table conversation with, who we look to for counsel, support and whitespace in our personal and professional lives. When executive candidates interview, and their spouses don’t reflect the candidate; it’s a pause and possible disconnect for stakeholders.

Our C-Suite candidate did the interview solo. He used truthful “anchors” throughout the conversation; his son was attending college locally next year and he was looking forward to spending time with his Mother’s family who lived in an outlying suburb. He portrayed himself as a solid family man, (which he was despite being an emptynester) who would be able to dedicate an 80-work week to his new position. He talked less about himself in the interview process and his graciousness (excellent listening skills) endeared him further to the stakeholders. He was offered the position Sunday post brunch.

My spousal interview was intimidating, nerve wracking and one of the most useful personal experiences that I’ve been able to translate to my professional wheelhouse. My former husband got the job. And 3 years later we repeated the process for a country club home to Presidents and Heads of State in Texas. Knowing board’s talk to board’s I was hesitant if my previous success in California would translate to Texas. When I walked into that spousal interview (disguised as lunch on the terrace)  the Board Chair stood, held out his hand with a wide smile and said, “Nicole. Welcome to Texas. We’ve heard so much about you….”

The company we keep.

A few years ago, I had a coaching client Cynthia who moved from Denver to San Francisco. She was an Ivy League MBA who had worked for a mid-size company the past 10 years. Her colleagues and friends were smart, capable and moderately ambitious. Although, no one in her circle had experienced a notable upward trend in position or income for the past several years. Weekends with her husband centered around lawn mowing, skiing and Sunday dinners with his parents. Cynthia felt extremely comfortable in her current bubble. Life was good, it’s just that Cynthia, her peer group and her husband weren’t on a track for GREAT.

When Cynthia accepted a position with a tech company in San Francisco, her confidence and excitement quickly plummeted and within the first week at her new position she wanted to tuck-tail and go back to Denver. Cynthia’s new colleagues didn’t have lawns to start with…They not only read 2 papers a day, they discussed articles, trends in the market, blogs and fitness goals like our Grandmother’s exchanged recipes. The pace, the level of ambition at which her new group of peers existed was like an alternate universe. While her on-boarding was thorough, extensive and informative she had coasted for so long in Denver, getting up to warp speed in San Francisco  with this new, dynamic peer group was quickly a painful experience. And, not one she was sure she wanted to embrace.

When I interview a C-Suite candidate or have the first session with a coaching client; I ask about their peer group. Who are their most trusted colleagues, who’s in their inner circle, who do they spend the most time with, who do they seek advice from, and who will they call when they get the offer or opportunity they’re looking for? I’m not looking for names of course; rather a glimpse if their inner circle is at their level of accomplishment and ambition, below or are they running to achieve the next level of success? We can be surrounded by good people; but it’s the company we keep that defines who we become tomorrow.

I’ve changed my opinions of candidates and coaching clients by asking this question as it’s provided meaningful insight. One recent coaching client was a successful PI attorney in LA who wanted to completely shift his professional life and start by leaving the practice of law. Questioning his motives and stamina for such a journey; by asking the question I learned that his most trusted confidant was his sister who the COO for a Fortune 1000. And his girlfriend of the past year was the CEO of a tech startup. He was receiving good and unbiased counsel by  people who wanted him to succeed for him; and I immediately trusted his intent and grit to make the transition.

I also worked with a C-Suite candidate who was still young in her career though impeccably credentialed and just shy of 10 years of CFO experience. In asking the question, I learned her husband had the same job for 15 years, they had the same friends since high school and had lived in the same town for most of their marriage. She hadn’t had a significant struggle in 20 years nor did she know anyone who had kicked their own professional ass to strive for something beyond their current community.  This accomplished CFO had surrounded herself with people who had no intention of ever-growing professionally or taking an uncomfortable risk to gain so much more.

In short, she reflected the company she kept while the attorney reflected the company he strived to become. 

The Company we keep reflects who we are and how far we can go. In the best of organizations or social circles; the group moves at a steady pace of collective self-improvement. They get comfortable with the uncomfortable, set bigger goals, learn new skills and refuse to settle for what worked yesterday. They surround themselves with people who tell them the truth, encourage each other to run faster up steeper mountains and support their choices regardless of how it may negatively impact their position / friendship / relationship.

Unfortunately far too many organizations, marriages and relationships favor stagnation and “Saturday lawn mowing” over taking a risk, learning a new skill, moving to a new city or taking that new job. Simply because the company we keep is not supportive or pushing themselves in a similar direction.

As Cynthia was experiencing the  first few weeks of her new position feeling soul-crushed like the rejected kid at a new school; I encouraged her to find a person in the office she wanted to get to know better. Who was she was intrigued by and looking forward to working with.  And, if this person made her feel uncomfortable -Even better! I asked her to observe the behaviors of this person; what did he/she read, what time did he get to work, do for lunch, what skills did he have that she lacked, how did he open meetings and how did his spend his evenings? Cynthia quickly accepted if she was going to be successful in her new position, she was going to have to rise to the level of her new peer group and quite possibly beyond. And, she was going to have to embrace massive change to get there before she failed.

A  year later Cynthia has surrounded herself with colleagues and new friends who challenge her, make her uncomfortable with tough questions and support her through her risk taking and questionable decisions. She’s found more growth in the past year than quite possibly the past 10. Her aperture  has expanded and she embraced it.

Cynthia has become a reflection of the company she keeps and she’ll keep growing as a result.

What Motivates You? Now tell the truth.


Shortly after I founded Hunter Ambrose Recruitment and Executive Search firm in 2006, we recruited for a Director of Surgical Services for a hospital in Southern California. The community was a depressed desert town with a dwindled population and an aged hospital built shortly after World War II. It was not what we call a “Top Shelf” opportunity. The best candidate was a Vanderbilt educated, CNOR certified, MSN in-process candidate by the name of “Shelia”. Shelia was a Top-Shelf candidate: super responsive, intelligent, solid work history and a passion for creating successful OR programs. The problem? Shelia should have been working at Yale or Scripps La Jolla. Not some 100-bed hospital in the middle of nowhere California during a dust bowl drought.

About 10 days into the recruitment process, her positive attitude more suspect than authentic, I asked her (again) why she wanted the position. And again, she gave me the standard candidate answer; to which I no longer believed. My suspicion of her motives and her lack of transparency almost prompted me to pull her as a candidate. I persisted, asked for a final time, “Why are you applying for this position. Truthfully.” Shelia sighed and after a minute of silence, which was painful for me to wait for her to get honest about her motivation. Shelia responded. Quietly she explained that she was 43, had never been married, and her Mother had recently passed away. As an only child, she longed for an anchor, a home, and a community. During her quest (again a long silence) she met a man online and they had been dating for the past several months. He lived in this small desert town and a move to New Haven, Connecticut or La Jolla, California was not an option. He was a business owner, the second generation to live there, beloved by the entire town, with family and grown children. In short, he was never leaving, and he had proposed. Shelia wanted this job because of the life she was seeking.

If you subscribe to the Tony Robbins school of thought; we do things for 2 reasons– To gain pleasure or avoid pain.  And, no one ever looks for a new job because everything is “great.” We look for changes in our careers because we seek more, we’re unhappy with problems we can’t solve, we need MORE (money, opportunity, recognition, experiences,) and or flexibility to raise our children or care for aging parents. We seek change in our careers because something needs to change.

Knowing your motivation before you embark on a job search is crucial. What are you looking for? Change is primarily driven by money, opportunity or, as with Shelia’s case, location. Is the dissatisfaction you’re experiencing in your current job a circumstance of others or is it you? And if it is you; can you grow through that experience in your current position or is facing the internal challenge more likely to improve with a new position?

As long as the economy is growing, an upwardly mobile person is going to change jobs or advance 3 times within the next 5 years. Understanding what’s motivating you to stay or leave your current career path will make the next transition or opportunity for advancement a faster and less stressful transition. And, yes, you will most likely have more opportunity, more money and a selection of positions across the United States as a result of being honest about your motivations.

Shelia accepted the position and was promoted to the Chief Nursing Officer position in 2012. She and her husband recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. She’s being considered for the CEO position next month.