Helping hands Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2008

You don’t need to tell Richard H.Satcher about the importance of hiringthe right people. With a background inhuman resources, Satcher has experienced the time it takes to find the rightperson for a job, and he has fought theurge to take the first decent candidatethat comes along.

“Probably the first critical point inrecruiting talent is to not get caught upin what in human resource areas werefer to as the ‘warm body syndrome,’ orjust having somebody in the position isbetter than the position being open,”says Satcher, president and CEO ofLargo Medical Center. “A lot of timesthat comes back to bite you more than itdoes to help you.”

Satcher avoids getting caught up in thepanic of the position being open andfocuses a lot of time and energy on theinterviewing process, which includesmultiple interviews with candidates.

He wants to make sure he finds theright people for each position at his1,400-employee organization. When youhire someone that isn’t a good fit, theperson typically leaves to find a betterposition. Satcher wants to prevent thatfrom happening by doing his best in thehiring process to make sure the peoplehe chooses stay with the 456-bed facility.

“There’s an old human resource adagethat says selection is everything,” hesays. “Get that right, and everything iseasy. Get that wrong, and everything elseis correction.”

Since Satcher came on board as president and CEO in January 2006, revenuewent from more than $675 million thatyear to more than $750 million in 2007.

No doubt, having a thorough hiringprocess played a role in the organization’s growth.

“If you select the right person and youget the right person the first time around,it saves the organization a lot of pain andsuffering and time to come,” he says.

“Secondly, recruiting people is notinexpensive. It’s an expensive processthat you go through to get candidatesidentified, to get them on-site and getthem interviewed. So, you want to be agood steward of the resources of yourfacility.”

Form interview teams

While Satcher says it’s his job as theleader to paint the picture of what theideal candidate is for a position, hewants a lot of input from his organization on the candidates being interviewed.

He wants the candidate to interviewwith an array of people in the organization in order to get a broad perspective.

“Those people could be peers of theposition, they could be people reportingto the position, or they could be peoplethe position reports to. In someinstances, I’ve even used physicians aspart of the interview team.”

Satcher says he is always amazed atcandidates who interview differently infront of different groups. If they areinterviewing with their peers, they maycarry themselves one way and then actcompletely different when they interview with the people that report to them.

“You can really pick up on some (disingenuous) personalities and managementstyles through that process,” he says.“That’s probably the most critical thing Ilook for.

“It’s a phenomenal process, and you getcandidates who will tell one group onething and they’ll tell another groupanother. You think there’s no way anyone would be dumb enough to do that,but they do.”

One way to find solid performers tomake up your interview team is to simply look at the best areas in yourorganization.

“I look at departments that don’t havehigh turnover,” he says. “Those are probably the directors I want interviewingmy people. I don’t necessarily want thedepartment director that is having trouble with turnover or who’s had a historyof selection issues.”

If Satcher wants someone to be on aninterview team, he makes sure that person knows what is expected of him orher and what he or she should be lookingfor before the person joins the team.That comes back to painting the pictureof the ideal candidate before starting theselection process.

“You can’t just turn people loose without any type of direction,” he says.

While you may have assembled a solidinterview team that you are comfortablewith, you have to stress that the teamneeds to be just as comfortable with you.That’s why you have to be clear whencommunicating with everyone you wanton your interview team.

Satcher emphasizes he wants an individual’s honest feedback if he or she isgoing to take part and that any feedbackSatcher receives about a job candidatewill remain confidential.

“So, when I have a candidate, I first ofall ask, ‘Are you willing to do this? Willyou commit the time to do this? Second,are you comfortable in giving me yourfeedback? Thirdly, here’s what I want inthis person. Here’s what the picturelooks like and this is what I need youassessing these individuals against,’” hesays. “‘This isn’t an open-ended search,guys. This is a search looking for a particular set of skills, a particular personality, a particular fit, and I need you towork from the same framework that Iam working from.’”

It also can be beneficial to have a couple of people on the team who will goagainst the grain and will challenge thenorm.

“I’ve got a couple directors that othersmight consider to be a little contrarian,but I kind of like that,” he says. “They’renot going to get caught up in groupthinkor mob rule.”

Even though Satcher doesn’t participate in all parts of the interview process,he will have someone he trusts in theroom.

“In every organization, there’s what Iwill call your go-to people,” he says.“These are the people when you’ve gotsomething you need done, you can give

it to them (and) you know they are going to get it done,” hesays. “Typically, all my go-to people are on my interviewteams.”

You can even take this process one step further and team upa rising star with one of your go-to people.

“If I have someone that, say maybe, I think has the potentialto develop to that level, I try to pair them up with a go-to person,” he says. “So, what I try to do is I try to make sure whenthe schedules are set, I know I’ve got at least one of those goto people in that room. So, if I’ve got somebody in that room[who] I may not know quite as well but I feel good about, I doknow that I have at least somebody in there that is going toexhibit the kind of behavior I want the other people to see.”

Gather opinions

In order to receive feedback in an orderly fashion, Satcherhas his interview team complete an evaluation form on eachcandidate immediately after the interview. The evaluation features five to six questions that have to do with such categoriesas the candidate’s appearance, interaction with the interviewer, knowledge and experience.

Satcher asks them to circle a number between 1 and 4 to givehim an idea of what each person thought of the candidate. Heuses a four-point scale to avoid getting middle-of-the-roadresults. By using a scale of 1 to 4, those choosing have to thinkbefore circling a 2 or a 3, which would show Satcher that theevaluator leaned toward it being a good or bad interview.

“I try to force them to either get to the upper end or the lowerend,” he says.

Yet, even on a four-point scale, team members will still writein 2.5, instead of choosing 2 or 3.< /p>

That’s why Satcher leaves room for comments on the form.You can get a better idea on how the middle-of-the-road peoplefelt about a candidate if they can explain themselves.

On top of giving a numeric rating and leaving comments, healso asks the interview team to make one of three choices: recommend the candidate, recommend the candidate with reservation and explain the reservation, or do not recommend thecandidate and explain.

“It’s worked well for me because what I’m able to do is, firstof all, tabulate a numeric number,” he says. “I can tabulate thenumeric number by class of interviewee. I pull out scores forthe senior management. I pull out scores for the directors, andif I have any base-level employees, I pull out those scores. So,I can look how the senior team scores them, I can look at howthe directors scored them — I can break it out any way.

“So, I can tell that there is a disparity between those publics.I also can tabulate the do not recommends, recommends, recommend with reservation, so I can first of all get a numericalpicture of how people felt about the candidate and kind of geta feel for what’s the order of priority — who is top choice overall, who is the top choice among the senior managers.”

Armed with that information, Satcher can drill down into theverbatim comments and use the comments as a litmus test onhow good the feedback is matching up. If he’s got people whorated a candidate great on appearance, but some team members wrote negative comments about the candidate’s appearance, then he knows there is a disconnect somewhere.

“So it’s a combination of those two,” he says. “Then, ofcourse, I take that information and I then measure it up againstmy impression of the candidate. What’s matching? I’ve had situations where candidates interview real well with the seniormanagers. You can see it in the scores, you can see it in thefeedback, but they interviewed very poorly when it came to thedirectors.

“It’s a very fluid process. What I’ve tried to do, because somuch about choosing people is subjective, not objective — I’vetried to infuse a little bit of objectivity in it by using this scale.It works pretty well for me.”

On occasion, if two pieces of feedback are contradictory,Satcher will meet with the two who gave the feedback and askabout it.

“The feedback helps me determine where I need to put myinvestigative efforts,” he says.

After all the information is tabulated, Satcher will meet withthe entire team to let them know he is going to be making anoffer to a candidate.

“My position there is they gave me their time, and they gaveme their energy and their efforts, [so] I owe them the courtesyof letting them know what that time and effort let me decide,”he says.

While Satcher says taking the time to have an in-depth interview process is important to a company’s success, he doeswarn against taking too long to fill a position. If you are takingthe process beyond 60 days, then you start to get into the period where the process is just dragging. Some complicated positions may require more time, but try to limit most searches to60 days. He recommends if you have an applicant pool ofbetween four to eight people, cut it down to the strongest threeor four and stop looking.

“Once you get out there and start getting feedback, I see people make the mistake of trying to interview too many people,”he says. “That can just get confusing. Particularly in my model,if I throw too many candidates at (multiple people), it’s hard tosustain that kind of momentum in getting people together allthe time to interview.”

In the end, Satcher says he will make the decision when hehas to, but he still wants his employees’ feedback.

“That’s what they pay me to do,” he says. “But as much inputand involvement as I can have in helping come to that conclusion, I’ll take advantage of.”

HOW TO REACH: Largo Medical Center, www.largomedical.com or (727) 588-5200