A CEO's job interview checklist: 5 questions to better identify the best employer for you

Just as boards and executive teams develop lists of qualifications for CEO candidates, the candidate too should have a list of criteria to assess a possible new employer.

Andrew Chastain, managing partner and chairman of Witt/Kieffer's Healthcare practice, says there are five primary questions all aspiring CEOs should ask themselves of a given organization:

1. Do I align with the mission and culture of the organization?

2. Is there a culture of precision and quality?

3. What is the quality and engagement level of the clinicians?

4. How stable and strong is the leadership team?

5. What is the quality of the board and its relationship with executives?

Assessing culture
Of all considerations, culture is among the most important for CEO candidates to evaluate, according to Mr. Chastain.

"Do I have alignment with the mission and the direction the organization's culture may be evolving toward?" said Mr. Chastain, giving example questions. "Does the organization have a culture of compliance and execution? Do they get things done like they're supposed to?"

Each hospital or health system's approach to implementing change and executing initiatives may differ, and this one important element of culture is often overlooked. A CEO who values precision may not cohere with an organization accustomed to a more laissez-faire approach, and visa versa.

When assessing the medical enterprise, CEO candidates should also measure the degree of engagement among clinicians, as well as quality and patient experience outcomes that affect hospital reimbursement. "Is the medical staff leaning in or leaning out? Are they ready to partner with the institution or do they have a long history of fighting with the leadership?" said Mr. Chastain.

Zeroing in on the senior leadership team
The dynamics of the leadership team can markedly affect a CEO's ability to thrive at a new organization. Candidates should look at several factors when taking a closer look at the C-suite, according to Mr. Chastain. First, it's important to note the level of succession planning embedded in the organization.

"I would want to know if [the other senior level executives] are all about to retire, or if they're brand new," said Mr. Chastain. He would also want to learn about how they communicate with one another and with the board. "What is the typical relationship between the board and management? Is there a strong commitment from the board to the strategy and vision of the organization, and what is the board's risk tolerance?"

These questions can help candidates determine how well they would jive with future peers and the board of directors. While CEOs don't necessarily interact with board members on a daily basis, understanding their risk tolerance, communication style and willingness to invest in innovative strategies is essential to executing large scale projects effectively.

The state of an organization's IT systems is also worth noting. "If they have not yet implemented a contemporary EMR, then the new CEO is going to have to live through paying for and implementing that," said Mr. Chastain. This undertaking has serious repercussions on the balance sheet, culture and employee engagement. "A new CEO would probably prefer for that to already be paid for and implemented."

How will a new organization affect a new CEO's overall quality of life?
Accepting a new executive role sometimes means relocating one's life and family to another city, potentially another state. Such a move can be a step forward in one's career, but it also presents profound change for the family and their quality of life. Therefore, it's imperative for CEO candidates to take ample time and consider whether the new city and organization can fulfill their wants and needs.

For instance, CEOs with young children will likely need to think about what schools their children will attend and what kinds of activities and opportunities the community and surrounding environment has to offer.

Executives recruited to new jobs and those looking for new opportunities may receive multiple offers from potential employers, but no organization or C-suite is the same. Therefore, it's imperative to one's personal and professional success — as well as the success of the organization — to carefully evaluate the many facets of a certain organization through a checklist or a similar tool and identify which organization is the best fit.

"By recognizing what's important to the individual, he or she can better evaluate their fit with the opportunity," said Mr. Chastain. "And the more information they have about a new organization, the more likely they are to succeed."

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