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When it comes to working in the nonprofit sector, there are many fields and opportunities to choose from. One of the largest fields is health care. According to Urban Institute, health focused nonprofits—which includes hospitals and primary-care facilities—make up 13% of the sector and hold nearly 43% of its assets.
But what does it mean to work in this area and what are hiring managers looking for? To explore these questions and more, I spoke with Julene Campion, Director of Talent Acquisition at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). LVHN, a nonprofit headquartered in Allentown, Pennsylvania consists of five hospitals, several community health centers, and has nearly 14,000 employees.
Campion started at LVHN as a volunteer in the HR department in 2004—a role she took to help her make the transition from for-profit to nonprofit—and came on full-time in 2005. Here, she shares how job seekers can stand out and offers a snapshot of what it’s like to work in the health care field.
In your response on our HR Council form, you mentioned the importance of job seekers being mindful of aligning their personal beliefs and passion with the organization’s mission. How can job seekers effectively do this?
Usually when we ask someone, “What are your strengths and areas for development?” they say they take on too much work or that they are a perfectionist. This doesn’t really demonstrate self-awareness.
It begins with self-reflection and awareness. Understanding what is important to you. What issues or causes do you find yourself drawn to? What magazines do you want to pick up and read? Why? When you’re around something you are committed to, you’ll find yourself excited and engaged in it. It’s usually a visceral reaction yet it also takes some trial and error.For me, I didn’t initially want to work in health care. It evolved and it’s really about caring for members of our community. Although I am not a clinician who provides hands on or direct care, in my role I support those who do the direct care. To get to this point, I needed to do some self reflection and some dabbling. I thought education was what I wanted and it certainly was interesting for me. At end of day, what drove my decision was being part of the LVHN talent community. I think it’s the people in your organization that truly make that organization. If organizations don’t attract, recruit, develop, and keep great people, the organization will hollow out.
Can you share a story of a time a candidate stood out to you? What did they do to set themselves apart?
One person we recently hired had great self-awareness of what her strengths were and what she needed to develop. Usually when we ask someone, “What are your strengths and areas for development?” they say they take on too much work or that they are a perfectionist. This doesn’t really demonstrate self-awareness. I want to hear specifically what areas you are strong, what areas you aren’t, and how you hold yourself accountable for your personal development.
This person in particular noted that she was a harmonizer and great at helping defuse conflict. Her areas of development were strategic thinking and decision quality. She had specific examples of how she tries to improve this.
What’s a common mistake you see among job seekers?
How they apply. Don’t just apply for a job because you can’t stand your current job, so you’re running from something or feel like you’ll just take anything to escape. It’s really about the candidate and job match, especially now. The workforce is opening up more than it was in 2008/2009. It’s becoming a candidate or job seekers market. When there are a lot of jobs but not a lot of qualified seekers, that’s when a candidate has more choices, and they shouldn’t feel powerless like they don’t have anything to contribute.
Also, target your job search. When you’re aligned with the job and the organization’s mission, your resume and cover letter are aligned, too. I’ve seen resumes where they cut and paste from the job posting and embed keywords into a resume. That’s not authentic and doesn’t demonstrate your unique talents.
When I’m looking at a resume, I build a brand of that person in my mind. Every aspect of that resume confuses or confirms that brand. When you show up for the interview, you must demonstrate behaviors and competencies that back up that brand.
What do you wish interviewees asked you?
If you are brought in for an interview, and you want to bring something in like a project, presentation or other visuals to demonstrate your ability to do the job, I highly recommend that.
I wish they asked me what my leadership style is like and what I expect. They are interviewing us as much as we’re interviewing them. So they can confirm that this feels like the right match for them.I also wished they asked, “How will I know I’m successful in this job in a year?” Use the interview to establish expectations.
Finally, I have candidates meet the team without me in the room. I wish people would talk about teams and get to know players on the team. Talk about where their strengths could help the team do better things. What kind of team they are going to be joining? What could they add to our team and what could that team add to them?
All three of these question would help job seekers understand the person you’ll work for, job you’ll have to accomplish, and what kind of team you’re going to play on.
Where do most of your hires come from? Job referrals? Online applications?
First, we have a few groups of hires. Nurses are a huge piece of our talent community. And then there are professionals like therapists and non-clinical professionals like marketing, finance, etc.
We get over 50,000 applications a year. It’s really hard to just put an application in and stand out, so there is definitely something to networking. However, we get a bulk of our people from college relationships and memberships. In health care, credentialing is very important. For non-clinical, you’re working next to PhDs and MDs. So it’s not only your education but your certifications and professional memberships.
When it comes to memberships, obviously I can’t just take your resume and give you a job. But if I keep running into this person at events and meetings, she’s going to be the first person I call. If I go to Drexel University and I’m part of alumni group or new students, we’re living, working, and playing together. This is how networking works for us and how we find many hires.
Do you use social media in hiring or to research candidates?
I wouldn’t say that we research candidates using social media because that can get very sticky. We use social media to present job opportunities. I’m searching LinkedIn and I see you might be qualified for a position, I’ll share a link to the job. But you have to be careful on how deeply you probe. Information you discover might be protected information.
What aspects of the job search do candidates focus on that aren’t really that important to you?
I expect you to be building relationships. You can’t get anything done alone these days.
There’s no need to spend too much time looking for the hiring manager’s name.And sometimes, I get packages with resumes, raised font, and brochures after they’ve applied for a job. I can’t even look at it. I have to toss it. They did a lot of work to put that together, but because of the legality giving preference to someone doing work above and beyond what most job seekers might be able to do, I have to put it aside. For an organization of our size, it’s a waste of time. Spend your time on conveying your personal brand through a cover letter, resume, and by networking.
Go above and beyond when you’re an actual candidate. If you are brought in for an interview, and you want to bring something in like a project, presentation or other visuals to demonstrate your ability to do the job, I highly recommend that.
Finally, don’t stress about trying to figure out why you weren’t hired. Instead, spend time developing your personal brand and seeking the next best match for you.
What do you expect to see from a new hire 30 days after employment? Three months? One year?
I expect you to be building relationships. You can’t get anything done alone these days.
Much depends on your job, however you should be highly proficient in your job duties in the first year at a minimum. A great way to figure out your goals is to sit with your manager to clarify expectations. Also ask yourself, “How will I become proficient so I can operate on my own 90% of the time?” Employers need talent individuals who add value really from day one.
What’s one trait that all candidates need if they want to work in this cause area (population health) regardless of role?
You have to have some desire to be helpful to others. Even if you’re an IT person, you have to care about the health and well being of others.
That being said, health care is a challenging industry to work right now. We are becoming an incredibly competitive field, which is challenging for for some who left the for profit world to seek an opportunity in the not for profit world. We’re more businesslike than before: cost control, cost optimization, market share, etc. You need to be flexible and adapt quickly.
What misconceptions do people have about your cause area?
That you have to be a clinician to work in healthcare. We have IT, fundraising, marketing, PR, finance, HR, we have sales and business development. You can translate your skills to a role.
What roles are the hardest to fill in your organization? Why?
Finding enough nurses. Many nurses are reaching retirement age and since they are usually working a 12-hour shift it is difficult for them to continue working at the bedside.
Also, respiratory therapists, rehabilitation therapists and pharmacists. In the past, you needed a Bachelor’s degree and now you may need a Master’s or even a doctorate. In general health care workers need higher levels of credentialing than before.
Thanks so much for your insights, Julene!
by Allison Jones