​When it comes to resumes, applicants are typically judged by their cover. Why? A resume is a glance at someone’s track record, a window to one’s career and decision-making abilities, and, ultimately, it is the first impression made about an applicant’s entire professional life.

The implication of a bad resume is that if someone does not have an outstanding one, then what kind of employee will he or she be? This may not be fair, but perception is typically equated with reality.

For employers to compete effectively in the long term and post-acute care industries and provide the highest quality care to residents and patients, they need to hire the very best people. Knowing what to look for in a resume is essential to the hiring process. Consider the following fact: The average employer initially spends about 15 seconds reviewing a resume.

Indeed, this is quite sobering, but it means that many employers miss out on hiring great candidates. Most employers evaluate a resume based on antiquated models or human resource guidelines without taking into consideration a number of factors based on a new generation of health care employees in an ever-changing landscape of the human dynamic.

Duration Not Critical

There has been a dramatic shift in the health care workforce in the 21st century, and suffice it to say that employers need to adjust how they review resumes and adapt to these changes if they want to hire the best applicants.
Times have changed dramatically from the previous generation’s workforce regarding an employee’s length of stay. Gone are the days when someone stays at one company for an entire career. The Internet has changed everything. It is much easier now to find out about new job openings and to research companies. Depending on the position, in long term care the average length of employment at one job is less than two years—a staggering statistic.

In fact, if someone has been at the same job for longer than 10 years, there is now the impression that this person might be considered “stale” for having had fewer career experiences and less exposure to new ideas, systems, and people.

Moving forward, there must be a monumental shift in the conventional wisdom of how employers review and interpret resumes of prospective applicants in these settings. For health care employees, performance demands have never been more challenging. Regulations have become increasingly enforced, and there has been an enormous shift toward mergers and acquisitions.

In many cases, employees accustomed to working in a smaller company need to adapt, change, and acquire new skills to work in larger settings. So during the first 15 seconds of reading an applicant’s resume, frequent job changes should not mean instant disqualification.

Many jobs on a resume no longer automatically translate to instability and or lack of loyalty. In some cases, it may just mean the opposite. It could imply ambition, enthusiasm, creativity, or a yearning for growth.
It is important to remember that the purpose of a resume is to win a job interview, not the job itself.

Transferable Skills

Does an applicant have the necessary skills or the transferable skills to do the job and be successful? Transferable skills can be extremely useful and could even create success in a way that the job had never intended to address, such as someone with hospitality experience who could bring a specific skill to assisted living or skilled nursing.
For instance, a very progressive assisted living facility in Houston recently hired a new director of sales and marketing. The chosen candidate had a successful career working in sales at a local resort but lacked assisted living experience and had no health care experience at all. Fortunately, however, the hiring authority had the vision to look past this “obstacle” while examining the resume and imagined the possibilities that this person could bring to their organization.
This person is now thriving and has taken the facility to full census capacity. This is becoming a very common example in the seniors housing industry.
It is critical that a resume be assessed creatively and in its totality, as there may be some intangibles that do not appear on paper. One way to identify such intangibles is to simply phone an applicant and ask for clarification.
A short telephone interview can be instrumental in learning more about an applicant and just might reveal an aspect that could be critical to the success of an operation. Ask situational questions to identify transferable skills.

Talent Trumps All

Another element to consider when reviewing a resume is talent. Skills can be taught, but talent is a gift. Most employers want to see quantifiable achievements on a resume, but there are times when achievement cannot be quantified.
How does one measure talent such as a quick mind, leadership, or charisma? The truth is that sometimes they cannot be measured in a statistic or a number. Talent implies that someone has special know-how and a take-charge and get-the-job-done ability, a likeability factor that can inspire and empower an organization.
Someone with talent may have created something special in a previous job that hadn’t existed before.
For example, that director of sales and marketing referenced earlier is being considered for a sales specialist position to help train and assist other directors of sales in the organization’s other facilities. This position had not even existed before this candidate was hired. In essence, someone with talent has an aptitude to do certain things.
Talent, in the sense of natural ability or giftedness, is not the same as skill, which is a learned process, and one that is enhanced or inhibited by an underlying talent.
Finding talent on a resume means reviewing it with an open mind as if reading a mystery novel. Natural talent rarely shows up in conventional ways and sometimes can be detected by a phone interview.

Education Comes In Many Forms

No one can dispute the advantage of a superior education, but many applicants are eliminated because they do not fit a traditional educational model.
Notwithstanding licensure and credentialing requirements such as registered nurses, nursing facility administrators, and the like, employers usually equate a traditional college degree with intelligence. However, some very successful people have high emotional and creative intelligence but didn’t graduate from college, such as: Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft; Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers; Steve Jobs, Apple Computer co-founder; and Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Music and Virgin Airlines.
What do all these people have in common? A certain intelligence that cannot be measured by test, degree, or certification.
Nontraditional, “real-life” education or entrepreneurship warrants serious consideration. For example, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is oftentimes a “call to action.” A caretaker often needs to self-educate, join associations, conduct research, and dedicate one’s life to provide the appropriate care necessary.
A college degree in health care simply cannot replace the experience of providing for and living daily with a person who has Alzheimer’s. Having had this experience, it is not uncommon for someone without formal health care experience to pursue a career as a memory care coordinator or similar position in a skilled nursing or assisted living facility.
Stuart Lindeman, senior vice president of Revera Health Systems, Middletown, Conn., says, “When I look at a resume I want to see career growth, performance, and results.”
Employers such as Lindeman want to see a successive career background. On a resume, performance can be assessed by doing the job effectively, increasing efficiency, improving returns, and performing a job to satisfaction. Performance need not be limited to the workplace. Continuously investing in one’s professional development—training programs, professional associations, education, certifications, keeping up with professional literature, and the like—speaks volumes on a resume.

Culture Counts

Equally as important as successive career growth is the reputation or style of the organization where the applicant was previously employed. Knowing this offers insight into whether or not the candidate will be a good culture fit for the company.
“When I look at a resume I want to know where the applicant has worked previously and the company’s reputation in the industry,” says Lindeman. “I’ve hired many of my best employees by knowing who my most successful competitors are in the industry and plucking from the very best.”
Having the skills to do a job is one thing, but being able to fit in culturally is paramount to the success of a new employee and to the morale of the new hire’s co-workers.
Budgie Amparo, executive vice president of Quality Services and Risk Management at Emeritus Senior Living, Seattle, contends that resumes rarely tell the whole story.
“I think that it is important to speak with an applicant to learn if there will be a fit based on the personality with whom this person will be reporting to,” he says. “For example, can this applicant work with a strong manager?”
The time has come for employers to re-examine the parameters by which resumes are evaluated and perhaps revisit resumes that may have been preliminarily eliminated from the interviewing process. A resume is only a starting point, but the intricacies of a person’s career are next to impossible to examine in a one- or two-page document.
Employers must be creative as they assess new talent. Furthermore, the landscape of long term and post-acute care is constantly changing, and the employment world is constantly
Bernie Reifkind is chief executive officer and founder of Premier Search, a health care executive search firm based in Los Angeles. Reifkind is nationally known as an expert in the recruitment and placement process in the long term and post-acute care industry. He can be reached at bernie@psihealth.com or (800) 801-1400. His company’s website is: www.psihealth.com.