Helping Qualified Candidates to Appreciate Their Own Value

Michael Brown, M.D.

In physician executive coaching, I have noticed that some of the most qualified physicians I’ve worked with, doubted their qualifications for a management position they were considering. They recognized all the skills/abilities/experiences that an ideal candidate should have, and when comparing that to their current qualifications, they saw themselves as unqualified for the role.

This is a situation where I find it helpful for the candidate to think about the value they offer, rather than the qualifications they lack. I start by shifting toward discussing why the position they are considering is being posted. What problems does the organization fix by hiring someone? Then, what are their ideas for how to help the hiring organization with their current problems?

As we discuss ideas for how the candidate can help their potential employer, we weave in how their unique strengths would be applied to possible solutions. As a coach, I see it as part of my role to remind clients of their strengths and help them realize how lucky the new employer would be to have someone like them solving their problems.

However, at some point, negative thoughts set in, and candidates can’t help but think of someone else who could do a better job. When I ask about this person, I usually discover that this other person can’t realistically be expected to even apply. This other person often already has a leadership role that is better for them, or they are at a point in their career in which they are not looking for a change. Employers don’t have the luxury of hiring a fantasy candidate. They need to hire a real person, willing to take a job, and it is not in my client’s best interest to believe they are competing against a fantasy candidate.

The best leaders don’t step up to lead just because they are fully qualified. The best leaders step up because they are passionate about a cause, and they realize that if they don’t step up, nobody more qualified will. When a very qualified client once asked me if I thought he was qualified for a position, I responded by saying, “No, you are not … Now get over it, because nobody is fully qualified for that kind of position. “ (In the end, he took on the role and did great).

Every new leader will make mistakes and have failures; this is expected. High-level positions are not easy, but the best leaders are not measured by the number of mistakes they make, but rather by their overall accomplishments. When a smart employer hires, it will ask about qualifications, but it is primarily thinking about who can be most effective in helping accomplish its goals. When I coach a client in preparation for applying for a new job, we do spend some time discussing areas where they might be deficient, but we focus most of our discussions on how their unique offerings will enable them to help their potential new employer.

In coaching, I don’t give this sort of advice to everyone. While there are people who overestimate themselves and may not be qualified for the position they seek, I have been surprised with how many of the most qualified physician executives whom I have advised, have needed to be shown how lucky their new organization will be to get them.

Michael Brown, MD, MS, MCHM, CHCIO is a certified executive coach (Center For Executive Coaching) and Chief Medical Officer at Acesis, Inc. He was an instructor at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health for 8 years after graduating from their Masters in Healthcare Management program in 2007. For the 12 years prior to joining Acesis in 2014, Michael was the Chief Information Officer for Harvard University Health Services.