Career Resources

Getting the Answers

Experts respond to some of the questions most frequently asked of the Career Resource Center.

I need information on representative salary, benefits, and terms such as severance agreements that are associated with a position for which I am interviewing. Where can I get that information?

Salary and benefits data is the easiest to find, simply because there have been so many surveys covering compensation. If you are an early careerist, the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics offers salary information for a wide range of professions.

If you are further along in your career, surveys and studies conducted by consulting firms, associations, or other groups on a national, regional, state/provincial, or local level are generally available for purchase from the organization that conducted or sponsored them; however, they can be quite expensive. Instead, look for the results of those surveys in trade magazines, journals, newsletters, and books, or in some cases, on the Internet.

Statistics on severance agreements are available from the above sources, but one of your best resources for this information is your professional network. Talk to friends and colleagues in healthcare management, as well as those at similar career levels in other fields to find out more about severance agreements and other employment contract issues.

Many job hunters spend a lot of time researching an organization's background to prepare for an interview or respond to an offer, but they neglect to research compensation and severance agreements. A little legwork at the start of a job search will tell you what you are worth and help you get it.

Michael A. Broscio

I was recently “downsized” out of a senior management position. As I interview for new positions, how and when should I address the fact that I am currently unemployed?

Employers today are much more receptive to candidates who are unemployed than they were in the past. Downsizing in the healthcare field is quite common; in addition, as organizations reengineer and reorganize, a lot of people are leaving jobs voluntarily. Therefore, I encourage job hunters to be candid about unemployment early in the process.

The fact that you're currently unemployed will be apparent from your resume, so you should acknowledge it in your cover letter. But don't go into great detail: save that for the interview. Instead, write something like, “Most recently, I was a [title] at [organization]...I would be happy to talk to you about my reasons for departing.”

The interview, whether on the phone or in person, is your opportunity to clarify the extenuating circumstances. Have a concise, specific explanation prepared. Discuss the organizational circumstances surrounding your departure, whether it was downsizing, reengineering, or moving in a new strategic direction. If it was a mutual parting of the ways, say so. And always be positive: never refer to yourself as a “victim” (as in “I was a victim of downsizing”) and never put down your former superior or organization.

Also, be sure to have at least two references from your last place of employment, and talk to them ahead of time to make sure you see the situation the same way. If a reference inadvertently gives a different interpretation of the circumstances surrounding your departure, it will reflect badly on you.

The most important thing you must do in this situation is be honest. The worst thing you can do is avoid acknowledging your unemployment; it can give the appearance of deception, and the last thing any organization wants is a dishonest employee.

Robin W. Singleton, CHE, Senior Vice President, Tyler & Company

Do you have a career development question you'd like to see answered in the Careers column?

Mail it to Healthcare Executive, One North Franklin St., Suite 1700, Chicago, IL 60606-3529; or e-mail it to the editor of Healthcare Executive.