Job Hunting and Interview Advice for Perfusion Students and Perfusion Job Hunters by Gary Grist RN CCP Emeritus
I would like to offer my advice to all the perfusion students who will eventually be seeking employment and unemployed perfusionists who are job hunting. I am retired but, that doesn’t stop me from giving some advice on what I, as a former Chief Perfusionist and employer, liked to see applicants. Despite what some perfusionists say about the future of perfusion, I believe that the 21st century will offer a tremendous opportunity for perfusionists. Our roles may change somewhat (less CPB, more ECMO, ECPR, VADs, ATS, organ preservation, transplants, lab analysis, government regulatory requirements, etc.), but we will still be working in life and death situations requiring perfusion skills. (I initially wrote this article decades ago when some thought that off-pump bypass procedures would reduce perfusion job prospects.)
Job Hunting Suggestions:
Plan: Stick with a job search strategy, stay focused, keep positive. A really good book to read to help you that never goes out of date is Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People.
Join: Sign up for professional organizations. Find peers and mentors who can advise you on career strategies.
Writing: No spelling errors in any of your correspondence!! Period! It shows lack of interest and inattention to detail. If necessary, have someone else edit your written materials. Don’t rely on “Spell Check”.
Resume: A good resume summarizes education, training and experience and illustrates why you are an ideal candidate for the position. Include a picture of yourself with the resume (but not a “Glamour Shot”). Have a good friend select a photo for you that captures your personality. It doesn’t have to be a “bust shot”. It can be an up-close action photo, perhaps while on the job. The picture should answer this question for the employer: “Is this someone I want to work with every day?” A photo personalizes your resume like nothing else. And that’s the goal! You want the prospective employer to think of you as an individual, not as just another job candidate. It is possible that some bigot will not consider interviewing you because of your photo, but you wouldn’t want to work for that person anyway. Send samples of your academic work with the resume or take them to the interview: Research papers or school projects reveal how your mind is organized and demonstrates the quality of your work. This gives the interviewer something specific about YOU to focus on; again, trying to personalize yourself.
Prepare and practice a presentation: Don’t improvise. Practice your interview presentation, explaining qualifications, training, attitude, and why the employer should hire you over somebody else. Try to provide examples of your working well under pressure. Did you ever win any special performance or academic recognition? Dress well, but use no overpowering perfume or aftershave. For men, clean shaven is best. But if you must carry a beard make sure it is short and well-groomed. For women and men, wear no flashy jewelry.
Research: Do some meaningful research on the potential employer and staff (Google & PubMed). What have the perfusionists done? Are they AmSECT or AACP members or officers? Are they ABCP board members, etc? What papers have they written? Research the surgeons and employers as well.
Benefits: Consider things beyond salary like good healthcare insurance, on-site daycare, tuition reimbursement, program reputation, etc.
Do not be late to the interview: Get adequate directions on how to get to the interview site. Getting lost on the way reflects your lack of preparation and professionalism.
Eye contact: Keep eye contact during face-to-face meetings. Glancing out the window expresses a lack of interest. Don’t yawn!
Voice: Speak clearly and slowly in person or when on the phone with a prospective employer. Tape yourself on the phone during a regular conversation. Do you hesitate a lot? Do you use a lot of “uh’s” and “ah’s”? This could convey thought confusion or slow thinking to the interviewer; two VERY UNDESIRABLE qualities in a perfusionist. Notice how other people talk to you. Do some irritate you with their speech habits, and do others impress you? Be someone who impresses!
Introductions and Handshakes: A firm handshake shows confidence and initiative. Also, when introduced to someone for the first time repeat their name out loud. And use some flattery if you can, even if it sounds corny. (Google them or look them up on PubMed so you can make a POSITIVE comment on what they have been doing.) Using flattery personalizes you and makes you stick in the interviewer’s memory either as a “highly intelligent job applicant” or as a “real cornball suck-up”. Either way, it helps to accomplish the goal of personalizing you in their memory. For example, Interviewer: ” Hello (handshake), my name is Dr. Killemquick, Chief of CV Surgery.” Interviewee: “Dr. Killemquick, (hold handshake until finishing the sentence) I have been looking forward to meeting you. My name is Gary Grist. I am familiar with your work in reducing length of hospital stay after heart surgery.”
Goals: Have short term and long term goals for the position, the responsibilities that you hope to assume, and salary aspirations for 1 yr, 2 yr, 5 yr, 10 yr. Memorize them so you can respond without hesitation when asked, “Where do you want to be in 1, 2, 5 or 10 years?” or “What are your goals in your perfusion career?”
1 Year Goals: I plan to achieve an outstanding record of job performance including minimal or no sick time off, no reportable perfusion accidents or incidents, good perfusion outcomes as evidenced by post-CPB follow-up. I will work towards achieving a positive attitude among the other caregivers that I work with. With this first year’s job record, I plan on qualifying for any possible merit raise available.
2 Year Goals: I plan on achieving a high level of confidence on the part of my fellow perfusionists and other caregivers in my perfusion skills and ancillary duties and evidence this by soliciting their constructive criticism and evaluation. I plan on finding a unique niche within the Perfusion Department that will contribute to improving the quality of perfusion services, patient outcomes or cost reduction. With the consultation and supervision of my chief, I plan to identify a need in the area of perfusion services, devise a plan to address the need, implement the plan and evaluate the outcome. This niche may be in research, quality control, improved efficiency, or some, as yet, unknown area. With this second year’s job record, I plan on qualifying for any possible merit raise available.
5 Year Goals: I plan on achieving a high level of competence and reliability, such that I can function as interim Chief Perfusionist in his/her absence with the absolute confidence of the surgeons and anesthesiologists. I plan on furthering my education by achieving a Masters Degree (or) I plan to become a perfusion school instructor (or) I plan to become active in professional perfusion organizations, etc.
10 Year Goals: I plan on becoming the Chief of Perfusion somewhere (or) a Perfusion School Director (or) become active in the perfusion contracting business, etc. In order to achieve this goal I will complete advanced education, participate in ABCP educational activities, study business skills, etc. I plan on achieving a six figure salary by this time. (I initially wrote this article decades ago. Today, six figure salaries are common among perfusionists.)
Questions: Avoid the silent pause at the end of the interview. Prepare a list of questions about the company, the job, advancement potential, and turnover rate in the past. Summarize yourself and why you should be hired, etc. Other example questions (don’t ask questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ unless you have a follow-up question that requires an explanation):
“Can you describe a typical day here as a perfusionist?”
“How would you describe the morale of the perfusionists and the heart team?”
“How would you describe your management style?”
“Do you prefer perfusionists that work independently or do you prefer to maintain close scrutiny? What are your reasons?”
“Do the nurses and perfusionists show respect for each other or is there antipathy between these heart team members?”
Ask for the job if you want it: After a good interview express interest by asking for the job. A recruiter wants to hear your interest in the position.
Follow-up: Call or write after the interview. Ask when a decision can be expected. Write a thank you letter, whether you get the job or not. If you don’t get the job, ask that your resume be kept on file should another opening become available in the near future. Who knows, the person hired may be terminated at the end of the 90 day probation period. The employer may want to find someone fast if that happens.
Organize: Keep a record of where you have sent resumes and who was contacted to avoid embarrassing repeat calls. Cross prospects off as positions are filled, but follow up in 90 days to see if the person who was hired is still there. If that person did not work out, the employer will want to find somebody fast so they might pick you if you were their second or third choice and are still available.
Update: Keep your resume/CV up to date for the rest of your career, even if you are currently employed and have no plans to seek other employment. An up-to-date resume/CV can also be used to document competency on a yearly basis. This could be important if some outside assessor (perhaps from the Joint Commission or AABB) wants you to prove your competency.
Good hunting and good luck.
Gary Grist RN, CCP Emeritus and former Chief Perfusionist