5 Tips to Prepare for an Interview — and Tackle Anxiety — from Surescripts Senior Recruiter Shannon Clarke
In this digital age, job search best practices are a bit of a moving target and it's natural to have questions like: "Are one page resumes still a must?" and "What about post-interview thank-you notes or emails?"
We sat down with Shannon Clarke, Senior Recruiter at health information network organization Surescripts, to get some clarity on these questions and others to help you put your best foot forward in your next interview.
By the way, Shannon doesn't subscribe to the one-page resume rule—"Two pages are absolutely fine if you have the experience to fill them," she says—but she does love a good thank you note! "I think thank you's are great. You should do it and be thoughtful about it—don't write a novel, people are busy!" she says, laughing, "but they appreciate that sincere thank you and I often hear from hiring managers who are pleased when they receive one."
Read on for the other pieces of wisdom she's acquired in her 15+ years of recruiting and conducting interviews!
Five tips for preparing for your interview
- Start with the job description. "If you start with reviewing the job description, you'll be able to ground yourself in what they are looking for and how [you] fit in," explains Shannon. "Look at both the responsibilities and qualifications, because many times you can try to figure out what they might ask you based on that."
- Practice your pitch. "Be able to explain your career thus far and related career experience in a concise manner. Time in interviews goes by fast," Shannon says. "If you don't walk through it and you don't practice actually saying your answers out loud, you might just get tripped up in the interview."
- Be able to explain the company and what they do. Do your research to learn about the company's products and services, as well as its purpose. Start by checking the company's website to learn the ins and outs of the organization. "Then you can check out a company's presence on websites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, YouTube and gather a variety of perspectives or see if you have any connections at that company," Shannon suggests.
- Come up with questions that you care to know the answer to. "Take a few minutes before the interview and think about what you want to know," she advises. "It could be about the culture, it could be about the work, it could be about how the team works together. You want to ask in a genuine way, because it shows that you're invested in the opportunity."
- Bring examples of your achievements. Don't hesitate to reveal your accomplishments by using concrete examples. "If you can quantify your experience with numbers, great, but I think the biggest deal is to be able to give an example of when and how you did something," says Shannon. "Be sure to reference the company and details of the project, and talk about both soft and hard skills that you used and displayed."
How to combat nerves
Going into an interview can be stressful and anxiety inducing. Here are Shannon's tips for keeping calm during the interview:
- Give yourself a pep talk. Boost your confidence before an interview by reflecting on past successes. "Give yourself a pep talk before the interview. Think of all you have accomplished, whether it's at work or in your personal life. You got this. Be confident. Show them the best you."
- Be prepared. (See tips 1-5 above!) Proper preparation will also help ease your nerves. "If you review the job description, write down applicable skills and examples, and practice answering questions in a shorter time frame, you won't feel quite as nervous."
- Own your interview. "It's a candidate-driven market right now," Shannon says. "You're the one that's in charge of your next decision. Be sure to ask questions to get a sense of the company culture to validate that the company is a good fit for you."
Working at Surescripts since 2016, Shannon has gained experience recruiting for all different types of roles and departments. "I recruit for all of our Customer Group, so anything sales or customer support related. I also recruit for our DevOps, Finance and Strategy teams" she explains. "I used to recruit for our Marketing and Legal teams too, but then we hired an additional recruiter to support our hiring efforts," she adds, smiling.
She has become an expert in scoping out individuals that fit within the Surescripts environment. Here's what she's looking for: "We like people that care about the work they do and about making a difference. We like people that want to contribute and want to continue to learn. This is a great place for that," she says.
Ready to put these tips to practice? Check out Surescripts open roles here!
Dr. Jaime Smith is always looking ahead at "what's next."
"Right now, I'm looking to expand my footprint in healthcare," says Jaime, who recently completed her PhD in Health Services Research with a focus in health informatics and data mining. She completed the program while working full time at the nation's leading health information network, Surescripts.
For that next program, Jaime, who is a Surescripts Principal Researcher and Statistician, is thinking about focusing on strategic leadership. Whatever she ends up studying, she will find a way to do meaningful research that makes an impact: "I've always aimed to conduct research that is high-impact, well-read, innovative, thought-provoking, and a springboard for future work."
We sat down with Jaime to learn more about what research topics most interest her, how she balances a full-time job with her research passion, and how Surescripts supports her work.
"We're all going to encounter the healthcare system at some point," says Jaime. She explains a moment that most Surescripts employees have experienced: "A person goes to the doctor and the provider is in their EHR [electronic health records], the provider sends an e-prescription to the patient's pharmacy of choice, and the mechanism that allows that transaction to happen is Surescripts.'"
Seeing her company's products come to life is exciting for Jaime, but it's also vital. Part of why she's so inspired to work and study in the healthcare field is because she knows how impactful empowering people about their own health can really be.
"When you think about the social determinants of health or chronic conditions, these factors can add complexity to understand what's going on with your health, and to be knowledgeable and educated about your personal healthcare becomes critical," she says.
As a Principal Researcher and Statistician, Jaime's job at Surescripts is to lead the statistical research that the company does. She also presents that research at conferences and educates key stakeholders such as policymakers and the broader healthcare community at large.
"[We need] everyone involved to understand what research is available and how it's useful," explains Jaime.
Research projects of Jaime's have included value studies (where she looks at ways to quantify the value of Surescripts' products for stakeholders like pharmacy benefit managers), internal number-crunching (where she designs executive dashboards for her C-suite), and other investigative pieces that use Surescripts data to explore broader issues that impact the public.
Expanding her impact
When Jaime was completing her undergraduate degree in economics, she wanted to add another discipline to her studies to get a broader perspective."I needed something to enrich econ, something to complement it," she says.
She found that enrichment by picking up a second major in American Studies, which felt "real world" and gave her a lens that grounded economic concepts in practical ways.
On the job, Jaime applies that same interdisciplinary approach. "I have the ability to carve out things that are interesting to me, and that I can make an impact with," she says.
For example, Jaime recently wrote a paper in her "off time"—"It wasn't originally a part of my [work] portfolio, but I love the idea of being innovative in the way that I think about using our data to make an impact," she explains. The paper investigated the impact of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria on various healthcare systems in the U.S. including how weather-related infrastructure problems influence public health, especially for patients in vulnerable areas.
That paper was so well-received that policymakers reached out to Jaime to ask her to help them come up with a plan to better address those risks.
"That's the type of reach that I love. That's what research is: it's the significant impact you can have. You see something that policymakers and other influencers can hone in on and say, 'This is unique. We haven't seen this before. And we think it'll be helpful,'" says Jaime.
Jaime's peers and colleagues have also taken note of the impact of her research: she was recently recognized for the unique research that she conducted for her doctoral program, receiving the "2021 Graduate Award for Excellence in Health Systems Research" from the College of Health and Human Services at George Mason University. The faculty in her department noted that Jaime has uniquely "bridged the gap between health informatics and health policy" by designing "high-impact research" that truly exemplifies the health services research field.
Currently, Jaime is working on analyzing COVID data across different groups, as well as continuing her ongoing research on the opioid epidemic, which was part of her dissertation. While at Surescripts, Jaime has visited the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and other government agencies to talk about the importance of legislation around electronic prescriptions for controlled substances.
"I personally gave them my research, and they used it for impactful legislation," she says. "I'm super excited about that."
Growing with Surescripts
Before she joined Surescripts, Jaime was accustomed to balancing various priorities: she worked while in school, then had a family while working and while in school.
"You just balance all of the priorities that you have to juggle," says Jaime. "Part of it is my own self-management. And the other part is being able to really understand the landscape of where I am and connecting the dots."
The Surescripts landscape has been especially conducive to Jaime pursuing impactful work both on and off the job. She has her own vision in terms of the types of research she wants to do, then she looks for signals and opportunities to pursue that vision in ways that align with Surescripts' mission.
Additionally, she credits her relationship-building at Surescripts—with everyone from mentors to peers to her boss— to support her in balancing it all.
"My boss is very, very interested in employee development," she says. "When you have that, you're able to accomplish more."
Jaime has also found an alignment in her interests and Surescripts business needs which has been very rewarding. For example, what she learned in her dissertation was helpful when writing up data briefs for executive leaders and policymakers.
"Whether it's predicting outcomes for the business, or improving client relations and understanding what needs to be addressed, I think of research as being used in every sector of our lives. Whenever we're asking the questions of what, why, and how, research is the key to the answers that lead to quality, improvements, and learnings,'" says Jaime. "I look forward to adding more value and continuing to be engaged in this important work."
A Conversation with Surescripts' Terri Policy
If evening is rolling around and Terri Policy hasn't yet met her step goal, her Apple Watch dings at her. "I get this little cheering on at the end of the day saying to me, 'You can still do it!' And I think, of course I can still do it. I don't need those little pats on the back to meet my goals, particularly when it is something that is important to me," says Terri.
Terri is intrinsically motivated, as you may have figured out, which means she does the things she does without needing or expecting external rewards or validation—not even from Siri.
Terri is a Senior Principal Software Engineer at Surescripts, an organization that has been building a health information network designed to increase safety, lower costs, and improve quality since 2001. She has worked there for the last ten years. And while Terri likes the fact that she gets paid to work there, her salary isn't the thing that gets her out of bed in the morning. It's her passion for software development and diving into code that does that.
We sat down with Terri to talk about how to identify your passion, what intrinsic motivation at work looks like over time, and how Surescripts has fostered an environment of constant learning and curiosity that enables employees to have long careers full of personal and professional evolution.
First, work to identify your passion
In high school, Terri was fortunate that her math teacher acquired a hard to come by and cutting-edge Digital Equipment Corporation computer. Her teacher offered a computer science course which was also unique to that time in technology advancement. She jumped at the chance to sign up for the course. And there has been no looking back for her since.
"It was like a light bulb. I never wanted to do anything else," says Terri, who majored in computer science in college. "I've been incredibly fortunate to have found jobs throughout my career where I get to do heads down software development."
While Terri figured out what kind of work she loved pretty early on, that doesn't mean that every job she ever did was perfect for her. When she had jobs that didn't quite click with her interests, Terri went out and found something that did, and she thinks her approach may work for people struggling to connect with their work. "At one organization, when I realized that [my job] wasn't in my wheelhouse, I looked around and found a group of people that were doing something way more interesting," says Terri, "and I contacted the tech lead directly and let them know that I was really interested in the work that they were doing and inquired about their job openings. I made the connection and was hired to join the team. Sometimes going directly to the hiring manager works, sometimes it doesn't but I was lucky that it worked in this case.
She encourages other women looking for their passion to be equally relentless in seeking it out. "Nobody's going to come and yank you out of your seat and say, 'This is really where you should be' because nobody else really knows what you want to do – only you do. You have to do it yourself. You have to find your own path," she says.
Understand that intrinsic motivation at work is what leads to a long, meaningful career
Terri's passion for software development and opportunities to do the kind of work she is interested in is what has kept her excited to keep showing up to work for the last ten years at Surescripts.
Not everyone has that intrinsic motivation, she notes. This can lead to lots of jumping around over the course of a career, seeking a perfect set of external rewards, like salary and recognition, that may not exist or be fulfilling long term. "There can be a perception that if you want to rise, you can't stay anywhere more than maybe two or three years. And I do not hold that view. For me I find it to be a shortsighted view of a long-term career," says Terri. "There's value in getting experiences at multiple places, but there's also a great deal of value in staying put."
"If all that motivates you is something outside of you, you may always be chasing the next thing because it is generally a fleeting moment, that sense of reward," she adds. She encourages others to find an employer that has a purpose that speaks to you and people that you can relate with. Ask questions when interviewing about internal job movement. Money and title can be important, but it isn't everything.
Make sure you're in an environment that celebrates continuous learning
Terri and her wife have two daughters, and their neighbors have a daughter who is the same age as their eldest and is often at their house. One day, the neighbor's daughter asked Terri what she did for work.
"I didn't try to explain what I do. What I said was that I get to learn something new every day, and that keeps me going," remembers Terri. "I get to do that because Surescripts encourages me to do that." This point is what I value and wanted to convey to this child.
Surescripts gives employees the freedom and resources to identify new areas of study and to dive into them, including by sponsoring employees to go to tech conferences every other year and giving every staff member a Pluralsight license to pursue training programs of interest to them.
"We build large-scale software, and it's complex," says Terri. "It keeps you thinking, it keeps you sharp, and gives you the ability to continue to do deep dives into the technology. That, combined with the ability to learn something new every day and the encouragement I get from the company to constantly learn, those are the things that have kept me at Surescripts."
She encourages junior engineers to find their own intrinsic motivation at work by fostering their sense of curiosity and always being willing to learn. "If you're new, either to a company or your profession, you don't even know what you don't know," she says. Take notes as you are learning, show initiative, go above and beyond. You may end up excelling in your new role or finding that you have passion for another. Another important piece of advice to remember while going through your career, is that "it isn't all about being right. It's about cooperating and being respectful and realizing that other people come at their thought processes from different experiences, origins and perspectives." These perspectives are what brings about awesome ideas and the best products.
It may take some time to find what you love but listen to your inner voice and follow it. Don't be afraid to go after what you want. Ask questions. Show your interest. Provide value to your employer and continually learn no matter what stage of your career you are in. Do your best to take personal ownership for your career but also build relationships along the way so you can find mentors and people who will help advocate for you. This approach has served me well.
If you're interested in working at Surescripts, check out their open roles here.
Healthcare technology is an ever-changing, complex industry, which is consistently in demand, now more than ever. That's why we were thrilled to sit down for a fantastic panel discussion and interactive Q&A session with several women leaders and male allies from Surescripts back in May.
Speakers from Surescripts included:
- Monica Ingudam, Senior Product Analyst
- Eric Kirchstein, Software Development Manager
- Andrea Thomsen, Enterprise Data Services Manager
- Michelle Trombetta, Director of Product Innovation
Want to make a positive impact in healthcare? Surescripts is hiring.
Not to mention, a career with Surescripts means joining a team that values diversity and inclusion. They hire genuinely awesome people with many different personalities, backgrounds and talents that create a work culture that encourages individuals to be themselves, share ideas, work their way and feel like they belong. They provide competitive pay and benefits including health insurance, 401K, a corporate bonus program, and paid time away from work. Plus, they offer lots of ways to grow, learn, and build community. To learn more about Surescripts' values and company benefits, visit their page here.