Cynthia Nustad has served since February 2011 as SVP and CIO at HMS Holdings, which offers cost-containment services to commercial and government health-insurance payers. HMS specializes in coordinating benefits (verifying the right payers pay claims) and program integrity (making sure claims are paid appropriately).
Last year, HMS recovered $3.2 billion for clients and saved them billions more by preventing erroneous payments. As a company with significant investments in data, HMS relies on an IT team that is growing by double digits. Nustad describes how she hires IT staff members who fit the company's culture.
What's the culture at HMS like?
We bring solutions to the healthcare marketplace that reduce waste and inefficiency. It's an important mission; a nonpartisan group estimates that the U.S. healthcare system wastes about $750 billion a year. Through constant improvement and ongoing technological investments, we're addressing that significant problem and helping to improve the system for everyone.
What's the best way to ensure that new recruits will fit in?
We highly value our current employees and their personal and professional networks. We offer reward incentives for referrals from employees as a way to drive a shared culture. We also find that new hires are more successful when they were referred by another employee because there is an added level of accountability to the employee that made the referral.
How do you tell whether someone will rally around the company cause?
We share our company story and what drives our business and then see what the candidate offers in conversation about their experiences with the healthcare system. We might ask, "Was there a time when you were able to help drive technological development for the betterment of others?" We also ask whether they've applied cost-effective technology to solve business problems rather than installing technology for technological advancement. As a fast and dynamic company, we also ask about their ability to take action rather than wait for approval.
Do you hire from certain industries?
For the IT department, we hire from all industries, but because of our great need for deep data and analytics skills, we're especially interested in experienced hires from consumer companies. That industry has been investing in big data and listening to their customers for years. HMS can offer this highly sought-after talent a mission that focuses on making a difference in people's lives by creating value in the healthcare system.
Do you put each hire through an online assessment for interpersonal and cultural fit?
We use these tools more at the senior leadership level than middle management or college hiring. They offer some value, but I find the input of my peers and my team to be of greatest value. They know the culture and the team dynamics best and can provide me with the feedback I need to make a hiring decision. I'm not necessarily looking for unanimity, but the feedback also helps reinforce our culture. An online assessment tool can't do this. Generally, we like our talent-acquisition process to include panel interviews and peer feedback so that we listen to all inputs to find the best employee fit for our team.
Phil Schneidermeyer is a partner with Heidrick & Struggles, where he specializes in recruiting CIOs and CTOs for all industries.