The CIO of Ameristar Casinos Likes to Gamble, But Not When It Comes to Hiring

Sheleen Quish has hired her share of risky candidates. Sometimes they've worked. Other times they haven't. Overall, her approach to hiring is methodical and pragmatic, and the risks she takes are always calculated.

By John Lamar
Fri, August 15, 2008
Page 3
Well, I later found out that he traveled with his own personal iron and ironing board with him everywhere we went. His vanity was so thick you could cut it with a knife. It was all about him. He was like a rock star making appearances in cities across the country.

Ultimately, I had to fire him. It didnâ¬"t take long. The funny thing is, five years later, I was home sick one day flipping through the TV channels, and there he was on television! He was one of the pitch guys on the Home Shopping Network. I still remember his name.

Did you ever receive training on how to hire?

Not in time for that hiring disaster! I did later, as I moved along in my career, and I worked with companies that were much more evolved. Humana was like being in the Wild West—everything we did was for the first time. I would say my time at Blue Cross Blue Shield allowed me to form a much more organized and methodical approach to hiring. We worked very hard at improving our hiring best practices. I became a conscious student of what I wanted to accomplish with each hire I made. I took it more seriously.

Do you ever interview job seekers who either call you directly or who send a resume directly to you?

No, it is extremely rare. Unless something really jumps out at me on paper, I will pass it on to human resources and have them handle it.

I will tell you about my most rare and risky hire. A woman sent me her résumé cold. I looked at it and thought, 'This is a phenomenal résumé. I have to meet her.' I called her and told her that I didn't have an open position, but that I wanted to meet her and see where we might go from there.

She walked into my office the following week and my mouth dropped to the floor. She was eight and a half months pregnant. I was thinking, 'Oh my God, I could hire her today and she could go into labor tomorrow!' She was such a compelling person. Her story and her experience, just everything about her was incredible. I made the decision to have this person become a part of our team. I just knew she would be back after the birth of her child. And she did return. She has since become a true inspiration and friend to me. She has also gone on to become CEO of multiple companies.

What advice would you give to job seekers about their résumés?

It is amazing how choppy and disorganized résumés can be. Especially in IT, they throw all this technical jargon at you. I really do not care about what kind of programs they know how to run. What I look for is their overall professional objective. What is it they are trying to accomplish? What value can they bring to my organization? The positioning statement is very important. It is like your elevator speech on paper. I like to see it as the first thing on their résumé. I also like to see the work history starting from current position followed by education, etc. Each job listed should clearly communicate the scope of the business, what they were responsible for and what they accomplished. Their accomplishments need to be measurable and need to speak to where they added value in a definitive way.

What about thank you notes? Is e-mail acceptable?

I think the timeliness of thank you notes is crucial. After the interview, get the thank you note out immediately because you don't want the hiring manager to forget who you are. E-mail is fine. You want to acknowledge that you appreciate the time that they spent with you. I would also highlight something that was discussed in the interview.

Let's say a candidate's résumé looks good. They've made it through human resources and they now have a chance to interview with you. Do you have any advice for candidates about how to interview with a chief information officer?

Do not be intimidated by the title. In IT, we tend to all get hung up on titles, but the reality is that the chief information officer is just the leader of a very broad team. Do not be intimidated. Do not be in awe. You should interview the chief information officer as much as you're being interviewed. You need to know whether or not you are going to be a good fit. Ask questions. I routinely have to ask people to ask me questions. Many candidates just talk about themselves and not ask key questions about the culture or about my expectations. So, I will say, "Well, do you have questions for me?" Then they will kind of sit there with no idea what to say or ask.

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