Navigating Today’s HIM Job Market

By Barbara E. Arnold, MBA, RHIT, APR

 

Whether you’re looking to land your first job, execute a career pivot for work/life balance, or move up to the next rung on the health information management (HIM) career ladder, knowing how to navigate today’s HIM job market is a must. This two-part article series will share wisdom from three credentialed HIM professionals with more than 60 years of combined experience (including as hiring managers), discussing tried-and-true tips for HIM job seekers at any level in today’s changing career landscape. This first installment will cover the importance of education and credentials for HIM professionals, skills employers are seeking in job candidates, and how to craft a resume that will put your best foot forward. The second installment, posting next week, will discuss how to develop your social media presence, how to ace the interview process, and staying engaged with lifelong learning and networking.

Three credentialed HIM professionals—with more than 60 years combined experience, including as hiring managers—recently shared their tried and true tips for HIM job seekers at any level in today’s changing career landscape.

  • Julie Hable, MBA, RHIA, operations manager, health information management, Mayo Clinic
  • Wil Limp, MS, RHIA, CHTS-TR, program director, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
  • Emmy Johnson, RHIA, vice president of operations and client relations, Gebbs Healthcare Solutions

Hable

Limp

Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Professionals looking to either start or expand their career in the healthcare sector have a promising horizon ahead of them. HealthcareFinance.com reported that in 2018, the US healthcare sector added more jobs than any other sector of the economy, according to Wil Limp, MS, RHIA, CHTS-TR, program director, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Sixteen million jobs—11 percent of the total workforce—were added, including 219,000 in ambulatory and 107,000 in hospitals.

“The job market for healthcare in 2019 and beyond in the United States is even more promising, according to both HealthcareFinance.com and the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” he continued. “Healthcare is projected to grow 18 percent in 2019 with two millions jobs added, including 28,000 medical records and health information technicians, 72,000 medical and health services managers, 20,000 health educators, 44,000 computer and information systems managers, and 115,000 management consultants. Growth is expected in the US healthcare sector through 2026 largely due to aging baby boomers.”

 

Education and Credentials Are Advantageous

Education—an associate’s degree and/or bachelor’s degree—is advantageous to job seekers. At least 20 percent of HIM professionals should have graduate degrees in either HIM, informatics, business, or public health. In addition,obtaining critical HIM credentials and retaining certification through continuing education is a must for any successful HIM professional. With two AHIMA exams under her belt (RHIA/RHIT), Emmy Johnson, RHIA, vice president of operations and client relations for Gebbs Healthcare Solutions, shared six tips for the RHIT exam which can be used for any exam:

  • BREATHE!
  • Understand the content. Questions in the exam are random.
  • Study everything. Specific cases, laws, statistics, and key dates are referenced.
  • Supplement coursework with AHIMA’s online practice exams, prep guide, and online prep course.
  • Keep track of time. There are 1.4 minutes per question for the RHIT exam.
  • Understand the scoring. The RHIT exam has 150 questions. Only 130 are graded. Twenty are beta questions for possible use in future exams. The RHIT current passing scale is 400/500.
Skills Matter

“One of the biggest challenges for employers and job applicants today is the matching of skill sets—both in hard technical skills and soft behavioral skills,” Limp said. “That you have computer skills and are tech-savvy are assumed; no need to list proficiency in Microsoft Suite on your resume anymore.

“Employers nowadays are looking for proficiency in five soft skills, according to LinkedIn Learning, which lists 50,000 different skills,” he continued. “They are: 1) Creativity, 2) Persuasion, 3) Collaboration, 4) Adaptability, and 5) Time Management. Job applicants can’t simply list these words on their resume; they need to be able to show by example.”

Surprisingly, Limp noted, written/verbal communication is not in the top five. Yet they are critically important in healthcare.

“How are you at communicating to multiple audiences? Can you write and talk at different levels of education? How successful are you at having those critical conversations with staff, patients and their families, and the general public?” he asked.

Your Resume Is Valuable Real Estate

Recruiters taking a first pass at a resume, or an applicant fitting into a one-size-fits-all resume, are things of the past. Software programs called Applicant Tracking Systems are now the first to review a resume. They are programmed to search for particular key words associated with a particular job posting or position description. And if there is a match, then an actual recruiter or hiring manager might actually review the resume… for a mere six seconds. As a result, job applicants today need to customize their resumes to specific positions and mirror exact key words from the posting or description. That’s how to get the resume in front of a real live human being, who will skim it and then move it or toss it. The resume is valuable real estate. Every word needs to count.

Limp and Johnson shared their advice on what makes a great resume:

Limp’s top tips include:

  • Tell your story. What makes you stand out? Study the job posting or position description to use key words for skills the employer is seeking rather than key words employees might use.
  • Replace the “Objective Statement” with a “Profile” or “Summary.” Make this an elevator pitch, what a job candidate says when s/he has the ear of someone on an elevator for 30 seconds.
  • List achievements in two to four bullet points focusing on quantitative achievements, such as money saved or made, or work that came in on time and/or under budget, for example.
  • Eliminate “References Available Upon Request.” Recruiters will reach out for that info if needed.

Johnson’s top tips include:

  • Use RHIT-eligible, RHIA-eligible after your name to emphasize credentials prior to passing the exam.
  • Make the resume clear, concise, and easy to read. New graduates’ resumes should be one page. Others, no more than two. Update it regularly.
  • Provide a summary, and describe education, skills, qualifications, and work experience. A summary or objective statement aren’t required but provides the reader with a quick overview of the applicant. Make it count.
  • Resume language should be specific, active, written to express, articulate, not flowery, and fact-based (quantify and qualify).

 

The second installment of this two-part article, posting next week, will discuss how to develop your social media presence, how to ace the interview process, and staying engaged with lifelong learning and networking.

Barbara E. Arnold, MBA, RHIT, APR, is principal of Barbara E. Arnold, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in organizational change management, marketing and public relations, and administrative and editorial support, among other services. A mid-career changer, she is a recent graduate of the Chippewa Valley Technical College in Health Information Management Technology and is based in the Eau Claire, WI area.

6 Comments

  1. I am trying to land my first coding job, but reading the graduate degree part; I have my graduate degree in mental health. Certification in CBCS, and working towards my CCA by taking CPT Coding Part 1 through the AHIMA Academy. I have also taken other classes through my local university. Question are my chances low to obtain employment?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Melisande,
      Great question…and one that is extremely common. I hear this from many of my students who, like you, are looking to shift careers. You do have the advantage of having a healthcare background already. You should also be applauded for taking the steps to earn additional credentials in coding…CBCS and CCA. The first piece of advice I give students is to research the organizations in your area and see what credentials they require. It appears that you have done that. My second piece of advice is to not expect to land a high paying, stay-at-home coding position right out of the gate. As you are aware, the way to land those more attractive coding positions is through training (you are doing that) and with hands-on proven coding experience. You will most likely have to start off either working for a smaller facility/clinic with ancillary cases or if you are fortunate enough to land a position at a larger organization, you will most likely start with ER or ancillary cases. The fact that you are learning CPT coding is a good decision. The third piece of advice I give students is to NETWORK! Find ways to network with local professionals in your area. Get to know people who can help you find career opportunities. Most coding jobs are found through networking. I’m sure your own professional network may have connections to coding opportunities. Don’t overlook the people you know and then get to know more people who are doing the work that you want to do.

      Bottom line, your chances are very good that you will find employment as a medical coder because of your healthcare background and your willingness to continue your education and training, but your expectations need to be realistic to start out. As you gain coding experience, your opportunities will increase.

      Please feel free to reach if you have more questions.
      Wil

      Post a Reply
  2. One question – how does one verify claims of accomplishment? Example – I claim that as a HIM Director, the DNFB was reduced by X. One can’t produce reports for that she to proprietors ‘ rights and maybe HIPAA if there’s PHO on them. Will the employer take the candidate’s word on these?

    Post a Reply
    • Great question Lance.
      It is up to the hiring manager to take into consideration all parts of the applicant’s background: credentials, experience and other items on the resume and cover letter to determine if they believe what the applicant states is true…then make a decision to bring the person in for an interview. Remember, the resume and cover letter are tools to get you in the door. The interview should be the final determinant.

      From my experience, you can generally tell if someone is being transparent while you are talking to them in the interview. If I list a project on my resume/cover letter, I expect the hiring manager to ask me about it. The project will most likely be something that you are proud of and can easily talk about without producing reports or specifics.

      A last step for the hiring manager is the reference check. Before an offer is made, the applicant’s references should be able to help verify information listed on the resume as well.

      Bottom line, the applicant should always be truthful. A good hiring manager following good hiring practices should be able to see through B.S.

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  3. If you are applying for a government position, the resume needs to be more detailed which may result in more than one to two pages – especially if you have been in the workforce for a while or have been involved in a number of applicable extra-curricular activities or projects. It is recommended that the resume builder be used when applying for government jobs.

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you for pointing that out Gilda. I am working with a couple of folks from the VA in Madison, WI on a webinar project we will be presenting this coming September. The topic is “Alternative HIM and HIT Career Options.” Part of the presentation will focus on the application process for the VA.

      You are absolutely correct…the resume and submission processes is different for the VA than it is for other more “traditional” organizations.

      I definitely recommend that anyone interested in pursuing VA or Government careers, that you take the time to learn more about the process. Understanding the process will not only help you get in the door, but it could be the difference between job grades and salary.

      https://www.vacareers.va.gov/ApplicationProcess/NavigatingHiringProcess

      Post a Reply

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