Healthcare Executive Search: 8 Step Guide to Success

Healthcare Executive Search: 8 Step Guide to Success

The healthcare industry has gained a lot of traction in terms of attracting talent in the past year as executives looking to make a truly lasting impact have been drawn to healthcare and life science companies. With the COVID-19 pandemic still amidst, healthcare industry executives and those in other industries are rethinking their careers, the companies they work for, and considering a shift. 

“The healthcare industry has seen massive changes over the last several years as many organizations have undergone transformations to better serve patients in the new digital area. This in conjunction with the current COVID climate have fuelled demand and competition for senior talent. A cost of hiring the wrong leader can cause serious setbacks in an environment that is most likely already under stress”

Paresh Mistry, Managing Partner, Toronto – Keynote Search

In addition to the executives themselves, hiring organizations in the healthcare industry are rethinking the makeup of their executive leadership team as they try to capitalize on the growth and focus on the industry. Do the executives currently in place have innovative mindsets and have the skills needed to lead technological advancements to meet the current realities of the industry?

We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help healthcare organizations explore the executive recruitment process to find the right people to lead the company to achieve future success of the organization. 

Step 1 – Creating search alignment for a healthcare industry executive search 

The key to success in any executive recruitment process is to achieve alignment from the very beginning. The vision of the organization, mandate for the leadership position and how it fits into achieving your organization’s objectives needs to be considered. Taking an analytical approach to the needs of your organization, uncovering your strengths and weaknesses, and what innovations are necessary for growth will greatly increase the success of your hiring process. 

Understanding what success looks like as well as the objectives and expectations of your new healthcare leader will assist in identifying the right skills, experience and traits needed for the role. This understanding will provide the necessary baseline to assess potential candidates in your executive recruitment process. 

“Leaders from industries that have a focus on the customer experience like retail and hospitality can complement your executive team. You currently have medical experts in the makeup of your executive leadership team, building out talent with experts in customer service will help drive a better patient experience.

– Maura Dyer, Vice President, Talent – Extendicare Inc.

Step 2 – Creating a plan and search committee for a healthcare industry executive search

With critical hires there tends to be a lot of demand from other members of the leadership team to be involved in the executive recruitment process. There needs to be a smaller search committee created who will take an active role in the selection process and ultimately be responsible for providing a final recommendation to the executive leadership team and/or Board. 

Who should be a part of the search committee? 

The executive recruitment process will take some time. It won’t happen overnight where you post the role online and have an influx of qualified executive candidates. Typically, there needs to be an executive headhunting approach to find qualified candidates that fit with the position profile that is created. The recruitment process will likely take 2-3 months so it is important that those involved can commit to the full executive recruitment process. In the healthcare industry, the committee will typically consist of the senior most leader in the human resources or talent acquisition department (i.e. CHRO or VP) as well as a member of the senior leadership team (i.e. CEO, COO, CFO), and/or a senior executive from the department that is hiring (i.e. Chief Medical Officer, Chief Information Officer). If it is a C-Suite role like CEO or CFO, typically Board members will also be selected to take part in the process.  

One member of the selection committee should be appointed the ultimate decision-maker if there is conflict in the process as to who the successful candidate should be.

Step 3 – Hiring an Executive Search Firm

A search firm who is experienced in executive recruitment can complement the search committee and support the hiring decision. Extensive stakeholder consultations with the executive search firm will help the selection committee identify the key criteria needed for the new executive and how this hire can help support the vision for the organization. 

There will always be a list of skills and experience required, and a discussion can help identify what are the must haves versus the nice to haves and how these tie into success for the organization. This will help in a targeted headhunting strategy for the executive search firm as they craft outreach and develop a clear value proposition and compelling reason as to why a possible executive candidate should consider the opportunity. Working with an experienced executive search firm will also help to set a clear road map for the search, expectations and timelines. The executive search firm should also be able to provide valuable insight and current market industry trends to help develop the strategy for the executive search. 

Step 4 – Attracting executives

When conducting executive searches you cannot rely on job advertisements. In doing so, you are limiting your company to those executives that are actively looking for new roles, this number is typically less than 20% of the potential talent pool! 

You have to think broadly and beyond people you might know for the role. To ensure diversity, equity and inclusion in the executive search process, talent mapping will provide greater insight into where you might find someone with the skills for the role and where your future leader might currently be employed.

“Think outside of the industry and consider non-traditional healthcare executive candidates. The healthcare industry is going through a transformation and will see high growth in the coming years – look at executives with key transferable skills and a proven track record undergoing industry transformations. These executives will understand the challenges of changing demands, what works, and how to successfully leverage and adapt technology.”

– Maura Dyer, Vice President, Talent – Extendicare Inc.

It is now time to think like a marketer. Understand your employee value proposition and be able to articulate this to candidates – this will be your differentiator. Give executive candidates a compelling reason to have a conversation with you, think about what’s in it for them.

Step 5 – Ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion in the search process

A key aspect in your healthcare industry executive search is to ensure diversity exists in your hiring process. Identify and remove potential biases in the sourcing, screening and shortlisting of candidates. In order to ensure diversity in your hiring process, you need to analyze your data and understand where you are today. Review any documentation you will be sending to potential candidates. Studies have found that the language you use can help attract or turn off diverse candidates. Understand your search criteria as many of the usual criteria for screening such as their prior company, education, or their personal connection, often decrease the diversity of the candidate pipeline. Take regular stock of the pool – notice early if you lack diversity in your executive search process, do not wait until you get to the shortlist to make adjustments so you have the strongest and most diverse pool of candidates possible. Ensure that the executive search firm you are working with has a diversity policy in place, a proven track record of sourcing a diverse talent pool and don’t rely on an outdated database – better yet find an executive search firm who does not use a database to ensure a fully inclusive and diverse search.

Step 6 – Assessing executive candidates

Interviews are the most common method of assessing executive candidates for a new role. It is important to prepare for an interview ahead of time so that you can assess executive candidates properly. Prepare an interview schedule that provides time for discussion on career history, time for predetermined questions, discussion of your organization and the role, and questions from the executive candidates themselves.

“Candidates that are clearly able to articulate through their resume and interview process how they are a good fit for the position, how their experience relates, and transferable skills will be noticed early and throughout the process. I find many candidates are in a rush to download their experience and lose sight of the role requirements. Candidates that are able to clearly draw connections between their work history and the job requirements, will have a greater chance at success.”

– Omar Osmani, RPR, Consultant, Talent Management – Trillium Health Partners

When considering questions to ask, think about the attributes you identified as essential requirements before you began the search. For example – must have a proven track record for implementing innovative processes to improve efficiencies – Questions – Tell me about a time you implemented new processes to improve efficiencies? What innovations or technology did you put in place? How did you ensure a positive outcome?

Make sure that you allow enough time for the interview, you will likely need an average of 90 minutes for each interview. Stick to the agenda, this will be important to ensure you are evaluating each candidate fairly and objectively. Interviews will naturally take their own course – ensure that you have certain questions you will ask each candidate and evaluate their answers against one another.

If you are interviewing in-person, think about the logistics, you do not want potential candidates meeting in the lobby. Given our current climate, we are often interviewing via video conference, this can be challenging for a panel style interview. Prepare ahead of time who will take which questions, ideally everyone involved will actively participate. We highly recommend where possible, conducting the final interviews in-person with the right precautions and measures to protect everyone.

Step 7 – Making an offer

The selection committee will need to come to a consensus on who they would like to hire and make this recommendation to the entire leadership team and/or Board. Ensure that you can justify your decision and demonstrate the fair and equitable process you went through to identify the successful executive candidate. Understand before you extend an offer what the compensation expectations of the executive candidate are. Think of the compensation package holistically, it should not be focused on base salary alone. Things that are typically important to be aware of are the candidates base salary, any bonus expectations, what they expect in terms of benefits, vacation allowance, sick days, pension or RRSP, equipment provided, location, flexibility, hours of work – these are all part of the offer discussion.

Be prepared to negotiate, especially in the current climate and understand the risks from a potential counter offer from their current employer.

Step 8 – Post-Placement Integration for a healthcare industry executive candidate

How do you ensure the success of a new leader?

A successful integration and onboarding process will greatly increase the chance of a positive hiring outcome. You should start the onboarding process before the new executive starts. It should be done shortly after you have identified the right candidate and they have accepted the offer.

Have your new executive meet the team and allow time for casual conversations ahead of time. Designate one or two members who will be accessible before they start and provide the incoming executive any additional information that will help set them up for success on day 1.

Be open and upfront with them, if there are challenges they will face when they start, make them aware ahead of time. Once they have started, set clear and achievable goals, make sure they know what success in the role means and how they will be measured against it.

“It is not unusual to need a course correction, but it is important to recognize when one is required and address it in a timely manner. Having alignment between the organization and the new executive is critical to production and to enjoying the work.”

Brenda Kirkwood, Director of Post-Placement – Keynote Search

Set time aside in the first 3 months to complete regular touchpoints that are focused on assessing their success. Give your executive time to acclimatize to the role – integration does not happen overnight. Make sure they have a support system either from the leadership team, Board, or from an external coach or mentor. Provide feedback on what is working and where there is room for improvement. Communication is key.