Executive Search 101
The Next Level
If you're an experienced healthcare executive, odds are you'll be contacted by an executive recruiter. Search firms vigilantly scan the landscape for industry leaders who are happy, talented, and successful in their careers. You may not even be looking for a new job. It is often said that the best executive candidates are not in the market. Still, many executives have never worked with a recruiter and are unfamiliar with the overall search process. Understanding how executive recruiters work and demystifying the various phases of a typical search can give you a great advantage in taking your career to the next level.
What is an Executive Recruiter?
Two main types of recruiters exist: contingency and retained. A contingency firm works on the condition that the hiring organization pays no fees unless a candidate is hired. These types of firms usually perform technical and frontline management searches. For top-level positions, a healthcare system will most likely employ a retained executive search firm. A retained firm works "on retainer", accruing an up front fee, from the hiring organization, to carry out a search regardless of outcome or ultimate hire.
The retained executive recruiter is a skilled specialist who often acts as an expert consultant, working in partnership with a healthcare system to find and recruit ideal candidates for specifically-defined positions within the organization. The retained recruiter first analyzes the system, studying its culture , needs and direction, and often helps to define the role an ideal candidate will play. This information is gathered and put into a position specification, which serves as a foundation or template for the search. By ensuring that the right upfront spade work is done at the outset of the search, the recruiter can then present executive candidates who match the organization's strategic goals, culture, and leadership needs.
Why Use an Executive Recruiter?
Healthcare organizations hire executive recruiting firms for a number of reasons. Among them are:
- Lack of qualified internal candidates
- Time pressure to fill key positions
- Recruiter reputation, specialty, and expertise
- Existing successful relationship with recruiter
- Need for a facilitator to manage the selection process
What an Executive Recruiter Can Do For You
An executive recruiter is an experienced professional who can make a crucial difference in finding your ideal job. A good recruiter:
- has established networks and relationships with Thought Leaders in the field
- keeps his/her finger on the pulse of the latest position openings and hiring trends
- can offer you a much broader exposure to the job market
- is committed to strict confidentiality for both employer and employee
- forges a bond of trust and rapport and takes personal interest in you and your career goals
- can accurately assess your market potential and appraise your strengths and weaknesses
- will represent you to prospective employers in a professional manner
- can coach you on interviewing skills and personal presentation
- is able to act as a mediator to straighten out miscommunications or other potential problems between you and the hiring organization
- can act as an expert salary negotiator
- will give you honest feedback and advice if you are not accepted for the position
The Elements of a Search
At the outset of the search, the retained consultant meets with the hiring system's key executives and stakeholders to learn about the organization's strengths, unique qualities, future direction, and culture. At this time, the consultant thoroughly determines the role the new executive will play within the system, defining his/her responsibilities, as well as the expectations for the position. Based upon these meetings, the consultant will then prepare a position specification outlining these responsibilities and objectives, as well as a description of the desired background, experience, and personal characteristics of the new executive.
Next, using trained researchers, association directories, industry contacts, referrals, and targeted sources, the search firm draws up a list of potential candidates for the position. Sometimes busy recruiters will send a mass mailing letter, however it is far less common for a retained search firm to place advertisements in journals or on employment websites. Interested and qualified candidates are asked to come to meet the recruiter for an in-person interview. From these interviews, the consultant will determine the best potential candidates to present to the hiring organization. A written biography and interview summary for each recommended candidate will be prepared. Professional references are called and education is verified.
Following this selection process, the consultant will arrange on-site interviews with the organization's hiring executive and other key stakeholders. The consultant will sometimes be present to facilitate group meetings, mentor the interview process, and gather feedback.
The search consultant then participates in the decision to determine the ideal candidate. Once the final candidate is chosen, the consultant will be available to assist in compensation and benefits negotiations, as well as help with relocation and other transitional needs.
After the search is completed, the search firm will regularly contact the newly hired executive and the hiring organization to help ensure a smooth fit and transition, as well as offer ongoing coaching and counsel to the newly hired executive.
How To Work Effectively With Recruiters
Even if you're not currently looking for a change, it is good career strategy to make yourself visible and accessible to executive recruiters. Exactly how is this done? Career-smart executives get themselves noticed by:
- networking with associates who have already established relationships with recruiters (recruiters often prospect by colleague referrals)
- sharing information with recruiters with whom they have already established a relationship
- recommending colleagues to recruiters
- hiring recruiters to perform searches for their own organizations
- joining industry associations and professional, community, and civic organizations, or serving on committees and boards
- writing articles for trade and professional organizations
- accepting speaking engagements or acting as spokesperson for your current organization
- achieving significant goals, awards, and promotions
- forwarding resumes to recruiters long before the desire for a job change
If you are contacted by a recruiter, it's always best to do your homework before proceeding. Some of the questions you should ask the recruiter are:
- How experienced is the firm?
- Does the firm specialize in your industry or profession?
- Does the firm enjoy a good reputation with a proven track record of completed hires and repeat business?
- What is the recruiter's workload and how will you fit into the schedule?
- Does the firm have excellent references and a record of professionalism?
- Has the firm made a solid commitment to client satisfaction, not only for hiring organizations, but for candidates as well?
- Can you establish a relationship of confidentiality, rapport, and trust with the recruiter?
Although many healthcare executives are unfamiliar with the executive search process, working with a recruiter can be a great advantage in taking your career to the next level. A good recruiter can keep you abreast of the latest position openings, offer you greater exposure to the job market, and act as a skilled advisor for the entire scope of your career. Even if you're not currently looking for a new position, establishing a relationship with a retained executive recruiter can be a vital step forward as you advance in the healthcare industry.