Questions to Ask when Selecting a Healthcare Executive Search Firm

If you are reading this article, chances are you are currently researching the top healthcare executive search firms to begin a talent search engagement. It may seem that there are just too many choices out there. Choosing from the myriad of executive search firms out there does not have to be a daunting task, especially if you know what questions to ask a search firm. If you are armed with these and you know how executive firms work, you will be ready to refine your choices to find a healthcare executive search firm that is more than a mere service provider, you can find a firm that can become your healthcare search partner, one that is truly invested in addressing your needs and helping you to achieve your mission. If you have further questions on how to choose an executive search firm, contact us.

How to Choose an Executive Search Firm

Questions for executive search firms
A Guide on How to Choose an Executive Search Firm

When hospitals, healthcare organizations and health systems have indispensable vacancies to fill, healthcare executive search firms can provide an incredible value when it comes to time and effectiveness. Each second that a key member of your team is absent is not only costly. This kind of vacancy can increase legal, operational, and reputational risk. This makes it even more important to work with a healthcare search partner that is truly committed to your healthcare institution.

The top healthcare recruiters go beyond the basic search functions. Their principals should be there every step of the way and operate with full transparency. You may have many questions to ask when selecting an executive search firm, but those who are there to yield the best results for your search will answer those questions even before you ask. Their team will take the time to get to know your organization, its culture, and current leadership in order to find truly talented people who have the right skills, temperament and are ready to take on your challenge.

Because of how executive search firms work, choosing the right search firm is of the essence. The right healthcare search firm can impact patient safety and satisfaction, turnover rates, and in turn – have a positive impact on your organization’s finances. But these benefits will only come to be if you choose the right firm. Make note of these questions to ask when evaluating healthcare executive search firms:

Questions to Ask Healthcare Executive Search Firms

Here is a list of questions you should ask before choosing an executive recruitment firm for your C-suite and executive healthcare vacancies:

How do you conduct your search process?

It is important that you have a full understanding of the search process your executive search firm will undertake when working on an engagement to fill a healthcare executive vacancy. You will want to have a clear understanding of each step the search firm’s consultants will take when conducting the search. That includes how they will get to know your company and its needs, how they identify, attract, and close candidates, how they will conduct and assist with interviews and visits, and how they will help with the transition process. You will also want to understand if the search firm will be available after the completion of the search engagement if any issues should arise.

At Summit Talent Group, we give a brief description of our process on our website, but because we believe in full transparency, we follow a proven 6-step process to complete our searches. That begins with a clearly outlined view into that process and how it will be applied to your search engagement. We also create a detailed timeline that gives each of our clients a projection of when each milestone will be achieved. This helps our clients to prepare their team for the arrival of the new healthcare leader.

You will want to ask who will be leading the search. Will it be the principal assigned to your search, or does the firm delegate important search tasks to less experienced team members. You should also ask how communications will be handled, and what type of reporting will be expected.

Is the Firm National or Regional?

True talent is in high demand. This means that the majority of times, the right fit in leadership will not be local and will already be working at another healthcare organization. Because of this, one of the most important questions to ask a search firm is the territory they cover. Your healthcare search firm should have a reach that is national so that when you are looking to fill a vacant C-level executive position you have a larger pool of qualified candidates to choose from. This question goes in tandem with asking how deep the network of the search consultants at the search firm is. You want to be confident that the firm can go the distance when searching for top candidates to present for your position.

Does that mean that you need to work with a large healthcare search firm? Not necessarily. A smaller, boutique healthcare executive search firm may have a better reach. It is not the number of offices that makes the difference.  Smaller firms tend to take on fewer engagements and as such are able to devote more attention to your search engagement. Ask the firms you are considering to show you some historics on prior engagements so that you have a full grasp as to how strong their reach is and where they are able to recruit talent from.

Who is on the Recruitment Team?

It is incredibly important to ask about experience. It makes sense that the people who will be working on your search for healthcare talent have experience in healthcare and healthcare human resources. You need a team that comprehends the many challenges that are particular to healthcare. Start by requesting the credentials for each of the principals at the team. Follow up with a quick LinkedIn search to check for accuracy and for recommendations on the network. Your executive search team should have experience in human resources, retained search, and in healthcare.

Ask About Recently Closed Engagements

The best way to evaluate your healthcare executive search firm is to ask about their recently closed engagements. Ask them about the process, the job titles, and the areas of healthcare where the talent was placed. This will help you to get an idea as to their experience, and areas of expertise.

Is the Firm Prudent and Discrete?

You need to have complete trust in the executive search firm that will ultimately become your partner. They should be more than just service providers and should use the utmost level of professionalism and discretion while conducting searches. You will want to be sure that your searches will be executed with care, discretion, and that the firm will care for the privacy of your firm, its stakeholders, and team.

How Deep of a Discovery Do they Perform

There are two parts to this discovery question.

First, you will want to know what type of discovery they will perform when it comes to you internally. Your firm should take the time to get to know every aspect of your organization. They should know your team, your mission, your strengths, and weaknesses. They need to also have a full grasp on the position to be filled, its immediate team members, related departments, and more. Having this knowledge will help them to better understand the type of individual who will be good both on paper and culturally in order to help you achieve your mission.

The second aspect of this discovery is how they vet their talent. You want to be certain that the search firm is conducting comprehensive checks so that they can gain a full understanding of the candidates. The last thing you want is an unpleasant surprise after making such an important time and financial investment.

How Does the Firm Communicate

You will want to have a clear vision of how the executive search firm will communicate with you as well as with the potential hires. Oftentimes, there will be sensitive aspects of a search engagement and the executive search firm that is engaged to complete the search needs to understand what they are able and not able to share with potential candidates and at what point of the engagement they should do so.

What happens after the search is complete?

Does the engagement end once you have chosen a candidate? Absolutely not. Your search firm should be there to assist with the transition period. They should be there should any issues arise once the chosen candidate has started working. If you are working with one of the best executive search firms, there should not even be a need for this, but you should feel sure that you are hiring a healthcare search partner, not a service provider that up and leaves once the “search” has been completed.

What are their references?

There is nothing more telling as to an executive search firm’s reputation than the willingness of their previous clients to speak for them. Testimonials are a great barometer as to the relationships they have been able to build. Check through their past engagements. Do you see the same organizations utilizing them over and over again? This is a great sign that the firm you are about to engage has a great reputation and does fantastic work. If you get to speak with former or current clients, ask about the healthcare recruiter’s responsiveness, how happy they were with the results of the search engagement, and how urgently they looked at the client’s needs.

Work with Healthcare Executive Search Firm Summit Talent Group

If you have been researching the leading healthcare executive search firms, we hope you consider the team at Summit Talent Group. We are a boutique executive search firm that focuses exclusively on the healthcare realm. Because we value our reputation, our principals devote themselves to each search engagements. This means limiting the number of engagements we take, having our principals lead the search, unlike other firms that delegate important search tasks to less experienced team members and committing ourselves to full transparency. We hope to hear from you soon and look forward to becoming your healthcare search partners. 

As Operations Manager for Summit Talent Group, Kyle is the primary resource for preparing client and candidate interview materials and supports the recruiting team with scheduling, organizing travel, and project management. She manages the office administrative function, including client contracts, proposals, invoicing and billing. Kyle also maintains the public website, manages all of the company’s technology and database tools, and researches innovative applications to ensure efficient recruitment operations. She is a graduate of Howard Community College in Columbia, MD, with an Associate Degree in Business Administration.