What Establishes Talent in a C-Suite Recruit?

An executive director doing some paperwork while standing in the office.

Placing the right leadership for your organization can mean the difference between simply operating and making a significant difference in the lives of the people you serve. Executive talent is never easy to find, but in the Life Sciences space, it is even more of a challenge due to high burnout and turnover rates.

An individual may excel in a clinical setting, but may not be cut out to lead at the c-suite level. In theory, they may seem like the perfect fit–they know your people and the issues you face on a daily basis, they understand the mission and objectives, but they may lack the key qualities we look for in our executive leaders. For a high-level placement to succeed, the fit needs to be just right for your culture and your clinical focus, but how do you quantify this and what are the marks they need to hit?

Cultural Fit

Your choice of a Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Medical Officer, or any other c-level position is legacy-creating. The right or the wrong person can impact your business operations and reputation for years to come. For this reason, choosing the right person for the job is absolutely crucial.

Having a great cultural fit is a small part of the bigger picture, but it may be the most important. While it may be hard to define, a cultural misfit will be easy to determine. The basis of culture is found in the alignment of beliefs and behaviors to the company’s values and mission.

Your leaders, while they may not be in the trenches with the clinicians and practitioners, need to have a deep understanding of what motivates the team. They should also be able to implement changes in such a way that it does not disrupt a functioning culture and they should also be able to introduce new ideas and methodologies successfully, fostering an atmosphere of respect and confidence among the rest of the team.

Ask yourself this: what qualities does my company culture possess that need to be reflected and supported in its leadership? Innovation, efficiency, customer service, and communication are all highly desirable traits. Technology and learning could also play an important role in shaping your culture. If you can describe your culture, alignment with these traits should be a prerequisite.

Experience and Background

Experience is important, but what kind of experience is the most important? Is it more important to hire experienced executives for executive positions, or is it preferable to hire physicians with no executive experience? do you hire internally, or conduct your search externally?

The answers are as complex as the question and what works for one organization may not work for another.

While Candidate A may have a long history of executive experience, but they may not be as sensitive to your objectives and they may not have the vision required to advance your mission. They have successfully driven myriad organizations to improved financial and operational outcomes, but they don’t fully understand your clinical focus.

Candidate B may be a physician who has displayed excellent leadership qualities and who already has a relationship with your clinical team. In this case, it may be a good cultural fit, but they may be too mission-driven, or too focused on improving a single aspect of your services to provide thought leadership in the organizational realm.

Either of these candidates has potential, but if you had to choose one, which would it be? Further investigation is necessary.

We might agree that they both share some key characteristics:

  • Integrity
  • Empathy
  • Vision
  • Optimism
  • Curiosity
  • Management experience

Beyond these, their must-have skills should include:

They have the ability to motivate. Top leaders need to be able to ask the hard questions and push for change when and where it’s needed. They should be able to motivate others to take up their cause and see it through to its fruition.

They are relationship-focused. Obtaining results in a healthcare setting begins with trust. The only way to get physicians, clinical leaders, and nurses on the front lines to be open is to establish trust through open communication. If a leader comes from another industry, this is even more difficult as there will be a perception that they don’t really understand what the issues are. A relationship-focused leader will transcend these barriers to bridge the gap.

They have operational experience. Having a background that includes organizational transformation is very desirable in a leader. Knowing what may impede progress is an important part of knowing how to avoid them. A good leader will foresee these issues and steer the organization away from them.

They should be respectful of how far you’ve already come. Beware the leader who seeks to establish change right away. The ability to take a step back and observe processes is important, as even if they are flawed, there may be a rationale as to why things are the way they are. A confident leader will realize that it takes time to understand the complexities of the operation and will learn as much as he or she can before implementing any sweeping changes.

Finding your next healthcare executive doesn’t have to be painful. If you are interested in speaking to one of our Life Sciences headhunters about your recruiting needs, call Pact and Partners today.

Know What You Want Before You Start Recruiting

professional business people working on business project in office

Before beginning any important task or endeavor, preparation is essential. This stands true for pretty much everything, from professional sports to a presentation for your sales team and everything in between. Knowing what your objectives are before diving in is the key to success.

The alternative–not knowing or being able to articulate exactly what you need to accomplish–will only lengthen the process and may require continual adjustment along the way. Since your time is valuable, it’s in your best interests to do some of the legwork prior to setting out, that way, not a moment will be wasted.

This philosophy holds true for executive recruiting as much as it does for a press conference. If you are just beginning the recruitment process, ask yourself: do you know what it is you are trying to accomplish? What does your ideal candidate look like and what is the role he or she will need to fulfill relative to other employees and departments?

Articulating this role may necessarily involve bringing others into the conversation. Discussions need to be had with regard to skills, experience, culture, budget, and salaries prior to launching a recruiting initiative. You will need to include others from the team into which you are hiring and ensure that their needs are going to be met.

All this should take place before you speak to a recruiter. It’s a time-consuming and costly process, but the right preparation on your part will drastically narrow the scope of your search and allow you to focus solely on the candidates who are a good fit.

“I will know the right person when I meet them” and other self-defeating statements

If what it boils down to is the “I’ll know it when I see it” mentality, you’re already off on the wrong foot. If you’re counting on a hunch to guide your decisions, you may be unduly lengthening the process and wasting a lot of your own and others’ time and effort. The truth is, your recruiter can’t climb inside your head to understand what this ideal looks and sounds like, so you will need to make an effort to help them. Giving them some kind of basis from which to base their search always helps.

Arguably, one of the biggest issues in managing the recruitment process is that many employers first seek to replace like with like. When one employee leaves, you make an effort to replace them with somebody of the same or similar ilk. But, have you considered exactly what that person was doing? Were they taking on tasks outside of their “official” job description? Has the position evolved during their tenure, and is that job description still valid?

Soft skills, unseen attributes

Quite often, a high-level management or executive position requires a skill set beyond the actual job description. Depending on the individual, they may have evolved their job description considerably during the time they were in it.

Over time, you may have come to depend on their insight on specific tasks though it may not have been part of the scope of the job they were originally hired for. Being able to identify these details in advance will allow you to think outside the box when recruiting – and will give your recruiter something to run with. After all, a recruiter only knows what you tell them. The more you can share, the more efficient the process will be.

Actionable steps to a successful recruitment process

If we can now agree that preparation is the key to recruitment success, let’s look at some steps you can take to get that process off to a good start.

1. Seek the input of all stakeholders

Especially if you are filling a position that has already been vacated, you may not be aware of everything that person was doing. Speak to management and other high-level colleagues and find out what the real value proposition consists of. Are there others that are functioning in that role already? What are the gaps you are trying to fill?

2. What kind of person are you seeking?

Beyond experience and skills, you must understand the culture you are recruiting into. Culture often may include micro-cultures within the greater culture. Your new hire must mesh with the established culture, so the personality fit is going to be crucial. Who are they going to report to? Who is going to report to them? What are the issues or barriers, as you see them?

3. How will we evaluate each candidate?

Having a well-defined set of standards and criteria will help your recruiter more easily benchmark a candidate’s skills. It makes for a more streamlined process if everybody is using the same standards during the evaluation process.

4. What are we willing to offer to the right candidate?

The job market is very competitive in life sciences. Beyond salaries, you should have an idea of what you are willing to offer your ideal candidate. Are there areas in which you are willing to be flexible, or are there perks you can offer that would make your proposal even more attractive? Find out what your top competitors offer and see if you can compete.

Walk through these steps thoughtfully and you will be well on your way to a successful recruiting process. Your results will be more consistent and you will reach the finish line with a minimum of stress and wasted time.

If you have any questions or comments, call to speak to one of our recruiters today.

Are You a Good Company to Work For?

I love my job written on a chalkboard at the office

The recruitment and hiring process is long and complicated. The higher up the ladder you are trying to recruit, the more complex the process and the shallower the gene pool you have to work with. When the talent is that narrow, competition is pretty stiff, and it’s simply not enough to be able to offer a position with a salary and sundry benefits attached to it–you’ve got to stand out from your competition or you’ll risk being passed up for greener pastures.

With a largely millennial workforce starting to hit its stride, you almost have to start thinking like one of them to see if you’re stacking up. Knowing how these thought processes work can help–not saying you need to give them free daycare, a fancy massage chair or offer them free haircuts and gourmet catering–but have you ever posed this question to yourself:

Are we a good company to work for? And what do we have to offer that is head and shoulders above the rest?

Money Isn’t Everything

Say what you will about millennials, they are slowly taking over the workforce. By 2020, half of the world’s workforce will be millennial and that’s a mere two years from now.

Millennials think differently than their parents or grandparents did. They care less about money than they do about their ideals and this is no different in healthcare than it is in the corporate world. Many would choose a position where they were confident they would be making a difference to the people they serve over a lofty title and a high salary.

Sure, the salary is important, but it’s no longer enough. They want to be involved. They want to feel like their work is meaningful, that their ideas are valued, and that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Above all, they don’t want to feel like they’re pushing water uphill.

In fact, most would take a fairly large pay cut in return for having a few key needs met. Some of these might include:

Better Work-Life Balance

This could be as simple as allowing for a more flexible schedule. If it’s possible for you to offer this, there are several key advantages for you as well:

  • They will be happier and will likely stay in the position longer
  • They will be more motivated to bring organizational solutions to the table
  • They will inspire those around them simply because they are happy

Corporate Social Responsibility

Millennials have been shaping global attitudes towards corporate responsibility for some time now and with $2.4 trillion in current spending power, it’s a trend that is only going to grow. If such a candidate had the choice between an organization that was known for its commitment to helping drug-addicted mothers get into recovery so they can keep their children, for example, or a program to stop elder abuse–philanthropy for any reason, in fact–they then become a part of that good. Authenticity is key. What is your company doing to give back to the community? Whatever it is, it could represent an opportunity you may have never thought of before.


In a marked shift from previous generations, millennials consider themselves to be religiously ambiguous, politically moderate, and culturally curious. Companies that are known for their inclusion programs or diversity in any form are often more attractive as a result. In many clinical settings, this is not much of an issue, but it’s the resulting culture and how it works together that really sets the tone. How does your leadership interact with its diverse workforce? Is there strength in its diversity, or is it divisive?

Company Culture

Your culture says a lot about your company. It’s the lifeblood and the personality of your organization and is a mirror into the deepest machinations of what you do. In a healthcare setting, it’s also a basis for positive clinical outcomes and can be reflected in internal communications, operations, and ultimately, client satisfaction. Past generations cared far less about company culture than the current one does. If the culture doesn’t suit them, or if it is so poisoned by poor leadership that it is counter-intuitive to a well-aligned working process, they will move on, maybe sooner, maybe later. On the other hand, if it lines up with their idea of mission, purpose, work-life balance, and is a good fit for their higher sense of altruism, you likely won’t have to worry about them leaving for greener pastures.

A Sense of Purpose, a Sense of Place

Millennials prefer positions where they are fully engaged and feel that they can make a difference. No doubt, when you are looking to hire for executive or high-level medical positions, this is what you want, too. Nobody wants to walk into somebody else’s nightmare.

Organizational alignment is paramount to maintaining your edge as an employer to be reckoned with. How do you stack up? If you are interested in speaking to one of our medical headhunters about your recruiting needs, call Pact and Partners today.

How Do Medical Headhunters Find C-Suite Execs?

medical c-suite candidates waiting for interview

Finding C-Suite executives for medical and life sciences is a complex task–finding being the operative term, here, because this level of leadership is not simply out there looking for a position. Most, in fact, exist under-the-radar from a medical headhunter’s standpoint, making it even more difficult to identify and recruit top executive talent.

Placing the right leadership in these key roles is critical to the long-term success of the organization. Good organizational and cultural fit is directly linked to outcomes and retention, so this is the ideal. The very nature of the type of work and their inherent expectations mean these positions can’t be filled quickly.

Working with a medical headhunter who has a proven track record in the executive realm will shorten your time to hire and ensure that your onboarding process is as pain-free as possible.

The Challenges Medical Headhunters Face in Finding C-Suite Executives

In the medical C-Suite, technical expertise matters less than strong leadership skills and a firm grasp of operational fundamentals. Although functional and technical knowledge is important, they are not as important as the ability to lead, to visualize, inspire, and further the vision and mission of the facility.

Regardless of their underlying medical specialty, these leaders have more in common with other executives than they do with the people they oversee. It’s a delicate balance and an elusive one as well, as less experienced medical headhunters may mistake a high level of medical and management expertise with an ability to lead, and that’s not always the case.

Adding to the complexity of the situation, many medical facilities, including teaching institutions, have an extremely high recruitment load at any given time. This makes for a very competitive area in which very few candidates are well-qualified. As a result, there are many medical executives who may have the background and experience, but may lack a few key traits that would mitigate their attrition – meaning, people are getting hired that tick some of the boxes, but not all, and most will end up back in the candidacy pool sooner or later.

As medical headhunters, we are tasked with knowing who the players are and what their track record is. Along with fully vetting and benchmarking each of our candidates, we go deep into their background to identify red flags as well as any indications that they might be the next C-Suite superstar.

Our clients depend on us for this insider knowledge. It’s what sets us apart from other executive headhunters who might not have this specific focus. It’s about knowing where to find this top leadership talent, no matter where it is located, and being connected with successful leaders in the industry who can advise us on up-and-comers as well as any significant comings and goings. This allows us to deliver value back to our clients in ways that it’s difficult to put a price on. While there are never any absolute guarantees that our placements will last a lifetime, it has given us a solid track record that translates to success.

The ultimate goal of leadership placement in the medical field is to advance the mission and vision of the organization or institution. Whether the focus is on clinical outcomes, teaching excellence or innovation, strong outcomes require strong leadership. In such a highly regulated field, it is important to take into account a holistic view of the facility in order to determine a clear pathway to reaching these goals.

Just about every variable needs to be taken into account, from cultural fit to leadership style. In the end, we need to identify the best possible candidate for the position based on how we think they will be able to advance the core mission and reach our client’s goals.

Internal Promotion and Leadership Succession

Many medical headhunters tend to think that promoting from within is the fastest route to reaching these goals, but this is not often the case. Though we consider the available in-house talent first, we would be remiss in our task if we did not put them through the same vetting process as we would an outside candidate. While having foundational knowledge of the internal culture and operational mandates is a definite asset, we must assess the type of leader they would be and whether that is the leadership style that is most appropriate for the needs of the organization.

Leaders do emerge from within the ranks and every medical headhunter should be aware of a client’s leadership mentoring activities. However, many medical facilities play no role in executive search and recruitment, choosing instead to focus on placing core medical talent. While this methodology supports better clinical outcomes, true leadership will advance these goals in ways that advance the mission, vision, clinical outcomes, and overall customer satisfaction within the regulatory compliance framework.

If you are interested in speaking to one of our medical headhunters about your leadership recruiting needs, call Pact and Partners today.