Thirty Insights From Thirty Years of Executive Search

Posted on 04-16-2019
executive search 30 lessons

As the saying goes, another year older, another year wiser. We distilled the wisdom gained during our thirty years serving leading healthcare organizations and corporations as their trusted executive search partner, to thirty key takeaways that all hiring organizations and candidates need to know.

Insights For Hiring Organizations
  1. If you want to hire the best candidates, prioritize your candidate experience. We have extensively studied candidate experience, and conducted an in-depth survey to understand how healthcare organizations were performing. When asked to rate their last candidate experience with a healthcare organization, respondents’ average rating was a “C minus”. This shows that candidate experience is an opportunity area for most organizations, and a key way to set your organization apart if you can do it well.
  2. Job seekers need to hear from you more often. When asked to prioritize how organizations should focus their efforts to improve candidate experience, executive candidates overwhelmingly indicate that increased communication should be organizations’ top priority.
  3. Craft candidate focused job postings to help attract the best talent to your position. Your job postings should clearly describe what is great about working for your organization and how it will grow a job seeker’s career (i.e., what is in it for them). All too often organizations focus too much on the minutia including a laundry list of their requirements rather than “selling” the opportunity to prospective applicants.
  4. Realistically assess what your organization needs versus wants.  For some roles, while an A+ candidate may be desired, it’s simply not feasible or in some cases even necessary.  A Honda Accord (or B+ candidate) will still get you from point A to point B; you may not need (or be able to afford) a Mercedes, or A+ candidate.
  5.  Don’t search for “purple squirrels”, or those impossible-to-find combination of skills. There’s a finite number of viable candidates in the market who will be interested in and qualified for your position, and when you layer on an extensive list of qualifications you can whittle down the candidate pool down to next nothing.
  6. Make it easy for candidates to apply to your open positions. Ideally, applications should be mobile-friendly and integrated with LinkedIn. Streamline your applications to the extent possible, making sure you actually use every piece of information you’re collecting. Make sure you’re compliant with the latest salary history bans as well.
  7.  Shorten and streamline your hiring process so you don’t lose the candidate you want to another opportunity. The best candidates are highly in demand and don’t stay on the market for long. We frequently see organizations miss out on quality candidates when they have a lengthy hiring process, particularly when they don’t inform candidates of their timeline in advance. The ideal process needs to be well-orchestrated and efficient with minimal time in between interview phases.
  8. Don’t add candidate testing to your process at the last minute and without careful consideration. If you organization doesn’t test all executive candidates and put them through the same process, don’t expect results that will add value to your hiring process.
  9. Candidates will be reading reviews about your organization so know how you’re perceived in the market. Look at what people are saying about your organization by reading reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed. Review the information and make internal changes as needed.
  10. Think you’re delivering a great candidate experience? Unless you’re asking candidates, you can’t know for sure. Conduct surveys to find out how candidates viewed their interview experience and develop a plan to address any issues.
  11. Set up your new hires up for success with a strong onboarding program. Organizations with the highest new hire success rates have a comprehensive onboarding approach, setting the stage before the employee even starts and emphasizing cultural as well as political awareness.
  12. Let your executive search firm serve as a strategic partner. Sometimes what you actually need can be different from what you want. As part of our executive search process, we invest time to learn about your organization, culture and business goals. This coupled with our 30 years of healthcare industry experience allows us to offer valuable recommendations to help you reach your goal—leverage our expert advice!
  13. If you want top talent, expect to pay more. We have seen far too many organizations walk away from great candidates because they didn’t want to meet a candidate’s (reasonable) salary expectations due to concerns about internal equity or other political issues. (In many cases these organizations ultimately end of paying even more to a lower caliber candidate when they should have just worked to raise their compensation in the beginning.)
  14. Time kills deals. Filling an executive position is a marathon, not a sprint and it’s critical to invest the right effort and resources into your search. That said, we see far too many organizations fail to project manage the hiring process and create a sense of urgency around the hire. You’re not making a lifetime commitment to the candidate; move quickly and get the best candidate you can knowing you can move on if necessary.
  15. Embrace differences. It’s natural and expected to want to hire people like us and people we want to spend time with, but diversity of skills, personality, experiences and culture, should be cultivated within your organization.
Insights For Job Seekers
  1. Your resume is the most important piece of paper you’ll ever own. Keep it easily accessible, up to date, and make sure it’s professionally formatted and easy to read. Also, ensure it is provides quantified evidence of your professional accomplishments.
  2. Perfect your “elevator pitch” so you’re prepared to introduce yourself to the chief executive of your dream employer or an executive recruiter in 30 seconds or less. Can you efficiently and elegantly describe a few career highlights and the value you’d add to an organization? If not, practice in front of the mirror or with a friend until you can.
  3. Learn to ace video interviews to give yourself a huge advantage—few job candidates excel at video interviewing. We have seen just about every possible mistake made from candidates sitting in front of highly distracting backgrounds (like a table piled with kids’ toys) to surprise appearances by family members. Prevent technical issues during video interviews by setting up your equipment properly and testing everything ahead of time—that way you can focus solely on your performance.
  4. Optimize your LinkedIn profile. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is loaded with keywords, complete, and up to date to ensure the best executive recruiters can easily find you and you stand out. Also, make sure you include a professional photo.
  5. Always send thank you notes. Send a customized thank you email to every person who interviewed you, reaffirming why you would be a good fit for the position. Ideally, send your email the same day as your interview and immediately follow-up with a handwritten note.
  6. Never stop learning. Continue to build on your knowledge and skills by keeping abreast of the latest industry trends; prioritize obtaining relevant certifications and personal development opportunities.
  7. Practice your answers to frequently asked behavioral interview questions. With as much information about interviewing as there is on the internet, you really shouldn’t be surprised by an interview question. Periodically review the lists of common interview questions and prepare answers using a structured format, such as the P-A-R method (i.e., defining the Problem, the Action you took, and the Result or outcome). Preparing ahead ensures that when it counts, you’ll be able to answer with a relaxed and confident delivery when interviewing.
  8. Realistically assess your qualifications. Most employers are looking for a “been there, done that” executive candidates with a proven record of accomplishment. If a job is a big stretch in terms of your experience and capabilities, consider objectively whether it would be the right fit for you.
  9. Be truthful. This should be understood, but it’s come up enough that we need to say it. Don’t be tempted to bluff your way through an interview question that you don’t know the answer to. Honesty and integrity are two of the most important values that hiring managers are looking for in their executives.
  10. Thoroughly evaluate a relocation before accepting an offer. Carefully consider whether the new community is right for you and whether the move makes financial sense. As executive recruiters, we sometimes encounter candidates who fail to do enough due diligence prior to a move because they’re so excited about the job opportunity. This can lead to costly mistakes or dissatisfaction down the road, so we advise carefully evaluating the decision prior to accepting an offer.
  11. Arguing with a recruiter does not work. We have a mandate from our clients regarding the skills and experience we are looking for in candidates. If you don’t meet them, aggressively pressing your case sours what could be a mutually beneficial relationship.
  12. Don’t take rejection too personally. When you haven’t been selected for a job realize that there were likely several hundred potential candidates that were evaluated for a single position. It’s in part a numbers game, not necessarily a reflection of your value.
  13. Invest in a professional headshot. Having a quality professional portrait on your LinkedIn page will do wonders for communicating your value to future employers. Like it or not, a poor quality or casual photo just doesn’t say “executive potential” or “you can trust me in front of the Board of Directors” the way a good professional photo does.
  14. Strengthen your soft skills. Executive level positions require candidates to be effective communicators and listeners, with the ability to also learn from constructive feedback.
  15. Honor your commitments. As the old saying goes, “your word is your bond,” if you say you are going to be available at a specific time or are going to provide your resume or references, make sure that you always follow through.

It has been our honor and privilege to work with so many leading organizations to fill their key healthcare technology and cybersecurity positions over the last thirty years.  We look forward to continuing to serve you and add value in the future.


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