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5 Must-Haves for Successful Physician Executive Recruitment

Jackson Physician Search
November 15, 2022

Healthcare is facing tremendous challenges — staffing shortages, financial concerns, physician burnout, and more — and the industry will need strong leadership to guide it through these unprecedented times. Increasingly, healthcare organizations recognize the value that physicians bring to healthcare leadership roles and are hiring more physician executives. However, not all physicians will be interested in or successful at serving as leaders, so it’s critical that organizations have a well-defined process for identifying and recruiting physician executive candidates. 

Recruiting physician executives requires organizations to first have a well-defined vision for the role, and second, a vast network of potential physician executive candidates. Of course, this network won’t bring value without a recruiter focused on reaching out to the most promising candidates. Organizations must also have a well-organized on-site interview process to successfully evaluate (and win over) the top candidates. And lastly, a physician executive recruitment partner with a record of success will ease and speed up the entire process. Keep reading to learn more about the five must-haves of physician executive recruitment.  

Why Physician Executives?

While studies are inconclusive about the impact a physician CEO has on a hospital’s quality, most recognize that physician executives bring a unique understanding of the challenges facing healthcare providers and the patients they treat, as they have faced those problems firsthand. This empathy allows them to make decisions with an understanding of the organization’s goals, as well as the needs of physicians and patients. Their experience in both the business of healthcare and the delivery of patient care makes physician executives the ideal liaison between providers and administration. 

As liaisons, physician executives have the best chance of smoothing relationships between physicians and leadership, two parties occasionally at odds. In fact, in a recent JPS-MGMA study, physicians ranked two-way communication with management as the most important factor in job satisfaction–above compensation. However, when asked to rate their employers in this area, just one in four said two-way communication at their organization was “good” or “very good.” Physician executives have the ability to improve in this area and positively impact physician job satisfaction at their organizations.  

1. Defining the Physician Executive Role

Physician executives may be tasked with improving communication between physicians and administration or have a completely different priority set, like creating and standardizing protocols across a network of hospitals. It depends on the purpose and function assigned to the role by the organization’s leadership. Each organization will have a different idea of what role their physician executives should play. 

According to Dirk Jansson, Director of Physician Executive Search at Jackson Physician Search, each physician executive role is as unique as the hiring organization. Some physician executives will serve as a manager, solving physicians’ issues as they arise and keeping the team aligned with the organization’s culture and mission, while other physician executives may be hired to be transformative leaders, creating the organizational culture and leading by example among physicians. 

“The first step in physician executive recruitment is defining the role,” says Jansson. “The organization must come to a consensus on the purpose and function of the position, as well as the skills, experience, and leadership style required for the role. An effective physician executive recruitment partner will help the client organization define a single vision for the role and help tailor a profile of the ideal candidate.”

A good physician executive recruiter will visit the organization and meet with stakeholders to understand each individual’s thoughts about the role. The recruiter will take all of the input and help the group prioritize the skills and experience required for the role. When everyone is in agreement, the recruiter will craft a physician executive job ad that emphasizes the required skills and experience and highlights the most attractive features of the job, the organization, and the location.      

2. A Network of Physician Executive Candidates

Like digital physician recruitment, physician executive recruitment may also benefit from the distribution of job ads via online physician job boards, email, and text campaigns to relevant candidates in a vast database, and of course, online physician communities such as Doximity. For high-level searches, the number of qualified candidates will be slim, but the larger your network, the more likely the right candidate is already within reach.

Dirk Jansson believes this is why working with a recruitment firm whose focus is on physicians benefits clients searching for physician executives. 

“Most healthcare executive search firms conduct a heavy mix of non-physician administrative searches, so their databases and resources are mixed,” he explains. “On the other hand, Jackson Physician Search has spent over 40 years strictly focusing on the placement of physicians and physician leaders across the country, so quite often, we‘ll find the successful candidate is already within our system.” 

3. Physician Executive Outreach

Because most physician executives aren’t in an active job search, sourcing candidates for physician executive roles also requires a proactive approach.  It’s not enough to distribute the physician executive job ad to the database and wait for applications, because most physician executives aren’t applying for jobs. However, a physician executive search partner can build a pool of candidates most likely to be aligned with and attracted to the role.  They will prioritize their outreach efforts toward these candidates, and in many cases, network with those targeted candidates to identify additional leads.   

“A strong executive search consultant might make 20 calls and come away with 40 leads,” says Jansson. “By leveraging a strong network, the recruiter can identify and reach out to the best matches and potentially gain access to others who may be a good fit as well.” 

4. Interviewing Physician Executive Candidates 

Due to the busy schedules of candidates at this level, not to mention those of the executives and board members who will interview them, coordinating on-site interviews can be challenging. Conducting first-round interviews virtually allows stakeholders to meet and get to know candidates without the complicated logistics of bringing them on-site. Ideally, leadership can leverage virtual interviews to narrow it down to two candidates, who will then be invited to spend time at the organization and meet with leaders face to face. 

Just as they do with physician candidates, organizations must carefully plan on-site visits for physician executive candidates to demonstrate the best parts of the job, the facility, and the town. Leadership must present a unified message about the function and purpose of the role and how it will fit in with broader leadership goals. Physician executive candidates need transparency from leadership so they have an accurate picture of their potential role in the organization. Only then can both parties determine if there is a good match. 

5. The Case for a Physician Executive Recruitment Partner

Physician executives have the potential to not only impact their own patients but the entire patient population of the communities they serve. They recognize the value of human capital, lead by example, and have the ability to shape the culture of the organizations they lead.

When the stakes are this high, organizations will improve their odds by investing in a dedicated physician executive recruitment partner that has spent decades building relationships with physicians and physician leaders. Over the course of 10,000+ permanent placements, Jackson Physician Search has developed relationships with physicians all over the country, at all stages of their careers. Many of the physicians we placed 5 or 10 years ago have now moved on to leadership roles. When they are ready to grow again, they turn to the recruitment firm that took care of them in the past for help finding new physician executive opportunities–and we are happy to assist them. 

In addition to providing access to a vast network of physicians, a successful physician executive search firm will also serve as an extension of your team. Most internal recruitment teams do not have the bandwidth to dedicate a recruiter to physician executive outreach, but this is exactly what it takes to identify the best physician executive candidates. Our physician executive recruiters can also streamline the interview and contract process to ensure the process is moving in accordance with the desired timeline.  


As healthcare administrators increasingly seek to hire physician executives at their organizations, they must have five things for successful recruitment: 1) a unified vision of the function and purpose of the role, 2) a vast network of potential physician executive candidates, 3) a team member dedicated to physician executive outreach, 4) a well-organized physician executive interview process, and 5) a strong physician executive recruitment partner to fill in the inevitable gaps among the previous four.

The JPS Physician Executive Search team has the experience, network, and expertise required to provide you with the physician executive recruitment support you need. Contact our team today to learn more.  

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