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Building a Search Committee for Physician Leadership Recruitment

Jackson Physician Search
October 21, 2019

Recruiting a physician leader to a healthcare organization or academic medical center is often fraught with a slow and inefficient recruitment process. When coupled with the worsening physician shortage— between 42,600 and 121,300 by 2032 according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)—losing quality candidates is a real risk.

The gap between what academic and community-based physician leaders demand in a new role and the recruitment process they’re willing to tolerate is fiercely closing with power transitioning from the traditional institution to the candidate in high demand. This is making the role of the search committee even more critical to physician leadership recruitment success.

The search committee represents the strategic direction of the organization and decides by vote which candidate to hire—Choose members wisely.

Search committees should be called Leadership Transition Committees, as they hold responsibility for determining which physician leaders will steer the organization through clinical innovation initiatives, healthcare transformation processes, physician and resident retention strategies, and more.

When working with community-based healthcare organizations and academia, we’re often asked to advise on who should serve on the search committee, as well as strategies to ensure effectiveness. Setting up a search committee contains three key components: Preparation, Committee Mix, and Commitment. Let’s review.

  1. Preparation

This stage is the most overlooked and underutilized, yet it’s the one that will ultimately keep your committee on track throughout the entire search process. Before you set up your search committee, prepare the following three documents: Job Analysis, Committee Charter, and Activity Report.

The Job Analysis contains specific candidate parameters including experience, competencies, and soft skills. It also includes compensation information and position duties. Tip: Resist the temptation to recycle an old Job Analysis. Healthcare is constantly changing, so consult with direct reports, colleagues, and superiors who will interact with the chosen physician leader.

The Committee Charter defines the committee tasks and the chair obligations, as well as budget and deadline guidelines. It also includes a list of decision-makers involved in the recruitment process, the Diversity Policy or Affirmative Action Plans, as well as all EEOC, EOP, and other human resource forms. There is no room for ambiguity in the Committee Charter.

The Search Activity Report contains a step-by-step process that the committee will follow throughout the recruitment process, as well as a record of all activity to be certain the search is on track with regards to goals and deadlines. The commitment to diversity and equity is shown in this report as well.

  1. Committee Mix

Making recruitment decisions by committee can be very effective as long as the committee isn’t polarized—one that agrees on everything without due diligence or, worse, one that is riddled with conflict. To prevent this, decide who will lead as the committee chair first. This person is the liaison between the search committee, the hiring official and, when involved, the search firm. It’s important that the chair be the same level position or higher than for the role you’re recruiting and is a naturally strong leader.

To round out your search committee, here are some best-practice guidelines:

  • Keep the committee to an odd number as each person has voting rights.
  • Have no more than 11 members, ideally between seven and nine.
  • Reflect diversity in regard to gender, race, seniority, reporting levels, and departments.
  • Include a human resources or legal officer as an ex-officio member.

Also, keep in mind that for President or Provost searches, you will want to include stakeholders from the board, the foundation and, when relevant, the alumni.

  1. Commitment

The most common reason for ineffectiveness within a search committee is lack of commitment and engagement. When physician leadership searches extend from weeks to months, enthusiasm can dissipate. Schedule monthly or bi-monthly meetings to review search progress and set future expectations.

The main goal of the search committee is to review, screen, and host candidates, as well as check references. It can also be very tempting to discuss a candidate with a spouse or colleague, but to maintain search integrity, confidentiality is a must. This extends to voting procedures as well. Blind voting eliminates the potential for recruitment bias, and it extends respect for all candidates regardless of what stage of the recruitment process they’re eliminated.

Whether you use a recruitment firm or choose internal resources, building an effective search committee or Leadership Transition Committee is the optimal method for maximizing time, candidate fit, and recruitment investment. Remember, most importantly, the search committee is responsible for choosing the physician leader who will drive the future of your healthcare organization—Those are big shoes to fill and worthy of extra attention prior to launching a new search.


At Jackson Physician Search, we help healthcare organizations and academic medical centers to recruit physician leaders. Our innovative process includes rolling well-qualified and interested candidates as they become available versus waiting for a full slate, reducing the number of interviews with cutting edge technology, and providing transparent and frequent communication to search committees. This strategy reduces candidate attrition and time-to-fill while increasing recruitment return on investment. Please contact our physician leadership experts at Jackson Physician Search for more information.

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