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What to Expect from a Physician Executive Recruitment Partner

Jackson Physician Search
April 4, 2023

Can physician executives lead the healthcare industry through these unprecedented times? Physician CEOs lead some of the most respected and successful healthcare organizations, and the trend is catching on. Healthcare organizations increasingly recognize the value that physicians bring to healthcare leadership roles and are hiring more physician executives

There is little doubt that an intelligent physician executive has the potential to bring tremendous benefits to an organization. However, identifying and hiring a qualified physician executive who will be effective in your organization is no small task. This is why many organizations will partner with a trusted physician executive search firm to help them establish and execute an effective search.   

What should you expect from a physician executive search partner? To find out, we asked Dirk Jansson, Director of Physician Executive Search at Jackson Physician Search, to share the process he outlines for clients as he prepares them for an effective search.  

Expect to Spend Considerable Time Upfront Defining the Role of Physician Executive

Perhaps the most important part of the physician executive search process is defining what the role looks like at your organization and coming to a consensus with all stakeholders about what the ideal candidate looks like. 

“If our client organization can calibrate this correctly on the front end, it can make a major difference in the timeline of the search,” says Dirk. “If we present candidates who fit the criteria that one administrator has about the role, but other decision-makers covet a different set of qualifications, those candidates will likely be rejected, and it’s possible you are back at square one 60-90 days into the search.” 

Dirk stresses that the role of physician executive is unique in every organization. There is no template job description, so it’s imperative that all stakeholders agree on what is needed from the role at your specific organization. Once clear, a good physician executive search partner can help you identify an acceptable compensation range for the role. However, what the physician executive job entails varies drastically, so there is not always clear market data on compensation for the role. For this reason, clients must expect to be flexible on compensation and be prepared to offer compensation commensurate with the criteria they set. 

Expect a Targeted Pool of Physician Executive Candidates

In a traditional physician search, a recruiter can pull data on the number of physicians in a given specialty in the market and then use statistics to estimate what percentage of those specialists are likely seeking a new job. This gives you an idea of the size of the pool of potential candidates for your physician job. There is no equivalent formula to determine the size of the pool of potential physician executives for your role. This is because the requirements of your specific job are more nuanced and unique to your organization. Finding any one candidate, much less a “pool” of candidates, who checks all the boxes and is open to accepting a new position is challenging. There is a reason you’ll occasionally hear recruiters say they are “searching for a unicorn.” 

That’s not to say the ideal candidate for your role doesn’t exist. Dirk explains: 

“Typically, after around 60-75 days, our team has vetted enough prospects to provide a comprehensive analysis of the true candidate market, including a rolling slate of the most qualified and interested candidates for our client to interview.  

“Occasionally, a search’s criteria is so specific that the market analysis indicates an especially limited pool of qualified and attainable prospects, or that the attainable ones are not in the established “price range.” In those cases, we’ve often been able to identify alternative experiences/qualifications that closely resemble or simulate the unmatched criteria or have details on the compensation range needed to secure the target candidate, and we’ll use that data to consult and collaborate with our clients on how best to move forward. Ultimately, we’re going to give our clients all the information they need in order to be comfortable and confident with whatever decision they make.”    

Expect a Proactive, Network-Driven Approach

Online physician job boards and job alert emails are essential for effective physician recruitment in a digital world. Likewise, a comprehensive physician executive recruitment strategy will also leverage these tools. However, because of the unique candidate requirements, it is unusual for the majority of incoming applications to be from qualified physician executive candidates. In addition, most physician leaders who are qualified for executive roles are simply not actively seeking new jobs. So, while a well-distributed physician executive job advertisement may elicit a few qualified applicants, a physician executive search team will spend extensive time proactively researching and building a pool of potential candidates. 

“In building the target candidate pool, we look at all aspects of the client, including geographical location, organizational size, type, and setting, and the scope and functional needs of the specific role. Then, a strong research team will use a suite of best-in-class resources to identify a list of prospects that are most likely to be qualified for and interested in the opportunity. Among other activities, they may cross-reference an internal database or use a social platform to network,” says Dirk. “And then finally, when a search consultant reaches out, it doesn’t always end where they’re recruiting that person specifically, because even if they are not interested, but our research is accurate, he or she may know someone else who would be a good fit.”   

A proactive approach like this may be part of the process when filling a physician job, but clients searching for a physician executive should expect this to be the cornerstone of an effective recruitment strategy. This is why it’s essential to partner with a physician executive search firm that has been nurturing its network of physicians for decades. 

When the Time Comes, Expect to Act Quickly

When a physician executive candidate is identified as a good fit, clients must prioritize scheduling the interview. With multiple high-level executives involved, it may be impossible to find a convenient time for everyone, so be prepared to reschedule other meetings in order to move the process forward with a candidate. 

“We talk a lot about the importance of establishing a process and being ready to execute it quickly when the time comes,” says Dirk. “From the beginning, I’m clear about the steps we’ll be taking in order to bring them candidates. We then collaborate to outline the expected steps once we present candidates. We stress that they must be prepared to act quickly — not just with respect to scheduling the interview, but also collecting feedback, scheduling follow-up calls, determining the offer, and then negotiating that offer. The process should be outlined before we reach this stage.”

The speed of a physician executive search largely depends on the client’s preferences and ability to act. By establishing a process in the early stages of the search, all stakeholders will know what is expected and be able to execute their parts quickly. 

Preparing for a Successful Physician Executive Search

It’s critical that organizations have a well-defined process for identifying and recruiting physician executive candidates. A good physician executive search partner can help to establish and execute this process. Much of this work is done on the front end of the search when administrators can expect to spend time defining the physician executive role for their specific organizations and outlining what the recruitment process looks like once a suitable candidate is presented. That is, what steps are needed for scheduling interviews, gathering feedback, and determining if, when, and what kind of offers are made? These questions must be answered early in the process in order to keep the momentum going when a candidate is identified. 

The physician executive search process requires patience and commitment from all stakeholders. By setting expectations early, all parties involved know what parts they will play and when they will be expected to play them, which is essential for a successful physician executive search.

Is your organization seeking to hire a physician executive? Reach out to the Physician Executive Search team at Jackson Physician Search today to learn how our experience and expertise, not to mention our relationships with physicians in all stages of their careers, can ease and accelerate your search. 


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