12 Executive Best Practices for Healthcare Organizations

Getting the Most Out of an Executive Search: 12 Best Practices for Healthcare Executives


One of the most crucial responsibilities of healthcare executives is selecting the mission-critical leadership team. While having the right talent has always been important, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has placed an increased emphasis on conducting an expeditious search for the nation’s top talent. COVID-19 has accelerated everything—including senior leaders retiring early. Balancing an organization’s bottom line will be a stark reality and much will need to be done to ‘flatten the nursing-profession exodus curve’ and drain executive leaders.  With the financial challenges caused by the pandemic, an efficient and effective process is more important than ever.

In response, healthcare organizations must work that much harder to recruit top talent for key leadership roles. With far fewer leaders to choose from, organizations cannot waste time or resources. This is where a reputable executive search firm with a proven history of success can be of most value.


12 Executive Search Best Practices for Healthcare Organizations


1. Pause, reflect, and reexamine the position: Because of the relational nature of the hospital environment, the loss of a senior leader will affect a network of relationships, departments, and projects. A leadership vacancy provides the opportunity to reposition roles, redesign structure, or redefine responsibilities within the leadership team.

2. Prepare a broadly representative interview team: A diverse interview team promotes an inclusive search process, provides feedback from multiple perspectives, and affords candidates a better understanding of the culture and demands of the position. Identifying the selection team early in the process and defining their role is essential to ensure stakeholder participation.

3. Ensure all parties have reviewed materials: All interviewers must prepare for each interview.  Assure that they review candidate resumes for academic background, technical skills and expertise, and relevant work experience.  

4. Designate an on-campus point person for the candidate: Designating a guide or point person who can answer questions and ensure that the individual gets from place to place on time is helpful. In a virtual environment, the point person can assist with troubleshooting technical issues.

5. Prep the interviewer accordingly: The interviewer should know why they are interviewing the candidate, the position specification, and the objective criteria for success in the role.

6. Test technology in advance: Interview participants should test the technology and capabilities prior to the interview. This is especially crucial when interview participants are in multiple locations with varying levels of connectivity.

7. Inform the interviewee who will be in the room: Provide the names and titles of everyone in the room or video conference to the candidate in advance. Sharing this with the interviewee allows for appropriate conversations and questions during the allotted time.

8. Ace virtual interviews: Since most interviews are virtual, it is crucial to appreciate how they differ from in-person interviews.  See our tips for interviewers here.  

9. Pauses need practice in a virtual environment: Interview participants should practice implementing 3-5 second pauses between questions. This pause provides ample time for other stakeholders to chime in or for a candidate to respond.

10. Proactively schedule first and second round interviews: Coordinate with the search firm to line up first and second-round interview dates early in the process to keep the process in sync with the established timeline. 

11. Complete interview evaluations quickly after the interview: Conducting the interview evaluation soon after each interview ensures accurate, objective feedback, helps avoid groupthink, and keeps “likability” in check.  All these work toward a more inclusive selection process.

12. Alert all candidates in advance when a decision will be made: It is advisable to let candidates know by what date they can expect an answer. It’s equally important to place a courtesy call to those who are not selected. Each has invested personal time and effort in the process and your healthcare organization.

Examples of Interview Processes that go Astray (and how to work around them!)


The Monologue interview: While it is true that the uniqueness of the organization, the current challenges, and expectations of the role are important to convey to a candidate, the interview should be a dialogue in which an exchange of thoughts and ideas occur. It is not uncommon for a candidate to say, “I don’t know how I did; I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.  The interviewer spoke constantly.”  Make sure candidates have an opportunity to convey who they are and what they bring to the role. 

The “We would never hire a person from there” interview: We all have personal biases, some that we are cognizant of, and others that shape our perceptions without our awareness. We frequently encounter circumstances where a particular point or issue in a candidate’s career progression receives an overly critical reaction that is difficult to explain or understand. Talented people come in different shapes and sizes and from many different backgrounds and organizations. 

In reality, circumstances sometimes lead an excellent candidate to work at an organization with a less than stellar reputation. The challenges and obstacles the person has overcome could bring a fresh and valuable perspective to your leadership team. 

The “I am more important than you” interview: Unfortunately, these circumstances are too numerous to discuss thoroughly, but they cover issues related to time, attention, and respect. Candidates report interviewers talking among themselves, answering phone calls during an interview, coming late or missing the interview, and allowing others to interrupt the interview – sometimes multiple times. Even if an interviewer decides early on in the process that the candidate may not be a fit, the candidate has dedicated the time to meet and deserves your time.

The “Why would anyone want to take this job” interview:  This type of interview is surprisingly common even in excellent organizations. The interview usually begins in one of two ways. In the first, often a group meeting, a long list of problems are presented to the candidate, challenging them to suggest how they could resolve such a “mountain of problems.” In the second example, an interviewer asks a candidate, “You have a great background, why would you want to come here?” 

Be sure to prepare all interviewers to be respectful and positive about the organization and the opportunity.  A brief written communication to thank them for their involvement will stress the importance of the interview. Sharing the criteria for success in the role can overcome many pitfalls. 


An Essential Tool: Candidate Evaluation Tool


An essential tool for every interview is an evaluation tool that lists the agreed-upon, objective and measurable criteria to assess each candidate. While some criteria may be general, most should address the specific criteria for success in the position. We have seen evaluation tools that are so abstract it is difficult to understand how interviewers assess the traits listed. Interviewers should complete an evaluation as soon as possible after the interview and include comments or examples from the interview process. This is especially crucial if candidates interview over some time.  

Evaluation Form Template


Healthcare is Our Exclusive Focus


Kirby Bates Associates’ goal for every executive search process is to ensure the final candidate has the competencies, values, and expertise to succeed in your healthcare organization. With our nationwide network and reputation, our healthcare executive search team has helped clients match lasting exceptional leaders to key positions for over 30 years. We are specialists: healthcare leadership is our exclusive focus. We build exceptional healthcare leadership teams and remain a trusted partner for hundreds of prestigious organizations across the country because of our high success rate and first-hand knowledge of clinical operations and care delivery models. 

Learn more about our executive search process or contact our team for more information. 

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