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Healthcare Executive Search--Why Industry Experience May Be Less Important than You Think

Prior work experience is the single most important consideration for nearly all hiring managers, especially those involved in healthcare executive search. Recruiters and HR professionals understandably gravitate toward applicants with prior industry experience.


And yet, this may be the prime reason great healthcare organizations fail to acquire top talent for key executive positions. In the increasingly competitive quest to fill open C-suite positions in healthcare, now is the time to reevaluate the metrics we’ve been using to search for and select the highly effective executives we need.


How to find talented executives

A willingness to widen the search beyond the usual candidate profile means expanding outside a limited pool of applicants. Myopic thinking—rampant in healthcare—is often driven by an unwillingness to be challenged by an “outsider” who has developed managerial and leadership expertise outside of healthcare. But sometimes, the skills a healthcare organization needs most are precisely the skills that are less likely to be developed in the industry.


Executive turnover has an upside: it produces a wider range of candidates for leadership positions. In the first four months of 2023, CEO turnover within hospitals reported a 72% increase over the same period last year. But while executive turnover in healthcare is particularly high, people are on the move in every sector. Big changes in tech, banking, and other sectors, have made new leadership talent available, and more high-performing executives are open to considering healthcare for the first time ever.


What healthcare needs

Hiring from within the healthcare sector seems less risky. But it’s important to recognize that more of the competencies a team already has may not equip the organization to meet today’s challenges or bring them the skills all healthcare organizations will need to thrive in the future.


o Problem-Solvers: Today’s healthcare organizations need problem-solvers—leaders who are comfortable making data-driven decisions and thinking on the systems level. These kinds of executives are available across many industries, typically outside of healthcare. A healthcare organization hoping to add problem-solvers to its team should thoughtfully consider candidates whose transferrable skills may outweigh their direct industry experience.


o New Tools and Technologies: If healthcare is going to meet the challenges of the future, it will be essential to adopt and adapt new technologies and tools more quickly than in the past. Other industries have been much more agile in this regard, and leadership experience in this area is likely to be a valuable addition to every healthcare organization's team. Technology is key to efficiency, accuracy, and ultimately, the overall success of an organization.


o Thought Leadership: It may seem counterintuitive, but truly outstanding hires aren’t necessarily the ones who have gained most of their experience leading healthcare organizations. Often, transformational leaders are those who bring a broader skillset to the table than what most people learn rising through the ranks in the healthcare sector. If our healthcare administration team is ready to add someone who can “think outside of the box,” it makes sense to look outside the box to find them.


Three Important Takeaways


  1. The ideal, top-talent candidate for a leadership position in healthcare may not be an experienced healthcare administrator.

  2. With years of experience in the healthcare sector, Talenta HR can help your organization identify and attract candidates with transferrable skills that will benefit your team.

  3. Your organization may benefit from expertise that is more likely to be found outside the healthcare sector than inside it.


The best healthcare administrators are leaders and leaders know how to escape the scope of “how it’s always been done” and find creative roads to success.

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