Qualifying a Search Partner: How to Save Time and Reduce Risk

September 5, 2018

At the recent HLTH healthcare industry conference in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to meet with the chief executive officer (CEO) of a prominent venture capital-backed digital health company. As we talked about the hiring needs for her team, she discussed one of the struggles she was having with the recruiting process: “Hiring top executive talent is so critical, but I lack the time to thoroughly vet and identify the right search firm.”

The sentiment of this CEO is one that I have heard before from the VC firms and emerging healthcare companies I partner with. In a market where competition for top talent is intense and making the wrong hire can negatively impact a growth-stage company for years, properly qualifying an executive search provider is a must. For CEOs like the one I met with at HLTH, being able to efficiently screen and engage a search partner not only saves time but can also reduce risk in the executive recruitment process.

Checklist for Vetting an Executive Search Partner

Drawing upon our experience as a dedicated healthcare and life sciences industry recruiter, Klein Hersh has identified the attributes that we believe are critical in qualifying a search partner. To assist our VC partners and growing healthcare company clients, we’ve compiled the following seven-point checklist to guide the vetting process:

  • Track record of past success
    • What is the search firm’s record of executive placements in the healthcare industry and how many of these hires are still with the organization in which they were originally placed? This will give you a feel for the search partner’s ability to not only identify and secure top talent but make the right cultural matches as well.
  • Subject matter expertise
    • How well does the firm understand the trends and issues impacting the healthcare ecosystem? For example, a search firm that is embedded in the healthcare industry will better understand the appropriate equity that should be awarded given the current state of the company and level of position. Further, a search firm that focuses principally on the healthcare market will have a stronger network of relationships and a deeper talent pool to drawn upon to meet your needs. 
  • Extension of organization
    • After speaking with a potential search partner, how well do you believe they can serve as an ambassador for your company in the marketplace? Do they share your passion, and can they articulate your message effectively? How your organization handles its executive recruitment can affect your brand and leave an impression among the candidate pool for future hiring. 
  • Similar network of contacts
    • Can the search firm tap into a deep network of candidates that is similar to yours in order to streamline the delivery of prospective candidates? This is critical in a talent marketplace that is struggling to keep pace with rapidly growing hiring demands. 
  • Proven search tenure
    • Will you gain access to senior practice leaders at the firm to manage your search from start to finish? Trust and accountability are paramount to a successful executive search relationship. It’s important to ensure that your search firm will not only work as a true partner in achieving your goals, but that you also have the same, senior-level recruiting team supporting you from day one. 
  • Efficient search process
    • How does the search firm manage and gain actionable information that streamlines the identification, qualifying and delivering of top talent? Executive search is all about managing time – your time. You want an organization that has a proven talent acquisition process that enables you to turn your attention to other core business priorities. 
  • Critical thinking skills
    • Does the firm offer a detailed depth of understanding of the nuances of the healthcare marketplace? This takes subject matter expertise to the next level. A search firm that has a functional practice focus that mirrors the marketplace will be better suited to ask the critical questions and offer the real time knowledge that adds value to the search process.

About the Author:

Michael Frank is a founder and co-leader of Klein Hersh’s Healthcare Services Group. He joined Klein Hersh in 2009 and has helped the practice become one of the industry’s leading healthcare services search groups, with clients that range from healthcare focused venture capital firms to Fortune 500 companies.

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Michael Frank
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About the Author
Michael Frank is co-founder/leader of the healthcare practice at Klein Hersh. The healthcare practice operates at the epicenter of the industry, helping dynamic organizations on the cutting edge of innovation to recruit bold executive leaders. He partners with venture capital and private equity firms looking to build world-class teams for their healthcare services and/or technology portfolio companies.  As the co-leader ...