StarMed: Think Differently About Finding Talent

Physician CEO Candidates – Moving to the Top of the Short List

Physician CEO Candidates – Moving to the Top of the Short List

September 16, 2015 - by Carol Westfall

Physician executives who aspire to top management face significant competitive challenges from non-physician colleagues when pursuing health care CEO positions.

These competitive pressures make it difficult for candidates to land an interview and make it to the “short list.”

Some factors impacting this situation are outside the candidates’ control. You either have the required experience for a position, or you lack it. Your leadership experience and track record may come from an institution considered less than “cutting-edge” by search committees, many of which emphasize their perceptions of candidates’ present and past employers.

Changes in search timing or selection criteria also can derail an applicant’s candidacy. Internal candidates may have strong experience, complemented by knowledge of the hiring organization.

The good news is that many aspects of the CEO search are completely within your control:

Focus and clarity of candidacy

Can you articulate your personal and professional vision? Candidates who make the final candidate slate in a CEO search typically have an exceptional ability to articulate their vision, experience and knowledge. During interviews, they provide well-thought-out examples that relate their skills and experiences to the specific needs of the hiring organization.Presence and demeanor

A CEO’s job is highly visible—both internally and externally. It is not surprising that search committees are attracted to candidates with commanding presence and personal presentation— dynamic individuals who come across with competence, confidence (not arrogance) and enthusiasm.

Communication and follow up

A CEO candidate is evaluated at many points of contact, not just during an interview. How you communicate and follow up with the prospective employer, administrative personnel, search consultant—even the realtor—will paint a broad picture of your communication and follow-up “style.”

  • Are there typos in your resume?
  • Do you return calls promptly?
  • Are you professional, yet cordial?
  • Are you an efficient communicator, getting to the point quickly (without being abrupt)?
  • Are you decisive?


The successful CEO candidate has superior references and has prepared individuals for reference calls. They have the candidate’s resume or CV in hand. They understand why the candidate is interested in the job. They have been reminded of the candidate’s previous accomplishments.When contacted, these references can provide well-thought-out recommendations.

Successful CEO candidates create memorable impressions at every stage of the search. They understand the importance of an enthusiastic, professional style. Rather than waiting for the interviewer to ask the “right” question, they share examples and stories that articulate their greatest strengths in relation to the needs of the hiring organization.

They ask good questions and share ideas. They find ways to reinforce memorable candidacy themes: I’m competent; I deliver; you’ll be glad you hired me.

Active preparation in each of these areas can increase the likelihood of being hired for a CEO position—even in today’s tough health care executive job market.