Best Healthcare Executive Search Firms

How to choose the best healthcare executive search firm for your company

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Healthcare executive search firms are specialized professional recruitment services that find and recruit the highest level senior candidates for healthcare organizations. These positions include President, Vice-president, Chief Executive Officer, and other C-Level roles.

Clients may use healthcare executive search firms to find top talent that wouldn’t otherwise be available to them. The best of these firms have a global network of contacts and an exclusive pool of highly-specialized experts they can draw upon to find suitable, qualified candidates. 

The healthcare executive search firm may also be involved in initial candidate screenings, negotiations on salary and benefits, and preparing contracts.

If you are part of an organization looking at options for healthcare executive search firms, this roundup assesses some of the best choices. Our analysis compared factors like company reputation, network, hiring process, portfolio of services, and limitations before deciding on our top four. Continue reading to find out who our top picks are for healthcare executive search firms.

Best Healthcare Executive Search Firms of 2022

Best Overall : Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry

 Korn Ferry

Why We Chose It: Korn Ferry is our overall best healthcare executive search firm choice because it is the largest search firm in the world with 7,500 experts in more than 50 countries and impressive industry rankings and statistics.

What We Like
  • Services available in all states

  • Candidates have an average tenure of 7 years compared to the industry norm of 4 years

  • Partner with 99% of Fortune’s most admired companies

What We Don't Like
  • No information published on its fees

  • The sheer level of information on the website may overwhelm

  • Some may prefer a more people-oriented, smaller firm

Since 1943, Korn Ferry has provided both organizational strategy and talent acquisition services. It works with its clients to design entire organizational structures and clarify roles and responsibilities, allowing them to hire the perfect people for the job. It also advises companies on how to reward and motivate their workforce with compensation strategies that attract diverse personnel, reinforces workplace culture and company goals. 

Korn Ferry also offers leadership development programs, and top-level professionals can benefit from its career advice and coaching services to help them land their ideal job.

Korn Ferry’s clients span the entire healthcare enterprise, including over 300 hospitals of all types and sizes and half of the top 25 managed-care and health-insurance firms. It fills various healthcare positions, such as academic placements, physicians, surgeons, and high-level healthcare leaders.

Korn Ferry prides itself on its streamlined screening technology and processes. The exact screening and hiring procedures depend on the role and level. One method they use to vet candidates is the Four Dimensions of Leadership and Talent Assessment, which takes just 25 minutes and assesses a person's experiences, skills, traits, and motivations. The results are then compared to an expert profile to see how well the candidate matches the role. Consultants prioritize candidates with the best fit, who may then may pass to the next selection and interview phases. 

In 2021, Forbes magazine recognized Korn Ferry as the best executive search firm in the United States for the fifth consecutive year. Its excellent reputation combined with a global reach made it an easy choice for the best overall healthcare executive firm.

Best For Tailored Services : N2Growth



Why We Chose It: Providing clients with a comprehensive portfolio of advisory services and taking pride in a personalized approach made N2Growth our top choice for tailored services.

What We Like
  • Services available across the country

  • More than 50 global locations

  • Consistently ranks in Forbes list of America’s top executive recruiting firms

What We Don't Like
  • No information on the pricing structure

  • Geared toward helping organizations rather than individuals

N2Growth works with some of the most prominent healthcare names including Aetna, CVS pharmacy, Humana, and Blue Cross Blue Shield, yet it embraces its reputation as the “elite of the boutiques.” It focuses on an innovative approach as a leadership development firm that has evolved into an executive search firm. Its practices of offering various tools and processes to each client made them an obvious choice for our best-tailored services option.

Whole business transformation is one of the services that N2Growth offers. Tailored services help clients create solutions across business strategy, organizational structure, and company culture. Consultants also provide unique and customized leadership development programs that they create together with the client.

N2Growth focuses on filling senior executive, board, and C-level positions within healthcare and other industries by using a market mapping process that goes beyond the traditional boundaries to identify the most qualified talent for a given role. Agents use whole-person evaluation, rigorous screening protocols, behavioral interviews, and proprietary case study-based assessments to find the right candidate for any given placement.  

It takes N2Growth, on average, less than 90 days to place a candidate.

Best For Diverse Hires : Diversified Search Group

Diversified Search Group

 Diversified Search Group

Why We Chose It: Diversified Search Group is the largest female-founded executive search firm in the world, and diversity, equity, and inclusion are cornerstones of its mission.

What We Like
  • Services available across the country

  • Partner of the global alliance of international search firms AltoPartners

  • Appears in the top ten of Forbes list of America’s leading executive recruiting firms

What We Don't Like
  • No information on the pricing structure

  • Website is difficult to navigate

  • Not much information for job seekers

A 2017 study found that diversity is a primary driver of innovation and that diverse teams produce 19% more revenue. Founded in 1974, the Diversified Search Group understands this advantage, and it quickly grew to become a trusted search firm that values diversity. 

Diversified Search Group offers a wide range of expertise to companies looking for diverse candidates and placements across all industries and sectors.  It is the only search firm in the United States with a female Founder, President, and Chair, and an African-American CEO. 

Since 2016, the Diversity Search Group has acquired several life sciences and healthcare-focused executive search firms. They have dedicated themselves to finding healthcare leaders who can transform the industry so that affordable healthcare becomes accessible to all while increasing organizational efficiency and raising the bar on performance.

The Diversified Search Group fills executive and high-level positions in all healthcare sectors, including hospitals, research institutions, laboratories, insurance, mental health services, and academia.

The candidate screening and hiring processes depend on the role. Typically, the process kicks off by learning about the organization’s needs and the ideal candidate’s key attributes. Diversified Search then compiles a tailor-made candidate list, which may involve contacting exceptional individuals within its network. People on the initial candidate list are screened and appraised by the managing partners, and the strongest candidates are interviewed before identifying the finalist.

After the Diversified Search Group has successfully filled a position, they continue to work with clients by supporting them through the onboarding, orientation, training, and ongoing performance of the executive to ensure the transition is seamless.

Best For Process : DHR International

DHR International

 DHR International

Why We Chose It: With its proprietary, breakthrough Triple Check Assessment, designed to help businesses make better hiring decisions, DHR International is our best for process choice.

What We Like
  • Services available across the country

  • More than 50 offices worldwide

  • Two-year guarantee on candidate hires

  • Appears in the top 15 of Forbes list of America’s leading executive recruiting firms

What We Don't Like
  • No information on the pricing structure

  • Focuses on serving organizations rather than individuals

  • Some people may prefer working with a smaller, more personal firm

DHR International was established in 1989 and it boasts unparalleled research abilities. The company designed its Triple Check Assessment to allow clients to compare candidates objectively and hire with confidence. 

The Triple Check Assessment’s first step was designed by Columbia University PhDs and verified by expert organizational psychologists. Leap is a proprietary, online psychometric assessment tool that evaluates leadership traits, preferences, and how well someone will fit into the company culture. If the candidate matches expectations in the Leap assessment, they then take part in a competency-based interview that measures skillsets by thoroughly evaluating their past performance. 

Following a successful interview, DHR requests references and information from peers, managers, and employees to allow them to pinpoint any areas of concern. It expects the entire process from initial client organizational assessment through to offer negotiation should last around 12 weeks. 

Its thorough screening and hiring process means that organizations need not worry about substantial amounts of wasted time and money invested in a miss-hire. Approximately 74% of employers have hired the wrong person for a job, and the cost of a bad hire is around 30% of that person’s first-year earnings. A substantial investment in the wrong person could threaten the future of a business, but DHR mitigates this risk. In the rare circumstances that a candidate leaves in the first two years, DHR will replace them with no fees under its guarantee.

DHR offers personalized services with experts available in diverse industries from healthcare and life sciences to sports, education, and media. It provides executive search, leadership consulting, and emerging leader services. 

The Healthcare Services & Solutions team has consultants from hospitals, health systems, and executive ranks. It fills executive leadership roles in all facets of healthcare, including on hospital boards, within the healthcare IT and technology-enabled services, and other healthcare providers. 

DHR’s clients include hospitals, managed care organizations, healthcare products and services companies, insurance companies, integrated delivery systems, and hospice care businesses.

Final Verdict 

Finding the perfect leaders for your healthcare organization can be time-consuming, expensive, and frustrating. Appointing a healthcare executive search firm can speed up the process and allow you access to high-level, qualified candidates. 

Our overall top pick is Korn Ferry, thanks to its national and global reach and solid industry reputation. However, people may find the sheer size of Korn Ferry intimidating and instead prefer our top choice for tailored services, N2Growth. This elite boutique search firm has an impressive portfolio of services and delights in a personalized approach.

For organizations that understand the benefits a diverse workforce brings, the Diversified Search Group, with its diversity, equity, and inclusion principles, is an excellent choice as our best for diversity pick.

Finally, DHR International is our best for process choice and is a good option for an organization that needs assurance the candidate they hire is the best person for the job. Combining DHR’s Triple Check Assessment and guarantee means that clients can feel confident in the hiring decision.

Compare Providers

Company What We Picked It For Unique Feature
Korn Ferry Best Overall Largest search firm in the world
N2Growth Best for Tailored Services Elite boutique firm
Diversified Search Group Best for Diverse Hires Only women-led firm
DHR International Best for Process Triple Check Assessment

What Is a Healthcare Executive Search Firm?

A healthcare executive search firm is a professional recruitment agency specializing in filling senior positions within the healthcare industry, typically with salaries of $100,00 and over.

These companies seek out and assess highly qualified and talented individuals to place in executive jobs across every sector. The agents who work in executive search firms have an extensive network in healthcare or another industry and in-depth knowledge and understanding of senior executive roles.

The executive search firm researches the availability of suitable candidates and creates a shortlist of the people who align with the client requirements. Agents then contact these individuals to determine if they would be interested in a position with a new employer.

Some healthcare executive search firms also carry out the initial candidates' screenings and interviews before presenting selected candidates to their clients. The search firm may also be involved in negotiating salary and benefits and preparing a contract of employment.  

The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) was founded in 1959 to establish quality and ethics standards for executive search firms. The AESC has members worldwide in over 70 countries, ranging from small boutique companies to large global firms.

What Types of Positions Do Healthcare Executive Search Firms Fill?

Healthcare executive search firms typically fill key, high-level C-suite or C-level positions. This term describes corporations' most senior executives, the titles of which usually begin with the letter C, standing for "chief."

These positions may include:

  • Chief executive officer (CEO)
  • Chief operating officer (COO)
  • Chief financial officer (CFO)
  • Chief marketing officer (CMO)
  • Chief information officer (CIO)
  • Vice president positions

Healthcare executive search firms may fill any position that's considered critical within a firm at the executive and senior management levels.

Is the Screening Process Strict?

Executive search firms have different approaches to screening potential candidates, and because firms are looking to attract high-level candidates, it is a strict process. 

Members of the AESC must adhere to a set of ethical standards and frequently share an outline for their approach, which includes everything from the initial client meeting to the search strategy, shortlisting candidates, reviewing references, and assisting with onboarding after an offer is made and accepted. 

Because search firms often use the AESC outline, it makes the approach uniform and allows job candidates insight. Candidates can prepare for the screening process and this, in turn, helps them find ideal positions. 

How Much Does a Healthcare Executive Search Firm Cost?

Healthcare executive search firms usually charge a set percentage of the first year of the candidate’s salary.  The higher the candidate's salary, the more the executive search firm earns. Some recruiters may also include the first year commissions and bonuses in this calculation, although they usually don’t add the benefits package’s value.

Pricing structure may also vary based on the type of executive search firm. Retained firms and contingency firms are the two traditional executive search firm models. Retained executive search firms receive a retainer fee independent of making a placement for the client. These firms focus on finding the best talent for the job, including people who aren't actively searching. The consultants spend more time consulting with the client, researching and vetting candidates, and finally closing the deal. Consequently, there is more work involved, and the fees are higher.

Compare this to contingency search firms who the client pays when it finds and places a candidate. The search firms tend to recruit candidates that are actively looking for work and focus on finding qualified people. Contingency search firms usually cost less than retained firms.

An executive search firm may charge fees based on how difficult it will be to fill a position. The costs involved also depend on the service provided and whether a client requires assistance with all aspects of hiring a new candidate or only the initial part of the recruitment process.

Should I Use a Healthcare Executive Search Firm?

If you have an executive-level position to fill, such as CEO, COO, CFO, or another high salaried role, you may want to consider using a healthcare executive search firm. Finding candidates for these types of positions is both time-consuming and requires specific knowledge. Executive search firms often have an extensive network of potential candidates that you would not have otherwise had access to, in addition to substantial industry contacts who may be able to highlight the ideal candidate for you.

Searching for and hiring executive individuals is the mainstay of an executive search firm's business. This means that the firms are skilled at presenting positions to prospective candidates, often more so than a company’s human resource department. Search firms do not rely on advertising available positions. Instead, agents find exceptional individuals who are not necessarily looking for a new role.

A healthcare executive search firm can likely find ideal candidates more quickly and efficiently than the company itself.

How We Chose the Best Healthcare Executive Search Firms

To compile our roundup, we evaluated 25 companies that offer healthcare executive search services before selecting the category leaders. 

We used ranking surveys from Forbes and Modern Healthcare to help assess each search firm. Companies with a nationwide and global reach carried more weight in our analysis. We also looked at each company’s portfolio of services, areas of expertise, the range of positions they fill, and reputation in the industry to compile our final list.

All of our choices offer comprehensive and reliable services to fill an array of executive positions, have a solid industry reputation, and are experts in placing high-level candidates in healthcare leadership roles.