Higher Hires: Executive Recruiting in a Dynamic Environment

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series highlighting speakers at the upcoming ERE Recruiting Conference. Click here to view other articles in the series.


The only experts in high-caliber executive talent are executive search firms. At least, that’s been the traditional view. But it’s not true. It’s now more than possible to shift executive recruitment in-house. Indeed, Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft, Time Warner, Starbucks, Amazon, Expedia, Coca-Cola, and Nike have made the transition to in-house recruitment several years ago. 

Of course, in-house executive recruiting can make a lot of sense, since an in-house team knows an organization’s business and culture better than a search firm.

I also know firsthand the value of in-house executive recruitment: At the upcoming ERE Recruiting Conference in San Diego (Apr 15 – 17), I’ll be giving a presentation about how Providence St. Joseph Health, a large Fortune 500 company where I am the director of executive recruitment, built a high-performing executive-recruiting function from scratch. 

Our results have been impressive and continue to exceed national benchmarks. In 2019, the internal team filled 134 positions, representing 89% of all executive positions filled. Others results were that: 

  • We filled these positions two times quicker than external search firms that filled other roles, saving the organization approximately $9.7 million 
  • Cost per hire decreased 14% from the prior year 
  • Retention rates for the in-house team’s placements is 97%, compared to executive search firms’ at 94%
  • Customer satisfaction scores from hiring executives and candidates continue to be high 

I know that if we could achieve such great outcomes at my organization, there’s a good chance you can do the same at yours, so in my presentation I’m also eager to explain how we accomplished our results. I’ll talk about the importance of: 

1. Gathering voice-of-the-customer (VOC) feedback. Customer satisfaction is very important. It’s therefore imperative to capture feedback from hiring executives and candidates that will help build a world-class in-house executive recruiting function. The customers at Providence expected the following aspects:

  • A standardized, predictable, and consistent search process that mirrors service received from external executive search firms
  • Service as consultative, trusted advisors who have a deep understanding of the culture and business units of the company
  • Reduced time-to-fill, without sacrificing candidate quality
  • Decreased reliance on using executive search firms and reduced placement costs

2. Creating the plan. I’ll go over the key parts that a solid plan should cover, including the problem that you are trying to solve, the proposed solution, scope of services, risks and constraints, success measures, leadership support, executive sponsorship, and benchmarking.

3. Determining the business model. This includes the reason the department exists and the value it will provide to defined customers, the function’s vision (goals, specific focus, etc.), and the strategy and tactics to achieve that vision.

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4. Defining the operating model. This entails clarifying the future work that you will perform and what differentiating capabilities are required for success.

5. Designing the structure. Next, I’ll discuss how to structure and distribute the work to the team, which includes being mindful of the differentiating capabilities needed for success, job descriptions, and role clarity.

6. Finalizing and implementing the plan. I’ll talk about the implementation plan prior to launch — including stakeholder communication and more — which helps clarify expectations. 

This is a topic I’m particularly passionate about because while executive search is an art, it’s also a science and therefore can be known and replicated. Contrary to public opinion, it’s not as elusive and mysterious as many may think. It really is possible to create and improve in-house executive search at your own organization.


Interested in learning more about Russell’s experience leading executive recruitment and how to elevate your own function’s practices? Come see Russell and network with tons of other great speakers and attendees at the ERE Recruiting Conference in San Diego, April 15 – 17. Use code ERESD10EXTRA to receive 10% off your ticket price. 

Russell Podgorski is the director of executive recruiting at Providence St. Joseph Health, which operates across seven states and is comprised of 119,000 employees, 51 acute care hospitals, 829 physician clinics, 22 long-term care facilities, 19 hospice and home health programs, 693 supportive housing units, and two health plans. He brings over a decade of experience recruiting executives and physicians for multi-billion dollar integrated health care delivery systems. He holds a B.A. degree from Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri and a Master of Health Administration degree from St. Joseph’s College in Standish, Maine.

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