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NIH begins effort to find a new administrator

January 23, 2013

Northern Inyo Hospital CEO/CFO John Halfen, speaking hear at the grand opening of the new hospital building, is tentatively scheduled to retire in July of 2014. The Hospital Board has researching firms that can help find his replacement. Photo by Marilyn Blake Philip

Northern Inyo Hospital is in the midst of executing a succession plan, using national and international recruiting agencies, to find suitable replacement for its chief executive officer.
NIH Chief Executive Officer/Chief Financial Officer John Halfen plans to retire and it is incumbent on the hospital’s Board of Directors to find his replacement – or replacements.
That’s no easy task, said NIH Board of Directors President Dr. John Ungersma. It is difficult enough to find a qualified, competent, experienced CEO or CFO but even more so to find both capabilities in one person. “We were lucky to get John, with his strong financial credentials.” It may well take two people to fill Halfen’s shoes, Ungersma added.
John Halfen first served NIH as its CFO. Then, in August 2002, when then-CEO Herm Spencer retired, Halfen stepped into the role of CEO as well. Halfen will be stepping into a new role, retirement, tentatively effective July 2014.
At the Jan. 16 board meeting, Halfen presented a list of three executive recruiting agencies for board members to research. According to their respective websites, B. E. Smith, which specializes in healthcare placements, was founded in 1978; Korn/Ferry International, which started in 1969, is the world’s largest executive recruiting firm; and Heidrick & Struggles is a worldwide agency that originated in Chicago in 1953.
Halfen said these are all “top notch” placement agencies with whom he has had experience in the past. They are all equally qualified and “reliable but it depends on which recruiter you get” within the agency, Halfen explained. However, “they are all pulling from the same pool” of applicants.
Halfen has also committed to reviewing NIH’s CEO and CFO job descriptions and “spiff up my own.” He will be presenting updated documents to the board to assist members with their search.
And the CEO successor selection process begins, with the board searching first for the right headhunter, then for the right recruiter and finally for the right candidate. Ungersma outlined the process as it has been formulated to date.
After reviewing the background information and NIH requests for proposal for each agency, the board will choose one agency. The issue of prior experience came up. “Korn/Ferry has placed in a lot of small hospitals,” NIH Board of Directors Treasurer Dr. Scott Clark said but Halfen advised the board to consider a recruiter who places at large hospitals, as well. An applicant that went after a job in “a big hospital like Massachusetts General, but didn’t get in, might consider NIH for different reasons.”
Next, the chosen agency will “probably send a few recruiters out and we will discuss our goals and unique needs and the type of person we are looking for. We will explain the intricacies of the relationship of the hospital to the community and the county,” Ungersma explained.
“It has to be an unusual fit, between the individual and the community. Arguably, we are the most remote hospital in the U.S. (The candidate) has to like Bishop … But a lot of people like Bishop; I’m looking at a room full of them right now,” Ungersma told the Jan. 16 board meeting audience.
If all goes well at that stage of the process, Ungersma said, he anticipates that the agency will then send a list of candidates they deem suitable. “The top two or three would then come for an on-site interview. This evolution will probably take six months to one year, the board president explained.
Ideally, Ungersma continued, once chosen, Halfen’s replacement would work with his predecessor for several months before Halfen leaves NIH – “so he can learn the ropes and John can break him into the job and its responsibilities.” Pronoun choice aside, Ungersman said that NIH is open to a leader of either gender.
At the Dec. 19 board meeting, Halfen quoted a potential recruitment fee of NIH $20,000 upfront and probably $40,000-$50,000 upon placement, although those figures are merely speculation at this time, said NIH Administrative Assistant Sandy Blumberg.

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