Skip to main content

NIH’s search for new CEO goes global

July 5, 2013

This landing page is just one aspect of executive recruiting firm HFS Consultants’ multi-pronged search for a replacement for Northern Inyo Hospital CEO John Halfen. The public is invited to visit the page at and also email search suggestions and comments to Screen capture by Marilyn Blake Philip

Sacramento-based executive recruiting firm HFS Consultants seeks local and nationwide input in the initial phase of the search for the Northern Inyo Hospital chief executive officer who will replace current CEO John Halfen when he retires in July 2014.
“Since the moment we began this process in May, I started talking to potential candidates and referral sources. There are many, many good minds we tap into,” said HFS Consultants Managing Director of Executive Search and Business Development Donald Whiteside, the veteran recruiter in charge of the CEO search. He is networking with hundreds of potential candidates and has asked Bishop community members for their input as well.
Whiteside explained how his process generally unfolds. He will end up talking with about 100 of the 500-600 executives he contacts initially – some will respond with interest, others will provide leads. “I probably end up having serious conversations or interviews with 25 or 35 of them” before selecting about eight candidates who are criteria-qualified; interested in the position; and able to relocate to Bishop. Whiteside typically culls that number down to three or four who visit Bishop for face-to-face interviews with the NIH Board of Directors.
In May, Whiteside interviewed a cross-section of NIH senior management, physicians and board members for their input on the search and had informal talks with townspeople. Board President Dr. John Ungersma said Whiteside “actually walked down Main Street, went into coffee shops and businesses and talked to people. Not many headhunters would do that kind of thing.” Whiteside said, “I like to get a good feel for what the community thinks about their hospital – and it was positive – because that’s what candidates will ask about.”
The recruiter also has talks with Halfen but outgoing CEOs typically aren’t actively involved in searches, Whiteside said. “John has been very helpful when needed.”
“We’ve started on a journey and it will result in the very best CEO for this hospital for the coming years,” Ungersma said. He and Board Vice President M.C. Hubbard created “an excellent” nine-member, Board-approved CEO Selection Advisory Committee of NIH staff and medical personnel and one community member, Whiteside said. This committee will meet with and select, from among HFS’ final-cut candidates, finalists for the Board to interview, Ungersma explained. The best ones will return to Bishop with their significant others or entire family for final interviews with the Board.
That’s the process. Here are some of the ideal qualifications listed on the CEO job description: ability to embrace NIH’s uniqueness and mission and adapt in order to serve the greater good; have experience with rural healthcare settings as well as larger facilities’s best practices; quickly establish personal and professional credibility; set high accountability standards; and unify and mobilize staff. And the candidate and his or her family must want “to put down roots in the community” and get involved in community activities.
A search of this nature usually takes six months, more or less, Whiteside said. “For the next couple of months, I’ll be working behind the scenes.” Aside from networking with executives, he said he looks forward to responses to an Inyo Register ad soliciting community input at From past experience, Whiteside said, people’s input has ranged from helpful personality characteristics to what candidates should expect about the new area to suggestions for expanding or narrowing the search. “I just want them to say anything that’s on their mind;” one never knows what might be helpful.
The public is also welcome to visit, an HFS page about NIH, Bishop and the position, designed “to further publicize the job opening,” Whiteside said.

Premium Drupal Themes by Adaptivethemes