What Executive Recruiters Look for When Filling Top Leadership Positions in Life Sciences

Candidates want to know what will help them stand out from the crowd, and ultimately land a top C-level position.  Similarly, clients want to understand what qualities they should look for to ensure the candidate will not only be successful, but the right fit for their organization as it grows over time.

When we conduct an executive level search for our Life Sciences or Digital Health customers, we use a comprehensive process and all candidates are evaluated based on multiple dimensions: Technical Expertise, Specific Experience, Cultural Fit, and Career Track Record.

Toft Group Executive Search has identified several critical key traits that are common among the most sought after VP and CEO-level candidates.  These are often the “soft skills”, or cognitive and personality characteristics, which employers are consistently looking for in their executives:

1. Ability to Build Trusted Partnerships

In an increasingly complicated and uncertain world, it is critical for executive leaders to know how to build trust. Trust is the leading component driving every relationship both internally and externally.

Recruiters will need to fully and clearly understand an executive’s track record for building and maintaining trusted relationships throughout his/ her career. These relationships extend from the top down, and are ideally maintained across the industry as they progress their career. The relationship a candidate has with her/his manager (and past managers) is just as important as peer relationships and the relationships with employee’s s/he has managed.

There will always be personality differences to consider, however a strong candidate will be able to demonstrate the ability to work well with diverse executive teams and organizations. Building trusted partnerships with a spectrum of different types of people is also a sign of high emotional intelligence – a key leadership quality.


2. Solid Character

One of the most complicated components to a candidate assessment is the character portion of the evaluation. Our process goes well beyond simply evaluating the candidate’s detailed career progression and proven track record of accomplishments. We strive to understand how a candidate performs under stress and during challenging situations. The ability to display unwavering leadership in the face of adversity, make strategic and difficult decisions, and maintain core values in the face of uncertainty are key characteristics one must have to land any leadership role.


3. Humility and Self-Awareness

No candidate or individual is perfect. Executives who are capable of admitting their weaknesses tend to rely more on the strengths of others, and value different perspectives and opinions. The ability to recognize one’s weaknesses not only allows leaders to be more open to new ideas and ways of doing things, but they see other people as invaluable and an important key to their own success.

It is our experience that most early stage companies view humility as one of their core values and most important qualities, and consistently seek this attribute in their executive level hires.


4. Ability to Create a Collaborative and Engaging Culture

While recruiting executives, it is not simply about seeking candidates that fit with the current culture. We more frequently look for leaders who have the ability to improve upon the current culture.

Companies seek executives with the ability to engage people and to create a collaborative Team environment. These leaders are able to identify and leverage unique strengths in others, and can align a Team to accomplish a common goal.


5. A Greater Purpose

Consumers and employees are consistently demanding more from companies. Companies, in turn, are becoming less interested in the employees who just want a “9 to 5” job. They are seeking out employees and leaders who approach their jobs as entrepreneurs, who are personally invested in the company and have a sense of ownership in the company’s mission.

Today’s executive leaders must be able to see how the company can serve a purpose greater than simply focusing on corporate profit. Leaders who “see a bigger picture” are typically more likely to be innovative, able to lead and influence others with their vision, and form stronger relationships with their employees.

In summary, executive recruiters all seek candidates who meet a checklist of technical skills and experience based on specific job requirements. However, Toft Group “finalists” – those candidates who stand out and ultimately land the job – are always those who also possess “soft skills” related to emotional intelligence, collaboration, thinking beyond the bottom line, and have the ability to lead and persevere through challenging times.

For more information on our process, or to start your next search, contact Toft Group.