In the mid-90s, a buzz of excitement vibrated through the walls at Fox Hill Associates, the physician recruitment firm where I was employed at the time.
A new technology called the World Wide Web promised access to physician candidates within just a few key strokes on our newly purchased shared office computer. The days following the grand announcement, I recall daydreaming about how wonderful life was going to be.
Fast forward to 2013. Despite the ongoing conveniences afforded the recruitment process, recruiting physicians is as difficult as ever. The current shallow pool of viable physician candidates creates a paradox in which practice decision makers have become highly selective by requiring candidates to meet specific professional and interpersonal criteria before extending an offer. Recruiting entities regard their recruitment and retention efforts as nearly synonymous.
The investment in recruiting long-term physician candidates with ties to the area, a solid skill set, desirable interpersonal attributes and practice philosophies similar to the incumbent medical staff are key to building and retaining a strong medical community.
Over the course of my more than 25 years of experience in the industry, I have logged a few unspoken and “just shy of traditional” observations that I have been known to share selectively with my physician candidates. Here they are for you.
In building a successful career, keep it simple by abiding by these rules of engagement
√ Never burn a bridge.
√ Always look for the silver lining.
√ Be the answer, not the problem.
√ And perhaps, most importantly, be polite and mind your manners.
1. Know the practice administrator’s mantra.
Even in the midst of a physician shortage, administrators and hospital boards’ recruitment mantra continues to be unwavering: “It is better to not fill a position than hire the wrong candidate.” And though it is seems counterintuitive, practices will wait for the ideal candidate, in some cases for years.
2. Opportunity does not equal employment.
Over the years, I have spoken with physicians who have boasted that opportunities for them are limitless. One family medicine resident recently informed me that he had so many opportunities to choose from that if he were blindfolded, he could point to a spot on a map and be assured a position in that location.
Admittedly, I would agree that jobs for physicians are plentiful. But I would argue that available opportunities equal open positions, not assured employment. Competition, especially in prime locations and for select specialties, is alive and well. Practices with a well-tuned recruitment program interview multiple candidates before choosing a new associate.
3. Make lists.
The most successful practice searches start when the physician begins their job search with a focused conversation with a spouse or significant other involved in their final practice decision.
Devise a “must have” and “wish” list that includes both preferred and realistic location and position attributes. Do this before starting your search. Over the years, I have observed that those with a mutually agreed upon practice search plan experience a streamlined process, alleviate distraction delays, ease expending unnecessary energy and avoid wasting valuable time on empty objectives.
In my opinion, physicians listing as many as 15 state location preferences are either benchmarking the market, shopping opportunities, or fear they will miss out on an opportunity.
Though there is no harm in exploring more than one region, I suggest augmenting your location options incrementally to avoid being overwhelmed and paralyzing your decision-making process.
4. Timing is everything.
In the United States, the nonverbal communication of “time” is used as a measure of the importance of one person to another. Specific to recruitment, the expedience or delay in our responding to an email, text or voicemail communicates to the sender—whether real or perceived—their importance.
Upon engaging a practice representative, be prompt and responsive to their emails and calls. Be timely with communicating new developments that arise.
In my tenure in the industry, I have witnessed CEOs and Medical Directors who interpret delayed candidate replies as unprofessional. On occasion, after weeks of unresponsiveness by a candidate, the bad taste experienced by some executives warrants them eliminating the physician from consideration.
Rest assured, these executives understand you have a full plate. However, trust me when I say that in a time when attrition is a prevalent business practice model, everybody is feeling that their cup runneth over.
5. Mind your manners.
Recruitment is a communication proposition that imposes judgments on verbal and nonverbal messaging.
When interviewing candidates, practice executives evaluate prospective physician matches with regards to their incumbent physician culture. Conversational style, approachability and etiquette during an on-site interview undoubtedly make unforgettable impressions on decision makers. Firsthand candidate interactions; word-of-mouth; and advanced networking in physician programs, medical communities and specialty markets have advanced or stifled a physician’s career and ability for promotion.
Patrice Streicher (firstname.lastname@example.org) has 26 years of combined health care experience in physician recruitment and patient care delivery systems. She has served on the National Association of Physician Recruiters (NAPR) Board of Directors since 1996.