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Locums News April 22, 2016

Best Practices for Working with a Physician Recruitment Firm

Welcome to Staff Care's New Physicians program, where we take a moment to answer some common questions faced by new physicians. If you're a resident, fellow, or new physician, don't forget to sign up for regular tips, advice and insider info, straight from the experts at Staff Care.

Now more than ever, many new physicians find themselves working with a professional physician recruiter (or a team of them) when they enter the medical workforce. Staff Care is one such recruiter: As the nation's leading provider of locum tenens staffing services and a company of AMN Healthcare, we're proud to offer new physicians the very best in career guidance, assistance and assignments.

But whether or not you choose to work assignments with Staff Care — now or in the future — it's still a great idea to get acquainted with the world of physician recruitment, and to understand what to look for when it comes time to partner with a physician recruiter.

Physician Recruitment Firms: History & Types

Before 1980 or so, it was somewhat rare for physicians to encounter professional physician recruiters. Over the course of the next decade, though, physician search firms were increasingly established toward the goal of assisting hospitals and medical groups with recruiting harder-to-find specialists.

As managed care became more popular, demand for primary care physicians also grew. The need for PCPs to serve as "gatekeepers" became acute, and many hospitals and medical groups added full-time physician recruiters to their staff to help ensure optimal staffing. Though the "gatekeeper" system has lost considerable momentum in recent years, the demand for physicians remains very high, particularly primary care physicians (and demand for locum tenens physicians is even higher, as the most recent Staff Care Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends shows.)

The result: Physician recruitment needs and methods have evolved, and the amount of independent search firms has grown. There are now several hundred firms across the U.S. that offer physician recruiting services, and thousands of "in-house" physician recruiters who work with hospitals, medical groups, managed care companies, and other employers who need physicians.

Today, as the need for physicians outpaces the number of new physicians, it's been estimated that there is currently about one physician recruiter for every two to three final-year residents. Chances are pretty good that you've already been contacted by a recruiter, and perhaps many times.

There are two basic kinds of recruitment firms: retained and contingent. Retained firms get an upfront fee or retainer from clients before the search is carried out, as well as a placement fee after a doctor is hired. Contingent firms don't receive an upfront fee and are paid only after making a placement. Retained firms employ recruitment consultants who represent a limited number of search assignments; they usually visit these assignments personally and can offer a relatively in-depth amount of knowledge about the job as well as the community. Contingent recruiters, on the other hand, usually don't personally visit the employment sites and represent many different opportunities.

A good retained firm will also consult with physician candidates, assisting with contracts, interview itineraries and even serving as a hands-on matchmaker. Contingent firms may also offer some consulting services, but usually, they're much less involved in the process. Both types work for the employer, so it's important to select a physician search firm that's committed to creating a match that fits your needs as well as the employers.

So, what's the best way for residents and new physicians to choose which physician recruitment firm to work with? Here are a few tips.

Best Practices For Working With A Physician Recruitment Firm

1. The client pays, not the candidate. Physician recruiters can help you find a practice setting, but you're not supposed to pay them to do so. Recruiters are always paid by the party seeking a physician, and never by the candidate. Don't work with a physician recruiter who asks you for any type of payment!

2. Don't spread yourself thin. It's a mistake to try working with too many physician recruiters. If your CV is too widely circulated, it can be noticed. You may be perceived as too eager for a job; some employers may assume there's something wrong with your work or training record. It can also create confusion; your recruiter may not truly know whether you're their candidate, and, hence, who'll get paid should you accept a particular offer. Some recruiters may not even work with you if they think your CV has been "over-shopped."

Instead, select one or two firms with which you feel comfortable. Choose a recruiter the same way you'd choose a lawyer, accountant, or other professionals: Determine how much experience they have, who they've worked with, and what their knowledge level is. A professional, reasonable and objective manner works best; keep in mind that the first impression an employer gets of you will come via the physician recruiter.

3. Know your recruiter. There's no college degree in recruiting; recruiters aren't licensed. Because anyone can call himself or herself a physician recruiter, it's important to read up on the firms you work with. The internet makes this step much easier than it used to be; still, you may want to delve a little deeper than a Google search. See if you can find some people they've worked with before, and talk to them.

4. Know yourself. Try to have a realistic vision of what you need in a practice versus what you may want. You may want a part-time job working for a hospital in Malibu, with full-time pay. What you may actually need, however, is an established referral base in an area with minimal job competition. Determine, in general, the type of location you truly need (a good family area with outdoor recreation, for instance), the position you need, and, of course, the pay you need. Having all this clear lets your physician recruiter accurately present you to employers and help you find the opportunity that's best for your personal and professional needs.

Need some figuring out what kind of practice setting is right for you? Check out our previous articles "Choosing Your Practice Setting," "Physician Job Search Considerations: 4 Keys to Practice Selection," and "Assessing a Physician Practice Opportunity: 9 Crucial Interview Questions" for more information.

5. Keep "tire-kicking" to a minimum. Professional physician recruiters have no problem with candidates who pass up one opportunity to pursue another. They know that those candidates will come back the next time they're looking for a new assignment. What recruiters do object to, however, are candidates who aren't really serious about finding a practice in the first place, but are simply "tire kicking" — i.e., checking out the market with no serious intention to accept a new role. If you don't seriously intend to accept an offer — provided it meets your needs, of course, as outlined above — then don't put yourself on the market. You'll only end up frustrating recruiters and potential employers, and perhaps tarnishing your own brand when it does come time to move on.

Remember, during the time it takes you to identify practice, interview, negotiate and close, you should be in very close and continual contact with your physician recruiter. You'll be able to judge their commitment by the amount of time they spend talking with you, and with your spouse or partner. They should provide information as needed, and give you detailed answers to any reasonable questions you may have. Remember, the recruiter's goal should be to create a valid, mutually satisfactory match between you and the employer. As such, there should be no "high-pressure" sales tactics; there should instead be a consistent, professional effort to help you find a practice that fits your needs.

Ready to meet a recruiter? Contact Staff Care today to speak to a professional recruitment consultant who can help you realize your career goals. You can also browse all of our available physician jobs here.

Adapted from an article originally published on

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