Hiring top physicians is difficult under any circumstances, let alone in a year with unprecedented changes and challenges. This article presents steps you can take to prevent your recruitment efforts from going up in flames.
Hiring top physicians is difficult in a good year—let alone a year with unprecedented changes and challenges. According to the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment, the most common physician searches take 92 to 227 days.1 In most specialties, the demand for new physicians far exceeds the number of physicians who are looking for a position, which means that physicians can be extremely selective when choosing a new position. Your department can’t afford big recruiting mistakes in this competitive recruiting environment. Unfortunately, many recruitment efforts are doomed to failure before they start. To prevent your critical recruitment from going up in flames, here are steps you can take to prepare for success.
ESTABLISH THE RECRUITING TEAM
The head of your department or practice may be the ultimate decision maker, but if they are too busy to pay attention to recruitment, candidates might never get called. Determining which stakeholders will be on the team and who will do what is important to successful recruitment. If you are the organized problem solver on the team (most practice managers are), you might need to act as the quarterback to keep track of all the details and make sure the recruitment moves forward and the right candidate gets hired. If your hospital has an in-house recruiter, they can also keep track of the candidates and next steps. That could free you up to have the initial call with candidates and make sure they’re a good fit before passing them along to the team. Establishing who is going to do what will help avoid miscommunications—and missed candidates—once the recruitment process starts.
PREPARING TO LAUNCH THE RECRUITMENT
If you want to succeed with your recruitment, you need to look at your opportunity the way a high-quality candidate would look at it and ask yourself, “Is this a good job that a high-quality candidate is likely to want in today’s competitive hiring market?” Ask yourself these questions:
- Has the physician practice into which you are recruiting developed a modern practice style consistent with the needs of today’s candidates?
- Are any of the doctors in the practice unhappy with their jobs? Are any of the doctors likely to be upset that you are recruiting? If you don’t find a way to deal with this before the recruitment begins, your unhappy physicians will undermine any hiring that you would like to do.
- Is your compensation structure truly competitive given your location and the demands of the job? If not, what can you do to make your position as attractive as possible to the candidates you want to attract? If you are lucky enough to fill your position despite a disadvantageous compensation structure, you are likely to suffer retention problems. All in all, it is critical that physicians be truly fairly compensated for their time, effort, and level of responsibility. Inpatient roles, in which physicians have little control over how many patients they see, typically are compensated primarily by salary, often with a quality bonus, and call in excess of the agreed-upon number of days should be compensated fairly. Outpatient roles typically are more production-oriented, and how “productivity” is calculated and valued should be thoughtful, fair to the physician, and in line with what most other practices are doing. Administrative time should be protected and paid for, even though it is not clinically productive. If your institution isn’t willing to pay for administrative time for leadership roles, then nobody should be surprised if you are unable to recruit the talent you need for the position.
- Is there a recruitment team that is ready to respond to candidates quickly to keep momentum going?
IS YOUR RECRUITMENT TEAM READY?
Would you like a sure-fire way to fill your open positions as quickly as possible? If so, one magic trick will dramatically reduce the time it takes for you to sign a great candidate: call your candidates right away! That’s it. If you can’t make an initial contact the same day you get the candidate’s CV, wait no more than 48 hours before contacting the candidate.
Why does this make such a difference? Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. If you send your CV to a practice in response to a practice opportunity, and the practice enthusiastically calls you right away, you think, “Wow, they really like me! And they are so well-organized! I am excited to interview with them!” On the other hand, if you send your CV to a practice and you don’t hear from them, you think, “I guess they are not interested in me. It’s okay. The job didn’t sound that great anyway.” If the practice finally calls you a month or two after you sent your CV, you might think, “Either they aren’t very well organized, or maybe they were just turned down by someone they liked better and that is why they called me.” If the practice is lucky, maybe you will still consider them.... but if too much time has passed, you have likely moved on to other opportunities...and you have likely moved on psychologically as well. It is human nature to like people who like you first, or at least who like you back. If you express interest in someone and they ignore you, it is natural to justify their rudeness by thinking “I wasn’t really interested in them anyway.” Recruiting is no different from other personal relationships in that respect.
What gets in the way of the very simple goal of calling candidates promptly? See if any of these statements sound familiar:
- I have the candidate’s CV in my inbox, but it has been so busy, I have not had time to call. I’ll try to get to it next week.
- We aren’t going to call any new candidates until we have another site visit with the one we just interviewed. I think we are going to make her an offer.
- We just made an offer to a candidate, and we are going to wait to see if it is accepted or not. We can’t call anyone until we hear whether our offer has been accepted.
- We can’t call a candidate until everyone in the group has given the CV a thumbs-up.
- I don’t want to call any candidates until I know they are good. I want to call around to my friends who might know of the candidate and see what they say about him.
If any of these statements sound like your organization, then you may be in for a long haul with your recruitment. However, you can take steps to secure the time of busy physicians who must make calls to candidates and teach everyone on your recruitment team how to communicate with good candidates while you are actively pursuing others, so that you can maintain momentum in your recruitment process.
NOW YOU ARE READY
With your on-trend practice opportunity, buy-in from all the physicians who will be affected by the recruitment, a truly (hopefully highly) competitive offer, and a recruitment team that is ready to respond to candidates quickly and enthusiastically, you are finally ready to recruit the physician you need to your practice. With an efficient process and all major obstacles removed, you can now actually expect success in finding and recruiting the candidate of your dreams.
Judy Rosman JD, Founder, RosmanSearch, 30799 Pinetree Road, Suite 250, Pepper Pike, OH 44124; phone: 216-256-9020; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.rosmansearch.com.
Case Study: Academic Medical Center in the Midwest Needs to Hire a Neurosurgeon
When this hospital first called us, they were in year two of recruiting for a neurosurgeon. They had a few good candidates in the first year, but, as the practice manager told us, they could never quite “seal the deal.” We did a deep dive with all the stakeholders to learn more and see if we could help. We learned that their position was very attractive, and they were actually paying above market. Since the position seemed very fillable, we wanted to understand their process. When we asked about the recruiting team, we were told that whoever was around at the time the CV came in would figure out what to do with the candidate. Sometimes, this meant that one of the physicians called the candidate, sometimes the practice manager, and sometimes the department chair. Determining who was going to call the candidate would sometimes take a few weeks (everyone was very busy, and recruiting was usually the last thing on people’s minds). Often, the candidate would have forgotten that they had submitted their CV to the position, so a lot of time was spent playing phone tag and explaining the position. If the candidate remained interested after this point, another few weeks would be spent figuring out next steps. Site visits, when they happened, were also chaotic, with people not knowing who was doing what and what the candidate had already been told.
We suggested an improved process in which candidates were called within the first 24 hours by a designated person and that person was empowered to invite the candidate in for a visit if he or she thought the person was a good fit. The practice manager was then able to work with the in-house recruiter to get the visit scheduled. Candidates moved through the process seamlessly, and everyone was on the same page regarding who was doing what at the site visit. The stakeholders were much better able to assess the candidates, the candidates had a great view of the program, and the position was filled within six months.
- AAPPR. 2019 AAPPR Annual Report Summary and Highlights, pages 10-14. NEJM Career Center. http://employer.nejmcareercenter.org/rpt/RecruitingPhysiciansToday_JanFeb20.pdf.
This article appeared in the September/October 2021 issue of The Journal of Medical Practice Management.