February 25, 2015

Healthcare Recruitment Isn’t a Season

Here are some truths about seasons:

Snow falls in…winter.

Days are longest in…summer.

Trees and flowers bud in…spring.

Physicians interview in…fall. Right?

Well, not so much anymore. That was true in the not too distant past, according to Michelle Houchin and Shannon McKay of Adkisson Search Consultants. “It used to be that doctors would be recruited in the fall, they’d sign with a practice or hospital in December, finish their residency, and start their new position in August,” explains Houchin. “They would interview up to a year prior to the actual start date.”

This cyclical routine lent itself nicely to a perceived recruitment season—a time when human resource professionals or hiring managers met, negotiated, and finalized details with new physicians for their practice. “In fact, it was a red flag if a physician was still available for interviews in the spring,” says McKay. “You questioned what was wrong with the candidate and why he or she had not signed.”

Almost as strange and unsettling as tree leaves changing colors and falling to the ground in May. Something’s just not right.

However, Houchin and McKay want to set the record straight: The recruitment season is now year round. April interviews for July or August start dates are not uncommon anymore.

“There are so many opportunities for candidates anymore—especially in primary care,” says Houchin. The demand for primary care physicians is very high right now; clients (hospitals and clinics) are “buying” doctors with high starting salary offers and other perks. “We’ve even seen instances of bidding wars,” adds McKay. “It’s a physicians’ market right now—they can pretty much name their price and place.”

This also means there is no incentive or push for the docs to sign early.

Adkisson works hard to help their clients uncover why the docs who are still interviewing in April haven’t signed. Haven’t they received any offers? Have they declined offers? Have they have few or no interviews? If not, why not?

“Legitimate reasons exist—they may be concentrating on other things, such as finishing their residency rotations. They may be performing locum tenens work—filling in for other physicians through part-time contract work for per diem pay. This gives them flexibility, experience, decent pay, and the time to decide what they really want,” says Houchin.

McKay and Houchin also work with candidates to help them peel away the various aspects of what they see their career being. “Everyone wants the ‘best’ for themselves and their families, but ‘best’ can be hard to define,” McKay explains. “We help them figure out what they want to do clinically as well as where they want to be geographically—so they know what ‘best’ means to them.”

As far as the clinical setting, this means finding out about whether they want inpatient or outpatient scenarios; hospitalist positions; group practice—basically covering all the different elements they may encounter as part of their job, including work volume, setting, practice size, and similar issues that define the work environment.

In addition, it’s critical to discuss the type of community they want—because the community will have a lot of influence on the candidate’s family’s happiness.

“Taking a job just because they’ve been offered a fantastic salary isn’t necessarily a great idea for the candidate,” cautions Houchin. “They get locked in, and then reality hits and if it’s not a good fit, it’s a hard situation for everyone.”

Sometimes, Houchin and McKay have found, the candidates who have waited longer to interview know more specifically what they want as far as a job goes. Their delay may be deliberate, or it may be due to the circumstances of their particular program. Some programs encourage their residents to sign early, while others don’t. Programs have different curricula and residency rotations. “The fact is, not all programs are structured the same way, so the residents don’t always know what they need to know to make a decision until later in the year.”

Houchin and McKay encourage clients who are looking to hire physicians to be open to considering a candidate at any time during the year, even in the same year. “There is no longer a clearly defined recruitment season—sometimes candidates who have waited longer are a better fit for the position.”

Their advice? Don’t be apprehensive about considering a candidate in April for August start date. It may be worth the wait.

Wiese, B, (2015) Recruitment Isn’t a Season. Bloomington, IL.

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