8 secrets to landing a locum tenens job

In the market for a locum tenens position? If you search online “How to book a locum assignment?” you’ll likely find vague advice such as “Develop a relationship with a recruiter.” Or “Do your homework when choosing an agency.” Thanks, Internet …

Having worked as a locum tenens recruiter for over 15 years, I have seen consistent trends in how the best clinicians are able to stand out and book jobs. Especially now that there are tech-driven alternatives to agency recruiters, it’s more important than ever for providers to lead their own searches, present themselves in the best light possible, negotiate top pay rates, and ultimately win the positions they want.

Here are a few insider tips and best practices that will help you throughout your job search:

1. You don’t need an agency (and you can earn more without one). Staffing agencies charge astronomical fees; usually 30 percent to 40 percent added onto a locum’s daily services. The fees result in lower pay rates for locum providers. By skipping agency recruiters that are costly for employers, you have the power to negotiate your own salary, which is an opportunity to earn premium pay. If you’re interested in exploring part-time or full-time job opportunities in certain locations, feel empowered to connect with medical employers directly.

2. Really know what you want. There are lots of locum jobs out there, so it’s very important to know exactly what you’re looking for. Spend some time thinking about where you want to work: Which states, which cities, which clinical settings, and which patient populations are good for you? Think about when and how long you want to work: Is a weekend now and then or a month straight better for you? Think about how much you want to get paid. And finally, really understand why you’re doing locums. Is it to make a little extra money so you can pay down your student debt and buy a house? Or, are you looking for an adventure in another state or care setting? Come up with honest answers to these questions, and you will have better conversations with the people trying to hire you; you will have a smoother and shorter search; and you will end up with a job you really like.

3. Update your CV. Many CVs and resumes that come to recruiters or employers are poorly crafted and sometimes immediately disqualifying. Often, they are missing up-to-date details on work history and certifications, or include unnecessary personal information. We love to know your hobbies, but save those details for later conversations. A concise and complete CV helps shorten review time, and healthcare facilities appreciate that. Additionally, simple adjustments such as consistent font sizes and types throughout your CV create visual organization, which makes it much easier for recruiters to hone in on what’s most important.

4. Get a professional headshot (not an iPhone photo). Catch the eye of employers and recruiters by uploading a professional headshot photo to your online job board profiles. A polished online profile and professionally-taken photo helps you stand out from the pack and helps to humanize you in a sea of candidates. This is only natural. Who wouldn’t want to explore the few locums who took the time to upload photos, and thus seem more personable and engaged with the hiring process?

5. Always respond within 24 hours. The early bird catches the worm. Recruiters are always actively speaking with multiple qualified candidates, so the ones who are most responsive often get the most attention. A high level of engagement is also a very positive signal and helps recruiters know that you are enthusiastic about an opportunity. And your enthusiasm about our job will translate into our enthusiasm about hiring you!

6. Be nice, or risk being put on the “do not recruit list.” The locum tenens industry is small. Everyone has worked with everyone at some point. Recruiters speak with each other regularly. We network. We run names by each other, and it’s not uncommon to share our experience with certain candidates if asked. So, if you really want to work locums, it’s important to develop and maintain a reputation for being kind, responsive, and easy to work with.

7. Don’t forget, pay rates and terms are negotiable. Most terms within your contract are negotiable. If you like a job opportunity, but it pays too little for it to make sense for you, chances are you can get a higher pay rate. All you need to do is ask! To help your cause, you should consider using industry average pay rates to backup your requests. It’s important to note that you’ll have more success with pay negotiation when you are using tech-driven platforms (like Nomad) because you are negotiating directly with a hiring facility and not with an agency that is worried about cutting into their profits.

8. Be honest and disclose important information. Reckless driving ticket that was dismissed? Disclose it. Pending malpractice suit? Disclose that, too. It might not ultimately have any impact on your acceptance by a facility, but if it comes up, better to have been upfront. And be prepared to discuss the issue. We are very understanding, but we’d much rather hear it from you than finding it on Google! If you tell us first, you have the opportunity to contextualize the experience.

If you stick to these best practices, you will get a great locum tenens job. Now go forth and search.

Brandy Collier-Pearson is director of business development, Nomad Health.  This article originally appeared in Becker’s Hospital Review.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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