More than half of all physicians in the United States are employed by health care organizations, and the numbers have been trending upward since 2019. Recruiters who work for health systems are tasked with finding the best physicians available, and their roles have become more important than ever. In-house job recruiters, and recruiters contracted with health systems, represent the face of the organization. They are often the first contact for physicians in a busy and competitive marketplace, where demand for skilled physicians far outstrips supply in many areas, which gives physicians considerable leverage in selecting a job.
Health care recruiters must realize the importance of their initial interactions with job candidates. You would think they do, but my experience suggests otherwise. Recently, I completed an online job application for a position in my specialty (psychiatry). A prominent health care system advertised the job with operations in a metropolitan area of approximately 1 million people. Two days after I applied for the job, I received an email from a human resources (HR) department recruiter asking me about my availability to discuss the position. Several days after supplying the information, I received a second email from a different recruiter in the HR department, again requesting my availability.
Finally, when we connected, the recruiter told me that she was the one who was “on point” for the position – not her colleague who had sent me the initial email. In our conversation, it became quite clear that the recruiter knew very little about the position, especially the clinical responsibilities. When I asked if there were opportunities at the executive (nonclinical) level, she was uncertain and advised me to continue to search their website. The recruiter could not forward my CV internally because she did not know her counterpart who handled executive positions, nor was she inclined to seek out someone I could speak with and attempt a warm transfer of the phone call.
I realize that this person is only an “N” of 1 and is not necessarily representative of the culture of the organization. But first impressions count a lot. Contrast this encounter with one I had years ago when I applied for a job in the health insurance sector, one that required relocation. Not only was the recruiter extremely knowledgeable – he actually helped develop and write the job description – he handled all the minutiae of the hiring process with aplomb and reassurance. After all, relocating to a new city with a spouse and family is never an easy decision. The recruiter imbued me with optimism and positivity about the role and the opportunity (a vice president position); he made it difficult for me to resist. He sold me on the job, convincing me it was the right move for my family and me, which it was at that time. The recruiter stayed in touch after I was hired, and we became friends – as did our spouses and children – and today, he leads the executive recruitment function for one of the largest hospital companies in the United States.
Eventually, I left the insurance company to take a job in “big pharma.” The hiring process there was equally impressive and seamless, including rigorous interviews, shadowing an employee, and a pre-employment physical examination for my benefit, all of which demonstrated that the company considered me a potential asset and really cared about my welfare. That company was Pfizer.
I’ve always considered the HR department, its job recruiters, and the onboarding process – whether it was well organized or haphazard – a portent of the quality and integrity of the company. Recruiters that I’ve found most helpful and qualified possessed the following qualities: understanding the position responsibilities and requirements; quickly getting to the essence of a candidate’s professional experience; assessing the candidates’ expectations, needs, and wants; identifying and summarizing the most compelling aspects of a job opportunity; moving candidates efficiently through the pipeline; and conveying to the hiring manager what makes each candidate uniquely suited for the job.
If recruiters sound like they don’t know what they’re talking about, candidates may not trust them or form a negative impression about the job or the organization. Health care organizations cannot afford to let talented physicians slip through their fingers because they are turned off by recruiters who underwhelm or make rookie mistakes. Health systems must invest in their HR departments, provide extensive training to personnel responsible for recruiting physicians, and monitor recruiters’ performance and outcomes.
I vividly recall the car dealership where I bought my first luxury car. During my initial visit – and all subsequent visits – I encountered the same pleasant woman every time I entered the building. Her title was “Director of First Impressions.” Health care organizations should take heed.
Arthur Lazarus is a former Doximity Fellow, a member of the editorial board of the American Association for Physician Leadership, and an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. His forthcoming book is titled Every Story Counts: Exploring Contemporary Practice Through Narrative Medicine.
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