There are four critical questions I believe that physicians should ask before submitting to the wooing calls of a recruiter.

I need to disclose that I began my search career recruiting physicians. Secondly, while I no longer recruit physicians strictly for clinical practice, I am involved in recruiting physicians for C-Suite and executive leadership positions. 

The American College of Physician Executives’ LinkedIn site is currently featuring an interesting discussion on this very subject.  I made some comments there but I wanted to bring them across to my blog for your review and comment.  If you are a LINKEDIN member I urge to visit this page.

Physicians can quickly and effectively “qualify” the recruiter and the opportunity by asking these questions. 

1.  Is the recruiter working on an exclusive, retained basis or with a non-exclusive contingency contract?  

Be wary of the non-exclusive agreements. Success in the latter case comes by submitting as many “qualified” candidates as possible, as quickly as possible. In this scenario, it is primarily a metrics game — if a recruiter submits more candidates before their competitor, they will have a better percentage of closing the deal.  With this approach the physician’s interest typically becomes secondary. It is about the commission and recruiters working in this environment, and in a few of the big “mill” retained firms, are pressured to close deals. 

 2.  What type of placement guarantee is the recruiter offering the client?

As a candidate, this is one of the most important questions you can ask.  Why?  No placement guarantee, or anything less than a 1-2 year guarantee, means they do not have much skin in the game, except their reputation.  Research suggests that most physicians stay at least a year so equal or less time is not much of a guarantee. Physicians should care because the more risk the recruiter has, the more concerned he or she will be in ensuring the “fit” is right and that the physician candidates have a complete and accurate understanding of the opportunity. In other words, alignment of interests.

3.  Are you getting full disclosure?  

Every organization, from Mayo and the Cleveland Clinic to a multi-specialty clinic in rural Alabama, has issues that they would rather physicians not know about before they sign. I refer to this as the “good, the bad and the ugly.” One clinic did not like to disclose their turnover rate — it seems their attractive comp plan was attractive on paper, not in practice. The recruiter, who had a 6-month placement guarantee — which is to say no guarantee — was practicing the search equivalent of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In one year, 6 physicians left the practice. Their turnover was 50% at 24 months, according to the CEO of the neighboring hospital who quit providing income guarantees until the parnters in the practice agreed to full disclosure of their good, bad and ugly issues. 

4.  Is the recruiter going to send you written information disclosing all the essential elements of the practice — salary, benefits, and the good, the bad and the ugly?

If they can’t or won’t, run, do not walk, away. 

Some recruiters will argue this is an unrealistic model. I would argue that is exactly why this segment of the recruiting industry “enjoys” so much criticism.

Physicians, who were once at the top of the healthcare food chain in terms of earnings and importance when I began my career in the mid-1970s, should not be treated less appropriately in the recruiting process than other healthcare executives. But that is exactly what is happening in far too many cases day in and day out.

© 2011 John Gregory Self