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July 7, 2021

A talent acquisition approach to physician recruitment

Finding the best physicians is how you help build a great team at your health care organization.

While many refer to the role as physician recruitment, that’s only one component. Always being ready to attract and retain the best physicians - and build and maintain a great health care team - takes a talent acquisition strategy.

Physician recruitment is the specific objective of filling an immediate need. Talent acquisition, on the other hand, is the long-term, continuous process of drawing the best and brightest physicians to your health care organization. It involves building and maintaining relationships even before a need arises - and continuing those relationships after making the hire - to make it easier to fill openings - including the ones that are hardest to recruit or most in demand - and promote retention.

Building a talent pool

A physician announces their retirement without much notice. Or perhaps they give notice they’re resigning at the end of their contract. Whatever the case, it’s your signal to start recruiting physicians for the open position.

This will likely involve asking current physicians for referrals, posting the opening on job boards, sourcing candidate databases and emailing potential matches. You may even engage an agency to assist in the search.

These are the go-to tools when filling an immediate need. But some of these activities - and more - can also be used to identify and nurture relationships with physicians who may be strong candidates for future openings.

To know where to look, think about your organization’s long-term plans. Are you expanding a current facility or adding a new location? Are there plans to acquire another practice or emphasize certain services? Use any strategic growth plans as a base for how to build your talent pipeline.

For example, if it’s pretty clear your organization will want to hire a pediatric subspecialist in three years, you can be proactive and start finding and getting to know possible candidates much earlier.

This may involve candidates in your current talent pool or sourcing new ones to add to it. You may not employ them, but they may be in your database. And building relationships with them early makes it more natural to reach out later with an opportunity.

Making contact

When you’re contacting physicians without an immediate need in mind, it provides an opportunity to slowly nurture a relationship and introduce your health care organization, its mission and values. Let them know about the culture and what it’s like to work there. Look for ways to provide value. And as the relationship grows, you may venture into areas like life in the community.

You might start by contacting exceptional physicians with whom you want to connect - or you might target physicians in a specific specialty for which you can anticipate needing to hire based on organizational priorities.

Using CVs to grow your pipeline

Use CVs to grow your talent pipeline

Another way of identifying candidates for your pipeline is by reviewing CVs.

Let’s say a group of two orthopedic surgeons in a large metro area want to add another position, and they would accept any subspecialty or a generalist. Their schedule is overwhelming, and their call load is more than the two of them can handle. In that situation, you’ll likely look at every single physician’s CV regardless of some information that may indicate a mismatch.

When you review CVs from a talent acquisition standpoint rather than filling an immediate need, you can read the information in a different light.

Try identifying practice growth opportunities and unique ways to alleviate the workload on the current surgeons. Maybe one CV suggests the physician would be a great fit but is adverse to big-city living. They could be a great addition as an opportunity to open a new location in the suburbs.

Getting to know your contacts

As you identify potential candidates for future opportunities and start building those relationships, you may reach a point where you want to get to know them better to determine how they might fit in at your organization.

A good interviewer is able to learn more about their candidates through preparation, active listening, lessening the pressure their candidates may feel, and asking the right questions. Some good questions to ask include:

  • What procedures do you like to do, not want to do or will not do?
  • Have you done any committee work? If so, describe that.
  • Have you done any volunteer work? If so, describe that.
  • What single event would have contributed to you being where you are today?
  • Tell me about a situation in which you observed someone else not using discretion. How would you have handled the problem if you had been in that person’s shoes?

There are also topics you should be sure to avoid. Some talent acquisition directors may think they do not have to adhere to equal employment opportunity rules because they may not be hiring at the time, but the same restrictions still apply when you’re engaging candidates for future growth.

Be sure to avoid anything to do with gender, race, sex, religion, national origin family status, health issues and any other topics that may lead to discrimination or the perception of discrimination.

Checking their background

A thorough background check occurs later in the hiring process, but you may search some public records on your own as you build a candidate hierarchy in your pipeline.

One place to start is a general web search and review of social media activity. Follow that up with a quick public medical license check. This can help minimize any potential problems when promoting the physician to the next step in the process.

Keeping them updated

As you nurture your relationships, be sure to keep your contacts updated when the situation changes. If you find out there’s an opportunity that will become available, it may be time to inquire about their interest in being considered and move them into the interview or site visit stage. Or if you or your management team decides a physician doesn’t fit the opportunity, then follow up to let the candidate know they didn’t get the job. Depending on the reason, you may still be able to keep them in mind for another future opportunity.

Understanding contracts & compensation

Understand physician contracts and compensation

When you’re hiring physicians nurtured through the talent acquisition process, the contracts and compensation stage is similar, except in most cases, both the organization and the candidate are coming from a position of strength and growth vs. need. Therefore, the process may take longer but is usually less aggressive and has a positive outcome.


You found the best candidate for your organization using a talent acquisition strategy. You built a relationship with them and moved them through your recruiting funnel and successfully hired them into the organization. But the job isn’t over yet.

Onboarding is another critical part of the process - and the first step where talent acquisition becomes talent retention. Onboarding is not just the orientation process. It’s regularly staying in touch with the new employee, from the first day to the first week to the first month and longer.

It involves all aspects of your facility from the lower, middle, and upper management. Your hired physician must understand the process and the health care organization engagement full circle, get acclimated and be made to feel an integral part of the team and as appreciated in the eighth month as on Day One.

Read PracticeLink articles from Michele Gutermuth.

Michele Gutermuth

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