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April 1, 2021

The 10 job search steps residents and fellows take

"Boiler room days."

Days requiring "mandatory company happy hours."

"Phone time minimums."

"Three interviews set during the week or you work Saturdays."

When I was trained as a recruiter, these were a few of the ways people referred to the continuous push to meet company recruitment goals. On my first day, my new boss showed me a desk, a phone and a telephone book - seriously!

But through those days and my years in physician recruitment, I gained a deeper understanding of the physician job search, how they make decisions, and how to bring them into your practice and retain them. Something that holds true is residents and fellows go through the same basic 10 job search steps today that they did during the "boiler room days" 25-plus years ago.

Whether you’re new to physician recruiting or a seasoned vet, keep these steps in mind as you search for prospects, create an exceptional experience to connect with candidates, and hire your next physicians.


Step 1 - Starting their search process

Physicians often begin their search process at least two years before they need a job. They may not look for an interview that far out, but physicians are natural planners. They have thought about practicing, and they have an idea of where they want to start their search.

It would be best if you begin to make contact with these residents and fellows at least two years before their potential start date. I would reach out to them during their first or second residency training year.


Step 2 - Crafting their CV

This is where you can have a great deal of influence. Suppose you do not have time to address a poor CV individually, but it’s a doctor you may want to hire. Direct them to a resource like Ask them to go through the provided steps to create a proper CV, forward it to you, and then schedule a follow-up call.


Step 3 - Getting references

You may disagree with me here, but try not to ask for references too early. The reason for this is references burn out, too. If you call references too early or write them, and this physician doesn’t work out, the next place will have to do the same thing. What if you’re the second or third organization to contact a reference, and you get a bland reference because the first place overused the reference first?


Step 4 - Being true to themselves

This is about identifying and setting goals, priorities and determining the ideal environment.

If you think about it, doctors do not get to choose a lot of things. They apply to medical school, and many do not get their first choice. Then they go through the match, only choosing their specialty. The only personal (not medical) option they get is their first job. We must help them with their short- and long-term goals professionally and personally, and make sure we include their family in the process. In what type of practice will they thrive, and does the family prefer an urban setting or are they looking for opportunities in a rural environment?


Step 5 - Reaching out to you, the employer

This is good stuff! When physicians start to reach out to you directly, this is your time to shine. Show them you can be what they don’t even know they need. This can be making sure you can line up a physician mentor, a community mentor, someone who can help with their credentialling package, and a comprehensive, well-thought compensation package. It’s an opportunity to show they’re a long-term investment and not simply filling a void.


Step 6 - Preparing for interviews

During the First Practice webinar series, I emphasize that physicians should not interview at every place they get an offer to interview. I tell them to pick and choose wisely, or they may run out of time off to do a face-to-face interview at their first choice. I would say the same to any recruiter. Screen well. Make sure this interview is the right physician for you.


Step 7 - Researching their options

Physicians should research their options when searching for their job.

Make sure the compensation package is current. Stay clear of finding yourself in a position of saying something like, "This is what we have always offered, and we have been successful recruiting x number of doctors with the same formula." You may have been lucky, or you may have attracted physicians from a particular year, and the same approach may not work as well now.

Also ensure you are in places where top-notch physicians will see your job postings. is an excellent resource to place your opportunities. In addition to a job board and searchable active candidate database, we have other areas where physicians can see your opening, such as our virtual career fairs and PracticeLink Magazine.


Step 8 - Completing their interviews

After doing an initial phone screen, then likely a virtual interview with a candidate, make sure you have all the necessary information to set up and complete your physician interviews without delay. Plan these ahead of time as the situation allows.

For example, if you are recruiting for the radiology group inside your hospital, get some potential site visit dates from the group upfront. This way, when the initial screen has been completed, the onsite interview can be set up and occur quickly while the physicians’ interest is strong.

I have had recruiters and doctors be concerned by this statement and come back with something similar to, "Well, if they are not that interested and I have to be rushing to interview them, and I have to worry they will no longer be interested, then they are probably not a good fit anyway." To that, I say that’s not the issue. You want to look at physicians whom other people are looking at, too, so you need to be aggressive!


Step 9 - Evaluating their offers

Every facility does this differently, but this is how I would advise someone to do it correctly. First, you can introduce competition to your physician candidates while remaining truthful and still get the best results.

Let me explain: Many facilities will interview several doctors and tell each one to take their time and get back to them when they are ready to decide. This leaves the physician thinking they have an offer in hand - that at any time they want to, you will be there for them to take that offer. This is far from the truth.

If your third candidate choice comes in first and says she will take the position, and you told her along with the others it was theirs, you will probably give it to her. The better approach is to interview one doctor, decide if you want to show that doctor an offer, provide that doctor with an offer in writing, and give them a deadline. This was something I was taught more than 25 years ago, and it did not backfire.

Tell the doctor you have other physicians considering this position. Let them know they have 14 days (or whatever timeframe you choose) to decide, and if your candidate can’t decide, then take it away. If they want your job, they will take it. If they don’t care if the job is gone, they won’t act. If they don’t like it, they will turn you down.

How nice would it be if you didn’t waste your time waiting for a doctor to drag on their decision, and then to get a no? A wise person once told me, "Anything but a yes after an interview is a no." I feel this way about things to this day, although I don’t do business this way. Not everyone makes their decisions like this. However, I would do all of my recruiting upfront, knowing my answer before the interview even occurred.


Step 10 - Negotiating their contract

The best recruiters know what they can or cannot negotiate ahead of time. Find this out now. If you can change a word here or there or know what is negotiable, use it to your advantage.

The final step in the physician job search is to negotiate their contract.

While the physician is calling you to talk to you, learn how to negotiate. Think about it this way if a candidate comes to you saying, "I want this, this and this."

You could say, "OK, I will ask Mr. or Mrs. Administrator and get back to you," or the better response would be, "I know our vacation package is usually pretty set, but the other things I may be able to help with. At this point, nothing is out of the question, so let me fix some things in your agreement, run the vacation request by Mr. or Mrs. Administrator, and I will get back to you in two days."

The best secret in this industry is being honest and being yourself, knowing that your facility, client, or physician’s biggest asset is you. Show everyone their opinion matters, but you have a plan that works.



Michele Gutermuth is the Director of Physician and Provider Engagement at PracticeLink. She hosts the recurring First Practice webinar series preparing residents and fellows for the 10 essential steps that make up a physician job search. Michele has more than 25 years in GME and health care recruiting experience.

Read PracticeLink articles from Michele Gutermuth.

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