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December 13, 2021

The final stretch: the employment contract

As the hiring process comes to a close, there’s still an integral component to your role as in-house recruiter: securing the bond between the newly hired physician and the employer.

With competition for skilled physicians at a high, this is essential groundwork for a lengthy, positive employment relationship. The process of finalizing the employment contract is a perfect opportunity to foster trust and to assure the physician that they, you and the company are all on the same side.

During the back-and-forth phase that naturally follows the delivery of the physician contract, do your best to flush out questions, and in doing so, present yourself as an approachable and patient partner. Physicians early in their career have little to no experience with an employment contract. They’re also very well trained in always acting confident and in control - even if they’re completely confused by the contract they’re looking at. If some time has passed and you haven’t received much in the way of questions, reach out.

Your goal is to get the candidate talking, so you can unearth issues and answer questions that would have come up down the road. Don’t start by dropping just, "do you have any questions?" which will likely yield a robotic negative response. Instead, stir up some areas for conversation - particularly those that are favorable. Discuss key points, then drop an inviting question, such as "What else can I answer for you?" or "Is there anything I can find out for you?"

You may field all sorts of post-contract requests, from the standard ("Can I get family friendly hours?") to the more difficult ("Can I work virtually from the state where my girlfriend lives?"). Even when you hear a request that you know won’t fly, hear out the details and remain neutral. It’s important to present yourself and the employer as open to change; you never know when bending a bit may be good for this relationship, or even benefit the entire staff.

"From an owner perspective, contracts are always changing for me," says Patrick McEneaney,  owner and CEO of Northern Illinois Foot and Ankle Specialists. "You run into a situation that you didn’t expect, and you have to adjust the way you negotiate the contract with one person. Other times, you need to make a blanket change in all the doctor’s contracts."

Of course, you can’t satisfy every off-base plea. But often, the more difficult requests can be satiated with a reasonable alternative. Salary, for example, is sometimes difficult to adjust, but it can be sweetened with other factors.  

"Sometimes, companies (can give) another support staff person, which makes (the physician’s) life a lot easier," McEneaney adds. Incentive bonuses can also add a favorable perk.

The contract negotiation phase can be a balancing act: You’re eager to complete the hiring cycle, yet you want to please the new employee, all while staying within the boundaries of what’s feasible for your employer. Do your best to patiently listen, educate as needed, and present alternatives. Embracing these early opportunities to develop trust and create the basis for a flourishing relationship will pay off in the long run.

Read PracticeLink articles by Debbie Swanson

Debbie Swanson

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