FINANCIAL PLANNING: Strategies for Physicians and their Advisors

A Textbook Review




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On PHYSICIAN RECRUITMENT: “Head-Hunters” and Executive Search Firms


By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP®

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Recruitment has become a refined art in recent years as practices and physicians themselves grow increasingly savvy about the finer points of marketing positions and securing employment.  It’s more competitive than ever, too.  Many organizations are going after the same physicians. Add to that a shortage of doctors in key specialties and certain geographical areas and the pressure becomes that much more intense.  Moreover, the aging of the physician workforce, their increased dissatisfaction with managed care, and changes in doctors’ work expectations (they want more free time) have affected the demand and supply.

Additionally, both practicing physicians and residents fresh out of training have become more discerning and skillful in managing the search process.  Candidates have learned to be selective based on how they’re treated on the phone, how they’re treated in person during site visits, or how smoothly the negotiations go.  One small bump in the road and they could choose to go elsewhere.  In truth, they look to rule organizations out, not in.  

Even the smallest of practices must have an effective recruitment plan because they compete directly with the big guys — larger practices and hospitals that have polished their efforts and perfected their processes. 

Facts about Physician Recruiters and Executive Search Firms

1) If you are job hunting, you should send your resume to recruiters

Different recruiters know about different positions. They do not usually know about the same ones. This is particularly true with retained firms. By sending your resume out widely, you will be placed in many different confidential databases and be alerted of many different positions. If you send your resume to only a few, it may be that none you send to will be working with positions which are suited for you. Throw your net widely.

If you change jobs, it is also wise to send follow-up letters to the recruiters and alert them of your new career move. Many search firms follow people throughout their careers and enjoy being kept up-to-date. It is a good idea to have your resume formatted in plain text so you can copy and paste it into email messages when requested to do so. Then, follow up with a nicely formatted copy on paper by postal mail.

Some estimate that only 1% to 3% of all resumes sent will result in actual job interviews. So, if you only send 50 resumes, you may only have less than 2 interviews, if that many. Send your resume to as many recruiters as you can. It is worth the postage or email time. Generally, recruiters will not share your resume with any employer or give your name to anyone else without obtaining your specific permission to do so. The recruiter will call first, talk to you about a particular position and then ask your permission to share your resume with that employer.

2) Your resume will be kept strictly confidential by the executive search firm.

It is safe to submit your resume to a search firm and not worry that the search firm will let it leak out that you are job hunting. Recruiters will call you each and every time they wish to present you to an employer in order to gain your permission. Only after they have gained your permission will they submit your name or resume to the identified employer. The wonderful aspect of working with search firms is that you can manage your career and your job search in confidence and privacy.

3) Fees are always paid by the employer, not the job candidate.

Recruiters and search firms work for the employer or hiring entity. The employer pays them a fee for locating the right physician for the job opening. This is important to remember, in that when you interact with executive recruiters, you are essentially interacting with an agent or representative of the employer. Recruiters are more loyal to employers than they are to job candidates because they work for the employer. This should not present a problem, but, should cause you to develop your relationship with the recruiter with the same integrity and professionalism that you would with the employer.

Recruiters are paid fees in one of two ways – retainer fees or contingency fees. This is an important distinction and will affect your process with both the employer and the recruiter. Some employers prefer working with contingency firms and some with retained firms. Both are respected by employers and useful in your job search, but, the two types of firms will not be handling the same positions with the same employers simultaneously.

A “retained” recruiter has entered an exclusive contract with an employer to fill a particular position. The retained recruiter, then, is likely to advertise a position, sharing the specifics of the position, location and employer openly. The retained firm feels a great obligation to fulfill the contract by finding the best person for the job.

A “contingency recruiter” on the other hand, usually does not have an exclusive relationship with the employer, and is only paid a fee if the job search is successful. Often, if the employer uses contingency firms, there will be more than one contingency firm competing to fill a certain position. As a job hunter, if you are sent to an interview by a contingency firm, you may find that you are competing with a larger number of applicants for a position. Generally, retained firms only send in from 3 to 5 candidates for a position.

Recruiters will be paid fees equal to about 25% to 35% of the resulting salary of the successful candidate plus expenses. This does not come out of the job candidate’s salary. This is paid to the recruiter through a separate relationship between the employer and the search firm. This may seem like a large fee, but, keep in mind that recruiters incur a great many expenses when searching for successful job candidates. They spend enormous amounts of money on computer systems, long distance calls, mail-outs, travel and interviews. Recruiters work very hard for these fees. Employers recognize the value of using recruiters and are more than willing to pay recruiters the fees. All you have to do is contact the recruiter to get the process moving. 

4) Not all medical recruiters work only with physicians.

Some search firms work exclusively with physicians or in healthcare, while others may work in several fields at once. Some of the larger generalist firms will have one or more search consultants that specialize in healthcare. It is important for you, as a job hunter, to assess the recruiters’ knowledge of your field. If you use industry or medical specialty buzz words in describing your skills, experience or career aspirations, you may or may not be talking a language the recruiter understands fully. It is wise to explore fully with the recruiter his understanding of your field and area of specialization.

5) Recruiters and search consultants move around.

Recruiters, like many professionals, move to new firms during their careers. Often you will find that recruiters will work at several firms during their careers. Since it is much more effective to address your letters to a person rather than “to whom it may concern”, it is smart for job hunters to have accurate and up-to-date information about who is who and where, since this can change frequently. Search firms also move their offices, sometimes to another suite, street or state. If you have a list of recruiters that is over one year old, you will certainly waste some postage in mailing your resumes and cover letters. Many of your mail-outs will be returned to you stamped “non-deliverable”, unless you obtain an up-to-date list. A resource, like the Directory of Healthcare Recruiters is updated very frequently, usually monthly [].

6) Most search firms work with positions all over the country.

If you are from a particular state, and want to remain in that state, don’t make the mistake of only sending your resume to recruiters in your state. Often the recruiters in your state are working on positions in other states, and recruiters in other states are working on positions in your state. This is usually the case. Very few recruiters work only in their local area, most work all around the US and some internationally. Regardless of your geographic preference, you should still send your resume to all the healthcare recruiters. If you really only want to remain in your area, you can specify that preference in your cover letter.

7) Recruiters primarily work with hard to fill positions or executive positions.

Some recruiters specialize in clinical positions for physicians, managed care executive positions, healthcare financial positions or health administration positions. Others may specialize in finding doctors, nurses or physical therapists. Generally, an employer does not engage a recruiter’s assistance in filling a position unless it is hard to fill. Sometimes employers will engage search firms to save them the valuable time of advertising or combing through dozens of resumes.

Contingency recruiters tend to work with more mid-level management and professional positions, but, this is not always the case. Retained firms generally work with the higher level clinical or administrative positions.

One thing you will be assured of is that if a recruiter is working on a position that means that the employer is willing to pay a fee. That usually means that the position is a valued position and one worth closer inspection on your part. Even in healthcare, with certain exceptions, our economy is an “employer’s market”. This means that employers receive a deluge of resumes for their open positions. Increasingly, employers are using recruitment firms to handle their openings and schedule the interviews because employers simply do not have the manpower or time to handle the many resumes they receive. Therefore, if a job hunter is submitted by a recruiter, that job hunter has a great advantage over all other applicants.

ASSESSMENT: Your comments are appreciated.






PODCAST: First Quarter 2021 Health Plan Financial Results


This podcast features a brief discussion by colleague Doug B. Sherlock CFA, Senior Health Care Analyst and President, Sherlock Company featuring his insights into the quarterly financial reports of health plans, for the first quarter 2021.

The Sherlock Company | LinkedIn


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