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Hiring a New Physician: Five Critical Questions


If you are thinking about hiring a physician this year, answering these five questions can help you compete for the best talent amid a national shortage.

The healthcare recruiters I work with are innovative and our organization prides itself on a culture of continuous improvement, as we have learned to adapt to rapidly changing market dynamics. We place hundreds of healthcare providers every week, but the way we recruit today is different than it was just two years ago.

If you have plans to bring on a new physician in 2013, you have your work cut out for you. The physician shortage is a reality now, and the competition you will face in attracting the most talented physicians is fierce. If you are thinking about hiring a physician, answering these questions can help you better prepare to compete for the best talent.

1. Do you have a vision?

It is important that you have a clear picture of your desired results. If you haven’t spent time clearly defining your ideal practice, you will need to make that a priority before your first interview.  I recommend spending quality time with a whiteboard and put your desired outcomes in print.  What does your 3-, 5-, 10-, and 20-year plan look like? Can you identify the metrics and triggers that will help you transform your current practice into your ideal practice? What challenges will you face while moving toward each metric? Are you looking for a colleague, subordinate, or business partner? The way you articulate your vision will set the stage for how your candidates see themselves as part of that vision. Equally important is the role of the rest of your team. Can every member of your practice clearly articulate the vision so that mixed messages are not being sent to your candidate? What about the recruiters you are working with, are they clear on your vision? If not, you have some work to do.

2. Can you define the opportunity?

You’ve defined your ideal practice; now look at your vision from the perspective of an outsider. How will they perceive your local and regional markets? What barriers do you see that might make your search challenging? How will you be viewed by potential candidate compared to your competitors? How do market changes like consolidation and the shift toward value based care initiatives impact your practice? Do you anticipate any changes to the patient population moving forward? Be prepared to sell the community benefits such as quality of life, cost of living, education, and recreation. Every practice and every community has a great story to tell. Be prepared to tell yours.

3. What unique benefits does your practice offer?

Based on the work you’ve already done, you can now make a list of potential concerns that candidates might have (and gather them as you hear them during interviews), then prepare talk tracks that directly address each concern. Don’t shy away from potential obstacles; be prepared to hit them head on. Similarly, make a list of differentiators - items that highlight the unique strengths and benefits you can provide.  Remember to include the intangibles that are becoming increasingly important such as work-life balance, culture, and the ability to make a difference. This is another area where it is important that every person involved in the interview process is aligned and are all singing from the same song sheet.

Not surprisingly, the jobs wants and needs of the physician population are changing. As a result, physicians are thinking long term when making employment decisions. You’ll want to bring more than just a competitive compensation package.

4. Who is your ideal candidate?

Finally, make a list of candidate capabilities and traits that are important to you and your practice. Like the other two lists, be prepared to discuss why each is important, how it adds value to the practice, and how it creates value for the patient population. During your search, candidates will be asking themselves questions like “ Can I see myself working with these people?”, and “Will I be recognized as the _____ (fill in the blank…subject matter expert, expert, community leader, administrator, partner, friend) that I am or want to become?” As you uncover each candidate’s goals, use personal experiences or stories to help them see themselves in your practice …the practice they are looking for.

5. How serious are you about finding the right fit?

The decision you’ve made to expand your practice carries significant weight. It is worth investing the time to make sure you get it right. If executed correctly, the experience will be positive and you’ll be prepared the next time you’re faced with a growth opportunity. Most of us have experienced the ripple effect that poor hiring practices create. Turnover is costly and in the case of hiring, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. As mentioned earlier, your candidates will be evaluating you, your practice, and your community. I often see cases where physicians turn down great offers because the interviewer isn’t as responsive as expected during the interview process, or fails to paint a picture of stability, inclusion, or opportunity. The quality of the interview process will be seen as an indicator of the quality of the practice. Don’t underestimate the importance of quality during your hiring process.

Melissa Byingtonis president of the locum tenens division of CompHealth, a national provider of temporary and permanent physician staffing, as well as a leading provider of temporary and permanent allied health staffing. Melissa’s career in physician recruiting spans nearly two decades. Her industry influence through the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO) includes serving as a board member and government committee chair. E-mail her here.

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