American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The often murky and insincere world of physician recruiters

The last several years since I graduated from residency have been a deliberate adventure for me, as I sought to gain experience in a variety of different hospital environments. During this time, I've worked in every type of hospital up and down the East Coast, ranging from large urban academic medical centers, to more rural community outposts. How I've gone about finding these jobs has also varied enormously, from personal recommendations, to going through traditional physician recruiters.

At this particular point in time, with the ageing population and shortage of physicians, most generalist specialties find themselves in enormous demand. The physician recruitment industry has therefore gone into overdrive as well. And even though I've used physician recruiters myself, my negative experiences with many of them (and the jobs that result) have led me to question a lot of what goes on in this industry and the tactics employed. With pay-offs for recruiters ranging from a hefty 10-30% of a physician's yearly salary for a single placement, the aggressiveness of many recruiters is going through the roof.

Most physicians have had experiences of being approached by recruiters, and most will tell you how some of them come across as nothing more than glorified car salesmen, with little in-depth knowledge of the medical profession and tacky 1-liners about how “awesome” and “amazing” their job opportunity is. Give your contact number to any agency, and expect a barrage of phone calls and emails for the next several months or years. Sometimes physicians inadvertently do it during medical conferences, unaware of what will happen next. I've done the same, and have been totally unprepared for the amount of soliciting that has resulted. Despite blocking countless numbers from my cell phone (an easy thing to do on an iPhone), I still receive at least 2 or 3 messages on most days asking me if I'm interested in additional opportunities. Now don't get me wrong, it's nice to be in demand, but not if it gets to the point of being bothersome and almost bordering on absurd at times. A few stories to tell of the unscrupulous tactics being used:
1. If you receive a call that's from 1 particular number, and you know it's a recruiting company and block the number, frequently another extension will call you back within minutes. When you do the same with that extension, sure enough, yet another extension immediately starts calling! Do these people just sit at their phones all day playing this game?!
2. Some messages left by both email and phone are rather comical, from recruiters who appear to be imploring me in a pleading voice to “PLEASE” call them back “AS SOON AS POSSIBLE” to hear about all their opportunities.
3. I have a colleague who is in private practice, and was recently called by a recruiter telling him that there was “wonderful local opportunity” that he couldn't miss. When he asked for more details, he realized that this was his main competitor across the street! He then berated the recruiter for not doing his research before calling him.
4. As well as phone calls, many physicians find their e-mail inboxes full of messages on a daily basis from recruiters, as well as a deluge of handouts and flyers in the regular mail. The same recruiter will often leave multiple messages a week, despite no response from the recipient.
5. The incident that took the biscuit for me actually happened a couple of weeks back. I was busy seeing patients in the hospital and was pulled out of a patient room because there was an announcement that I had an urgent phone call. Rushing out of the patient's room, and picking up the phone, instead of it being an urgent medical issue like I expected, I was met by a recruiter who claimed that he knew some great jobs that I should learn more about. When I asked how he knew where I was, he casually admitted that he found which hospital I was working in through an online search. It takes a lot to get me angry, but I told him that it was unacceptable to ever be calling me when I was working in the hospital. He was then evasive when I asked for his name and who exactly he was working for.

As for the 2 or 3 positions that I've found through a recruiter, as I look back, these have unfortunately been my worst and unhappiest jobs. I have been very underwhelmed as well with the sincerity of those I've worked with, and it's become evident to me that most of them view their clients just as dollar signs. Case in point, one recruiter who I worked with for several weeks in order to find a job in my town of choice, appeared to be all about frequent communication and contacting me all the time. After I secured the position and had signed the contract, I was concerned about something and attempted to contact him. I left a couple of messages, but no call back. The question then answered itself, and everything was taken care of. I was genuinely excited by the job, and sent him an e-mail to say thanks for his help. I also left a phone message saying the same. Can you guess what happened? Not 1 reply. Not one message of good luck or saying that it was his pleasure working with me for the last couple of months. Everything went stone cold after he presumably got his payment. That was the last time I ever worked with a recruiter.

So here's 3 pieces of advice for any (especially new) physician who is contemplating their next career move:
1. Avoid physician recruiters completely if you can. Go directly to the hospital, clinic or group that you want to work with and do your own networking. Browse direct advertisements in medical journals and online. It's easy to find contact information yourself nowadays. You've reached this far and are by far the best person to sell yourself and negotiate what you want.
2. In-house direct recruiters are completely fine to work with (recruiters who work for the organization you want to join). In contrast to what I describe above, they have only ever been excellent. It's the third party recruiters who typically work for big companies, charging high fees to the institution for their services, who are the ones to avoid.
3. When trying to find the right job, nothing beats a personal professional recommendation from someone who already works there. Their opinion trumps any non-medically trained recruiter who is trying to sell you the “best job since sliced bread.”

I suppose I should also finish by leaving some advice for recruiters. I don't think you are all bad people by any means, and I'm sure many of you believe yourself to be very genuine individuals who are just doing your job to the best of your abilities. Remember that doctors are intelligent people, and tacky salesman-like tactics won't work in the medical profession. Treat us with respect, don't harass us, and be sincere. Gain an intricate understanding of what doctors do, and what we are looking for. Finally, when you've successfully found a position for your “client,” they shouldn't just cease to exist in your mind. Wish them good luck and stay in touch with them. Who knows, if you develop long-term relationships based on trust and understanding, you will probably gain more business and success than you could ever imagine.

Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care. This post originally appeared at his blog.

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Members of the American College of Physicians contribute posts from their own sites to ACP Internistand ACP Hospitalist. Contributors include:

Albert Fuchs, MD
Albert Fuchs, MD, FACP, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, where he also did his internal medicine training. Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Fuchs spent three years as a full-time faculty member at UCLA School of Medicine before opening his private practice in Beverly Hills in 2000.

And Thus, It Begins
Amanda Xi, ACP Medical Student Member, is a first-year medical student at the OUWB School of Medicine, charter class of 2015, in Rochester, Mich., from which she which chronicles her journey through medical training from day 1 of medical school.

Ira S. Nash, MD, FACP, is the senior vice president and executive director of the North Shore-LIJ Medical Group, and a professor of Cardiology and Population Health at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases and was in the private practice of cardiology before joining the full-time faculty of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Zackary Berger
Zackary Berger, MD, ACP Member, is a primary care doctor and general internist in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. His research interests include doctor-patient communication, bioethics, and systematic reviews.

Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention
Run by three ACP Fellows, this blog ponders vexing issues in infection prevention and control, inside and outside the hospital. Daniel J Diekema, MD, FACP, practices infectious diseases, clinical microbiology, and hospital epidemiology in Iowa City, Iowa, splitting time between seeing patients with infectious diseases, diagnosing infections in the microbiology laboratory, and trying to prevent infections in the hospital. Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Iowa City, IA, with a focus on understanding why infections occur in the hospital and ways to prevent these infections, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands).

db's Medical Rants
Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP, contributes short essays contemplating medicine and the health care system.

Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care.

Juliet K. Mavromatis, MD, FACP, provides a conversation about health topics for patients and health professionals.

Dr. Mintz' Blog
Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP, has practiced internal medicine for more than a decade and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at an academic medical center on the East Coast. His time is split between teaching medical students and residents, and caring for patients.

Everything Health
Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, blogs about the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st century.

Vineet Arora, MD, FACP, is Associate Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency and Assistant Dean of Scholarship & Discovery at the Pritzker School of Medicine for the University of Chicago. Her education and research focus is on resident duty hours, patient handoffs, medical professionalism, and quality of hospital care. She is also an academic hospitalist.

Glass Hospital
John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, provides transparency on the workings of medical practice and the complexities of hospital care, illuminates the emotional and cognitive aspects of caregiving and decision-making from the perspective of an active primary care physician, and offers behind-the-scenes portraits of hospital sanctums and the people who inhabit them.

Gut Check
Ryan Madanick, MD, ACP Member, is a gastroenterologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and the Program Director for the GI & Hepatology Fellowship Program. He specializes in diseases of the esophagus, with a strong interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have difficult-to-manage esophageal problems such as refractory GERD, heartburn, and chest pain.

I'm dok
Mike Aref, MD, PhD, FACP, is an academic hospitalist with an interest in basic and clinical science and education, with interests in noninvasive monitoring and diagnostic testing using novel bedside imaging modalities, diagnostic reasoning, medical informatics, new medical education modalities, pre-code/code management, palliative care, patient-physician communication, quality improvement, and quantitative biomedical imaging.

Informatics Professor
William Hersh, MD, FACP, Professor and Chair, Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, posts his thoughts on various topics related to biomedical and health informatics.

David Katz, MD
David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACP, is an internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease, and an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care.

Just Oncology
Richard Just, MD, ACP Member, has 36 years in clinical practice of hematology and medical oncology. His blog is a joint publication with Gregg Masters, MPH.

Kevin Pho, MD, ACP Member, offers one of the Web's definitive sites for influential health commentary.

MD Whistleblower
Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.

Medical Lessons
Elaine Schattner, MD, FACP, shares her ideas on education, ethics in medicine, health care news and culture. Her views on medicine are informed by her past experiences in caring for patients, as a researcher in cancer immunology, and as a patient who's had breast cancer.

Mired in MedEd
Alexander M. Djuricich, MD, FACP, is the Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education (CME), and a Program Director in Medicine-Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, where he blogs about medical education.

More Musings
Rob Lamberts, MD, ACP Member, a med-peds and general practice internist, returns with "volume 2" of his personal musings about medicine, life, armadillos and Sasquatch at More Musings (of a Distractible Kind).

David M. Sack, MD, FACP, practices general gastroenterology at a small community hospital in Connecticut. His blog is a series of musings on medicine, medical care, the health care system and medical ethics, in no particular order.

Reflections of a Grady Doctor
Kimberly Manning, MD, FACP, reflects on the personal side of being a doctor in a community hospital in Atlanta.

The Blog of Paul Sufka
Paul Sufka, MD, ACP Member, is a board certified rheumatologist in St. Paul, Minn. He was a chief resident in internal medicine with the University of Minnesota and then completed his fellowship training in rheumatology in June 2011 at the University of Minnesota Department of Rheumatology. His interests include the use of technology in medicine.

Technology in (Medical) Education
Neil Mehta, MBBS, MS, FACP, is interested in use of technology in education, social media and networking, practice management and evidence-based medicine tools, personal information and knowledge management.

Peter A. Lipson, MD
Peter A. Lipson, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing internist and teaching physician in Southeast Michigan. The blog, which has been around in various forms since 2007, offers musings on the intersection of science, medicine, and culture.

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Janice Boughton, MD, FACP, practiced internal medicine for 20 years before adopting a career in hospital and primary care medicine as a locum tenens physician. She lives in Idaho when not traveling.

World's Best Site
Daniel Ginsberg, MD, FACP, is an internal medicine physician who has avidly applied computers to medicine since 1986, when he first wrote medically oriented computer programs. He is in practice in Tacoma, Washington.

Other blogs of note:

American Journal of Medicine
Also known as the Green Journal, the American Journal of Medicine publishes original clinical articles of interest to physicians in internal medicine and its subspecialities, both in academia and community-based practice.

Clinical Correlations
A collaborative medical blog started by Neil Shapiro, MD, ACP Member, associate program director at New York University Medical Center's internal medicine residency program. Faculty, residents and students contribute case studies, mystery quizzes, news, commentary and more.

Interact MD
Michael Benjamin, MD, ACP member, doesn't accept industry money so he can create an independent, clinician-reviewed space on the Internet for physicians to report and comment on the medical news of the day.

PLoS Blog
The Public Library of Science's open access materials include a blog.

White Coat Rants
One of the most popular anonymous blogs written by an emergency room physician.

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