Physician technology to assist with ultrasound procedures.
Physician technology to assist with ultrasound procedures.

CV prep

Who is This Physician Recruiter and Why are They Calling Me So Often?

Table of Contents

Who is this physician recruiter

Physician recruiters are often perceived negatively. Even the term “recruiter” can bring up past, poor experiences and negative stereotypes. As in any industry, there are significant differences in talent and experience that can lead to a wonderful or disastrous hiring process. Continue reading to learn more about the types of physician recruiters, their motivations and specific recommendations on when and how to utilize them for the highest possible chance of landing your next, ideal opportunity.

In-House Physician Recruiters:

Advantages: In-house physician recruiters are employed by the health organization you are considering joining. They generally live in or nearby the community they recruit for and are quite knowledgeable about both the hospital/clinic and the amenities available in the area. Good in-house physician recruiters are looking for the best talent available because these new physicians often end up caring for their family, friends, neighbors and even themselves! They are motivated to find the right fit because they must work side-by-side for potentially many years and administration evaluates their success by the quality of candidates hired. In-house recruiters are part of the decision-making team and have easy access to executives. They can quickly become your close friend!

Disadvantages: The disadvantage of in-house recruiters is that they are limited in their options and typically recruit for a small geographical area. Because in-house physician recruiters are a significant decision maker, you must treat them professionally and establish a strong rapport. If you don’t have a solid relationship with the recruiter, your chances of being selected are slim.

Agency Recruiters:

There are two main types of agency recruiters: retained and contingent. It is important to note agency recruiters typically do not cost the physician anything; however, they are very expensive to the potential employer, which could impact a potential offer.

Contingency firmswork 100% on commission and only get paid if they successfully fill the search. This incentivizes them to carry as many opportunities and work with as many candidates as possible. The upside to working with a contingency firm is they typically have many options to choose from in a variety of locations and practice settings. If finding a very specific location is not a crucial parameter of your search or you are evaluating the overall market, working with a well-known contingency recruiter can provide a lot of value. The negative is these recruiters are often sending many candidates for each opportunity in the hopes one is signed, so the competition can be fierce. They tend to know limited details about the opportunities, have rarely been to the community and as trained sales professionals, can often use sales tactics to pressure candidates into proceeding with an opportunity when they may not be ready or genuinely interested.

Retained firms are paid an up-front retainer and traditionally a monthly amount regardless of whether the search is successful. They generally work with the hospital or clinic on a long-term basis and continuously fill needs as they arise. The benefits of a good retained firm are: they generally have strong knowledge about the opportunities they represent, have built strong relationships with their clients and can really help you get in the door. The major disadvantage to traditional retained firms is they usually represent very challenging-to-fill opportunities, which is why they are so costly. These challenges can include hard-to-fill locations (rural, underserved, etc.) or practice dynamics (employer doesn’t know how to recruit, many candidates have already declined the position, low earning potential and so on).

Executive Agents follow the sports and talent agency model in that they represent you and your interests and not the employer. They will help guide you through the recruitment process, explain how to find opportunities, write your CV, advocate for your goals, help you prepare and practice for interviews, negotiate your employment contract and so on. In exchange, you will typically pay an up-front retainer or a percentage of your first-year salary after you’re hired. This service could be valuable if you’ve interviewed at multiple locations and keep finding yourself without an offer. These agencies are very good at helping candidates practice for the interview because they are incentivized when you finally sign. It is up to you on whether the cost associated is worth it. From my experience, an experienced recruiter will be able to help you with some interview preparation for free, but keep in mind they represent the employer and not necessarily your interests. You should certainly not be paying any fees for any recruiter that is not specifically representing you and your financial interests.


Most practices utilize a recruiter for their physician searches. This could be in-house, agency or a combination of both. My advice is to work with an experienced recruiter who is very knowledgeable about your specialty and the practice dynamics of the group you are considering joining. It is very costly and time consuming to interview for opportunities that don’t meet your professional goals. The best way to learn is to ask these questions up-front to your recruiter and make sure they are a good representation of the opportunity they are looking to fill. Any recruiter that is unwilling or unable to help guide you through the process or spend the time necessary to make sure you understand the opportunity is likely indicative of their employer and perhaps not the best fit. Good luck in your efforts!


Todd Vandewalker, MHA, FASPR

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