For free help with your job search, call (800) 776-8383

June 12, 2015

Physician job search advice from recruiters

If you had the time to sit down for leisurely conversations with a group of experienced recruiters and physicians who had recently found new practice opportunities, you’d get an earful about how to conduct an efficient and effective job search.

But we know you’re busy, so we went out to have those discussions for you.

Job search advice from in-house recruiters

Here you’ll find advice and ideas from four savvy recruiters who use PracticeLink along with physicians they helped hire. Each one offers sage advice on how to find your dream practice. Read, enjoy, learn and prepare for your own successful search.

Know what you want

Dosty Malone, manager of physician recruitment at Western Maryland Health System (WMHS) in Cumberland, Maryland, has been with her organization for more than three decades. She says physicians who conduct efficient and successful job searches are the ones who have thought carefully about what they want. "They think about their desired location and what they want in their practice and lifestyle. These two things go hand in hand," says Malone. "Know where you want to work and what you want to be doing when you’re not working. Salary and the call schedule are secondary."

Malone says geography is the number-one criteria for most physicians when they are looking for a job. Western Maryland Regional Medical Center is in a relatively rural area, so attracting candidates who want that lifestyle is important to Malone. "We’re obviously looking for doctors with good training and credentials, but their desire to be in this location is important. I like finding someone who has a connection to the community," she says. This might include having grown up in the region, having family nearby, or having a passion for recreational activities that a specific area offers.

If a location is not a match, physicians shouldn’t try to "make it work." "We interviewed a good candidate recently and he liked the opportunity, but his wife wanted to be closer to a city," says Malone. She advises physicians not to downplay lifestyle factors such as this when deciding where to apply for jobs. Doing otherwise can backfire. "It’s like knowing something is going to upset your stomach and then eating or drinking it anyway," says Malone. "If you know for certain that something is a deal breaker, don’t waste your time interviewing. It just confuses the situation."

Take the time to tailor your CV to the organization you are applying to work with. "We’re not an academic institution. I don’t need to see 17 pages of publications on a CV," says Malone. "But I do appreciate seeing work experience - even what someone did before medical school - as well as volunteer activities, personal interests and evidence of leadership. That tells you a lot about a person."

Be prepared to provide several personal and professional references. "Our final offers are based on checking references, and our chief medical officer is very intuitive. We only ask what we’re allowed to within legal limits of course," says Malone. Some recruiters will ask for six to seven references because people can be hard to get in touch with. When time is of the essence, this ensures that the individual doing the research will be able to speak with enough references to get a clear picture of the candidate.

Getting back to recruiters promptly when you know you’re going to turn down a position is the courteous and professional thing to do. "I find that some physicians are hesitant to say ’no thanks’ when they’re not interested," says Malone. This leaves the recruiting facility in limbo and may even keep another qualified candidate from landing the position.

Malone recently recruited Emme Chapman-Jackson, M.D., to Western Maryland Regional Medical Center. Chapman-Jackson knew early on in her training that she wanted to be a plastic surgeon. "I had a mentor in medical school who encouraged me," she says. "I planned to join him in practice, but he passed away while I was in residency." Chapman-Jackson talked to her mentor’s partner, but the two were not close and ultimately she decided that was not the right position for her.

"So now I was sort of behind the eight ball," says Chapman-Jackson. Time was short, but fortunately she was clear on the type of opportunity she was looking for. "I wanted a rural area where I could do reconstructive as well as cosmetic surgery and take care of everyone, not just the wealthy." In addition to reconstructive surgery, Chapman-Jackson has a special interest in breast reconstruction and cosmetic breast surgery.

Chapman-Jackson also wanted to be within a day’s drive of where her parents were living, so she began her search by looking for opportunities within a 400-mile radius of their home. "You only have so much time to interview, so you have to be selective," says Chapman-Jackson. She spoke with several organizations by phone before making contact with Malone. "They weren’t completely set up for my type of practice, but they gave me the impression that I could trust them, and that’s turned out to be true," says Chapman-Jackson. "They wanted me to come here, and I thought highly of the program from the beginning. The people made the difference."

Chapman-Jackson hired a consultant to review her contract before signing but says that in retrospect, doing so raised unnecessary questions. "He picked the contract apart, but I realized that this was an agreement to get me here, not some sort of trap," she says. Chapman-Jackson, along with her husband and their 4-year-old son, settled in Maryland in September, 2014.

"I was busy from the start. They had 14 patients scheduled for me on the first day," says Chapman-Jackson. "This area needed someone to do hand care, and before I came, a lot of facial trauma was being transferred out," she says. "I’m providing a service that’s needed."

Asked what advice she would offer physicians about to begin a job search, Chapman-Jackson had two words: start early. "It takes a long time to get licensed and credentialed," she says.

Start the job search early

BJ Krech, faculty recruiter at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, advises physicians beginning a job search to start having conversations eight to 12 months in advance of their ideal start date. "Start exploring early and set aside time for interviews," he says. Most of the physicians and scientists he recruits sign agreements sometime between February and April. "This allows time for licensing, credentialing and planning to relocate," says Krech.

Krech appreciates seeing a CV that is clear and makes it quickly obvious where the candidate is currently practicing or in training. "Often times with academic positions there is a lot on a CV, but I want to know what the candidate is doing right now," says Krech. "A quick description that highlights what they do within their specialty is helpful. If you’re an endocrinologist and have a lot of experience in neuro-endo, put that near the top of the CV," he advises.

What might seem like small things can trip up a candidate during the job search and interview process. "On a CV, that might be grammatical or spelling errors. In an email it would be abruptness. If I receive a CV by email and all the note says is the candidate’s name and specialty, that doesn’t prompt me to even open the CV," says Krech. A candidate who asks about salary during an initial phone contact is also making a mistake with Krech.

During an interview, Krech looks for appropriate body language, good eye contact and an ability to engage socially. Dress is also important. "First impressions are everything. If you’re not dressed professionally, I question how interested you are in the position," says Krech. And as old-fashioned as it may seem, a hand-written thank you note after an interview makes a candidate stand out from the crowd. "Set yourself apart. Small things like that are easy to do," says Krech.

Don’t assume your spouse or partner will be invited to the initial onsite interview. Krech says a physician should definitely involve their spouse or partner in the job search, but in a behind-the-scenes way. "Never bring your spouse to any part of an interview unless they are specifically invited," he says. "We’re very interested in meeting the spouse and making them a part of the decision, but not until we are ready to make an offer." This varies by location, however. In smaller communities, it may be routine for an organization to encourage and pay for a spouse or partner to accompany on the first interview. Ask about the protocol for spouse/partner involvement before each on-site interview.

When asked what might cause an interview or negotiation to go off the rails, Krech offered several examples including unrealistic counter-offers on salary, requesting a part-time work schedule for a full-time salary, and asking for expensive equipment that’s in the "nice to have" but not truly necessary category. "If you’re going to negotiate, make sure that your requests are reasonable and that you have a good reason for them," says Krech.

Dr. Sohrevardi

"I think when you graduate from fellowship, you should move to a new place," says Mahtab Sohrevardi, M.D., an endocrinologist at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. "Get experience that is outside of the facility where you trained."

Krech recently recruited endocrinologist Mahtab Sohrevardi, M.D., for a position at Rush. This is Sohrevardi’s second job post-training and, for her, both searches were relatively straightforward. During the final year of her fellowship at the University of Utah Hospital, she was approached about taking a position at Intermountain Healthcare. "I was planning to stay in Utah because my son was in school there," says Sohrevardi. Six years later, Sohrevardi decided she wanted a position that was purely academic in nature and began her second job search. Again, being near her son - now a pre-med student in Minnesota - was a priority.

Sohrevardi found positions that were posted online and began applying. One was at Rush University Medical Center where, after considering several offers, she began working as an assistant professor in 2013. "There is an adjustment period with any new job," she says. During her first year, there were staffing and schedule changes in her division but she has taken those in stride. "We’re moving forward," she says. Sohrevardi is happy with her position and also likes Chicago, notwithstanding the fact that her first winter there turned out to be the harshest the city had seen in 40 years.

One positive aspect of Sohrevardi’s position at Rush is that she did not train there. "I think that when you graduate from fellowship, you should move to a new place," she says. "Get experience that is outside of the facility where you trained. You don’t want to be a PGY 6, 7 and 8 where you’re always viewed as a fellow. If you stay in the same place, you’ll battle that."

Focus on specific geographical locations

Lori Vickers is a physician recruiter for MemorialCare Medical Foundation in Orange County, California. She suggests that physicians begin their search with a relatively narrow scope and then expand it if necessary. "This seems counterintuitive. A lot of physicians do broad searches with the idea that they’ll interview anywhere," says Vickers. "Be specific and aim for what you want, and broaden the search later if you need to. When I ask a candidate what they are looking for in a position and their only response is, ’I’m open to anything,’ it’s a hard place for me to start. I would prefer a more defined response such as, ’My family is from Southern California, so I’d like to find a position in that area. In addition, I would prefer an outpatient only position with a call time of 1:4 or better. Also, I’d like to be on a partnership track.’ Most recruiters appreciate when a physician knows what they want."

One problem with casting too wide a net is that it’s easy to lose track of where you’ve sent your CV. "Sometimes I’ll get in touch with a physician to set up a phone interview, and they don’t know who I am or where I’m calling from," says Vickers. Vickers says that spouses of candidates can be helpful with making initial inquires, keeping the search organized, and even arranging the logistics of an on-site visit, but ultimately it’s the physician being considered for the job who has to make the right impression.

Even though Vickers is in what many consider a somewhat laid back area of the country - Southern California - she is impressed by candidates who take the job search process seriously and who are professional in their communications. "Because of social media, we’ve become more relaxed. I sometimes get emails that are written like text messages," says Vickers. She advises physicians to take the time to write using complete sentences and use proper punctuation. "Maintaining a level of formality through the process makes a candidate stand out," says Vickers.

When it comes to interviews, Vickers says the best candidates are prepared with questions of their own. "It helps us understand how people think," she says. Examples of good questions include: What do you value in your physicians? How would I fit in as part of the team here? In what ways could I contribute to the organization? "In the early stages you’re selling yourself," says Vickers. "Don’t lead with questions about the holiday pay policy. Get an offer first, then talk salary. Don’t negotiate yourself out of a job."

Maryam Yazdanshenas

Maryam Yazdanshenas, M.D., met in-house recruiter Lori Vickers at a job fair. "MemorialCare didn’t have an opening, but I didn’t lose contact with Lori," says Yazdanshenas. "I knew that opportunities can come up, and I still had time before graduation." 

Family physician Maryam Yazdanshenas, M.D., started her job search in October of her final residency year. She targeted Southern California because she wanted to live close to her family. "I looked from south of Los Angeles to San Diego, but when I realized how many opportunities there were, I decided to look only in southern Orange County where my family is," says Yazdanshenas. She went on six interviews and received a job offer after each one.

Yazdanshenas was also clear on what kind of practice she was looking for. "I didn’t want inpatient work," she says. "I’d been working 80 to 100 hours a week in residency. I wanted an 8-to-5 job." She also wanted to be part of a group that had opportunities for leadership, growth and future partnership.

It was at a job fair that Yazdanshenas met recruiter Lori Vickers. "MemorialCare didn’t have an opening, but I didn’t lose contact with Lori. I knew that opportunities can come up, and I still had time before graduation," says Yazdanshenas. Patience paid off. Vickers contacted Yazdanshenas a couple of months later about several different positions that had become available.

"At MemorialCare I found everything I was looking for. I started in August and I absolutely love taking care of entire families and never knowing who’s going to walk into the office," says Yazdanshenas. She advises physicians who are about to start a job search to be clear about what they want and then don’t give up. "Jobs are continuously opening up," she says.

Act like you’ve already been asked to interview

Ginny Olsen, RN and physician recruiter at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, New York, and president of the Upstate New York Physician Recruiter Network (UNYPR, nyphysiciancareers.org) suggests that physicians should consider themselves to be interviewing for a job from the moment they email a CV or pick up the phone to make an inquiry. "Try to have a pleasant phone voice, and if you’re sending a CV, include a cover letter if you really want the job," says Olsen. "It can be brief but it should be specific to the organization. Explain why you want to be there and why you’re a good match." Olsen also says taking the extra time to direct a CV to a specific person rather than just "Recruiter" or "Medical Director" makes a positive impression.

For the on-site interview, Olsen advises physicians to show up on time, dress appropriately, have questions that they want to ask written down, do some basic research on the people they’ll be interviewing with, and be flexible. "Even with a schedule for the day, sometimes things come up and we have to adjust," she says.

Olsen says physicians who have anything in their background such as sanctions or malpractice suits should disclose that right up front. "We check licenses and do Google searches, and our credentialing people can probably find out what you had for breakfast," she says. "It doesn’t bode well if something comes up late in the process."

As far as spouses being involved in the interview process, Olsen encourages it. "We like to have the family engaged and know that they are interested in coming to the area," she says. "We don’t require it, but we pay for spouses to come to the first interview. I’m more excited when they want to come because I know the candidate is serious."

Olsen is careful not to get too personal with physicians during the interview process, but if a physician happens to mention certain interests or hobbies, she makes an effort to introduce them to other members of the medical staff who have things in common. "We recruit with an eye toward retention," says Olsen.

Interventional radiologist Roman Politi, M.D., was slated to complete fellowship in 2013 and found himself facing a very tight job market. "I and my five co-fellows at Massachusetts General Hospital were all feeling a little anxious," says Politi. "Due to cuts in reimbursement, groups weren’t hiring as robustly as they had been." His attendings told him not to worry, but with a wife, a newborn son and significant student loan debt, that was easier said than done.

Politi went on five interviews and eventually took a position in Pennsylvania. "I wanted a job that was mostly interventional radiology and that would also allow me to maintain my diagnostic radiology skills," he says. Though his first job fit the bill in that regard, it only lasted a year. "I was committed to putting in a full year because I didn’t think it would look good on my CV to do otherwise," says Politi. As the year mark drew near he began his second job search and was pleased to find an open position at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca. "It’s a beautiful college town with hiking trails and friendly, down-to-earth people." It was important to Politi and his wife, Monica, who is a physician assistant, to settle near where she grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Politi says he clicked with everyone in his new group almost immediately. "You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but you will spend a significant amount of time with your colleagues so it’s important to get along with them socially," he says. He appreciates that Cayuga Medical Center is able to offer high-end imaging services. "The patient population here is educated and well-informed. I’ve had patients who have done their research on me ahead of their procedure and ask me questions about my training," says Politi.

Asked about advice for other physicians who might be in the market for a new job, Politi offered: "Find a group that is collegial and treats you with respect. Make sure you’ll have interesting, satisfying work. Look for work/life balance, particularly if you have a family. When interviewing, ask about turnover rates and try to meet with as many of your potential colleagues as possible. And don’t focus too much on money."

Karen Childress is a frequent contributor to PracticeLink Magazine.



Recommended articles

See All

Newsletter Sign-Up