Hire the best: How to select a physician recruiter

January 1, 2006

Whether you're interested in adding an associate to your practice or are seeking a move yourself, you're likely to en-counter physician recruiters. While working with a recruiter is not for every physician, it can save time and allow you to focus on what really matters: patient care.

Whether you're interested in adding an associate to your practice or are seeking a move yourself, you're likely to en-counter physician recruiters. While working with a recruiter is not for every physician, it can save time and allow you to focus on what really matters: patient care.

Recruiters streamline the search process by tapping into a vast network of candidates and openings. However, selecting the right recruiter for your needs is tricky because not all recruiters are the same, and there are so many to choose from: An estimated 2,000 physician recruiters work at big national firms or out of home offices. That said, how do you find the recruiter most suited to your needs?

Picking a recruiter can be difficult because many bring the same skills to the table. For instance, most recruitment firms have standardized the pre-search assessment process. Recruiters conduct an assessment of the job opening at the practice by talking with the practice's administrator and physicians first. They often look at the number of patients the new physician would expect to see, the compensation package, the call coverage situation, and the personalities in the client practice to ensure a good match.

What makes a good match?

"Location, compensation package, and call schedule are the top things doctors ask about when considering a new position," says Bob deRoode, a recruiter at Integro Medical, St. Louis.

Recruiters build a field of candidates through advertisements in national journals and on web sites, direct mail, postings on training programs, and direct calling from their databases. Only about 200 urology residents graduate each year, added deRoode, and residents currently have many opportunities from which to choose.

Retained or contingency search?

Another big consideration if you are looking for a new associate is choosing between retained and contingency search arrangements. Significant differences exist between the two in how they operate and how the recruiter is compensated.

Traditionally, contingency searches are less expensive and are usually done by smaller firms; retained searches are more costly and are usually performed by larger companies. In a retained search, recruiters generally sit down with you to find out what kind of candidate you are looking for, what your work environment is like, and what the candidate should expect while working in your office.

"The retained recruiter will tour the community and [will] get to know the physicians to sell the practice opportunity," says Brian Mc-Cartie, a recruiter with Cjeka & Co. in St. Louis.

Most typical retained searches will require you to sign an exclusive agreement and pay an up-front fee of $2,000 to $5,000, along with out-of-pocket expenses for direct mail letters, journal advertisements, and travel costs for visiting the practice. In total, a retained search may cost from $25,000 to $34,000.

By contrast, recruiters conducting contingency searches are less likely to visit your practice; they talk to you via telephone to find out about your opportunity. Under a contingency arrangement, you can work with several firms at once and pay nothing until the candidate joins your practice. Upon completion, a contingency search will cost around $20,000, according to Jeffrey Bowling of Delta Medical Consulting in Dallas, who has collected research for the NAPR.

Once you have decided between retained or contingency searches, your next step is to select a recruiter. Industry professionals offer nine hallmarks of ethical, effective physician recruiters: