Using a Search Firm

Many physicians ask about search firms - why should they use them and what do they gain. Let me first answer a question that commonly is asked - why does a hospital or group decide to use a search firm for recruitment? A hospital or group will contract a search firm to help with recruitment just as they use a law firm for their legal issues and an advertising agency to do their marketing.

Search firms provide a service to the hospital/group that they cannot provide on their own or that they need help with it. The process to find the right emergency physician takes a lot of work. The search firm has a commitment from the hospital or group that the firm will be the sole recruitment agent for all potential candidates or the firm is to complement the efforts of the hospital or group.

The level of commitment and service requested by the client (hospital or group) determines the fee paid by the client. Fees can range from $12,000-$22,000 and are never paid by the physician.

So what is involved with the search process? The search firm gathers information about the ED, group or hospital, scheduling, compensation, the community, and other pertinent facts. The firm will then contact physicians that meet the criteria set for the position. The contact is done by telephone, written correspondence, and marketing pieces.

Once candidates are identified who meet the parameters and are interested in a particular position, their CV is sent for review. A phone interview is scheduled and if that goes well, a face to face meeting is next.

There are advantages and disadvantages to using a search firm. Keep in mind that you have to do what is best for you and what will produce the best results for your goal. Probably one of the most helpful aspects of a recruiter is the time they can put into helping you find a job. If you are a resident, your schedule involves working extremely long hours and on all shifts. A search firm can gather information from you to find out what you're looking for and then take those parameters and tell you which positions closely match your criteria.

Search firms can assist with making travel arrangements for your interview and provide timely feedback. In addition, they can address any concerns or questions you may have about the ED or hospital.

They can also help with contract negotiations and some firms also offer consulting services that include contract review. Ask the search firm you work with if this is a service they provide.

If you do decide to use a search firm, there are certain things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure they are professional and knowledgeable. Not all firms are the same.
  • Avoid pressure tactics - remember a search firm should be helping you with your job search, not making it more difficult.
  • Avoid conflicts between search firms by telling them you are already working with recruiter "X" on a specific position. This way, your CV will not be sent to a hospital more than once.

There is a lot of concern that by using a search firm, a physician will not receive a signing bonus. This is a legitimate concern. Some search firms will not do business with hospitals that refuse to provide bonuses for physicians who utilize their services. Make sure you discuss this issue with the company before you sign on.

Also remember that search firms do not know about all the positions available and that they may not recruit for a particular hospital. Whether you choose to do your job search on your own, use a search firm, or a combination of the two; make sure that you use the resources you have available in the best way to help you secure a position.

Marianne Meyer is the Assistant Vice President of the EM Division for Daniel Stern & Associates. This article was reprinted with permission from the September 1999 issue of PaACEP News.

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