Ms. Katz is the president of the Katz Company, an emergency medicine consulting firm dedicated to providing expert physician recruitment services and training emergency medicine residents in effective job searching.
It's that time again: The job search season starts in August, and graduating residents, as well as experienced, boarded emergency physicians, are jumping into the market. Many will consider seeking the assistance of a professional recruiter. Being a professional emergency physician recruiter myself, I obviously applaud that thought. But I also have to warn potential candidates that not all recruiters are created equal. Even when you do find a good one, there is a right way and a wrong way to work with a recruiter.
Truly professional emergency physician recruiters work exclusively in emergency medicine and possess expert knowledge of the marketplace. They know the language of the specialty, and can provide detailed statistics and practice information on any position they represent. Professional recruiters listen before they sell, getting to know your professional and personal needs before trying to pitch a position.
Once they have a complete picture of your search parameters and the lifestyle requirements for you and your family, professional recruiters will work with you to create a marketing plan. This details the geographic areas of your search, a position profile, and a time frame. Instead of waiting for opportunity to wander through the door, a professional recruiter is proactive, going out into the marketplace to search for the best job opportunities to fit your plan.
Career counseling is another benefit offered by professional recruiters. They provide you with an honest evaluation of your assets and your goals, even if the truth isn't pretty or exactly what you want to hear. A professional recruiter handles all the details and legwork, saving you time and money. The best have earned a reputation for ethics and performance, and can be found through referral from a colleague or from a well-crafted, detailed job listing on the web or in an emergency medicine publication.
Though it pains me to say it, a large percentage of physician recruiters don't merit the “professional” tag. The worst of them are actually quite easy to spot if you know what to look for. Be wary of the fast talker who tries to sell you a job before finding out what you're looking for. Look out for skeletal job descriptions that emphasize paradise and palm trees instead of practice profile. Don't waste your time with generalists who don't specialize in emergency medicine because they will have limited knowledge of the specialty and no understanding of the unique practice criteria.
Working with a less-than-professional recruiter can be frustrating and unpleasant, and it also can be dangerous to your career. The worst ones use sleazy tactics such as “papering,” a practice where a recruiter sends your CV to every hospital in a geographic region. This is known as an unsolicited referral, and though most hiring authorities will refuse to acknowledge them, it can become a problem if the physician contacts the employer on his own. Employers don't want to be hassled by territorial disputes over candidates. If your CV shows up on the desk of every ED director in one or more states, it can make you appear indiscriminate, and a lot of these directors communicate with each other on a regular basis.
Finally, the worst part of working with a less-than-professional recruiter is simply that it's a waste of your time, a commodity you have little of, especially if you're a graduating resident.
Make It Work
Rule number one is protect your paperwork. A professional recruiter will never send your CV to anyone without your permission. Establishing a winning relationship with a professional recruiter begins with establishing a mutual trust. Be honest about any negatives in your background. Turning a negative into a positive is one of the most valuable tools in a pro's arsenal.
Along with mutual trust goes mutual respect. Once you've enlisted the assistance of a recruiter, you commit to prompt responses to phone calls and e-mails as well as immediate feedback on any contact with employer clients. The recruiter also will provide you with comprehensive feedback on your standing as a candidate from the client. Communication is the most important directive of the candidate/recruiter relationship. If you choose, as many job seekers do, to work with more than one recruiter, let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.
Once again, employers don't want to get involved with a candidate territorial dispute, so it is up to you to keep each recruiter informed about which positions the other one is representing. If you encounter a recruiter who tells you not to let another recruiter know what jobs he is sending you to, that's a classic nonprofessional stance, and you should avoid that recruiter. Professional recruiters want you to tell the other recruiter which employers they have submitted you to so they can prevent candidate referral disputes that often end in the client negating the candidate all together. The rule is simple: Whichever recruiter presents a position to you first, in a complete and professional manner, is the one permitted to submit your CV to that employer and to work with you on that position.
The biggest mistake emergency physician candidates make is to think that once they get an offer, they don't need the recruiter any more. There are many negotiating and closing details a professional recruiter is aware of that most candidates aren't. Don't be afraid of pressure to accept a position you don't really want; a professional recruiter would never do that. Recruitment fees are earned only when both parties are happy with the match. You'd be silly not to utilize their experience at the negotiating and closing phases. After all, the services are free to you; the client pays the fee.
Which brings me to the question, “Does a recruitment fee reduce a candidate's chances of getting an offer?” The answer is no, with rare exceptions. Employers who use the services of a professional recruiter have already committed to paying a fee for the candidate who best fits their team and their needs. The only way a fee could be detrimental would be a scenario in which two equal candidates are vying for a job and one comes with a fee attached. Because we are dealing with people and not lawn mowers here, the chances of that happening are exceptionally rare.
Only you can decide whether working with a professional recruiter will benefit you. I encourage you to consider the option, especially if your search parameters are fairly broad, and you could use some help defining the field. A good professional recruiter can make your job search experience a great deal easier and a lot more successful.
RULES FOR WORKING WITH A PROFESSIONAL RECRUITER
▪ Protect your paperwork: A professional recruiter won't send your CV to anyone without your permission.
▪ Be honest about any negatives in your background.
▪ Return your recruiter's phone calls and e-mails promptly.
▪ Tell the recruiter if you are working with more than one recruiter, and tell each recruiter which positions the other is representing.
▪ The recruiter who presents a position first is the one who submits your CV to that employer.
▪ Use the recruiter to negotiate and close the deal.
© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.