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Truth in Advertising

Katz, Barbara

doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000340950.69012.8d
Career Source

If you are seeking a job on the web, be prepared to wend your way through duplicate listings, misleading location reports, and some ridiculously superfluous information that has nothing to do with job, location, or lifestyle.

Here's a line from a job listing I found on the web for a position in the Midwest: “Land a lunker striper in an area known to offer some of the best crappie.” Yup, that's a load of crappie in my book! Then there's the group offering a job in the Raleigh/Durham Triangle area with a location that is actually more than 50 miles away. One of my favorite web job listings comes out of the Pacific Northwest: “Work from home as long as you live 10 minutes away. No experience required.” All you who wished you had gone to med school, here's your shot! And the prime example of totally inane job advertising comes from a listing for a job in Georgia offering the opportunity to work at a “facility on the bleeding edge of technology and an extremely modern replacement hospital in the works.” Words fail me!



While these may sound funny, there's actually nothing humorous about physician candidates wasting valuable and limited time trolling through hundreds and hundreds of job listings that offer little to no real information. I'm not saying these positions aren't worthwhile or viable opportunities, but they are being presented in such a manner that no one could discern their potential value from the information being provided.

During the months I prepare the annual location and compensation reports for the September and October issues of EMN, a portion of my research includes viewing every job listing on every job web site in emergency medicine. What I saw this year made it clear that agencies, groups, and employers of all types and sizes seem to have changed their primary job-listing goal from advertising opportunity to soliciting responses. If you are a graduating resident, your base knowledge of the job market in emergency medicine is probably slim to none. Tiptoeing through these web sites or the classifieds isn't going to help a whole lot. The biggest challenge you face is finding real information about a job. Details are in short supply this year. You're more likely to get pictures of waving palm trees and trickling mountain streams than actual practice details. Even boarded, experienced physicians hitting the job market can become easy prey for some of these hyperbole hacks.

Here are some tips for reading between the lines and making sense out of the senseless:

Lead-ins are come-ons. I'm referring to the top line that is supposed to attract your attention. Think of the tabloids you see at the supermarket. A headline may say, “Brangelina Calling it Quits,” but when you get inside, you discover the superstar couple is actually “quitting” their Los Angeles pad for their New Orleans mansion this summer. When the tagline says, “Work and Live in Paradise,” it might be referring to the tiny town of Paradise, CA, formerly known as Poverty Ridge. Always read the entire listing before considering a position.

Who's really advertising this job? When reading through a job listing, sometimes the pronouns can be misleading. Words like “we” and “our” are meant to make you think the employer is running the ad. But if you were to send your CV, it could end up in the hands of a less-than-professional recruiter who might use it for his gain instead of yours. One notorious activity they engage in is called “papering,” providing entire states with your CV for marketing purposes, using you as a poster boy to lure new clients and contracts. With this kind of ad, there is either no contact name, or if there is one, it's a fake name. Some recruiters, even good ones, use a fake contact name on all their listings. I think that's so they can identify it as “a new fish on the hook” when an inquiry comes in.

I've never understood this. One would think that a recruiter wouldn't want to hide his name if he wanted to develop a reputation. The trick here is to read the fine print, which can be found in the email address and the URL if one is provided. In most cases, the name of the advertiser is quite evident. If you're not sure, call the contact number listed, and say, “This is Dr. (use just your first name), what company have I reached?” If the company name doesn't ring a bell, ask what kind of firm it is. Ask, “Is this a recruitment firm or a contract group? May I please have the address of your web site so I can do some research before calling back?”

Check out the web site, and if you're still interested, call back and ask to speak with the person whose name is on the job listing. If a different person comes on the phone, ask to leave a message for the first one. If they won't take the message or if that person doesn't get back to you, you've probably got a fictitious contact person situation. Proceed with caution, and don't submit a CV until you are fully informed about who will receive it and what he will do with it.

It's all in the details! If the job listing is very short on actual position specifics, and most are, but there is something about it that attracts you, it's time to pick up the phone and ask some questions before you send any paperwork. In most cases, when you place an inquiry call, the person on the other end of the phone is going to be far more interested in getting information about you than in answering your questions. Take charge from the start: “I need some actual specifics about this position before providing my information to you. Once I have that, I will be happy to answer any questions you may have about me.”

If the person on the phone can't answer practice profile questions, ask for the name and number of a hiring authority who can. It is better for you to place the call than have them call you back; protect your identity until you know exactly who you are dealing with. Have real details on the employer and all facets of the position before submitting your CV.

You have to give a little to get a little. If you call a recruitment firm, they will not be willing to tell you the name of the facility or group or give you an exact location until they have received your CV. Why? Because once they've given you all the details, you could pick up the phone and call that employer directly, cutting them out of the equation even though their listing attracted you in the first place. Of course, this is unethical behavior in which no physician would ever engage.

But a professional recruiter can give you enough practice details, compensation information, and even lifestyle particulars for you to decide if the position is worth pursuing without revealing who the employer is. Not-so-professional recruiters will try to sell you without providing any specifics just to get their hands on your CV. Take notes on the details. If you have some significant notes and you're interested in the position at the end of the conversation, you should be just fine submitting your CV. Once a professional recruiter has received your CV, client disclosure should be forthcoming. Professional recruiters will guarantee total confidentiality, and will not refer your CV anywhere without your permission. If they don't offer this to you verbally, insist on it before submitting your paperwork.

Duplicates can be dangerous! Some employers utilize the services of more than one recruitment firm to fill their opening, especially in a candidate-driven market like this one. In these cases, the first recruiter to submit a physician candidate's CV is considered the referring agent. With the way job listings are these days, you could end up contacting two or three recruiters about the same job. No recruiter “owns” a candidate, and you have the right to choose who you want to represent you. Your best bet is to work with the recruiter who has the most comprehensive details about the position so, once again, make phone calls first and deliver your paperwork to the one who will provide you with the most information while understanding your professional and personal goals. If you end up having more than one recruiter trying to refer you to an employer, the employer is quite likely to negate you as a candidate entirely to avoid getting involved in a bidding war. Make sure you know which recruiter is representing you with each employer.

Any job listing that fails to provide real information is probably not worth your time; it's as simple as that. Read through the sites at least once a week because new items come in daily. Stick to your quality guns and only proceed when there is some meat to the matter.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.