Dear Dr. Goodhook,

I’m interested in working with a third-party physician recruitment firm to help with my job search. My self-guided search has been daunting and overwhelming, to say the least.

However, I’m a little bit wary, because a lot of people are skeptical of recruiters. Do you have any specific advice about how to work with a physician recruiter? Mainly, I’m worried about them being pushy and forcing me into a job I don’t want.


Hesitant in New Hampshire

Dear Hesitant,

A fisherman who wants to work with a guide is interested in knowing where to find the best trout. However, he does not want to be led downstream by a crazy backwoods goon with a tacklebox full of knives.

I suspect your situation is similar. You want guidance and insider wisdom, but you don’t want to be pointed to a position only because it’s in the recruiter’s best interest, not yours.

Fear not, my friend. Recruiters have a bad reputation, but as long as you establish guidelines and work with a firm you’re comfortable with, they can be invaluable to your search process.

I’ve seen young physicians find ideal careers through recruiters, and I’ve also seen them led downstream by figurative harmonica-playing tricksters. After years of observations and insight, I can offer you the following:

Test the Waters

Before you dive in and start working with a recruitment firm, by all means, test the waters. Ask as many questions as you can before you hand over your CV. Get a feel for their approach and learn about how they will help you find the right job. Ask them about their process. Be forthright, and trust your intuition. Does the hair on the back of your neck rise? Talk to another firm.

Don’t Cast More Than Two Poles

It’s incredibly important not to work with more than two recruiters (and if you’re smart, you’ll work with only one). Working with multiple recruiters is like casting ten poles into the same fishing hole at once.

The fish (or in your case, the hiring organizations) are bound to get suspicious and uninterested. If the same hospital receives your resume from four different recruiters, you’ll be viewed as a desperate, bumbling fool.

Set the Sails in Your Favor

While physician recruiters do a lot of work for their candidates, you need to do a lot of work in the beginning. Make sure you’re as straightforward and honest about your career priorities as possible. In other words, set the sails in the direction you want to go.

Give the recruiter your most recent CV, three letters of reference and a list of priorities. Have a conversation with them about your specific goals so that they can conduct a better search.

At this time, you should also set guidelines. Tell them when it is and isn’t appropriate to call you (you think I’m kidding? Ha!). Also, make it very clear to your recruiter that he or she must discuss a position with you before sending along your CV or resume. You do not want to endure the embarrassment of talking with organizations that don’t interest you in the slightest.

Enjoy Your Adventure

A good recruiter is a coach who can provide valuable advice on interviewing, identifying red-flag situations and negotiating contracts. They can be immensely helpful, but finding a recruiter is a search in and of itself.

I wish you all the best on your upstream journey.

-Dr. Goodhook.

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