Sunday, March 11, 2007

What do those terms in physician recruiter ads really mean?

After speaking to physician recruiters and responding to their emails for over 7 years I realize that one of the challenges of becoming a physician recruiter must consist in re-learning English and adopting "recruiter speak", a different version of English, where words assume different meanings. To help you translate "recruiter speak" into everyday English, I am listing a few typical recruiter phrases below - and explain what they really mean:

“At no cost to you”……………………so they want you to believe, but if not you, who else is going to pay? The cost of recruitment will be paid by the employer, who has already factored it in into your "cost", into the overhead that is attributable to you. Rest assured that the recruitment costs will be silently deducted from your salary - and most likely you will never be told.

“We help you with your resume”……something which is occasionally advertised, but somehow never happens. No one ever helped me, not even with feedback such as "this or that is good / not good". The only, really only feedback in all those years was “your CV is just fine”. Once I submitted it to a professional CV writer it changed drastically – for the better. All the recruiters I asked for help with my CV did not respond to the request.

“We help you with your interview”. Nope, has not happened for me in all those years. And physician recruiters actually could help candidates in a meaningful way. They could reveal to the candidate what the true requirements of the employers are, what they are really looking for, what they need and what they do not need or want. Not a single recruiter told me any information of this kind. All the “help” I received was “Dr. Soandso is waiting for your call, let me know how it went”. They are salespeople, not advisors, they are not in the business of helping you, they are simply selling you an "opportunity".

“We screen our candidates” ………if you have a pulse and a license, you have passed the screening test. Well, well, well…an older colleague of mine had tremendous difficulties personally and financially after a divorce and lost his license in Massachusetts since he was unable to pay the abusive malpractice insurance of 70,000. He needed to leave the state. He was over 60, teeth in bad repair, a very long time since residency training, no particular honors, awards etc. He posted a profile on "" and within two days had received 60 responses from recruiters who were only too happy to “help him find a job”. My colleague was overjoyed that recruiters apparently did not care about his age or drawbacks. This is another proof that recruiters simply work on closing a deal and getting the money, no matter with whom. They are not selective about candidates and they are not selective about practices. They take what they can get. It’s all sales, sales, sales. Remember, for a recruiter you are a meal ticket, or a 20K check, however you want to see it.

“We screen our practices”…………nobody, but absolutely nobody screened my practice when I was hiring. When I was looking for a candidate, recruiters asked me about 4 or 5 questions about my practice, nobody came to visit me or see the practice. If you show willingness to pay, you have passed the screening.

"We match perfect candidates with perfect practices" I think that prefect candidates do not need recruiters, they are approached by employers directly, they have a good network and find their jobs that way or they create their own jobs (a few of my colleagues at Harvard did that). So, perfect candidates do not need a recruiter. Should you truly need a recruiter to find a job, then there might be something suboptimal about your CV, about your past or even about you! At least you do not know the best job search techniques, as described in my blog and as offered by “ “ or “”.

Oh, and “perfect practices” are not commonly located in Podunk. Whereas a significant portion of recruiter “opportunities” are located in Podunk. Physician recruiters have to describe the locations of their practices in some way that masks the lack of attractiveness. And so, locations of practices are mostly described as “Close enough to” - followed by the name of the city where you wish you could find a job.

Recruiters seem to get these impressions of "close enough" by looking at a cheap, small globes, where New York and Philadelphia actually seem to touch each other. In reality, once you personally are in an area described as "close enough to" you realize it is a long, long drive of usually one and a half to two hours to the city you wish you had a job.

The other common description of practice location is “Easy access to”. Again a grandiose euphemism. It means you drive for 20 minutes through winding streets and forests, over hills, through little villages to the Interstate ramp, and then you take another “easy ride” lasting 60 minutes to the city you wish you lived in.
Another common location is described as “Easy access to city A, city B and city C”. Wow, access to three cities! in reality this is even worse: the location of the practice is in the dead middle between these three cities, outside of the suburban areas of all three cities, outside of the range of all three commuter transport systems, in a nowhere land, in an area not belonging to any of the three cities, where nobody really wants to live if they can avoid it - which is exactly the reason recruiters get the task of luring you into that area.

Physician recruiters may cite driving distances to the city you wish you had a job. They may write “30 minutes from” = oh yes, but those thirty minutes always seem to be clocked at 4 AM on a Sunday morning in a state police cruiser with blue lights flashing and driving well above any legal speed limit. At least double the time for a realistic estimate!

Always remember what a former recruiter said: “The function of recruiters is to fill the less desirable jobs”.

Before you answer that recruiter call, think: “Do I want a less desirable job?”

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