Saturday, April 7, 2007

Internet tools for job search and practice marketing

When I was training in Germany, my native country, is was normal for medical students and residents to send out a few letters applying for a residency position or for a position as attending. Unlike here in the US there was no match, and you could start a residency position whenever you wanted during the year. Sending out letters to the heads of departments was normal and your success was mainly dependent on timing. If your letter landed on the chief's desk when he happened to be looking for a new resident, you had the position.

Back then I discovered a thick book on the desk of the department secretary and was thrilled that it contained all the information that I would need to apply to any hospital and any department in the country. I bought the book.

I had all but forgotten these books when I graduated from my residency in the US and started searching for a job. I had seen the Foley books with contact information for physicians in New England, but they seemed expensive and I did not buy them. The thought of just mailing hundreds of colleagues in mass mailing style to find a job had not crossed my mind.

So I searched by word of mouth, browsing through advertisements and contacting recruiters. A few years later I discovered "Thedoctorjob". I had seen their ads here and there, but had never thought anything about them. Their ad line "Pain relief for your job search" did not signal that they had a completely new approach to job search, no, it sounded like the same old, same old recruiter firm, just with different angle. Maybe they should have advertised "A revolutionary, fresh, innovative, different approach" "an approach like no other" "go far beyond word of mouth" "Go far beyond recruiters". I wish it had been something that told me at the first glance that this was a new and unique method.

After a while I ended up speaking to them and learned about their direct mail method. It made immediate sense. Minutes after I hung up the phone I was googling the term "doctor addresses". I found and a short time later I knew that I could do a mass mailing campaign myself, since I was familiar with Word and it's Mail Merge function. I just needed the address lists.

And a whole new world of job searching opened. I tried the direct mail method with smashing results. In an "oversaturated area" where recruiters "had not had a job in five years" doors were opening - 6 phone calls of interested physicians within 3 days. WOW. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Think about it. All you need is to get your cover letter and CV in front of employers.

And the employers are physicians. And physicians are easy to find, they actually want to be found. After all, they want patients to find them. They are listed in all sorts of directories. And the pharmaceutical industry has been collecting their contact information for a long time - to guide their reps. And recruiters and their organization NAPR use direct mail to find the jobs that they try to sell you for 20K.

I was so exited that I offered to give a lecture at the residency program where I teach. They loved the lecture and I repeated it several times.

This innovation was possible due to the availability of databases on the Internet. Marketing databases are now so easily accessible, that it takes just a few minutes to find them. Then you can play around with them, at least with some of the databases. When I did for the first time, I was completely amazed at the potential. You can select all 35-40 year olds with a white Volvo 850 made between 1998 and 2000 that have a median household income between 60 and 80,000 and like fishing, just to name an example. To know about these databases is very useful long after your job search. It comes in handy when you are marketing your practice and would like to target a certain segment of the population. There are also lists of people with certain health conditions. You can market very specifically to patients with hypertension, diabetes, gout etc. There are lists of (female) executives, people with an annual income over 1 million for example, CEOs, owners or renters, and you can market to people with very specific hobbies. Try this out and play around with it by going to InfoUSA.

The Internet has more potential for the future. Should you be interested in real estate you will now Zillow, which gives everybody unprecedented access to real estate information, thus far the privilege and guarded secret of real estate agents (e.g. lists of comparables). Zillow now allows you to sell your house on the net, you advertise your house with a littel flag on a map, you can post photos of your house etc. Fabulous! A similar trend could come in physician job search. I can imagine a job database, a job board, where you can post job offerings with photos, lets say of the practice, the hospital, the staff, you could add videos, lets say the employer or practice owner talks about his philosophy of patient care or about what makes his practice special. Hospital CEOs could mention why their hospital is a great place to work. The office could be signaled with a flag on a map, community information could be accessible with a button, salary information could be accessible with a button - tailored to the specialty of medicine and the location, cost of living could be equally accessible. And of course you could email your friends and colleagues about a particular job that you end up not taking. A new style of internet recruiting. ther could be video templates for job ads, just like we now have templates for websites. These video templates could make it very inexpensive for hospitals to effectively advertise jobs. Once a hospital has created their video template with the general info about the facility and the community, the template can be adapted to every job in every specialty very easily and with little cost. You Tube makes it possible today. There is an idea for a new business!

Candidates could post videos answering the usual interview questions and explaining what sets them apart from the rest and why they are great candidates. It is conceivable to post video references from residency program directors or fellow attendings, or maybe from the hospital CEO. References to websites and publications on the web may become standard. CVs could be illustrated with photos and copies of documents. Who knows what will develop.

One thing is sure, the Internet has just begun to change the face of job search and recruitment. The availablity of marketing databases and the ability to gain address to physician contact information with a few clicks, to merge letters with contact information in large scale and to mail and fax the personalized letters is already here, within a few clicks for everybody. Publishing has been made "democratic" or public by MS Word and Publisher, marketing has been placed within everybody's reach by software such as Outlook with Business Contact Manager, ACT! and other Contact Managers, by large databases and by software to easily harvest data and build your own databases such as AddressGrabber and ListGrabber. Not to mention advertisement tools such a Fax Blast or Email Blast Programs that allow you to reach thousands of people with your marketing or job search message.

Look around on the Internet, explore. There are many extremely interesting posiblities for physicians that have been in routine use for marketers for years, that are now readily available for physicians and of course hospitals - to find jobs, to recruit and to market your practice, our services, your facility.

I talk about it more in the future.

Your Matthias Muenzer, MD

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