Saturday, June 16, 2007

Avoid physician recruiters

I teach Obstetrics and Gynecology to the residents of a Family Medicine Program in Boston. This includes a lecture on "How to Find Your Ideal Job" that explains the dramatic advantages of the direct mail method for a job searching physician and outlines the drawbacks of working with physician recruiters.

A faculty members asked me why I was opposed to recruiters. Here is the answer: It was a long learning process over years, with many dozens of big and small bad experiences and big and small disappointments. In the end, I could count the good experiences on one hand and the bad experiences and disappointments were in the hundreds.

I started out with enthusiasm about recruiters, and with great hope. Here are these people that have "hundreds" or "thousands of jobs nationwide", that have "the best jobs", that "personalize a search for you", that routinely find "the perfect practice for you". Great! Call seversal recruiters, get a great job and start working!

It turned out quite different. I had graduated from one of the large Boston teaching hospitals and wanted to stay locally. And with "locally" I meant really Boston, specifically inside the I-95 ring. So I sent my CV to recruiter after recruiter, but strangely, such a job did not seem to exist. Even the recruiters that advertised jobs with "Enjoy all Boston has to offer" live and work in "the Boston suburbs" never had jobs within the I-95 ring. To my dismay, recruiters defined the "Boston suburbs" very creatively and differently than I did. The suburbs suddenly turned out to be Methuen, Lowell, Lawrence, Framingham, Worcester, Plymouth etc. Driving distances in ads were routinely understated; places advertised as "only 30 minutes from the city" always were an hour away.
Then, after a while, there actually was a job IN Boston, and I rushed to find out what it was. "Obstetrics only", and underpaid. At the time the usual starting salary was 150-160, this employer offered 120. A number of similar experiences later let me conclude that "within-city-limits" jobs coming through recruiters had serious flaws.

I realized in time that recruiter jobs were never "just great", there was always something off, the jobs always seemed to have a flaw, some drawback, concerning location or otherwise. My comfort zone in terms of location ended before the "recruiter area" started! And I grew more and more cynical when reading the oh-so-promising ads...

A few years later I went on another job search, and this time it lasted over 4 years. I wanted a position in Miami. Again, not outside of Miami, no, IN Miami.
On the internet I found, a website chockfull with recruiter ads, registered and up went my hopes again – over 75 jobs in Florida! There had to be something in Miami among them! For starters, the typical recruiter job descriptions are short, cryptic and vague. I understand the reasons for this very well, but it is still frustrating. I screen jobs by location and salary – and that is exactly what they never, ever tell you. I also was surprised to find that many jobs are listed multiple times by multiple recruiters. Great…

And the same frustrating game started all over again. “Oh, no I do not have anything in Miami”, "But what about Lakeland, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and the panhandle and, and, and". Lots of jobs, just never where I wanted one.

I adapted and listed myself on the Internet as looking “strictly in Miami, nowhere else”, "not Fort Lauderdale, not Naples, not Orlando, not Tampa". After all, I have family in Miami…

Do you think any of the recruiters cared about what I wrote in my profile? Not at all. I received literally countless emails advertising jobs in Florida – anywhere in Florida, except in Miami. It started to sound like Miami was the new Boston.

Sometimes I felt spammed by recruiters. I had just spoken to a recruiter in person and explained that I was looking really only in Miami, sorry, really nowhere else…and to my surprise next day I get an email about a remote California location, “home of the California puppy”, of course far away from the action, “a short drive” of 75 miles from LA. Did that recruiters not hear me? Did he not care? Or did he simply not take me seriously? Did he think I would change my mind that easily?

What would happen if I treated my patients that way – “Dear Mrs Jones, I don’t care if you just want the birth control pill, here, read this leaflet on hysterectomy, let's schedule it”

I adapted again and started answering my emails with: “Thank you for contacting me, but I am searching exclusively in Miami”.
Bam, now I got the “Miami AREA” emails and ads. The “Miami area” seemed to stretch from the Keys to West Palm Beach. What kind of map are these people looking at? What are their concepts of distance? Do they ever commute? One excited and eager recruiter told me that I could live in Miami, but "commute to work just slightly north of Fort Lauderdale". She obviously had never, never been on I-95 in rush hour…

Then I started to add one more sentence to my answer to all those recruiter emails:
“I am only interested in Miami, and only in a practice that has a phone number starting with the area code 305”. Now THAT usually worked. One recruiter audibly chuckled on the phone. He seemed to understand exactly why I was saying it. At least now the number of emails about Naples and Orlando dropped somewhat.

I loved the following answer “I do not have anything in Miami at this time, but I’ll call my clients I that area to see if they have something” Oh, yeah! I am still waiting today for those call-backs.
And now, here is the outstanding, rare, single, amazing experience with a recruiter – an actual, true and honest answer: “I don't have jobs there. If you want to find a job in Miami, you have to call the practices yourself, one by one. And if it does not work the first time, then try again in three months”. I was blown away, a recruiter that actually does not try to convince me that Backwater, FL is a great place to live and raise a family, but that instead gives me a tip how to land a job in the city I want.

This happened only once, one single time, on one lonely occasion, on one remarkable afternoon, in several YEARS of searching, after literally hundreds of emails and telephone conversations! The first honest and true tip from a recruiter, advice from one human being to another human being - no salesmanship. It happened only ONCE.

Do you begin to understand why I do not like recruiters?

You would not believe how many emails I received about jobs from West Virginia to North Carolina to Indiana and Idaho, even jobs in other fields of medicine like anesthesia and pediatrics! The recruiters who are sending me these emails seemingly could care less about my profile and my registration information.
Do you understand why I cringe when I read recruiters advertise “we personalize a job search for you”. Idaho instead of Miami, really personalized, great job!

I now believe that most contingency recruiters just do not care. They sell, sell, sell and sell some more. They go for volume, they go for the numbers. The more emails they send out, the more people they contact, the more chances they may have to get an answer and sell one of their jobs. That is why they remind me of used car salesmen and telemarketers. Their ads are just the nice marketing face, and you have to read them with upmost suspicion.

But then, when I was starting to believe that good jobs where I wanted them, were just not available, then I found “” They explained how direct mailing works and how it is superior to any other search method. After reading through their website, the behavior of recruiters suddenly made sense and it became completely clear why they did not have the jobs I wanted – and why they never will!

I tried the direct mail myself, and it worked like a charm. One mailing and I had seven interviews and three job offers. And that in a city that - according to recruiters - was “oversaturated”, where there were “no jobs”. Months later I tried mass faxing with the same success. And mailing is easy, the lists are readily available on the Internet, there are services that review and improve your cover letter and CV and ….of course there is “” that offers all this in one neat package for a very reasonable price.
And, no, I am not related to any of the folks at, I am not part of the company, they do not pay me, I am not on commission. I just love the idea, the method and above all - the results.


The Independent Urologist said...

Another reason why I went solo. I actually got the practice I wanted.

ObGynThoughts said...

Dear Independent Urologist:
thank you for your comment. Becoming independent and opening your own practice is certainly the answer to a large number of issues! I wholeheartedly agree that it is the way to have the practice you want. It is in my plans for the near future!
Your M. Muenzer

Evil HR Lady said...

Excellent post. You bring up so many great points about the problem with recruiters.

Anonymous said...

Your points are only valid dealing with recrutiers who are very unprofessional and have no idea what they are doing.
If done correctly we recruiters find jobs that are off the radar-nobody else has these jobs. We suggest NOT posting any CV online in order to avoid unwanted harrassment and the perception of desperation. I only involve myself as much as my candidate wants me to involve myself. My wife is a physician and so are all my friends at Harvard. I NEVER suggest only using me.. I always help them to apply to groups that won't use recruiters and explain how to get their CV to the decision maker.
You really should not make suggestions about ALL recruiters as if they are the same. I feel bad for you because your experience with recruiting is obviously noit favorable. Most likely you are not a physician because if you were you would be entirely too busy, as most GOOD physicians are, to do your own busy work to find great opportunities. Hence the three... now four comments.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has had experience with "TheDoctorJob" I must say that this service is a huge ripoff, and is run by a very unethical and dishonest man. I would think twice about endorsing a service that you have never personally used. Read the reviews and complaints, and you will see that many physicians have felt cheated and scammed.

Anonymous said...

We called many recruiters recently and it was a NIGHTMARE. In fact I believe I called everyone listed in the internet.

These people were detached, unprofessional would be a complement since most were angry, nasty, unavailable, morans who should be locked up in jail for the insults they passively lobbed at my husband and I.

So finally we found on recruiting firm that placed us however after placing us the Italian female manager of this place told me I was, "the biggest pain in the ass her employee had ever worked with." I won't tell you what I wanted to do to her and her employee but what I will say is this:
I had to BABY HER employee to work and do his gd job. That little pissant of a sub-humanoid was so painfully stupid that if it were not for me kicking him in the ass to find us a job we would never have been placed.

I do not feel comfortable naming the group we worked with other than to say it was a huge group and found on the internet, and let me tell you we will NEVER forget them for how low they treated us.

Last statement would be that this group felt as though they had us by the balls, and treated us as such. Demeaning, opportunistic and I would also say sedistic would kindly categorize them as subhuman.

We have a nice job now but only because I did ALL the WORK. This pissant did minimal and knows it yet complainted about me to his nasty manager. HOW LOW CAN YOU GET.


And so that is my nightmare experience in a short nutshell. We will NEVER EVER EVER use a recruiter again and encourage anyone and everyone we know to do the same.

This is an industry where the FOX is monitoring the chickens; this industry needs to be monitored and managed with set standards which if crossed or broken they get suspended and or put out of business. These morons don't understand they are playing with peoples lives.



Anonymous said...

I agree with the anonymous comment #3. I will add this: you picked two VERY difficult cities with extremely limited search parameters. It is disappointing that you would lump all recruiters into the same batch. Using your example of ignoring the patient, I could do the same with OB/GYN physicians. All OB/GYNs want to schedule c-section births which is why I used a midwife and I would never trust an OB/GYN to give birth to my babies ever... see my point? I have readily advised the physicians I have worked with over the past decade that if they have limited parameters/specific cities and/or zip codes the best chance to find a decent job is to start calling colleagues for personal referrals and call the locations on their own because Boston and Miami are notorious markets for being low pay/saturated/high turn over markets heavily infiltrated by managed care. As well, I have outright told candidates looking in cities such as those that very few practices/hospitals/multispecialty groups use recruiters (See highly saturated and underpaid.) Anyway, I can understand your frustration but like anything there are two sides to every story. Your story was not positive but most, not all, recruiters are looking to be helpful and kind and positively affect those physicians they are working with. Maybe think about re-writing this piece (and I know this may be difficult to ask - but lesson your critical voice) and being less harsh as well as offering up another side - a physician who had a positive experience using a recruiter to find a position. Flexibility and open mindedness are important really in most every aspect of life. Signed, not a jerky recruiter

Michael Jones said...

Great article! As the owner of a physician/healthcare job board, that only allows real employers to post ads, I felt that your post perfectly summed up the reasons we restrict our business to only in-house recruiters and human resources departments. Here is a link to a recent blog post I wrote on a very similar topic; Also, to the haters, and recruiters who bashed your article in the comments section, you are the ones who are inexperienced or ill-advised, the problems in your industry are even bigger than described in this post, and I know for a fact what goes on in even the biggest and "most reputable" third party search firms in the country. There are lots of good 3rd party recruiters out there, but based on my experiences the ratio is not good.