QUESTION: The biggest challenge we face with our company is finding doctors as candidates.  I run a medical recruitment business, and we are in the very low candidate short market.  We have lots of clients paying us good fees to find doctors, however, this is getting more and more difficult as time goes on.  Do you have a successful strategy for a candidate short market that has been beneficial for you or any of you members?  – Chris, Australia

ANSWER: I am not sure what sources you are looking for physicians in, but physician recruiting is difficult.  Many professions right now are difficult and that is bluntly what we want because in our market something is always in shortage.  The shorter the candidate market is, meaning short supply, the more leverage you have to be selective with clients. When there is a larger supply you might hear, that every recruiter they client works with has agreed to 20% or has agreed to go through Human Resources.

You want to go into a diagnostic in those situations about the results they are getting.  My favorite line with those people that tell me that they were working on something with multiple recruiters at a low fee, but the position is still open three months later, is “If I agree to do this for you for free and I do not find any talent for you that you hire, have I saved you any money?”  It makes them stop and think.  Anyone can agree to terms.  Who is going to produce?

I hate it when the candidate market goes up because then people are coming back to us and they want to pay 15% fees and, when we did engagements, our ability to get engagements was a lot harder because we do not have to pay that anymore.

I know that is not your question, but what I am saying is it looks like you are lamenting this and I would be embracing a candidate short market.  There are a variety of techniques that work.  I do not know the metrics for physicians, but I know in a technical recruiting world where people are placing hardware and software engineers it is taking twenty-five to thirty-five conversations with candidates to get one to go on an interview. It takes four of those interviews arranged to make one placement.  My gut feeling with physicians, I know they are harder to find globally, it is going to be the same, if not maybe even a little bit higher.  It is what it is.

There are the obvious sources like profiling on LinkedIn, but it is rolling up your sleeves and it is contact.  I think the mistake a lot of people make in a market like this is they call and, I use this word because I hate it – pitch a job at them.  For example:

Hey Dr. Chris,

You know I am working with this great, great facility that does these great, great things.  Is this something you would be interested in?

The human being that has really already made the decision to leave, that is going to be intriguing.  But if I call you up and say,

Hey Dr. Chris,

I am a recruiter.  I have no idea what is going on in your career.  I just wanted to talk to you quietly and confidentially to see if you are at all open to hearing about an opportunity that could potentially be stronger than your current one.  What are your thoughts on that?

I take him through a series of questions to identify if they are even open to hearing about the opportunity before I present it.  Do that ten to twelve times a day and you will find doctors to interview.

If it were easy to find doctors, if it was easy to find any candidate, if it was as easy as posting it, if it was as easy as just pulling a profile off LinkedIn, we would be out of business.  Thank God it is difficult.

What I would start doing is to track how many physician conversations you are having over the next month and how many of those yield to candidates you can submit to your client and how many of those people that you submit to your client turn into interviews.  After a month you will have a pretty good predictable metric so you can say it takes us thirty-one of these conversations to get one physician to go on an interview.

When you have that kind of data, you can go back to new hiring managers with the ability to talk in data terms, which will reduce their perception of risk.  You increase their confidence in the fact that you have the ability to fill the assignment, and thus you might be able to get engagement fees.  If you go in and you find a need for a physician and perhaps it is relatively urgent, and you do a really great diagnostic on why it is urgent and what they need and what the role is, you can say, well, here is what we need to do.

You explain that in your experience this type of search we will have a portfolio of two or three physicians for you to select from and here is what we have to do to do that.  It takes thirty-one candidate conversations with physicians to get one ultimately through the funnel of where you approve and they interview them.  Your experience has been for every two to three candidates we send to a client, they are usually in a position to hire one.  For us to be able to get a hold of thirty-one people, which requires a certain amount of research on our research team, requires a certain number of outbound calls and emails, etc.  For us to execute on that, that represents a fee of __% with 1/3 up front.  Are you authorized to approve it?

I  see too many recruiters relying on LinkedIn in-mails or emails, and they stopped reaching out to candidates.  Even though return calls are going down, I still see them hanging in there a bit more with candidates.  You can use email and in-mail too.  I am not saying do not do that.  My rule with a candidate was and is and remains, seven attempts over three weeks.  I do not necessarily follow through all that time on the client side, but when I had a team of recruiters early on when we started bringing on people and their whole role was to search on openings we had under contract in our office, I would give somebody an opening and at the end of the week they would say, alright, I need another opening and they only had one or two candidates to go on the interview.  I am thinking, what do you mean you need another opening?  We only have one candidate to interview.  I say to them, we need four candidates.  How many attempts did you make?  One or two?  They would fight us thinking that seven attempts over three weeks was irritating.  The tendency of the people that called back after voice mail/email five, six, or seven was a tone of apology, sorry I did not get back to you sooner, and gratitude, thanks for your persistence.  Every once in a while you get somebody who is like, why the heck are you calling me all these times?  Because I wanted to see if this was the right thing for you or not.

Step 2 is same thing, if you have a list of physicians, five to seven contacts over three weeks.  I have had coaching clients fight me, in fact one client finally tried this process. That client just posted in our private Facebook group that they made a $40,000 placement on a candidate he followed through with and it was the seventh attempt.  If they gave up on that candidate they would not have made that placement because the backup candidate was not theirs.

Those are a couple tips, probably not the total solution but based on the data you have given me those are a few things you could quickly execute on.