There’s just something about recruiting to a small town that I absolutely enjoy. Often we’ll travel into an international airport, in a major city, and drive hours to our final destination. The city lights start to fade in the distance as you begin your decent into the great unknown. When Google doesn’t provide any answers, you’re forced to think outside the box. You feel like a private eye trying to crack the case; searching for clues. We’re looking for those invaluable recruiting nuggets that you just can’t get until you’re there in person. If you don’t prepare, it’s like driving somewhere you’ve never been without a map. Sure, you might get lucky, but more often than not you’ll find yourself lost.
See It for Yourself
One of the most crucial components to what we do as physician recruiters has to be the onsite profile. Profiles, at the very least, involve traveling to the community (usually by plane), meeting with the key players involved in the search process, and meeting with a real estate agent. You have a limited amount of time (about 24 hours) to gather as much information as possible so you have to maximize your time. Again, preparation is essential. A good recruiter will research the organization; familiarize themselves with key staff members and learn as much about the community as possible, before they set one foot on the hospital campus.
As you’re driving back to the airport, you start reflecting on the day and start collecting your arsenal. You review your pages upon pages of notes to start making sense of what just happened. One of my mentors John turned me on to brain dumping. It’s when you put your notes away and just type off of memory. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar, just type. As soon as the plane takes off, I start typing away. I’m often quite surprised by how much information I was able to obtain.
Paint the Best Picture Possible
Now the fun part begins! I like to think of myself as an artist. Only instead of creating paintings, I’m creating a vision. As a recruiter, I’m selling a dream. When the search begins, I’m given a blank canvas. Now it’s time to paint it. It’s my job to gather as much useful information to get the candidate interested. I have to use my experiences to paint the most detailed, colorful picture possible. This can be challenging in a community of 1,200 with one grocery store and not much else. But I was able to do it and do it well.
They’re Out There; you just need to find them
I truly believe there is a perfect candidate out there for every opportunity. Whether it’s a community of less than 500 residents in Central Oregon, or a community of 7,500 in Southern Indiana, you just have to know what you’re looking for. Searches in rural markets can take years to fill, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Recruiters are often intimidated by challenging locations. They have the mindset that “nobody would ever relocate here”. If that’s your approach, candidates will sense that like a shark senses blood and they will eat you up.
That’s why the initial phone screen is so important. In my experience, if the first words out of a candidate’s mouth are “where is it and how much are they offering”, the recruiter will answer “it’s in X and they are paying Y”. The candidate will reply “not interested” and hang up. Believe me; I’ve done this more times that I can remember. You’ve just let a possible placement slip through your fingers. You’ve done yourself, the candidate and your client a huge disservice.
Ninety nine times out of one hundred, Northeast Louisiana was never on their radar. But maybe, just maybe there’s something you have, that they are looking for. The candidate may be looking for student loan repayment, or a better schedule, but you’d never know it if you didn’t screen them properly. Don’t be afraid to professionally challenge them. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to lose. You’ll be surprised that most candidates are saying “no” and have no idea what they’re saying “no” too. We’re consultants. That’s how my mentor David recruited a doctor only considering the suburbs of Atlanta to Eastern Wyoming. It all starts with the screen.
Work Smarter, not harder
Recruiting doctors in rural America is like that reality show Wicked Tuna. It’s a grind. You have to be patient. Once you finally get a fish (or doctor) on the line, don’t let them get away. You may never have another opportunity. That doesn’t mean you yank the pole as soon as they nibble, because you’ll pull the hook straight out of their mouth. Let them swallow the hook and when the time is right…set that hook!!! Timing is everything. Now don’t reel them in too fast or you might lose them. Never take shortcuts. Follow the process. You’ll be glad you did.
A common phrase used in physician recruitment is “learn to fish and when to cut bait”. Work with people you can work with. I often have multiple calls with candidates before submitting them to clients. Just because they’re interested on the initial call doesn’t mean they’re going to be interested the next time you speak. Once they’ve informed their spouse that they’re considering a rural location, the dream can be quickly axed. That too has happened more times than I can count. It’s all part of the process. There’s nothing more embarrassing than submitting a candidate, setting up a call with your client and getting a call from your client that you wasted their time. Trust your instinct. Never force feed a candidate to a client…Ever.
There’s nothing more rewarding than recruiting a doctor to rural America. Knowing that you’re changing lives in a community that needs physicians is extremely satisfying. Don’t be afraid to lose. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.