5 Takeaways from My First Job as a Physician Recruiter
By: Carrie Bennett | August 11, 2016
Shortly after college, I accepted a role as Director of Marketing and Physician Recruitment at my hometown’s local hospital. Like many directors in a small community hospital, I wore a number of hats including marketing and public relations, physician recruitment, community events planner, volunteer coordinator and more. I initially sought out this role to gain marketing and public relations experience; interestingly, I found that the physician recruitment hat I inherited naturally fit the best.
While I have held a number of physician development roles since then, I have noticed that my primary approach to business development and customer engagement has always been driven by what has worked well for me as a recruiter. When I meet with early careerists who show an interest in business development, there are five things I share about my first job as a physician recruiter and the foundation that experience offered:
1. Building Effective Relationships Begins with the Gatekeepers
The way my first job was structured, I was essentially a part-time physician recruiter. As such, my access to qualified physician candidates depended on a number of sources including my own physicians, regional program directors and professional physician recruitment agencies. While many of these ‘gatekeepers’ were happy to flood my voicemail and inbox with a list of candidates they wanted to qualify before their peers, I always felt the process was akin to tossing a handful of spaghetti noodles against the wall and hoping one would stick. As I got to know my gatekeepers better and cultivated relationships with each, I was able to more clearly communicate my community’s needs and learn which sources I could trust to keep those needs in mind when sending a lead my way. As a result, I probably secured fewer leads but they were far more compelling candidates.
When I later moved into more of a referral development role, I noticed that getting to know practice staff, finding ways to be an effective resource for them and showing a sincere interest in their personal and professional success helped me to learn more about my referral contacts and how their practice works. Eventually, this helped me gain more meaningful access to the physicians and other key stakeholders behind the practice gates.
2. Know Your Target Personally & Professionally for a Stronger Foundation
I wasn’t simply filling an empty spot for my employer; I was hiring someone who I thought would be capable and competent enough to care for my friends and family. Someone I wanted to move to my town and stay. For this reason, I found ways to identify which candidates were serious contenders and then asked questions through each step of the recruitment process that helped me better understand their needs and motivations.
By blending what I learn before, during and after a candidate’s visit, I could not only assess how well my opportunity met the family’s needs but, more importantly, what key elements and messages I need to focus on to craft a compelling offer.
Effective referral development requires a similar approach. It’s important to use qualitative and quantitative data from multiple sources to identify meaningful targets. From there, it’s important to show a sincere interest in the referral source as a person and a professional. By learning more about that individual and his or her impressions, needs and motivations, you have a more solid foundation for discerning the key messages that will best represent a match with your organization.
3. Multiple Efforts are Needed to Secure the Desired Result
As a marketer, I often hear mentors reference the ‘Rule of Seven.’ This is where a prospect needs to see or hear your message at least seven times before they will take action. The takeaway is that marketing is an ongoing process and you may need to build in multiple methods to get your message out before it sticks. As a physician recruiter, I applied this concept by setting a goal of having 5-10 contacts with each physician candidate and their family before the contract was offered. My goal was to build a bridge, not be a pest. For that reason, I had a structured plan that included multiple points of contact between them and my organization.
While every physician liaison I know has been tasked with the occasional marketing blitz, in my experience, redirecting existing patient pipelines is a little more involved. More often than not, each initiative requires you build in a variety of methods to get your message in front of a target audience multiple times to help create the desired shift. This takes planning as you need to think through what those 5-10 contact points might need to be. It also involves regularly evaluating your progress over time and, when the results didn’t match the efforts, taking time to step back and evaluate what gaps or barriers might need to be addressed.
4. Referral Development is a Team Sport
Physician recruitment and referral development efforts do not succeed or fail based on one individual’s performance. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, reaching your annual goals will often depend on engaging the right individuals who have a vested interest in your success. Involving these individuals in both the planning and execution of key tactics can help you maximize both your time and impact.
5. What Happens After a ‘Yes’ Influences Your Relationship the Most
As a physician recruiter, I knew that I only had a moment to celebrate the physician’s signature on the dotted line before I needed to get back to work. Sure, there were other positions to fill but some of my most important work was ahead of me with my new physician’s onboarding experience. Scheduling consistent contact between the physician’s signature and arrival, working behind the scenes to ensure the practice and community were ready for the new family’s arrival and developing consistent checkpoints to ensure a solid fit post-arrival. This is important for a number of reasons including the fact that physician turnover can cost a hospital big dollars when it comes to additional search costs and lost revenues. Recruiting in a way that leads to retention can decrease new physician turnover in the first three years – protecting the organization’s initial investment.
There is a similar opportunity when it comes to referral development. Shifting your focus to a new or different physician too quickly after you secure a yes can make it appear as if your goal was to campaign for the short-term referral versus building a long-term partnership. By developing a communications plan that includes checking in to ensure the practice and their patients are getting what they need and resolving any issues, you can be poised to not only earn but keep that incremental business.
When stepping back to consider these five approaches together, I realize that by starting out as a physician recruiter in my hometown hospital, I had a special reverence for my role and its impact on the community I loved. As a result, I wanted to truly make a connection and be a resource to those physician candidates I engaged with along the way. Once these approaches became hardwired, I was able to apply them to future roles with similar results. If you are an early careerist who is trying to take your development role to the next level, look for opportunities to position yourself as a resource, network with other willing villagers, build out your communications plan and find ways to consistently and genuinely connect with your key audience.