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Recruiting Physicians During the “Slow Season”

Physician Recruiting in the "Off Season"
Elnur Amikishiyev/123RF.com

Demand for physicians is a year-round proposition, but hiring can be cyclical to some degree. When residency programs are winding up, the cycle begins with hospitals and healthcare organizations vying for new talent. With shortages across all areas of medicine, physician recruitment never really ends.

While the majority of hiring runs from June to November, in alignment with residency and fellowship graduations, the numbers taper off for the 6 months in between. Unfortunately, the same is not true for demand. While most graduates are looking during that peak time, there are indicators that other times of the year can be fruitful in your search. For three years in a row, the industry is seeing shortages in physicians across all disciplines.

In addition to shortages in today’s market, the Association of American Medical Colleges is predicting continuing shortfalls through 2030. With an aging population, demand for doctors will increase. It’s estimated the US will lack 7,300 to 43,100 primary care physicians in the coming decade; non-primary care will be short by 33,500 to 61,800.

Planning a Long-term Candidate Pipeline

physician candidate pipeline
Timur Arbaev/123RF.com

Physicians in their final year of residency are deluged with recruitment efforts. Some reports put residents receiving 50 to 100 solicitations during their training.  The majority of serious recruitment efforts will be issued during the last year of a residency or fellowship. But smart recruiters and institutions should look to establish relationships earlier – during internships and first/second years of residency. Opening lines of communication with potential hires, even those unavailable for several years, could result in a planned applicant stream that will make future efforts easier.

Surprising Physician Job Search Statistics

Indeed, the peak search for physician positions by candidates is actually in January — not typically the peak time healthcare providers are posting for vacancies. Perhaps new positions aren’t meeting expectations, or established doctors are looking for a change. Data indicates search terms for physician jobs entered are consistently highest during this non-traditional month. For recruiters looking to hedge their bets, it makes sense to start posting vacancies early to capture this audience.

Off-season Recruitment

During the slower recruitment season, institutions can enhance their efforts. With the pressure lessened to compete with other providers, a more personalized approach might be attractive. Consider hosting events or open houses or creating virtual tours of facilities that might pique interest from candidates. With more time to spend on each individual applicant, you may find more opportunity to promote your facility and all it has to offer. For some, that personal touch may make the difference. In an era of computer-based hiring, many find that traditional, one-on-one connection more attractive in their job search.

Thinking Outside the Box

Outside the box thinking in physician recruitment
Brian Jackson/123RF.com

Can your Department Heads or Chairs host meetings or symposia on trends or new technology or developments in their field? These events could establish a pipeline of talent from which you could tap. Are your physicians attending conferences off-site that will allow representatives from HR to also attend? These could represent another source of potential hires.

Off-season may also be a great time to reconsider your own “also-rans.” Physicians that you didn’t hire during the past cycle might be worth a second look. Did you turn down that top talent because you found someone with just a little bit more? Re-establish lines of communication with almost-hired candidates; there’s a chance their new position isn’t all they thought it would be. If not for today, it never hurts to maintain a relationship for the future.

Using Downtime to Upgrade

With the pressure to hire en masse lessened, it might be a good time to examine your recruitment process. What is the candidate experience like when you source? Are physicians finding the information they need about your institution easily and quickly on your website?

Are your facilities and career pages optimized for mobile? A recent study puts 90% of job searchers use their smartphone when looking for a new opportunity.

Are there any negative reviews or comments about your facility that might dissuade someone from joining your team? Reputation management isn’t just for local restaurants anymore. Few people will get excited to work for a sub-par facility. Your online reviews and reputation could be attracting top talent to your door or sending them to the competition. 

As we fast approach the busy hiring season, take the time to use these slower months to review how you hire, how your hiring is perceived, and how you can keep hiring year-round.

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About Riia O'Donnell

Riia O’Donnell has over 20 year’s hands-on experience in all aspects of the Human Resource function. Beginning as a recruiter, she grew to lead in all areas of HR, including employee training and development, legal compliance, benefits administration, compensation evaluation, and staff management. She has been a contributing writer for a wealth of HR, training, and small business websites for the past 7 years.
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