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Working with Recruiters as an Advanced Practice Clinician

Working with Recruiters as a Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant
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Working with a recruiter can either be an obstacle or an asset. Not only are there different types of recruiters, but their experience and methods run the gamut. This article will help to educate the clinician reader about the basics of healthcare job recruiting and the role good recruiters can play in a job search. A good match between provider and recruiter can lead to a more productive and profitable relationship for both.

Two Different Recruiters, Two Different Roles

Understanding how recruiters are employed can reveal something about their approach. For example, hospital and large group practices may employ an in-house recruiter who is salaried. You can expect these individuals to represent a single employer and be committed to the community in which they reside. They may have connections with local realtors and movers. They likely have advice on area schools and attractions. They may or may not be paid a bonus for successfully recruiting a candidate. They usually have a very specific position they are trying to fill.

The second type of healthcare recruiters may work for themselves or an agency that specializes in locums (temporary) placement, permanent placement, or both. These individuals are more likely to receive a substantial proportion of their compensation from bonuses resulting from the successful placement of a candidate. They may have hospital or clinic clients from all over the country and are most likely not local to the prospective employer or employee. They will often have multiple listings they are trying to fill.

What Can Real Estate Agents Teach Us About Recruiters?

Approaching a hospital or clinic-based recruiter is much like working with a seller’s agent when buying a home. The recruiter is certainly motivated to make a deal work, but s/he doesn’t necessarily represent you or your best interests.

Third-party recruiters, on the other hand, function more like a buyer’s agent who does represent the candidate. They are equally motivated to make a deal but have more incentive to help negotiate for a higher salary, as their commission may be based on what the clinician would make during that first year, and many medically-minded folks are simply not skilled negotiators–it’s not something they teach in medical or PA school. Good recruiters can also coach the applicant on resume writing, how best to approach interviews, and give valuable insight regarding murky contract items such as restrictive covenants and the like.

A Recruiter Can Do More Than Find You a Job

The coaching that an agency recruiter can provide can be valuable for those clinicians encountering major obstacles in their job search such as past malpractice claims or a history of substance abuse, for example. Some job seekers have specific expectations in terms of salary, hours, or location and might be struggling to find a good fit. An experienced recruiter knows his clients well and is able to bring wants and needs together.

How to Protect Yourself from Inexperience

Because healthcare job recruiting has a low barrier to entry, it can be difficult for the clinician to tell a reputable and experienced recruiter from one with little experience or those simply trying to make an easy buck. Reputable recruiters may have backgrounds in HR, or may even be clinicians themselves, but unfortunately, anyone can call himself a recruiter and attempt to land a big payday. This is a field with high turnover as these novice, would-be recruiters enter the market only to exit a short time later. The best firms have a track record of successful placement and have plenty of happy customers to show for it.

Just as you would have questions for your potential employer, have a list of things to ask your recruiter: How long have you been in the industry? How many placements have you made this year? What is your specialty or strength? What would you want clinicians to know about the process?

You may have to set expectations for communication such as whether or not you’re are willing to communicate via text and any times that you would not like to be contacted.


My advice to clinicians looking for a new opportunity: Know what it is that you’re looking for in your next position, then do your homework regarding best interview practices and salary trends. Both the American Academy of PAs and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, for example, produce regular salary and benefit surveys. Consider enlisting the help of an experienced, reputable recruiter to coach you along the way. But don’t accept anything less than professional and courteous behavior and be sure to offer the same in return.

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About Russell Singleton, PA

Russell Singleton, PA, is a practicing family medicine physician assistant, educator, and medical writer. When not in the clinic or the classroom, Russell writes about healthcare and healthcare reform. Russell is a strong proponent of Optimal Team Practice for PAs.

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