American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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Working With Recruiters

Working with Search Firms and In-House Recruiters

Headhunters, recruiters, career counselors, employment agents - whatever they are called, how can they help you in your job search? It is a personal decision whether to use a professional recruiter to help you find a job. Understanding who they are and what they do will help you in making this decision.

Who are they?

An in-house recruiter is an individual who works directly and exclusively for the hospital or academic institution they represent. Since an in-house recruiter works for the organization and lives in the community, he or she is capable of providing a complete picture of the practice opportunity.

Hospitals and academic institutions usually look for a physician who is willing to make a long-term commitment. They will be looking for someone eager to stay in the community for a long period, possibly until retirement. Because of this, you should be prepared to ask as many questions as possible about the position as well as the community itself. If you will be relocating with a spouse and children, the in-house recruiter is also a good source for information about local schools and job opportunities for your spouse.

Since the hiring organization will be looking for a long-term commitment from the job candidate, you can be certain they will be looking for someone who will fit easily into the organization. Expect extensive interviews not just with the in-house recruiter, but also with your potential colleagues and the organization's board members. Be prepared to answer questions about your career goals, work style and personal interests.

There are two other types of recruiters: a retained search recruiter is a firm or individual who works on retainer for a prospective employer to develop a group of qualified candidates and a contingency search recruiter is a firm or individual who works on behalf of a prospective employer and is paid by the employer only after the recruiter has found a suitable candidate who is hired.

In both cases, the hiring organization or practice pays the recruiter for his or her services. Since there is a contractual arrangement between the search firm and the prospective hiring organization, the search firm is working primarily in the organization's interest and not the job seeker. Do not feel, however, that a search firm will pressure you to take a particular job because most search firms offer guarantees that if the physician hired doesn't stay for a specified period, the firm will assist in and accept the cost of finding his or her replacement. They also do not want to ruin their reputations by making poor matches. Their ultimate goal is to find the right physician for the job.

What do they offer?

Even though the search firm is hired and paid by the prospective employer, they can be of great assistance in finding you a job:

  • They can contact private practices, hospitals or academic institutions in the area you are searching to see if they are seeking to replace or add an associate.
  • They can match your career objectives to available positions and determine if it is the right match. This can save you considerable time and effort.
  • They can prepare you for the interview, obtain information about the area, and make travel arrangements. After the interview, they can do follow-up calls with the interviewer to obtain feedback.
  • They can work with you and your new employer to finalize a contract.
  • A search firm can also provide other services, at a fee, that can be helpful. Be certain to ask questions about these additional services and what the fees are before you agree to them.
    • Assistance with preparing a cover letter and curriculum vitae.
    • Career counseling.
    • Personality testing.

When the search firm calls

When a search firm calls, they will already have some basic information about you. They know you are a plastic surgeon, where you were trained and if you are currently employed. Recruiters have a variety of resources to obtain this information from such as the AMA and lists available through academic institutions.

A good recruiter will be knowledgeable about the practice opportunity:

  • The practice's history and focus.
  • Income and partnership potential.
  • Work schedule/call schedule.
  • Why they are looking for an associate/partner.
  • Who are currently the partners/associates (unless the client requests confidentiality).
  • Compensation.Bonus/Incentive.
  • Benefits.1st year earnings potential.
  • Subsequent years earning potential.

After learning about the position available, if you decide to further pursue discussions, be sure to also learn about the recruitment firm and the recruiter you will be working with. Find out if the recruiter is working on a retainer or contingency basis. It is helpful to know this because the two types of recruiters operate in slightly different manners and have different relationships with the prospective employers. A recruiter working on a contingency basis will seek to match you to a suitable position and will seek out other opportunities in the area for you. A recruiter on retainer acts as an agent for a particular practice and may be somewhat limited in the opportunities that may be shared.

Be certain that you are working with a search firm that specializes in physician placement. Firms that previously only recruited professionals in other fields have branched out into physician placement, often times with limited understanding of the industry and career expectations of doctors. Ask questions about the recruiter's credentials - how long they have been in business, how many clients do they represent at one time, how many plastic surgeons they have placed, what resources do they utilize to find job opportunities, and do they have references (other physicians they placed you can call).

Find out about travel expenses. If you need to travel to an interview, the cost could be significant. While prestigious employers usually pay travel expenses up front or reimburse you for them, this may not be the case with every potential employer. Also, now is a good time to discuss any special services the recruitment firm provides and any fees that would be charged.

Since the recruiter is the first person to present you to a potential employer, you should feel comfortable with their business style. If the recruiter acts unprofessional, refuses to answer questions about themselves or their firm, or appears to not be knowledgeable about the practice opportunity, it is best not to pursue the call further.

The decision to use a search firm

Search firms

Physician recruiters offer needed assistance for some job seekers, while for others they may not be necessary. Not everyone has the same needs and, therefore, not every job seeker will have the same requirements. The decision to use a professional recruiter may be based on several things:

  • The availability of job resources to help you find a job on your own.
  • How comfortable you are with making contact with prospective employers on your own.
  • How familiar you are with the geographic area you must find a job in.
  • The need for confidentiality in your job search (switching positions, for example).
  • Whether you require assistance in preparing for an interview.
  • Whether you would like assistance in negotiating an employment contract.

If you decide that a search firm will be beneficial to you in your job hunt, be prepared to express your career objectives to the recruiter:

  • Type of practice you are seeking.
  • Geographical location preference.
  • Family/social/recreational needs.
  • Why you are making a career move.
  • What you like/dislike about your present position.
  • Availability to start a new position.
  • Availability to interview.
  • Type of patients/cases with which you would like to become involved.
  • Educational and training background.
  • Strengths and areas needing improvement.
  • Work experience. Board certification status.
  • Licensure (applied and active).
  • References.

You should also share with the recruiter your job hunting experiences so far:

  • Have you already interviewed and with whom? What was the outcome of these interviews?
  • Were you offered a job and why did you decline the offer?
  • To whom have you already sent CVs?
  • Who do you not want contacted?
  • Have you worked or are you currently working with other recruiters?

Be candid with the recruiter so that he or she will have a better understanding of the type of position you are seeking. Provide as much information as possible so that he/she can best serve you. Being as open and honest with a recruiter will, in the end, be to your advantage. The information you provide will enable the recruiter to present you to the hiring organization in the most favorable light.

Always keep in mind that it is the job of the recruiter to match the right physician to the job. They are not only looking for a plastic surgeon with excellent skills, education and experience, they are also looking for a physician who can communicate well with patients and colleagues. A physician recruiter will get a good sense of your communication skills during an initial phone conversation and interview. It is important to be aware of how you present yourself over the phone.

Protect your confidentiality

A recruiter should not introduce you to a practice opportunity until it has been shared with you. It is important that you be assertive with a recruiter and make it clear that you do not want any information you provide, including your CV, to be released to anyone without your permission. From the start, establish ground rules with the recruiter how information you provide will be used and the manner in which your CV will be handled and distributed. Do not allow a recruiter to mass fax or e-mail your CV. You do not want to give prospective employers the wrong impression - that you are not being selective or that you are desperate for a job. Also, if you do not feel comfortable with having your CV posted on a Web site, make that clear as well.

Interviewing & getting the job

Once the interview process begins, be honest with the recruiter and provide information about the interview:

  • Share your comfort level - what you liked and disliked about the interview.
  • What questions were asked and how were they answered.
  • Be sincere about your interest in the position.

After you have been offered the job, the recruiter should be available to help with the negotiation of your contract if you require assistance. The search firm does not get paid until you sign the contract offered by their client. They can help to clarify any vague issues and also negotiate terms that are acceptable to both parties.

Using a search firm may not be for everyone, but the right physician recruiter can be helpful for many residents as well as experienced job seekers. Many physicians have found working with a recruiter to be helpful as well as a positive experience especially when it led to the ideal opportunity.


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