Positive attitude and confidence key to finding that super talent you need

Exclusive recruiting makes people want what they can’t have

Say your hospital is opening a new eye care unit, and wants to draw attention to its effort by recruiting a prominent ophthalmologist. Or, you’re located in a small town and want to convince the locals they don’t have to drive to the bigger city 45 miles away for good health care. Or perhaps your hospital’s leadership simply wants to provide the best possible care to its patients.

If your hospital isn’t known for care in a given specialty, or you’re located in a remote area, how do you recruit prominent practitioners?

"It starts with an attitude," says Kurt Scott, administrative director of physician recruitment and credentialing for Geisinger System of HealthCare in Danville, PA. To get the top specialists, not only the physician recruiter but all the hospital’s administrative and medical leaders must decide they’ll accept only the best practitioners on their medical staff, he says.

Scott has hired about 350 physicians and midlevel providers during his 10-year career in health care recruiting. Geisinger is located in an east central Pennsylvania county of 18,000, the least populous county in the state. With 600 physicians at 75 practice sites, Geisinger owns four hospitals and one of the country’s largest rural health maintenance organizations.

Your hospital’s "only the best" attitude should be evident starting with the earliest contact you make with candidates, Scott adds. That means, for example, that any print advertisement you run should emphasize that you’ll only interview a few people for the position. Such a statement "makes people want what they can’t have," Scott says. "People will start hounding you to come for an interview."

Confidence also helps when you approach candidates in telephone calls, when the recruiter’s voice itself becomes a sales tool. If you speak in a monotone or fail to use descriptive language, you’ll lose candidates who might otherwise be interested, Scott says.

"Your voice presents the practice," he adds. Can didates "can’t see facial expressions, they don’t see your suit and tie, or how you comb your hair."

Scott says you also should focus on the following points:

Advertising works best in the specialty journals that cover the position’s field.

Internal medicine is the exception to this. Scott prefers to advertise in The New England Journal of Medicine when he’s looking for an internal subspecialist because that publication has produced the best response for him.

That’s due in part to the precise way in which the Journal organizes its recruitment ads. Most specialty journals disperse ads throughout their publication "with no rhyme or reason," Scott says. "The New England Journal is great because if you’re an ophthalmologist and you want to go to Michigan, you go to the ophthalmology section, look under Michigan, and there’s the jobs they’ve got listed. It’s very easy."

Another advertising technique is to focus on publications that attract physicians interested in career matters. The idea here is to capture the attention of physicians that you are certain are interested in advancing their careers. An example is Unique Opportunities, a magazine based in Louisville, KY. (See sample advertisement from that magazine, above.)

Line up your positives.

To prepare for a telephone call to a candidate, jot down every positive aspect you can think of about either your facility or the community. Then practice talking about those points until they’re committed to memory.

When you’re recruiting top-notch medical talent, be prepared to make more "cold" calls to candidates than usual. Established physicians might not actively look for new positions, and could miss advertisements. It’s also possible to identify a specific individual as your top prospect and decide to approach that person one-on-one.

Here’s how Scott suggests you handle those phone calls: Call a candidate, introduce yourself, and talk about the position you’re offering, highlighting the exclusive nature of your search. Then tell the prospect that, of course, you know about the candidate’s reputation, and you wonder if he or she might know somebody who might be interested in the position.

"Twenty-five percent of the time, the physician will give you a name during that conversation," Scott says. "About half will take your name and say they’ll get back to you. And about the other 25% of the time, the candidate might say, ‘I may be interested.’"

Although established clinicians usually aren’t looking for a new position, there could be any number of reasons for them to express interest when they’re contacted directly. You might, for example, be offering a small-town placement to someone who’s sick of big-city living.

Successfully recruiting top-notch medical talent demands patience, Scott adds. "It’s not going to happen overnight. A kind of metamorphosis takes place," he says.

While you’re working toward that goal, however, don’t lower your standards and settle for someone who doesn’t have the qualifications you’re seeking. If you do, you’ll undercut your reputation for recruiting only the best.

"You’ll get the people you’re looking for," Scott adds. "Don’t get nervous in the middle of the search."