Getting top talent to sign on

ByLarry Stewart

President

Weatherby Health Care

Norwalk, CT

A highly sought-after family practitioner is interviewing at two community hospitals. The physician is exemplary: board certified, well-trained, personable, available in 90 days, and a real addition to any medical staff.

Hospital A has left no stone unturned in preparing for the interview, while Hospital B uses a standard ordinary interview process.

Hospital A’s recruiter plans well in advance to avoid surprises. He meets the doctor and her family at the airport, takes them to their hotel, and picks them up the next morning. He knows the doctor’s husband is a CPA, and one of their children is disabled. So, he’s arranged meetings with local accounting firms for the spouse and with the superintendent of local schools to discuss the child’s needs.

Hospital B is not as well-prepared. The candidate and her family arrive at 9 p.m. and find their own transportation to the hotel. The doctor gets lost on her way to the hospital the next morning, and her family spends the day alone in a hotel in an unfamiliar city.

Not surprisingly, the doctor chooses Hospital A. She’s impressed with both facilities, but Hospital A makes her feel warm, welcome, and needed. It’s the personal touch that makes the difference. Hospitals that prepare thoroughly and take doctors’ personal needs into consideration have greater success in securing the physician of their choice. They hire physicians more quickly and save time, resources, and money.

First impressions

There are many hiring scenarios — each with its own distinct characteristics. The following are some of the details that prospective physician employers should consider when conducting a successful search:

Pay attention to transportation and lodging. First impressions are important, and they start with the doctor’s arrival. This may be the candidate’s first visit to your community. If the family arrives by car, make sure your directions are clear and precise. If they come by commercial transportation, make sure someone meets them at the airport or train station — even if they’ve arranged to rent a car.

The place you select to house the candidate should offer the best available accommodations — and that does not necessarily mean a five-star hotel. A charming inn or bed and breakfast will sometimes make a better choice for accommodations than an impersonal hotel room, no matter how well-appointed. And do not forget to add special touches like a fruit basket or a bouquet of flowers indigenous to the area.

Show off the practice site. Make sure you are familiar in advance with all aspects of the practice. Put together a tour of the facility, and introduce key personnel, including the medical director and department heads. Talk about the backgrounds of the other physicians and the way the staff work together and individual job responsibilities.

Do not forget to expand on the "soft points" of the practice: How are exam rooms organized, and who escorts patients to them? Is there a special place designated to work on patient records? What is the computer system, and how does it operate?

Identify unique features, and show them off. For example, I know of an orthopedic practice that showcases its impressive record-keeping system, which makes it easy for physicians to dictate patient notes at the end of every appointment. This system was one of the key elements for capturing a top choice.

Show off your community. If you don’t highlight your community’s best features, the candidate may never notice them. Showcasing your community is the single biggest opportunity the employer has to create a sense of belonging for the physician and his or her family.

Discuss the businesses that make the region hum, and arrange appointments with community leaders. Take a trip to points of interest, including historical, recreational, and cultural sites.

What is available in real estate? Make sure the candidate sees the Sunday edition of the local newspaper. This is a great starting point in considering housing options and job listings for spouses.

Key in on special needs and interests. If it is appropriate, introduce the candidate and his or her spouse to local school officials. If there are special education requirements, make sure you show the candidate what your community has to offer.

Point out houses of worship. Religion often plays a central role in a family’s life.

Know the family’s housing requirements before the visit. Arrange for a relocation service or the best local real estate agent to escort the family during their stay. Real estate options are second only to the practice itself in convincing the physician to accept an offer.

Plan some social activities. There are sterling opportunities for you and the candidate to relax and get to know each other. Settings can include dinner, cocktail parties, brunch, or something as informal as a barbecue.

Depending on the setting, be sure to invite a cross section of people who can provide further insight into the advantages of relocating to your community.

A note of caution: The success of any social activity hinges on planning. Make sure you know about dietary restrictions and preferences, and honor them.

These are only a few of the possibilities when you prepare for an interview. The best advice is to plan well, know the candidate, and sell vigorously. Remember, the interview is the gateway to success.

[Weatherby Health Care, based in Norwalk, CT, and Fort Lauderdale, FL, is among the top three physician recruiting firms. For more information on screening, sourcing, recruiting, or retaining physician candidates, contact Larry Stewart at (800) 365-8900.]