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Bring Your Best Offer: How to Negotiate with Today’s Physicians

Neal Waters
January 30, 2024

Congratulations! You have found a qualified physician who aligns with your organization, and you are ready to make an offer. Ideally, by the time you begin actively negotiating with a physician interested in joining your team, you have already engaged him or her in a carefully considered recruiting process that has paved the way for a successful conclusion. 

Recruiting physicians is typically a months-long endeavor that includes a carefully crafted physician job posting, digital recruitment ads that land in the inboxes and on mobile devices of early-career and seasoned physicians, and phone or video conversations that result in onsite interviews. All these components lead to the next step: negotiating a job offer with your potential new employee or partner. 

Once a physician has been onsite to visit, you both know that an offer is likely imminent. At this point, the candidate is largely in the driver’s seat. While it’s true that your team will ultimately decide on whether to make an offer, it is the physician’s choice to accept or decline. You hope the candidate has found what he or she is looking for within your organization or practice and in your community – particularly if it’s a relocation.

Here are five ways to lay the groundwork for a mutually successful negotiation and hire.

Recognize When the Negotiation Begins

Surprisingly, negotiating with a physician candidate starts with the job description. This sets the stage for who will be attracted to the job and what he or she expects regarding compensation, responsibilities, culture, etc. The physician job description is the first and best opportunity for a winning impression that helps find candidates who are already aligned with your corporate mission and values. So, your tailored job description is actually your first step in negotiating the final physician contract.

Be Consistent

Communicate clearly and consistently in every interaction — from day one to the end, and through all touch points of the candidate’s experience. Create a direct line from what you have communicated to the physician’s contract, where they shouldn’t see any surprises. Straightforward communication that identifies what you’re offering upfront can help alleviate negotiation time on the back end. All the way through the process, your verbal and written communications should provide a cohesive message that says to the candidate: This is the position, this is what it involves, and this is the compensation. Ensure that what you’ve said and how you’ve said it rings true to their experience of you.

Know What You Can, and Can’t, Do

Due to specific rules and policies, some healthcare organizations are unable to negotiate certain clauses within your agreement. Negotiable parts of the physician contract often include bonuses, on-call hours, benefits, path to advance, noncompete clauses, and malpractice tail insurance. Make sure your negotiating team fully understands the restrictions, ranges, and caps on what you can deliver, all while keeping in mind your team’s ultimate need: someone to be your partner in delivering stellar patient care. It’s likely that the physician candidates are aware of the components of a physician contract and mistakes to avoid during negotiations and will be asking detailed questions.

Simple things you can do include:

  • Elaborate on the details. Share and explain all contract details clearly, listen well, and answer all questions.
  • Be genuine and personable. Treat physicians with the same courtesy you gave them throughout the recruitment process during negotiations. Show them what your culture is rather than telling them.
  • Be the chaser. Remember that you are recruiting the highly sought-after physicians, not the other way around. During negotiation, the physician will want to know that your healthcare organization is highly interested in them — and they want to work where they are wanted.
  • Overall, make physicians feel valued beyond compensation. If you’ve put together successful site visits, introduced them to the practice and the community, and answered questions about their career paths, earning potential, and leadership opportunities, they will be more likely to appreciate the big picture.

Work with Urgency

At Jackson Physician Search, we understand the sense of urgency at every step of the recruitment process and have our sights set on the bigger picture. We promptly reply to each candidate who shows interest because we know we’re establishing a relationship with that individual. We suggest striking while the iron is hot, as it increases your chances of securing top candidates as soon as possible.

In today’s competitive market, it often requires six to 12+ months and costs $250,000 or more — including sourcing, relocation, and sign-on bonus — to finalize an agreement with a physician. Decreasing the time to see eye-to-eye on a contract is critical. In our physician placement success stories, our recruiters frequently point to the client’s responsiveness and willingness to act quickly as crucial elements in a successful search.

Partner with a Dedicated Physician Recruiter

Recruiters have the knowledge and experience to help you find the right candidates for your organization. They also have access to industry resources that can help to ensure your offer is competitive for the market and role. Having knowledge of the compensation range of three or four practices in your immediate vicinity or region will increase the likelihood that your offer will be sound. Also, continue highlighting what makes your organization stand out, and remind the physician candidate of feedback they provided you on why they felt it would be a good fit.

As relentless innovators at Jackson Physician Search, we’ve grown to become the largest privately held permanent physician recruitment firm. By investing in the latest technology and our people, our success rates have earned us a 97% client satisfaction rate, and 90% of our clients award us multiple search assignments. Our proven track record of delivering on some of the most challenging searches goes back to the 1970’s. We’re proud to be true matchmakers by pairing the nation’s top clinicians with fulfilling job opportunities in communities where care is needed most.

How strong is your negotiation process? Wherever you are on this journey, contact us for information and one-on-one guidance to inform and empower your negotiations for a successful conclusion.

About Neal Waters

Neal Waters brings more than 18 years of experience in retained physician search to his role as Regional Vice President of Recruiting for Jackson Physician Search. He completed his undergraduate studies and played football at Auburn University, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. Neal loves physician recruitment and has an extreme passion for bringing healthcare to communities that need it while improving career opportunities and quality of life for physicians.

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