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Physician Recruitment Best Practices

Jackson Physician Search
February 15, 2019

A Best-Practice Recruitment Process is a Must-Have in Today’s Competitive Physician Market

Due to the physician shortage, there is a clear need for physician recruitment best practices. Competition for physician talent is fierce. Organizations that implement best practices have superior recruitment results including an increase in patient care quality, patient opportunities, and revenue. Physician vacancies can also have a significant negative community impact.1

The growing physician shortage has made it more challenging than ever to hire physicians in a timely manner. The shortage is expected to be between 21,400 and 55,200 for primary care physicians and between 33,700 and 86,700 for specialists by 2033 according to the most recent report by the AAMC.2 The three biggest contributing factors are:

  1. The continued growth and aging of the U.S. population is increasing demand.
  2. More than two of five physicians will be 65 years of age and approaching retirement.
  3. If those who are currently without adequate access to care or health insurance were to have improved access, demand could rise by up to 145,500 physicians.

Planning for Recruitment

You’ll need to start with a recruitment plan because your recruitment needs must be looked at in the long term. It can take from six months to over a year to recruit a physician depending on specialty and your location, and another 6-12 months for the physician to be licensed, relocate, and ready to start working. A strategic long-term physician recruitment plan will eliminate unnecessary delays saving your organization time and money.

Assess Your Care Needs

A community health needs assessment (CHNA) is a great place to start your recruitment planning. Resources for executing a CHNA can be found online. Understanding the needs of your patients, their families, and the community will assist in developing your long-term recruitment plan by addressing both current and future care needs.

Incorporate Your Organization’s Goals

In addition to patient needs and current demand, your recruitment plan should consider your organization’s growth and priorities. Are there any planned expansions or new facilities in the next five years?

Assess Your Physicians’ Career Goals

Are your current physicians close to retirement or looking for a leadership role? National physician turnover is estimated at 7%. For every 20 physicians employed by your organization, plan on 1-2 replacements each year.  This does not include any hires due to growth or expansion, which could substantially increase that number.

Secure Organizational Approval

Once your plan is set, you need approval from all key stakeholders, as well as a system to measure and benchmark your efforts. Final approval for adding the position could include board members, chief administrators, and/or physicians.

Some of the common hindrances to successful recruiting include a lack of organizational buy-in, neglecting your recruitment budget, and a disorganized interview process. Benchmarking the process metrics can identify areas for improvement.

Passive Physician Candidates

Knowledge of the current candidate pool – including where to find them and how to best reach them – will increase your likelihood of successful recruitment. Over two-thirds of physician candidates are passively looking for a new position. Passive is defined as currently working, open to opportunities, but not actively searching for positions. Passive job seekers are looking for a better practice opportunity to find them. They are only willing to change jobs for an improvement over their current position.

How should that change your recruitment approach? Reach out to passive candidates by email, social media, or phone. They won’t call you or post their CV online. As the graphic below illustrates, 94% of physicians use smartphones and 90% read job emails, while only 16% prefer to receive job opportunities through direct mail. In 1978, Jackson Physician Search pioneered new ways to source candidates and have been the leaders in physician recruitment innovation ever since. Today, a digital approach utilizing email, social media, and online advertising has replaced direct mail.  It enables you to prove recruitment ROI, change your message without cost, and get your open opportunities to a large, targeted audience quickly.

Active Physician Candidates

Physicians who are actively seeking a new position are a small segment of the candidate pool. Active candidates post their CVs, search online for opportunities, and respond to email and job postings. This group of candidates is also contacted most frequently with job offers. It takes deliberate effort to stand out amongst the crowd when trying to attract active physician candidates.

In order to reach these candidates, your job posting needs to be distinctive and posted where they are looking. This includes job boards like NEJM and HealtheCareers, but should also include paid search advertising and social media platforms like Doximity, LinkedIn, and Facebook. It is important that you format your job posting correctly, and you write it with the ideal candidate in mind.

Since Google started displaying jobs in its search results, it is even more important to adhere to job posting best practices, which include:

  • be specific with details including location and compensation.
  • use proper HTML formatting.
  • allow physicians to easily apply online – whether using a phone, tablet, or computer.

Have Questions?

Physician Recruitment Tools

Now that you have a solid recruitment plan and know who your ideal candidate is, how do you reach them and move them through the recruitment process? The right physician recruitment tools are invaluable. Leveraging technology and launching searches quickly can improve efficiency and provide the information you need to make good decisions.

Website and Analytics

Your website is a brand management tool and a candidate sourcing tool. Make sure you have a professional, functioning website – no misspellings, broken links, and an apply button that works. Use data analytics to see what pages on your website need improving or possibly replacing. Know what sources are bringing traffic to your website.  Monitoring and maintaining your website and analytics are essential to efficiency, and either you do it internally or hire the expertise externally.

Social Media

Social media is a powerful recruitment tool, and a great brand management tool. Investing time and money into your digital brand management is an overall best practice. Utilize specific social media platforms that are recruitment oriented.

Doximity is a physician-only social media platform that can also be used as a candidate sourcing tool to reach both active and passive candidates. At Jackson Physician Search, every one of our recruiters has a Doximity license, giving us more access than any other search firm. It’s a powerful recruiting platform since 80% of all practicing physicians are users.

LinkedIn is a professional-centric social media platform that has specialized tools for recruiting including job posting and InMails. Facebook has the widest audience and can be a great sourcing tool if used with the right expertise. There are costs involved with using these platforms, so make sure they are included in your recruitment budget during the planning stages.

Email Marketing

An email marketing platform can be very helpful for continuous recruitment, keeping a pipeline of physician candidates, and brand management. For successful email marketing, pair it with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. We highly recommend using a CRM and making an organizational commitment to use it to its fullest potential. Capturing accurate candidate data is the key to future recruitment success.

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) can be added to a CRM or it can be a stand-alone application. Organizations that use an ATS shorten their time-to-fill.3 The organizational recruitment process is your first interaction with a new physician. A recruitment process utilizing an ATS that goes smoothly will set the tone for the physician’s employment.

Job Boards

Job Boards are a great way to get your job posting in front of a large candidate audience. Using a job board that is specialty-specific or hosted by a reputable group like The New England Journal of Medicine will get more response for your job posting. Carefully select a few job boards that meet your financial needs and your recruitment needs. Select job boards with additional features like resume access and email capabilities – and always verify the amount of candidate traffic.

Recruitment Team

More important than technology, your Recruitment Team is your most valuable recruitment tool. Realize that in addition to recruitment, your in-house physician recruitment team has additional responsibilities including on-boarding, credentialing, and scheduling interviews.  Be realistic in knowing the number of searches that your team can handle efficiently and know when they may need help. Recruitment firms are one option to supplement your team and can provide value and expertise.

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The Physician Recruitment Process

Brand Management

When looking at the big picture, recruitment starts at brand management. Brand management is being proactive about how your organizational brand is perceived, by patients, your staff, and the community. Highlighting physicians, placing human interest stories, and communicating your vision will help you attract the right physicians.

Continuous Recruitment

Continuous recruitment can increase efficiency by always keeping your recruitment pipeline full. Recognizing talent and fostering a positive relationship ensures that you will have a physician ready to join your organization when you have an opportunity.  Then, the recruitment process can start as soon as your organization is ready to hire. In addition, if there is ever an issue with a candidate during the hiring process, you will have additional candidates to choose from.

Hiring for Fit

Hiring for fit is a recruitment philosophy that aims to increase retention rates and physician productivity. Hiring for fit means less chance of burnout and more engaged physicians if you hire physicians that are aligned with administration, colleagues, patients, and the community. Knowing their motivation, such as time with their patients versus challenging clinical work, or financial security will help you retain them for the long term. Match their needs with your organizational vision and values to ensure commitment to your principles and a great cultural fit.


Communication can be the difference between placing a candidate quickly and not placing them at all. Being able to communicate effectively starts with your recruitment plan. Involve the key stakeholders during the planning process and communicate with the candidates on a regularly scheduled basis, especially if there are any delays in the process.  Silence is a deal killer, especially in a competitive market.

On-site Physician Interviews

On-site physician interviews are your best chance to convince a candidate your facility is right for them and to see if they are the right cultural fit for you. You must be completely prepared for a very thorough site visit and follow-up, because you only have one opportunity to make a positive first impression.  A site visit is also your opportunity to win over the candidate’s family. Be prepared to entertain them and introduce them to the community, because nothing will replace making them feel welcome. Enlisting the help of a physician with a similar family unit and lifestyle interests is the best way to sell the personal life side of your organization. Doing your homework upfront about the candidate enables you to tailor a visit based on their needs and interests including a new home, schools, shopping, community, and cultural activities.

Compensation and Benefits

The final step of the process is the written job offer. Don’t let all your hard work be in vain with an ineffective or hastily written offer.  Although it is reasonable to expect some negotiation, start by putting a strong offer on the table, tailored to your candidate. Don’t lose a candidate to the competition over something that wouldn’t be a deal killer.  Know if they value loan repayment over a flexible schedule, or a guaranteed income over production bonuses. Be flexible to tailor your offer to each individual candidate.

Physician Retention

Physician retention is the last part of the recruitment process and it hinges on organizational culture and physician engagement.  You can significantly lessen your recruitment burden due to burnout and turnover with a focus on retention. Zero turnover is an unrealistic goal, but it can be a motivating one. You can expect 26% more productivity from engaged physicians and 51% more inpatient referrals.4 Including your physicians in the recruitment team increases engagement and helps evaluate how well the candidate will fit within your organization. If you’re ready to commit to improving your retention, start by conducting a culture assessment.

Improve Your Recruitment Process

Benchmarking your recruitment process must be done before you can start making improvements. The best time to start benchmarking is right now. Determine what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are most important to you and begin tracking them. Typical KPIs are time-to-fill, interviews-to-hire, acceptance rate, and retention rates. Collecting data about your recruitment process will help you make informed decisions and improve the process. You will see your shortfalls and identify where you need to implement best practices. Being able to effectively and efficiently recruit the physicians your organization needs not only benefits your bottom line, but it also benefits the communities you serve.

Faster Placement Means Greater ROI

Monitor your recruitment return on investment by benchmarking time-to-fill by specialty against the lost revenue that comes with a physician vacancy. Try the Physician Recruitment ROI Calculator for quick data that can highlight areas where improvement is needed.

Partner with a Recruitment Firm Dedicated to Your Success

Hiring a Physician Recruitment Firm if your organization doesn’t have the bandwidth to effectively recruit physicians in a timely manner, is also a cost-effective option. Look for transparency both in fees and process, predictable pricing, satisfied clients, and a track record of successful physician placements nationwide, across all specialties.

Jackson Physician Search specializes in the permanent recruitment of physicians and advanced practice providers to locations across the United States. Our mission, rooted in four decades of service in healthcare is to always deliver what we promise. That’s why hospitals and healthcare facilities of all sizes rely on our expertise to find ideal candidates for their physician openings, and providers come to us to explore new practice opportunities. Find out why our 100% digital sourcing process leads the industry in faster placements and greater recruitment ROI.

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  1.  “Estimate the Economic Impact of a Rural Primary Care Physician” National Center for Rural Health Works, October 2016.
  2.  “The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2018 to 2033” AAMC, June 2020.
  3.  “A Game Plan For Choosing and Customizing Applicant Tracking Systems” ASPR, Spring 2017.
  4. “What Too Many Hospitals Are Overlooking” Gallup, February 2015.

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