If you are among the group of future physicians entering or already in residency, the fast-paced, all-consuming nature of it can leave you with little time to think about where all your hard work is leading — or, more importantly, where you want it to take you. Therefore, residents must make the first physician job search an ongoing priority to ensure the light at the end of the residency tunnel is a destination of your own choosing.
So, do new residents need to start the job search tomorrow? Most recruiters will advise residents to begin their search 12-24 months before completing training. However, starting early may improve the odds of finding a job in which you will want to stay. Studies show that half of all physicians leave their first jobs within five years, and half of that group leaves during the first two. If residents stick to the following timeline (based on a three-year residency), they will surely find themselves with more choices than they would have otherwise. It also means they will have ample time to learn what they ideally want from an employer and find a job that meets those needs.
Resident Job Search Tasks in the First Year(s)
Pre-assess the Physician Job Market
For new residents, the first step in a physician job search is simply researching the market. Anyone with an eye on healthcare headlines knows that staffing shortages continue to plague the industry. While some regions struggle more than others, physicians and other healthcare providers are in high demand nationwide.
This knowledge should give you confidence about your future physician job search (and future job security). However, this doesn’t mean the physician job search is easy or that circumstances are the same for every specialty and in every location. They are not. A recent report from Jackson Physician Search uses our 2022 placement data and observations from several recruitment leaders to identify physician hiring trends in the marketplace. According to the report, primary care physicians see the greatest demand, along with specialists who are willing to treat broad panels of patients. Rural healthcare organizations have more urgent needs than organizations in urban and suburban areas.
Of course, we may see trends shift slightly or change altogether before you move on to the more active stages of your search, but now is the time to find credible sources on the subject and start paying attention.
Identify Your Priorities
Now is the time to consider what matters most in your first physician job. Compensation and location are obviously important, but where does work-life balance fit in? What about culture, the scope of practice, and growth opportunities? Of course, you want it all, but you need to consider where you are willing to compromise. Talk to attending physicians about their lifestyles and what they like and dislike about their jobs. What are the things they wish they had known when they were searching for their first physician jobs?
Reach Out to a Recruiter
Introduce yourself to a respected physician recruiter and ask them what to expect in each stage of the search. He or she can provide details on a typical job search timeline for your specialty and answer questions about the physician interview process, physician compensation models, or physician employment contracts.
If you have determined that location is a priority, ask the recruiter about the job market in your preferred city. If you have any special circumstances, such as a visa requirement or a physician spouse who will also be applying to jobs, share this with the recruiter and ask for advice. Physician recruiters are usually happy to connect with residents and answer questions about what lies ahead. Don’t hesitate to reach out — by phone, email, or LinkedIn — and ask for advice.
Resident Job Search Tasks in the Second Year
Browse Physician Job Boards
You may not be ready to apply to physician jobs just yet, but it’s a good time to start browsing physician job boards for jobs in your specialty in the locations of interest to you. This helps you to assess the market and set realistic expectations. Set up job alerts for jobs matching your specific search criteria. If a job or employer seems particularly perfect — and your specialty is in high demand — it may be worth sending the recruiter an email expressing interest.
Before you begin applying to physician jobs, you need a polished CV, a targeted cover letter (that will be tailored to specific jobs), and a list of professional references who have agreed to serve as your reference. Once you have these three things prepared and perfected, you are ready to start actively applying for physician jobs.
Resident Job Search Tasks in the Final Year
Reconnect with a Recruiter
Now is the time to reconnect with any recruiters you may have introduced yourself to over the years. Let him or her know that you will complete your training in 12 months and are actively searching for a job. Talk to them about what you are looking for, and be clear about what is a must-have versus a nice-to-have. Be open to his or her feedback. If they suggest a location or type of organization you had not previously considered, it is likely because it aligns with what you have said is important to you. Keep an open mind.
Browse and Submit
Remember those job alerts you set up last year? It’s time to start paying attention. Tweak your search parameters if needed, and when a job arrives in your inbox, that seems to match 70% of what you want, go ahead and express your interest. By applying, you are not promising to attend an on-site interview; you simply agree to have a conversation in which you will learn more about the opportunity.
Attend On-Site Visits
Ideally, by the third or fourth month of your final year, you have scheduled or even attended several on-site visits with potential employers. You may have even found an organization that seems like a good fit. Make sure when you visit an organization, you have an opportunity to meet not only the administration but your potential colleagues as well. Look for red flags, and don’t be afraid to ask direct questions to reveal more about the organization’s culture. You’ll also want to explore the community, perhaps with a realtor, but also on your own. If dining and shopping are important to you, spend some time downtown. If you enjoy the outdoors, ask someone to direct you to the nearest park or popular hiking spots.
Understand Your Contract
When an organization extends an offer, you’ll want to work with your physician recruiter to understand and perhaps negotiate the terms. Before signing any physician employment contract, you may want an attorney to review it. You will address any concerns through your recruiter.
Licensing and Credentialing
Signing the contract feels like it should be the last step, and yet, it can take several months to obtain a medical license with the state, and then, you still need credentials for the specific hospital. The process won’t be labor intensive for you, but it will take time — time you must allow for when setting your job search timeline. Ideally, you are signing a contract in March if you hope to start your job in July.
A Resident’s Job Search Starts Today
Each resident will have a slightly different timeline than what is outlined here, but let this be a guide for the stages of your search, and if nothing else, take away this — it is never too early to begin your first physician job search. From the time you begin your residency, consider yourself in the research stage. Learn about the market, discover your own priorities, and ask questions of physicians in various stages of their careers.
If you are conducting ongoing job search research, you will likely know when it is time to begin the other job search tasks, such as reaching out to a recruiter, preparing your CV and other materials, and setting up an online job search. Those who know what to expect and are prepared for the search will ultimately have more options available to them and have a greater chance of finding a first physician job that meets their needs.
If you are in any stage of residency and have questions about what lies ahead, the recruiters at Jackson Physician Search would love to hear from you. Reach out today for insights about the market and what to expect in your search. We also recommend you download the Physician Job Search Playbook, and when you’re ready, start searching for physician jobs online.