The competition for talent continues to intensify in every industry, and in healthcare, the impact can mean the difference between life and death. Despite ample warning of a looming physician shortage, the industry has yet to find an effective solution. Now, a perfect storm of increased turnover, early retirements and a spike in demand for care has created a wave of vacancies that are taking longer to fill.
As regional VP of recruiting for Jackson Physician Search, Midwest Division, I regularly meet with clients who face extraordinary challenges in hiring healthcare providers. Some clients come to us from the start, knowing they will need support. Others may have tried to fill the position on their own, and it has been open for six months or more. In this scenario, my first step is to help them reconsider not just how the job is marketed, but the job itself.
When a position is proving particularly tough to fill, it’s time to think outside of the box. This means reexamining everything from the job’s requirements and compensation to the ideal candidate profile. My team has perfected this process with our clients, but the principles apply across industries. So, no matter what kind of tough-to-fill vacancies you’re facing, it helps to view both the job and the candidate profile through a different lens.
Rethinking the Job Profile
As recruiters, we know what makes a job in our industry attractive. For physicians, attractive jobs offer 75-90 percentile compensation, have flexible schedules, provide ample support staff and have a patient panel that appeals to the physician’s interests. While the specifics vary, I’d guess the profile of an attractive job follows a similar formula in any industry — competitive compensation, flexibility, support and interesting work. Similarly, unattractive jobs tend to come with one or all of the following: undesirable location, few recruitment incentives and unreasonable hours (for physicians, frequently being “on call”).
If candidates are not applying, the hiring organization must find a way to make the job itself more desirable. While it may feel impossible, there is almost always something that can be tweaked. Ask the following:
- If compensation is below the median, can you offer additional PTO or a reduced schedule?
- If there is no budget for a big recruitment incentive, is there a way to offer smaller installments paid out over time?
- If the job demands frequent call or weekend hours, is it possible to leverage a locum tenens provider a few weekends a month?
- If the patient panel is too general (i.e., the work itself uninteresting to some physicians), can you assess demand for a subspecialty clinic (or identify a special project) for the candidate to spearhead?
- If telemedicine or remote work is not an option, can you provide a flexible schedule?
Rethinking the Candidate Profile
Getting the job profile right is critical, but equally important is the ideal candidate profile. If no applicants are measuring up, perhaps the bar is too high. That’s not to say you must lower your standards, but are your requirements imperative to success in the position? Certainly, the right candidate is out there, but it may not be the candidate you’ve been seeking.
For example, a rural client was recently looking for a Family Medicine physician, an Internal Medicine physician and an OB/GYN — all specialties that can take more than a year to fill in rural locations. Our recruiter asked questions to get to the root of what they needed each physician to do, and she identified a potential alternative. She had noticed a recent surge of Family Medicine physicians with Obstetrics training (FM-OB) entering the workforce, and she suggested these candidates could perform all three roles. The client agreed and was thrilled to hire three qualified FM-OBs in fewer than 30 days.
In the increasingly competitive market for talent, hiring organizations must think outside the box to find ways to make their jobs more appealing and expand the ideal candidate profile. Of course, it is not easy to identify areas of potential change, which is why it is helpful to bring in a third-party recruitment partner who has fresh eyes. With the right tweaks and an effective recruitment process, every position is fillable.