Types of clinical and non-clinical physician job recruiters: a primer for physician job seekers

There are several different types of clinical and non-clinical physician job recruiters, as well as differences in the way they work with companies to get job vacancies filled. These differences are especially important to physicians seeking nonclinical jobs.

What are physician job recruiters?

Generally speaking, recruiters source candidates for employment. The exact scope of their role varies, though they’re typically involved from the time a position becomes available until the time a job offer is accepted by a candidate.

A physician recruiter often spends all their time filling positions that require an MD or other advanced healthcare degrees. Others – such as those who may fill nonclinical openings – are likely to recruit both physicians and nonphysicians.

A single organization may use more than one type of recruiter, especially for jobs that are either difficult to fill or high-stakes. Positions can be difficult to fill due to competition in the field or lack of qualified candidates for the position’s needs. High-stakes jobs are those for which it’s very important that the company hire the right candidate, such as for senior leadership positions.

With that bit of background info, let’s delve into the key differences between physician job recruiters.

Internal job recruiters vs external job recruiters

First, recruiters can be internal or external to the company that’s hiring.

Internal physician recruiters

Internal recruiters are employed by the company that has the vacancy as part of its human resources team. They are also known as in-house recruiters and corporate recruiters and may have job titles such as talent acquisition specialist.

Most in-house recruiters are full-time employees who work on salary, though they may receive a commission when they fill certain positions.

External physician recruiters

Recruitment is often outsourced by a company for some of its hiring needs. This is where external job recruiters come in. External recruiters are colloquially known as headhunters.

There are several reasons a company might use an external recruiter:

External recruiters save money. Though it costs money up front, it can save money in the long run by allowing them to fill a vacancy faster with an employee who is likely to stay with the company longer.

Many companies use external recruiters only for a select few positions, which means that they don’t always have an active search taking place. It may not make sense for them to hire a full-time in-house recruiter.

Recruiting firms are in the business of recruiting. External recruiters have experience recruiting for the exact type of roles that companies are hiring for. They have a large network and know where to find the best candidates. They also have a solid idea of what candidates are looking for.

Types of recruitment companies

External recruiters are usually part of a recruiting firm. There are a couple of types of these, as well.

Executive search firms

Executive search firms work with a client company to hire an employee for a high-level, corporate job. They place candidates into permanent positions and, as such, are sometimes called executive placement agencies

These positions might be chief executives, vice presidents, directors, and other organizational leaders. Executive search firms are also used to fill positions requiring specific candidate qualifications, such as advanced degrees or industry experience, even if the jobs are not “executive-level” positions.

In most cases, an executive search firm is brought on board for a single search at a time. Many searches are conducted on a national level.

Placement services

Like executive searches, placement services fill permanent employment positions. The positions tend to be mid-level employees and managers. Therefore, the searches tend to move more quickly and cost less than a search conductive by an executive search firm.

Staffing agencies

Staffing agencies find candidates for entry-level jobs and positions below the corporate level. They work in a local area and often fill many positions quickly.

Why wouldn’t a company hire its own employees for these easy-to-fill roles? Usually, they do. Staffing agencies are most commonly used for temporary placements when workers are needed right away on a short-term basis. These firms are known as temp agencies

Physicians are most likely to come across staffing agencies for locum tenens assignments.

A key benefit of using a staffing firm for temporary workers is that the staffing agency is in charge of payment and benefits for the worker. The worker is not actually hired by the company, and the company isn’t responsible for the administrative burden of taking on a W-2 employee.

Variations on the above

Recruiting terminology isn’t standardized, and there are plenty of variations on the types of agencies listed above. For example, you might come across an “executive staffing agency.” Firms use titles that they feel best to describe the services they offer. 

Payment arrangements for recruiters

Most commonly, physician recruiters are paid a flat fee for filling the position. The amount may be based on the expected time and resources to find a candidate or can be a percentage of the candidate’s initial salary.

This fee is paid by the hiring company. You, as the physician, shouldn’t be asked to pay any money for working with a recruiter.

But don’t shy away from working with recruiters due to the fact that they have a financial relationship with the company. It is in their best interest to hire a solid candidate for the role. And helping that candidate negotiate a higher salary will often be a financial win for them, as well.

The recruiter’s fee can take be a contingency, retainer, or hybrid model.

Retainer fees

In this model, recruiters are hired (retained) by the company for a certain period of time, which is usually until the open position is filled. This arrangement is used for senior-level positions or roles that are especially difficult to fill. For example, a chief medical officer and certain medical director positions.

The recruiter works for a fee that may be held until the position is filled or could be a flat monthly retainer until the position is filled. It also may be based on the salary for the position, as well as other factors, such as the expected difficulty in filling the position. For high-level positions, it’s common for the total recruiting agent payment to reach 5 digits.

Recruiters working under this payment model tend to be expensive. But, in many hiring situations, the cost is worth it.

Exclusively retained vs non-exclusive recruiter arrangements

When first speaking with a recruiter, find out if they have been exclusively retained to fill the position. This means that the hiring company is not advertising the job elsewhere or using other recruiters to source candidates for the position. This is the best possible recruiter-candidate relationship for physician job-seekers

Exclusively retained recruiters are often used for positions that are difficult to fill or high-level, as well as in sensitive or highly political hiring situations.

If they are not exclusively retained, you may be able to find the position publicly advertised. Whether you decide to work with the recruiter or apply with the company directly for the position is up to you – unless you’ve already developed a relationship with them. The arrangement you choose should depend on a few factors, including the type of position, the strength of your application, and your negotiation skills

Contingency fees

With a contingency fee, the recruiter’s payment Is contingent on the position being filled. They only get paid if and when a candidate gets hired. 

This model is usually used when the recruiter is competing with the client’s internal HR department, direct applicants, advertisement, and possibly other recruitment companies (eg, a non-exclusive agreement).

Recruiters working for a contingency fee often send a single candidate’s resume to more than one company. 

If you decide to work with a specific recruiter to guide your entire job search and multiple applications, you are probably working with a contingency recruiter. Bear in mind that it may be in the recruiter’s best interest to send your resume only to the companies that are paying high contingency fees.

Hybrid and innovative recruiter fee models

There are various hybrid payment models and variations on the above fee arrangements. For example, a recruiting firm might be paid an up-front engagement fee, but the rest of the fee is contingent on the position being filled.

The growth of crowd-sourcing and the sharing economy has impacted recruiting. There are now online platforms that allow independent recruiters to submit candidates and be paid by a third party. 

Physician recruiter focus areas

I mentioned above that, by working with a single recruiter for your job search, you may be selling yourself short. This is true not only as it relates to the recruiter’s financial interest, but also because national recruitment firms have areas of focus. Recruiters, not unlike physicians, have areas of specialty in which they practice.

These focus areas are based on industry. So, if you’re tying for a clinical job, it will be easy to identify a suitable firm.

However, it gets more complicated for physicians seeking non-clinical jobs, because there are non-clinical jobs available in many different industries. For instance, a recruiter that fills healthcare positions is probably not also focused on pharma positions. As an example, TMAC Direct is a recruiting firm that specializes in medical science liaison placement.

This is one reason why it’s exceedingly important to determine what type of non-clinical job you want before you begin a job search.

Don’t be confused by these titles and terms

The world of recruitment has its own terminology, some of which is informal and often confused by outsiders (ie jobseekers). 

A hiring manager is not a recruiter. The hiring manager works for the company with open positions. This is the individual who’s in charge of making the decision about which candidate to extend an offer to. It’s usually the person who originally requests to have a position filled. Often times, it’s the same person who will be the supervisor of the employee who gets hired.

As an example, if you’re applying for the position of Medical Director at a health insurance company, the hiring manager is likely to be the Chief Medical Officer or a Senior Medical Director.

A human resources manager is also not a recruiter. This person handles tasks related to recruitment, but is also involved in other aspects of HR, such as onboarding for new employees and handling HR issues for current employees.

Don’t automatically ignore calls and emails from clinical or non-clinical physician job recruiters

There are physician recruitment companies notorious for incessant calls and texts to busy physicians. It can be tough to get your contact info off their list once you’re on it. If you’re being bothered by recruiters who are essentially spamming you, it’s fine to ignore them.

But don’t assume that any recruiter contact is a waste of your time. 

A call from a locums staffing company such as Weatherby Healthcare is very different than a call from an executive search firm such as Cejka Search.

A recruiter may have sought you out and truly believes that you, specifically, maybe a great candidate for a certain position. If you’re not interested, give them a moment of your time to either let them know you’re not looking for a change or that the position doesn’t sound like a good fit for you. Briefly establishing a relationship may help you at some time down the road.

So, if you’re in the habit of ignoring all calls and emails you receive from recruiters, I encourage you to rethink this based on the types of recruiters and payment models described above – even if you’re not actively looking for a job.

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