The Search for Effective Physician Leaders: New Strategies for New Challenges, Part IV

Posted by VISTA Staffing on Sep 2, 2010 10:02:00 AM

Note: This is the fourth installment in a seven-part series on best practices in physician executive recruiting. To download the entire document, click here, or call Kurt Scott at 800-366-1884 to request a printed copy.

Part IV:

Screen IN before you screen OUT

In any search, it’s best to cast your net as wide as possible at first. You want a large candidate pool going into your recruitment “funnel.” Yes, it’s time consuming, but it gives you essential context in which to compare candidates, opens your committee’s thinking up to more options and possibilities, and energizes your organization with each new encounter. The screening process gets tougher as candidates work their way through the process.
Take note, too, that screening great candidates is relatively easy. So is screening out weak candidates. Your challenge will be to train and motivate committee members to screen candidates who seem to fall in the middle.

The screening process

Self-selection—Make sure the advertising, web postings, outreach postings, email and direct mail campaigns created for the position contain enough information about the position and the community to allow candidates to make an informed decision about the potential fit of the job. Physician executives appreciate straightforward, relevant information about compensation, incentives, resources, teaching and research expectations, administrative/clinical mix, and leadership scope. They will need basic community information as well.

Creating a dedicated “landing page” on your organization’s website is an excellent way to give candidates enough information to opt into your recruiting process. Include the URL in all advertising so candidates can get directly to the pertinent page. The page should branch off of your “Careers at…” or “Opportunities for Physicians” section to provide easy navigation to general recruiting/HR information. This page should focus specifically on the leadership opportunity and introduce the candidate to the mission and reputation of the organization and the department seeking leadership, potential colleagues, and related efforts throughout the institution. This is a great place to expand on the benefits of the position and to highlight community attractions and resources.

First phone interview—Whether you are using a recruitment agency or an in-house recruiter, use the first call as a high-level screening tool. Cover the items in your “required” and “nice to have” criteria lists thoroughly so you know any candidate who makes it to a second interview is qualified. Make sure your recruiter gathers as much information as possible about the candidate’s experience, personal and professional motivations, and other job prospects or prospecting in the works. It’s often easier for professional recruiters to ask some of these questions and speak candidly with the physician about the fit of the job. Let them be your super screeners. The recruiter can outline the compensation package being offered, but only the hiring manager should negotiate with a candidate.

Second phone interview—Next, a member of the Executive Search Committee should conduct a phone interview with the candidate. He or she should use the criteria list to guide the interview, but should not be constrained by it. He or she should use open-ended questions to create a dialog that lets more of the physician’s character and personality come through. Behavior-based interviewing—essential saying, “Give me an example of a time you…,” or “Tell me how you handled a situation like…” are great ways to move candidates from generalities to specific, meaningful answers.

Present candidate to committee—The committee member who conducted the interview should “present” the candidate to the full committee. Building on the profile started by the recruiter in the first phone interview, the committee member should review the candidate’s qualifications against your criteria, relevant experience, interest in the position, fit with the position and the organization, and any potential red flags. The committee member should offer a recommendation as to whether the candidate should be invited to the first round of on-site interviews.

On-site interviews—Scheduling may actually be the hardest, and most crucial, aspect of the on-site interview process. Committee members must be willing to keep their schedules flexible so you can get top candidates in quickly. Remember, desirable candidates are not just desirable to you. There will be competition from other organizations. It’s important to build on the momentum of the initial interviews. Cancelling an interview the day of the visit will kill that momentum faster than anything. Don’t let it happen! Distribute an interview evaluation form to all members of the committee and make sure they are completed the day of the interview.

Spouse recruitment—Paying careful, deliberate attention to the needs and preferences of a candidate’s spouse is tremendously important because the spouse’s level of interest contributes at least 50 percent to the overall decision. Recruit a group of committee members’ spouses to serve. The group should include a variety of ages, gender, interests, and work situations. You do not need to ask the entire group to meet with each interviewee’s spouse. Pick and choose based on similar interests.

Spouse recruiters should be willing to do some legwork for the family prior to the visit. They may be asked to check out special schools, for example, or to help target areas to include in a tour with a realtor. This team should plan on having lunch with the spouse on interview day, joining the community tour with a realtor, and assisting with introductions at any evening functions planned. In the best case, a member of this team will strike up a friendship with the spouse and be available to answer questions during the recruitment process and help out during the relocation process if applicable. Never underestimate the importance of spouse recruitment.

Check back next month for Part V, On-site Interviews the WOW Them, or go to to download the complete document.

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About VISTA Staffing Solutions

Founded in 1990, VISTA Staffing Solutions helps hospitals, medical practices, and government agencies in the US optimize their physician staffing, ensure quality and continuity of care for patients, and maintain financial stability. A leading provider of US Locum Tenens and Permanent Physician Search Services, VISTA has over 28 years of experience providing award-winning service in the locum tenens industry.

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