Although it has been nearly 25 years, I still remember vividly the interview for what became my first physician recruiter role.
“What do I do after I’ve filled all the positions?” I innocently asked. No answer. They were too busy laughing.
The supply and demand scale for emergency physicians is obviously going to be tipped in favor of physicians for many years to come. If you’re an ABEM/AOBEM certified physician with a solid track record, typically the job hunt can be akin to achieving celebrity status – “Everybody wants you – everybody needs you”. In most parts of the country, a well-qualified EP is highly likely to secure a position at the hospital of his or her choice. Yet there are geographic exceptions, those locations where the scales tip in the other direction. And if one of those locations is on top of your list, there are a few simple strategies that may help you land that dream position.
START EARLY – EPs in desirable locations tend to stay put. Opportunities rarely arise and when they do, they often are not advertised. In those rare instances when recruiters have an opportunity in a “hot spot” such as Denver or Honolulu, they typically will first try to find an ideal match among previous inquiries and known candidates. If you have your heart set on a particularly popular location, your first year of residency (or for practicing physicians a couple years before you hope to relocate) is not too soon to make inquiries. Don’t wait for a position to arise. Find out who services the ED you are interested in and make a friendly call to both the recruiter and the medical director expressing your future interest. Follow up with your CV and a brief note.
DON’T FORGET TO WRITE – At first glance it might seem counterintuitive. It’s not like you really wanted more phone calls and emails from recruiters. But establishing a relationship and staying in touch is key when your goal is a highly desirable location. As a recruiter, if I’m working with an ED in a small rural community the slightest possible EM physician match is on my radar. Even if a potential move is years away, I’ll touch base a couple times a year in order to keep the connection. In the same way, if you’re a physician seeking an opening near the beach, the ski resort or the urban hot-spot, you should touch base periodically. That way your name doesn’t get lost in the crowd, and you remind the recruiter that your interest wasn’t a passing fancy. Living in a beach resort sounds great in January, but will the ideal die when you have to pull your kids out of school or leave behind the community where your family is established? Drop an occasional email, stop by at conferences or just call every few months to maintain contact. This will keep you on the radar as a serious candidate
STAND OUT, THEN FIT IN – When it comes to actually applying for a job in a desirable location, consider the perspective of the Medical Director. Typically, a director will start with the obvious, narrowing the field to those with the best interview presentation and professional references. Then, often left with several excellent candidates, the intangibles may be a significant factor for that final edge. Perhaps the candidate brings expertise in a particular area, doesn’t come with too many special requests, or has made a nice impression having clearly researched the group/hospital. Often the final determination depends simply on a camaraderie that has already started to take hold. It’s subtle, but when there is only one position and many qualified candidates, a decision may easily come down to subtleties.
LIMITED TIME OFFER – Be prepared to give up your timetable. Although jobs in less competitive locations may be willing to guarantee a spot far in advance, positions aren’t likely to be held open in dream destinations. The simple fact is they don’t need to be. So be ready to act when opportunity knocks.
When it comes to landing a dream location, listen to your program director, your mother and Emily Post. There’s no magic bullet and there are no secret strategies. It’s simply about being thoughtful and deliberate. By thinking ahead, having a prudent strategy and applying a few simple techniques, the successful candidate can not only land their dream location, they likely will also reap the rewards of working in an environment of consistency and stability where their contributions are recognized and appreciated.