I have noticed over the years that it is much easier to convince hospitals to engage with recruiters on a transactional basis, taking resumes on the fly, rather than outsourcing a complete recruitment assignment to one agency. Most other industry sectors now accept the benefits of working exclusively with a trusted recruiter who can then work on the assignment confident in the knowledge that they will not be undermined by a competitor or even a direct application.
It is a sad indictment of the medical recruitment industry that we are unable to convince our clients that they should partner with us to help them solve their recruitment problems - generally calling on us as a ‘necessary evil’ when they enter crisis mode.
There are many reasons why a hospital would benefit from partnering with a professional recruiter but first an outcome that illustrates the benefit.
We recently ran a two-month campaign for a client that produced six senior doctors to interview, of which two were hired as clinical heads of department. Our client had failed to attract a single viable applicant in the preceding six months via their own advertising. This was a hospital that was considered 'unsellable' by many and the service had been manned entirely with locums for almost a year at significant cost.
How come the difference? This is not to say that the hospital did not know how to recruit. Yes, they were constrained by policy, budget, manpower, etc. but they were also hamstrung by three other key factors that they could not change except through outsourcing.
They could not go to market without revealing their identity. The location, rather unjustly, had a poor reputation which immediately ruled out many applicants who would simply not apply based on their preconceptions. As a third-party provider, we advertised under our own brand without revealing the location until the candidate called in, at which point their prejudices could be challenged with facts.
Doctors are reluctant to approach their future employer directly as they may be acquainted with them as a colleague. There may also be a concern that their current employer will find out that they are looking (think: director at Coke calling up their counterpart at Pepsi about a job - awkward!). We were able to provide applicants confidentiality in the crucial first step of declaring their interest.
Through our networks, and by dint of our third-party status, we could directly approach doctors who we identified as being of potential interest. We could gauge their interest in the role or at least tap into their networks.
There are many additional benefits of outsourcing such a specialized activity to a professional recruiter. Like all experts, we hone our skill, networks, marketing channels and procedures purely around this one function - something no hospital should invest in for those sporadic occasions where such capabilities are required.
The concept of exclusivity may seem counter-intuitive. "Why wouldn't I keep my options open?" is a regular argument put forward. However consider this: would you ask ten accountants to do your tax return only to pay the one that seems to come up with the best, or quickest, result? Not many professionals would accept such terms yet recruiters do every day. Partnership cuts both ways so if you want to get the best out of your recruiter give them a period of exclusivity.
I believe that it is incumbent upon our industry to put forward compelling enough arguments such that our hospital clients are willing to trust us with their upfront recruitment assignments. The benefits, both in terms of cost-effectiveness and quality of service, are undeniable. A locum over the course of a year will cost twice as much as a permanent hire, not to mention continuity of care issues.
Ultimately our industry needs to demonstrate that it can deliver on such assignments. Trust is the key component here and that is hard to build, though very easy to lose.
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Dr John Bethell graduated from Aberdeen Medical School in 1990 and worked as a doctor in both the UK and Australia, launching Wavelength with co-founder Claire Ponsford in 1999. As a pioneer and market leader of medical recruitment in Australia Dr Bethell has seen the industry grow and mature. After two decades of helping doctors find work and healthcare employers find doctors, he sees the medical workforce world from a unique perspective.