Tactics for finding unadvertised jobs

The Internet has transformed physician job search. We rarely talk about the "old school" tactics used by the pre-internet generations because so many physicians find jobs just by clicking a response link.

But if you aren’t finding advertised opportunities where you want to live, it’s time to dig deeper in the toolkit.

Word of mouth

Tell everyone in your environment where you want to practice and why you want to live there. You need a Tweet-length message that people hear several times in different contexts:

"Do you have any health care contacts in Denver? My husband has an opportunity to transfer there with his company and we have family and friends there."

Program director, program coordinator, faculty and a few attendings should all know where you want to practice. Think outside the physician box, too. We learn about candidates through phone calls and emails from parents, in-laws, siblings, neighbors and former med school buddies.

The other residents and fellows should know where you want to go.

One resident found me because she posted notes on her program’s bulletin board saying, "I need Denver!" She changed it regularly, the next month titled "I MUST Get to Denver" and the following month, "Get Me To Denver Task Force Update."

Fliers had photos of her and family skiing, hiking the Rockies, or attending a Broncos game. The best was a map of metro Denver with a red arrow pointing to "My in-laws live here," and another red arrow to the other side of town - 45 minutes away - labeled "I want to live HERE."

It was funny, memorable, and it resulted in a resident forwarding an email that led to an interview that ultimately led to a job.

A surgery resident who was dead-set on getting to Kansas City used T-shirts to spread the word. He had a wardrobe of sports team T-shirts and never passed up an opportunity to talk about his sartorial homage to his dream location - his parents’ and siblings’ new home city. His program coordinator connected him with a recruiter who had a newly posted opportunity.

Refresh your message to your network by giving them updates on your search. An outrageous awful interview story, an anecdote about something cool that happened on your rotation in that city, or a thank you for a suggested contact will reinforce that connection of your name with that city in people’s minds.

Set up a rotation or moonlight in the city of your choice

Practices in the most competitive cities are very big on the idea of "try before you buy."

A rotation often clinches a job offer even if the practice wasn’t actively recruiting. If you are a fit with their culture and practice philosophy, a smart practice will make it happen. You can also try out a facility by moonlighting there. (The extra money isn’t bad, either.)

A founding partner who hadn’t set a retirement date may realize that two years from now is the perfect time to transition. Or maybe the new satellite office the hospital is asking the group to open becomes viable if they add one more physician.

Active Internet searches

Some physicians won’t post their CV or profile on internet job search sites or their specialty organization career tab because they don’t want to be contacted about locations other than the target city.

That’s short-sighted. If you’re looking for a job in a highly competitive market, the value of having a lot of oars in the water outweighs the annoyance of spam.

Manage response volume with an email account exclusively for job search. Every few days, log in and put the target city name in the "search" field. Set the field to find matches in the entire email, not just the subject line. Recruiters sometimes put the state or suburb name in the subject line, then describe the location as "20 minutes from downtown ______" in the body of the ad. Drag the search results to another folder for follow-up. "Select All," "delete" the rest.

Some internet sites push new or newly updated profiles out to employers. Your name, desired practice location and summary might land in recruiters’ inboxes even before we post ads for a new search. The "push" alerts also connect you to recruiters working on highly confidential, off-the-grid searches.

Refresh your online CV or profile every couple of months. When you click "update," your profile could go out to every employer with an open search in the specialty and region. The update may spark a call about a position that has re-opened or expanded parameters since your initial posting.

Opt-in to the "alert" or "notification" feature that emails you when sites post a new or updated job matching your criteria. It’s good to be an early respondent for jobs in competitive locations. The likelihood of an interview invitation is much higher if you respond while the search is still fresh.

Follow-up a week or so after you’ve submitted your CV. Check in a few weeks later with that recruiter to remind her that you are still trying to get to that community. Follow-up is not pestering - it’s our job to communicate with candidates. A physician who is committed to the location is more likely to accept if offered, and stay long-term if hired. That’s a win for us, and a win for you.

Network through alumni programs

One of the most effective networking tools is the commonality of having been educated or trained at the same institution as someone else. You have a shared experience and have been shaped by the same culture and educational process.

Call the alumni coordinator for your college, med school and training institutions and ask if you can be connected with fellow alumni in health care who live in the state and city where you want to practice. You may strike gold and find a university alumni club chapter in the target city.

Some alumni coordinators will build a query, search their database and share the Excel spreadsheet once you’ve given the secret alma mater handshake and showed them what you’re going to send out. Others will send an email to physicians on your behalf. Alumni staff can walk you through tips for mining the alumni website yourself.

Many universities have a filter that allows you to inform an alumnus that you would like to connect - but blinds their personal data in case they don’t want to communicate. Why? Universities that help alumni network benefit because graduates who feel connected to their alma mater donate and help future graduates.

If all you have is a name, search on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or search engines. Be expansive and don’t limit just to alumni in your own specialty or recent grads. All it takes is one or two contacts to make the effort worthwhile. In addition to possible job contacts, physicians where you hope to practice will help develop your understanding of what’s going on in the local medical community. They might even share rumors of group mergers and acquisitions or gossip and history behind a practice implosion that no employee of the hospital system or practice would dare relate to a candidate.

Six degrees of separation

You may not get to Kevin Bacon, but the one-off connections may get your CV forwarded into the hands of someone who has a job for you.

Contact in-house recruiters who have jobs posted in other specialties in the right location. Call hospitals in the suburb where you want to live and work, saying "This is Dr. Smith, and I’m looking to relocate to the south side of your metro area and find a hospital-employed or private practice opportunity in my specialty. Who do I need to talk to in your facility?"

You can also ask hospital recruiters if they know of any needs at any other groups in the area.

Use search engines to identify private practices in the zip codes that you want. Email or fax in your CV with a cover letter. State what you are looking for, when and why you plan to live in that community. The recipient of your CV usually does not have a job for you - but he or she knows someone who does.

Perseverance pays off

Start your search for the unadvertised job early, and expect to spend more time on the search than peers who are kicking tires in multiple states. It’s worth the effort, though. Physicians who truly love where they live tend to have more stable career paths and seem happier than those who just "ended up" somewhere! l

Therese Karsten, MBA, CMSR (therese.karsten@hcahealthcare.com) has been recruiting physicians into hospitals, managed care and private practice groups for more than two decades. She is a senior in-house recruiter with HCA.

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