What Recruiters Look for In a Candidate

Published on: Jul 6, 2017


The physician recruitment scene is changing. By 2025, millennials will account for about 70% of the workforce. And with many physicians rapidly nearing retirement, the healthcare industry is preparing itself for a major shift in its recruitment ideology.

With 70 million baby boomers preparing to exit the workforce or moving into leadership roles, the industry is facing an impending shortage of mid-career level practitioners. In fact, new data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) shows that the United States is expected to experience a deficit of 40,800 to 104,900 doctors by 2030. This means that experienced, sophisticated job-seekers are in demand, prompting recruiters to rethink their approach from the ground up.

Recruiters have recognized that the industry is on the precipice of profound change and have amended their tactics. To get the best candidates from the available pool of mid-career physicians, recruiters now look for the following desirable traits to inform their recruitment efforts.

Communication Skills

The days of patients relying solely on the advice of their physicians are gone. Patients are more informed and involved in their care than ever (thanks in part to Google and WebMD) and recruiters want candidates who can engage candidly without being dismissive or unreceptive. Recruiters value candidates who show that they can communicate clearly, listen, and are truly invested in the health of their patients. For hospitals, it is paramount that doctors can explain ailments, treatments, and drug options without the use of medical jargon to encourage a more participatory healthcare experience.

Electronic Health Records Knowledge

Many facilities will train new physicians on their Electronic Health Records (EHRs), but it is a plus if a candidate is already EHR-savvy or at least has working knowledge of any of the available platforms.

Empathy, Respect, and Collaborative

Studies show that patients whose physicians were trusted and showed empathy were more likely to experience positive clinical outcomes. This is in large part because patients tend to stick with a course of treatment if they have trust in their doctors. Recruiters consider a candidate’s capacity for compassion a top priority, as it contributes heavily to a physician's presumed clinical capabilities.

Doctors, more than other professions, rely heavily on teamwork and collaboration. It is especially imperative in large hospitals and practices where physicians rely on a network of staff, nurses, and assistants. Physicians who show a willingness to share ideas and work as a team are desirable to recruiters.

Adaptability and Flexibility

In an industry that thrives on innovation and efficiency, hospitals and medical offices find it critical to implement new policies and systems often. It is imperative that physicians are highly adaptable and not averse to changes in their environments.

While work-life balance wasn’t a consideration when the baby boomers joined the workforce, candidates today place a high-priority on their ability to have a well-rounded life outside of their profession. Recruiters understand this new generation of job seekers and respect candidates who are upfront and flexible about their scheduling expectations. Employers too, prefer recruiting those who show a willingness to compromise, and are learning to reward them with other incentives like non-traditional shifts, more casual work environments, and signing bonuses.


Doctors, often tasked with delivering life-changing news, should be straightforward and forthright in their communication. A patient is more likely to be receptive to a physician who is honest and direct about the facts.

Cultural Fit

 Because health care depends on how well a medical team works together, it is crucial that new recruits can adjust easily to their new environment. The industry, however, is a bit behind the curve in considering how well a candidate might fit into an organization. Recruiters, however, taking a cue from other service industries, now look to a candidate’s interpersonal skills, attitude towards change, and overall personal affinities to steer hiring decisions.

Consistency and Passion

 Recruiters are wary of physicians who are inconsistent in their experience or who hop from job to job. Unexplained gaps or dramatic shifts in practice that don’t match a candidate's educational background raise red flags. Drastic changes on a CV could indicate to a recruiter that a candidate is trying to conceal malpractice claims or other unflattering details from previous employers.

Also, nothing is more disheartening, or unsettling to a patient, than a physician who does not seem to care about his/her practice. A study by the National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM) concludes that patient-physician relationships are built on trust, and patients’ trust in their providers is derived largely from the passion with which they perform their work. Recruiters will ask questions to gauge a candidate’s sincerity and passion for healthcare, and will often pursue the more genuine candidate.

Good References 

Recruiters depend on references not only to verify a candidate’s work history, but to get a better feel for how they work in a team environment. These conversations are often revelatory and can seriously hinder or boost a recruits’ chances for a job. If a recruiter cannot reach a reference or receives an unfavorable review, they may seek more information from the physician before making a decision.

Health care recruiters are often the last line of defense between a patient and a less than stellar physician. Organizations depend on the reputation and commitment of their teams, and as a number of seasoned physicians begin to exit the workforce, they strive to maintain the level of service and professionalism of past generations of physicians, while embracing the needs and challenges of emerging opportunities. Candidates who embody both will remain in high demand for years to come.

Sources: AAMC.org; NIH.gov With 70 million baby boomers preparing to exit the workforces, the industry is facing a shortage of mid-career level practitioners.