Locum tenens provider perspective: What I look for in a recruiter

Illustration - recruiter and locum physician

Pediatrician Dr. Trevor Cabrera shares what qualities and characteristics he looks for when choosing to work with a locum tenens recruiter.

Like many locum tenens physicians, I have spent the last few years navigating a busy system of multiple locum tenens agencies and dozens of recruiters. I have interacted with some I have loved, and some I have not. I have observed company dynamics balancing employee retention with the pressure for commission, and others that consider customer service for their providers as a priority. Throughout the process, I have developed my own criteria when deciding whether or not to work with a new agency or recruiter. Here are some of the characteristics I find important in determining a strong locum tenens work relationship.

My best interests

Those who take genuine interest in advocating for the well-being of others establish the most worthwhile relationships. My preferred recruiters have taken caution to avoid presenting me to facilities with unsafe work environments due to hospital politics or poor administration and often recommend I take days off when I appear to be burnt out or overworked. While it is true that words may just be words, sincere interest in my well-being has been a consistent factor in determining my return business, even if only to refer colleagues.

What I want

A good salesperson must know what they’re selling and who they’re selling it to. It makes no sense to sell a bike to a mermaid, just like it makes no sense to offer me a clinic job when I request something inpatient. As a full-time locum tenens, I am constantly approached about jobs — and duties — I have no interest in, in places I would never want to be. When I am incessantly solicited for a position that is clearly not the right fit for me, I no longer take the calls. Having the recruiter listen to what I want makes me want to hear them out. It’s exhausting to repeat myself to new people every day.

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Who I am and what I do

I am always frustrated when I speak to a recruiter who has clearly not taken the time to understand what kind of doctor I am, what it took to get where I am today, and the clinical duties befitting of me. After a decade of training, including three years of focus and board certification in the specialty of pediatrics, I am always disheartened by the lack of specialty knowledge of some recruiters. For example, I don’t take care of adults yet am routinely solicited for their care. It’s clearly of poor form and shows a lack of interest and time investment in me as a provider.

The fine line between persistence and harassment

Notably one of my biggest pet peeves is a lack of respect for the word “no.” I have always appreciated persistence and tenacity, but it’s easy to cross the line into harassment. Recurrent pestering from one agent not only turned me off to ever working with him in the future but also cast a bad light on his company and its associates. Sometimes a little space is all that’s needed — recruitment goes both ways, and I will seek out opportunities when I am ready.

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Communication is critical

Communication can make a monumental difference in the strength and longevity of partnerships. One recruiter’s poorly worded, delayed responses regarding significant aspects such as travel and payroll made me reconsider the assignment. This despite the above-market compensation and a group of people I clicked with in a place I loved.

There are many characteristics which make up a great recruiter, and each fit is individual. At the end of the day, transparency, trust, consistency, and communication form the foundation of a strong work relationship. Focusing on the importance of providing great service while respecting healthy boundaries might take a little more effort on the part of the recruiter, but in the long term builds the strongest bridges.

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