The role of virtual interviews in the physician recruitment process
Virtual technology has Zoomed into ubiquity over the past two years, infiltrating all aspects of life and work, including the physician recruiting industry. Now that social distancing and pandemic-related restrictions are (for the most part) in the rearview mirror, should virtual interviews still be a part of the standard physician recruiting process?
“We do think that there is a place for the virtual interview in physician recruiting, if utilized and executed strategically,” said Tim Ketterman, VP of Operations for Adaptive Medical Partners. “Remote interviews can be helpful sometimes, depending upon the location and recruiting needs of the employer, and could help to streamline the interview process especially for employers located in areas that are more frequently sought out by physician candidates.”
Dan Jones, Senior Director of Recruiting, agrees, based upon his ongoing experience with physician candidates and employers. In general, Jones has noticed a decline in the focus on the candidate experience overall, perhaps because healthcare leaders are so busy juggling so many other demanding challenges lately. However, is convenience ultimately worth sacrificing results? While employers may be in contact with more candidates via virtual technology, they are having fewer meaningful, productive onsite interviews.
“We’ve seen a 40% increase in our conversion rate of Candidate Presentations to Client Submission for Interview Consideration, but a 20% decrease in the conversion of those client submissions turning into actual onsite interviews,” said Jones, adding that the indication from candidate feedback is that this is due to lackluster virtual interviews.
Make Memories, Not Phone Calls
“The interview should be a comprehensive, memorable ‘experience’ for the physician and his or her family,” Jones added. “When recruiting a physician, employers must do everything they can to differentiate themselves from other organizations and communities.”
A one- or two-hour transactional virtual interview is not sufficient to convey all that an employer and a community have to offer, nor does it enable ample opportunities for the physician to form a connection with potential colleagues.
“In a remote interview, many employers are neglecting to leverage one of the best recruiting assets: their people,” said Jones. “Bringing a doctor on-site for an interview allows the candidate to experience the team’s engagement and rapport first-hand,” and for the staff members to also engage with the physician candidate, Jones explained. “These experiences cannot be shared via a Zoom call, at least not in a meaningful way. They must be a lived experienced – bring someone onsite for a day to allow them to get a feel for what life is really like as part of your team and your organization.”
This is especially true for employers in rural areas that would require a physician to relocate to a smaller community. “Recruitment that requires relocation to a rural area automatically makes you a runner-up about 90% of the time, to employers in larger cities,” said Jones. “Many candidates haven’t lived in rural areas, so they don’t truly understand the numerous benefits of living and practicing in a smaller community. Fear of the unknown is a real phenomenon – most candidates naturally gravitate towards the familiar – when making a big life decision, most will go with what they know.” Therefore, if there’s only a virtual interview upon which to base the decision, relocating to a rural area is an easy “no” for candidates, without the emotional and experiential impact of an onsite interview.
Utilizing remote interviews also gives employers a false sense of security in their recruiting process, with seemingly greater candidate activity. However, conducting a higher volume of virtual interviews doesn’t lead to increased success in filling more physician openings, Ketterman has found.
“Are clients getting a chance to talk to more candidates by utilizing remote interviews? Probably so, but that’s only because the bar is set lower – i.e. the qualifications are fewer – for a virtual interview than for an onsite visit,” Ketterman explained. While clients may feel as if they are gaining the opportunity to evaluate more candidates by utilizing virtual interviews, that’s likely not the reality. “I’d say that when interviewing remotely, employers are actually talking to more applicants, rather than interviewing more candidates who are truly qualified and realistically interested and invested in the opportunity.”
No Pain, No Gain?
“Sure, it’s more convenient to jump on a call or a Zoom meeting than to set up travel, accommodations, and an itinerary for an onsite interview,” Jones added, and candidates know it too. As a prospective employer, what message do you want to convey to the physician you want and need to join your organization? “Employers must roll out the red carpet to make the candidate and his or her family feel wanted in the community and the organization,” Jones continued.
Investing in the time and expense to bring a candidate onsite for an interview shows more engagement and interest from the employer. “An onsite interview is more than just a ‘check-the-box’ meeting or a quick vetting call. Onsite interviews demonstrate the employer’s interest and investment in the candidate, which is attractive and helps form a mutual emotional connection.”
Jones recognizes that putting your organization and your staff out there for an onsite meeting doesn’t come without some risk. “In addition to offering convenience, virtual interviews offer protection from some of the financial, and quite frankly, the emotional risk too. Recruiting requires full engagement, and it can be disappointing to expend the energy and time, only to be ultimately turned down by a candidate,” he said.
While virtual technology can be a helpful resource for physician recruiting in some cases, most healthcare employers cannot successfully rely on remote interviews for the best recruiting results. Depending too heavily on virtual interviews can be the fastest way for a healthcare employer to Zoom out of consideration among physician candidates, and right into a physician staffing crisis.