Sean Baker is managing partner for Stealth Executive Search, a firm focused on recruiting and executive search.
Q: Is there ever a bad time for an ambulatory surgery center to be actively recruiting physicians?
Sean Baker: In an ideal scenario, the only recruitment needed would be to accommodate growth due to increasing referrals or replacing retiring providers, but that isn't reality. One reason an ASC should hold off is expecting an additional provider to compensate for bad business fundamentals. There are top "rainmakers" out there and they should be sought whenever possible, but if marketing, referral network and cost/collections are off, another provider will usually compound the issue, not solve it.
The other situation I would use caution in embarking on a full-fledged search is when an ASC isn't totally committed to adding another team member. "Playing the field" often leads to no results and a waste of time and money. It is critical that ASCs and all organizations try to have a somewhat active talent pipeline, and have a good idea of what the market's top talent is. It is important to cultivate that pipeline, but that can be done with an entirely different methodology. Engaging a full search without being 100 percent sure it is the right direction is wasteful
Q: What should an ASC do before it even begins the recruiting process?
SB: I think the first thing is to ensure that all partners and stakeholders are in agreement that adding to the staff is the right thing to do. Make a list of both the clinical skills you will be targeting, as well as 3-5 "soft" skills that will help that person assimilate into the team. Second, I think it is crucial to designate everyone's role in the search process (e.g.,
are we using a search firm, who is the point person, who will participate in the interview process, who reserves veto power, etc.).
The third, and in my opinion most important, is to discuss and put on paper what your value proposition is. What makes your ASC special? Why would/should physicians leave their current role to join you? Is there a dynamic about your ASC that sets the bar higher than other facilities? Everyone should leave this discussion feeling good about the organization. If silence fills the room and everyone is scratching their heads, it may be
time for a discussion of an entirely different nature.
Q: What are some good "dos and don'ts" when an ASC makes an initial contact with a prospective physician?
SB: Initial contact should be all about presenting the opportunity as thoroughly and honestly as possible. This is where the previous value proposition comes into play. This is the time to see if it is worth having a meeting or further discussions. I would advise against two pitfalls in this phase:
- Discussing the details of the compensation package you plan to offer. That time will come, and the hiring organization should be fully prepared to match or beat most aspects of the potential candidate's current remuneration. It is fine to get the candidates ballpark compensation, but don't harp on the details.
- Trying to qualify or disqualify the potential candidate with difficult of overly complex questions. This isn't the time to narrow the search to one person — this is the time to drum up interest and decide if a meeting would be mutually beneficial. Never go through a checklist of questions/qualifications.
Q: When should the ASC's physician-owners become involved in the recruiting process?
SB: As soon as possible and even better if they participate in attracting the candidate. The one caveat I offer is that if an owner or participant in the process senses a red flag, speak up sooner rather than later. The last thing anyone wants is to go through two more rounds of interviews only to have a candidate torpedoed right before an offer is extended. Objections early are much better than in the later phases.
Q: What are a few critical questions ASCs need to ask of prospective physicians they may forget to ask?
SB: I don't have a "magic bullet" question. It is important to look for the soft skills and personality match. Another piece of advice is to probe into the candidate's experience with technology and quality improvement initiatives. By looking into these two areas, candidates can be judged on their flexibility to change, regulatory knowledge and compliance and additional skills or strengths that may have been overlooked.
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