The Medicus Firm Blog

August 22 2017

6 Contract Negotiation Tips for Physicians, from Physician Recruiters

How to Close the Deal on the Best Possible Offer for You

As a physician, the employment market is generally in your favor - there are likely more physician jobs open, than there are physicians to fill them. However, when you find the one job that is the best fit for you, diplomacy is paramount to ensuring a smooth interview and negotiation process. Even though you are in demand, you still should be careful how you approach the contract negotiation process - how do you clarify questions, and request changes, without breaking down trust or killing the momentum?

The national team of physician recruiters at The Medicus Firm provide several great ideas below, based upon their experiences working with hundreds of physicians and helping them to finalize an acceptable offer that meets their needs for their next career move.

1. Know your worth. Research salary trends and market value for your role prior to negotiating. There is so much information widely available today, there's no reason to be uninformed about the salary range for your profession. "When you do research competitive salaries, be sure to factor in your level of experience, your role, medical specialty, educational background, and even geographic region. Salaries vary by geographic location, and, for physicians especially, salaries can vary widely from one region to the next, sometimes by several thousands of dollars within a 50-100 mile radius,” states Jeremy Geer, senior recruiting consultant..

2. Avoid “going to the well” too often – “This is a very common mistake, when candidates make multiple requests for concessions throughout the negotiation stage of the process,” according to Steve Look, executive vice president of The Medicus Firm. His colleague, Craig Southerland, agrees: “I always advise physicians that they can negotiate back and forth no more than twice. First with the initial questions and requests, then once more with any follow-up concessions or requests. If a candidate tries to go back to the employer with additional requests any more than two times, he or she can easily end up negotiating themselves right out of the offer, and end up with nothing but disappointment.”

3. Communicate clearly, and often. The biggest, most common mistake when negotiating salary, is when candidates fail to effectively and pointedly communicate with potential employers. "Without clear, concise communication, the process often gets bogged down and can create frustration and lack of direction, which ultimately leads to negative outcomes,” states Jamie Thomas, executive vice president in the Atlanta office. “I have found that the best way to communicate salary expectations is to be honest about your expectations from the beginning, and throughout the process.  Once a candidate has interviewed and the negotiating process has begun, it is important for the candidate to have candid, open dialogue expressing their compensation needs, while expressing their true intent, should the client meet those needs. For example, don’t tell the hiring manager that you will accept the position if they offer X, and then, not accept the offer after the employer agrees to your request.”

4. Be Aware of the Competition.  As a physician, it’s true that your skills and qualifications are in great demand, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the only person in the interview mix. “Clinicians often mistakenly believe that they are the only person a potential employer is speaking to, interviewing, or making an offer to join their program. This is almost never the case. Hospitals almost always have multiple candidates they are considering for any open position. They will often go with the employee candidate who shows the most interest, is the most positive, and who builds and maintains momentum throughout the interview process, by keeping in constant contact with a potential employer, and keep them apprised of your situation,” advises Nolan Smith, recruiting principal in Dallas.  

5. Timing is Everything. (Avoid Negotiating Salary Details too Soon in the Process.) Not only can this potentially turn off an employer and perhaps even make you seem greedy to your future employer, trying to negotiate salary before the interview prevents you from leveraging the value you bring to the employer as a reason to offer higher pay. Kaitlin Kremer, a recruiting consultant out of the Atlanta office, adds, “you have to make the employer ‘fall in love with you’ first, then you can make requests or negotiate for more money if appropriate."

6. Keep the "Big Picture" and End Goal in Sight: Consider the offer as a whole, and try not to get bogged down in the minute details. Consider all aspects of the offer: Base salary, plus bonuses/incentive, plus benefits, and other perks. Several recruiters, including Brian Nichols, recruiting principal in Atlanta, said that they see many candidates get so intensely focused on negotiating base salary, that they fail to consider the bigger picture. Also, this makes the employer concerned that the candidate is not planning on working hard enough to meet productivity goals and earn bonus incentives. This especially applies to physicians or any clinicians with a compensation structure that includes productivity incentives.

Each job search, interview process, and contract negotiation will include a variety of deciding factors, and involve a different, unique set of circumstances for the physician and his or her family, as well as for the employer. Your physician recruiter is motivated to help you get the best offer and the terms you need to accept, as each recruiter's goal is to bring the hospital (employer) and physician (future employee) together into a lasting, mutually beneficial agreement.

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