How to Work with a Recruiter to Find a Job

Last Updated on October 23, 2022 by Laura Turner

In your second or third year of residency or fellowship, your smartphone will suddenly start buzzing at all hours of the workday. When you answer, a hyperactive-sounding millennial will chirp at warp speed: “Hi Dr[yourname]! I just wanted to know your availability cause I have an amazing opportunity 60 miles from Chattanooga….”

This has the potential to happen 20 times per day, while you are trying to study for your in-service exam, text-pologize to your partner [again] for missing his birthday party, and answer pages. It is not the most ideal way to job-hunt coherently, and worse, can distract you from your main job—being a trainee.

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Unless you have an academic-track job all lined up or are already a committed Kaiserologist, recruiters can help you find jobs you did not know existed in locum tenens, private practice, and other settings. They prowl physician search boards like and for talent targets and make money on commission when they place you and your colleagues. The key is to keep your search process organized—and yourself sane. Here are some tips for doing that.

First, survey your predecessors in the training program to get the names of good and bad recruiters. Good ones have access to plum jobs and follow up with you in a professional manner. Bad ones avoid providing key details of the job, call you at times you said you were unavailable, or keep sending you work in Vegas when you clearly stated you wanted to be in Florida.

Next, limit access to your information. Create a separate phone number (Skype and Google Voice work well) and change your “official” residency contact information to that number. That goes for email as well—have a “professional recruiting” email address. That way, you can simply check messages once per week and keep your main phone from ringing or email notifications from popping up during the work day. My information was given out without my permission during residency to a national physician database, so the quicker you get this changed, the better. Make sure that any official forms you fill out use these contact methods as well.

If you know what kind of job you are looking for (for example 30 hours per week of family practice without OB, prorated benefits, within 20 miles of downtown Chicago, IL), you can even create a canned response in Google to auto-reply to recruiter emails. Most of the time, they are looking for your availability and desires, so this succinct bit of information can help them decide whether to pursue you further as a candidate—and as a bonus, you avoid typing the same thing a hundred times.

Have your resume updated on your computer as well as on your smartphone, so that you can flick off a copy at the touch of a button.

I have preferred working over email as much as possible with recruiters, as they tend to be painfully long-winded at times. Often, they will ask you a series of questions (have you had any malpractice suits? Are you ACLS certified?). Once you are asked these questions the first time, simply add the questions and answers to your canned response template.

Do not just take every call at the moment the recruiter feels like calling you. That is a great way to get nothing done on your day off. Minimizing phone contact—and interruptions—can be managed by offering to call the recruiter at a time of your choosing. When you get an email to your professional account that looks interesting, write back, “Hi Felicia, that sounds cool. I’m going to plan to call you at 5 pm EST on January 4”. That way, you can make the most of your 1-hour commute while calling from your (blocked, private) real phone number. But be 100% professional and follow through with your offer to call, since the recruiter is blocking off time for you. Set a phone alarm—if you have to miss your call, dash off a quick e-mail stating the time you will call instead.

It is perfectly fine to say, 25 minutes into a phone call, “I have 5 minutes left.” Again, recruiting calls tend to go on ad nauseum, and your time is valuable.

Save recruiters’ names and agencies in your phone, to avoid strings of unfamiliar numbers with weird area codes in your dialed calls. This also carries the benefit of helping you easily contact a particular agency when you want to switch jobs.

If you go on an interview, email the recruiter from the parking lot to let them know how it went. They do want to know!

Though the adage says the best jobs are the unadvertised ones, working with a recruiter can actually lead to long-term job happiness. With you in control of the job search process, getting there can be organized and pleasant.