Up Your Physician Recruitment Game with Social and Digital Media

RPT_CoverPDFBy Tony Stajduhar, President of Jackson Physician Search

The physician shortage continues to rank among the top three concerns for hospital CEOs,1 making the need to cost-effectively recruit the right candidates more acute than ever. As the physician workforce evolves, how can your organization recruit faster, more efficiently and at less cost? Embracing social and digital media strategies has become central to recruitment success.

Social media is at the intersection of two key physician behaviors:
1. Physicians are networkers: Through their years of training and beyond, physicians build large personal and professional networks they trust and rely on to learn about practice opportunities.

2. Physicians are digital omnivores. Their hunger for connectivity keeps them constantly using multiple devices: laptop, tablets, smartphones, and even wearables. Technology keeps them connected 24/7 both personally and professionally.

Peer-to-peer communication is changing with the rise of physician engagement in social networking platforms.2 A survey published several years ago reported that 65 percent of physicians use social media for professional purposes,3 a number that has surely grown as dedicated physician resources and communities have developed to meet physicians where they are: online.

For example, NEJM Resident 360 connects them to experts for clinical and career insight as well as a supportive community of fellow residents. Another example is SERMO, a self-described “virtual doctor’s lounge.” It was created for
verified and credentialed physicians to talk openly wit h other physicians about the business and practice of medicine.


Solving the Digital Puzzle
Digital platforms can be efficient and cost-effective for recruitment. The challenge is that leveraging these platforms successfully requires both a keen understanding of the candidate pool and proficiency in social media to engage physicians and advanced practitioners.

It’s important to understand who is using social and digital media on a daily basis. The short answer is almost everyone. But the more important question is why? Are they using it to seek a new job? The answer ranges from “absolutely” to “not right now.” That’s because only 10 to 14 percent of physicians are actively searching for a new opportunity at any given time. The smallest segment of your audience is already being targeted by the most recruiters. The result is a noisy, highly inefficient landscape that makes it difficult for physicians and organizations to connect in a meaningful way.

More often, you are seeking the type of physician who is not looking — passive candidates who comprise about three-quarters of the pool. They may be interested, but not proactively exploring the market. Even the remaining few who are happy and have no plans to change jobs experience life events that make them receptive when the time is right.

Candidates Under the Radar
That means the vast majority of potential candidates are running below the recruitment radar. But they all have something in common: they are engaged with social and digital media. Nearly 9 out of 10 (87 percent) physicians age 26 to 55 engage with social media daily, as do 65 percent of physicians over 55.4 Think about it: some of your best recruits may be those who want to practice for another 10 years, but maybe not where they currently are. That spells opportunity.

Social media platforms are the first place that candidates will check you out, even before making human contact. Nearly every hospital has a website, LinkedIn account, and Facebook page focused on outreach to patients and the community. But, how well are they designed to help physicians and advanced practitioners appreciate your culture and learn about practice opportunities?

A great place to start is to focus on your number one asset: your current medical staff. It’s likely that you already have identified the physicians who best represent your organization’s culture. Don’t wait until site visits to get them involved with candidates. Enlist their help in building your network. Help them share content — in a professional way — with friends, former classmates, colleagues, and candidates on social media and provider-focused online communities.

Once you have a plan and standards in place, your medical staff can be your best advocates in building your brand far beyond the immediate community. If your team is small, struggling with high volume, or searching in difficult-to-fill specialties, ask your recruitment firm to explain exactly how they will use social and digital media to source candidates.

What about Email?

Social media offers you the opportunity to “pull” passive candidates into your orbit. The digital flip side is to “push” information to targets via email. These are complementary strategies that work.

A national survey by Adobe confirmed that email is still the “Alpha Channel”5 — even for reaching millennials despite growth in mobile apps, social media, and text. We also know that physicians prefer to receive opportunities by email.6 The problem is that they are inundated: 16 percent get one contact per week, and 39 percent are contacted by recruiters multiple times each week. The majority of job opportunities they are hearing about are NOT relevant to their interests. These physicians reported that they get a relevant contact less than 10 percent of the time.

It is clear that many recruiters practice what we call “spray and pray.” They are not taking the time to understand, segment, and target your audience strategically. The effect is a double-whammy:

1. Physicians will tune it out completely

2. There is significant inefficiency through wasted time and money

Abandon email? Not so fast, email offers another major opportunity to become the trusted, “standout” source of relevant information delivered through digital channels. Done right, your email strategy will convert a passive candidate into an engaged member of your network, a source of referrals, or a potential new hire.

A Practical Approach to Social and Digital Recruitment
The goal is to effectively engage passive candidates with content that is highly relevant to their interests. Integrating your outreach channels will put your physician recruitment program on the right digital track. When the time is right for a physician or advanced practitioner to change jobs, your organization will be at the top of their mind and they will be receptive to recruitment messages.

Use this practical acronym as your six-step guide for social and digital “S.E.A.R.C.H.”


Take the time to segment your targets according to subspecialty and skills, graduation year, medical school and training program, ties to your community, and connections to current members of your staff. If you are using an online job board or database, use the filters — starting with the narrowest parameters. You can always widen the net, but you may never be able to regain the attention of those you “lose” by repeatedly hitting them with unfiltered blasts.


Build your audience by following your physician champions and other influencers. Make it easy for them to share relevant content, articles, news, and jobs with their networks. Find and join groups on social media sites. Enter the discussion threads when you can add value.


Avoid a commercial or salesy tone. Use a friendly, conversational, approachable voice that fits your hospital’s and community’s culture. Candidates will get a sense of what it truly means to work and live there. Remember to adhere to privacy rules and keep it professional. (It is not the place to share your favorite Politico meme.)


Prepare content with these questions in mind:

1. Why would a physician candidate audience care about this? For example, sharing a comment from a recently hired physician about how warmly they were welcomed the community will help candidates envision your support when they open their practice and relocate their family.

2. What insider information or tips can you offer? Residents are hungry for information about compensation, practice models, negotiating tips, and industry trends. This is their first rodeo, but you’ve hired many physicians and advanced practitioners. You will catch their eye by sharing what you know.


Be credible as a recruiter and trusted resource who adds value and responds quickly. Be sure your digital profile is professional yet approachable. Become the go-to person for physicians who are exploring options and want to learn more about your organization and community (without risk of getting the hard sell).


Consistency is vital for social media to become an embedded recruitment strategy. Make it a core responsibility for designated members of your recruitment team. Create a calendar and consistently feed your marketing team and recruitment champions with great content candidates care about.

The challenge is that your recruitment office responsibilities are most likely focused on managing interviews, negotiations, and contracting. You may also be competing internally with hospital service lines and other departments for the marketing resources to implement a social and digital sourcing strategy.

Based on the resources you have and the volume of searches you manage, evaluate, and prioritize what you can build, borrow, buy, or learn to do on your own. Like any set of tools, you need to know how to use them to get the desired result, use them often enough to be cost effective — or know when to call in the expert with the well-oiled machine.

If you are looking for more how to’s and examples, please download “How to Use Social Media for Physician Recruitment” at www.jacksonphysiciansearch.com/embracingsocial-media-physician-recruitment.


1February 1, 2018. www.ache.org/pubs/Releases/ 2018/top-issues-confronting-hospitals.cfm.

2February 22, 2017. www.doximity.com/press_releases/ doximity_reaches_70_percent_of_all_us_doctors.

3 October 7, 2011. www.healthcare-informatics.com/ article/physician-interest-social-media-ramping.

4January 9, 2014. https://hcsmmonitor.com/ 2014/01/08/how-do-tech-savvy-physiciansuse- health-technology-and-social-media.

5August 25, 2017. www.slideshare.net/adobe/ adobe-consumer-email-survey-report-2017.

62017 MMS Annual Physician Survey Job Opportunity Preferences.