HealthMarch 10, 2020

Navigating physician job boards

By: Heidi Moawad, MD
Physician job boards can be a great tool in your job search, but it’s important to know how to navigate them. Here’s how to use them most effectively.

For doctors, the job search can take many shapes, from networking to recruiters to third-party staffing agencies. But just about everyone will end up on physician job boards and other employment listings at some point. To get the most out of them, it helps to know what to look for and what to avoid. Here are a few tips for when you start scrolling.

Where to look

Physician job listings can be found in a few different places, so during your search, you’ll probably end up exploring more than one of the following.

  • Association listings – Start by searching your specialty organization website’s job board and entering the locations you’re interested in. You may want to jump straight to your subspecialty organization’s postings if you know that’s the direction you want to go.
  • Employer websites –If you want to prioritize a specific geographic location, job listings on local hospital websites are a good place to look.
  • Recruiting companies – When you receive emails from recruiters, browse their websites to see if they also have listings that interest you. They’re usually only permitted to post jobs their company is hired to fill, but you may find options you like.
  • Search engines – Of course, a simple search on general job boards or even Google may also turn up possibilities, though they’re likely to overlap with posts you found elsewhere.

What to look for

At the beginning of the physician job search, it’s a good idea to read through descriptions even of openings you aren’t interested in. The more ground you cover, the better your perspective will be when you compare listings and, eventually, job offers.

That said, the descriptions on physician job boards are often so generic that it can be hard to know if a job is right for you. Most postings mention the size of the hospital by listing the number of beds or physicians, and they may make a vague reference to the size of the town. Yet few provide the name of the hospital, and most will not publish salary details.

However, you can find clues about whether a position would be a good fit. For example, a job description saying you can work as much or as little as you like may signal freedom… but it may also signal minimal salary support or that you won’t have a built-in patient referral base.

If you’re looking for a special aspect of practice, you’ll want to pay particular attention for references to it. Survey results published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine show that many family medicine physicians would like to perform obstetrical deliveries, but the biggest hindrance is finding a job that supports doing deliveries. If a job listing doesn’t mention the special aspect you’re looking for, you may have to dig deeper to see if it’s a possibility with this employer.

Despite what you may assume, the length of time that a position has been posted on a physician job board doesn’t provide insight into the job’s desirability. Some jobs are hard to fill because few physicians want to move to a given city—but keep in mind that the location will not be kept secret for long, and you can soon decide for yourself if the job isn’t right for you based on that detail. At the same time, job postings are often renewed after a few months, so something that looks brand-new might not be.

What to avoid

Like any other advertisement, a job description that sounds too good to be true likely is. Other types of exaggerated language could hint at trouble, too. Since physician responsibilities tend to be fairly straightforward, postings suggesting that you’ll be able to “reach your fullest potential” or that you’ll be working with “highly competent professionals” could mean that previous doctors left precisely because they couldn’t reach their fullest potential or the team was highly incompetent.

Proceed with caution when a job post suggests that a single specialty group is looking to hire a physician so they can offer additional treatment options for patients. You could find yourself unwittingly thrown into a heated turf war between physician groups battling for the same patients. According to the Indian Journal of Radiology and Imaging, this has been seen over the past few decades in radiology, where emergency medicine physicians and cardiologists have taken on more imaging duties. Taking a job and then being forced to fight someone else’s battle can leave you battered. If it seems like this might be the case, it’s better to run the other way.

How to save time when you apply

Job boards can be a time-waster or a time-saver, depending on how you use them. Follow these steps to make your job search as efficient as possible.

  • Take notes – It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll start to see the same job advertised on multiple physician job boards. By creating a list of links, you can avoid becoming confused by repeated listings. If certain details appear in one version of a job post and not another, your notes will help you consolidate the information and get a fuller picture of the position.
  • Update your materials – When you apply, you need to make sure your own professional information is accurate and up to date. Be sure to review your cover letter, your CV, your medical license numbers and details about your training, such as hospital addresses and the contact information of your former program directors. Even if the information is found on your CV, some applications also require it in a specific spot, and you don’t want to leave blanks.
  • Don’t duplicate work unnecessarily – You can also save time by creating a master cover letter and changing the details for each job. Be sure to give each letter a file name that clearly corresponds to the particular job so you can upload it without the embarrassment of getting your wires crossed.
  • Apply in bulk – You might want to apply whenever you see a job you like, but you’ll be more efficient if you wait and get all your information organized. Keep in mind that your cover letter doesn’t have to be too exciting—it should just be a brief statement of your professional experience and your desired timeline for starting a new job.
  • Jump over the inbox – If there’s a contact number in the listing, be sure to call and speak with someone about your interest in the position.

On a more fundamental, it bears emphasizing that you should check in with your career goals before you begin your search. Going in with an understanding of what you need out of your next step—and how it contributes to the bigger picture—can help you focus your search and size up opportunities more quickly. Good luck!

Heidi Moawad, MD