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How to recruit the spouse: Winning the affection of the person the candidate values most
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By Judy Rosman, President, Rosman Search

Have you ever worked for months to recruit a candidate, only to have the candidate turn you down because the candidate’s spouse balked? This article offers a personal guide to how to recruit the spouse. I became a recruiter because of my experience during the recruiting process as “the spouse” of a physician. We went on site visits that were well-intentioned but so awful that my husband and I walked away from otherwise excellent job offers. We also went on one special site visit that was so wonderfully planned that the in-house recruiter sealed the deal for me….almost before we visited! Here are some examples to illustrate what can make the site visit sail, or sink, for the all-important spouse of the candidate.

Whose job search Is It?

To most candidate spouses, the recruitment process is “our” recruitment and “our” job search. The spouse, from the beginning, considers himself or herself part of the recruitment process. This is true even if, like me, the spouse says he or she will “go wherever my husband/wife finds the best job.” Sure—I was willing to go anywhere my husband found the best job, but I still had my own opinions about where I would be happy. Some hospital recruiters understood this and included me from the beginning in the recruitment process, and others did not. The impact made all the difference in where “we” (not “he”) decided to go.

The first phone call

It is easy to make a great impression on the candidate’s spouse from your first phone call with the candidate. After you are done discussing the candidate’s interests, tell the candidate that you want to make sure the community is a good fit for his or her spouse. Ask the candidate if his or her spouse would like to speak with you about things the spouse likes to do, what kind of home/area he or she would like to live in, and what is especially important to him or her in choosing a community. Just by asking these questions, you are making the spouse feel like he or she is an important person and someone whose input matters. That little acknowledgement goes a long way when the candidate is the focus of (nearly) all the attention.

The site visit

Here’s where the star recruiter can really make or break things with the spouse.

Consider the needs of the spouse with respect to accommodations, babysitting, and dining!

We had one interview during which the Chairman of the department in which my husband was interviewing insisted that we stay at his home. That was well-intended, but very uncomfortable for us! Furthermore, I had a 4 month old infant at the time, and they asked if we could leave the baby behind so that I could be free to tour the community without being encumbered by an infant. Not wanting to appear to be difficult in any way, we reluctantly agreed, and we suffered through our first painful weekend away from our daughter. Needless to say, we didn’t take that job. Note, by the way, how easily I slip and say “we” didn’t take that job. By contrast, my husband’s current employer put us up in a lovely hotel which offered us a crib, and they asked us if we needed a babysitter to watch our infant in the hotel room while I saw the community. They understood what we needed, and that warm hospitality made all the difference. As a recruiter, I have seen some in-house recruiters work wonders to take care of the spouse and children during a site visit, offering babysitting, leaving a bucket of beach toys and a map to the nearest playground, and making sure that transportation arrived with an appropriatelysized car seat. All these small, thoughtful touches matter to the spouse.

Know who you are dealing with...

It is critical to understand something about what kind of person the spouse is before the site visit, and to make sure the activities planned for the spouse that he or she would definitely enjoy. As a career-minded mom, the worst visits I had were the ones that assumed that my life would revolve around the home, shopping, and lunch with friends. One site visit, obviously wellintentioned, provided me with a house tour, a formal tea with two wives of other physicians in the department, neither of whom were working women, and drive through the beautiful shopping areas. Tea was beautifully done, but I felt like I was in the middle of the Ladies’ Home Journal, and I didn’t fit in at all. By contrast, my husband’s employer had amazing recruiters who not only asked me if I would be looking for a position, but even helped me make some connections which resulted in a job interview during my second site visit. At dinner, we were set up with several other physicians and their spouses, many of whom were also professional women struggling to balance work and family life. Not all of these physicians were even in my husband’s department. The recruiter had thoughtfully put together the guest list! I enjoyed dinner and talk about the challenges of finding good babysitters and daycare, and immediately imagined I would make friends in the group. Just the fact that the recruiters asked whether I would be looking for a position made a huge difference, but helping me to set up a job interview was fantastic. I felt like those recruiters understood what I needed, and I was imagining my future in that community before we even arrived. “We” took the job, of course, even though the financial offer was the lowest of “our” offers.

Closing the deal

As recruiters, we always seek feedback from the candidate about the job, but it is easy to forget to ask the spouse if he or she has any reservations about the job or the community. If the spouse has concerns, he or she will be discussing them with your candidate, so it is important for you to have this information so you can address those concerns head-on. To “close the deal,” you need to recruit both the candidate and the spouse, so be sure to ask the spouse “what can we do to make sure you choose us!”

As we all know... "If Mama is Whining, Your Doctor Ain't Signing!"

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