By Martin Machtan, Broker, Renew Realty
In our first installment of this series on the importance of the community tour, we focused on how physician recruitment professionals could leverage their efforts through great community tours. The central message of the first article was to show that, if we can go out of our way to make our candidates feel at home, recruitment efforts will be dramatically more successful.
The purpose of this second article is to show how the process of the community tour is designed to help the candidate feel comfortable and engaged and allow the physician recruiter to be even more effective. To put our process in context, we operate in Marshfield, Wisconsin, at the central campus for Marshfield Clinic. Our city has an approximate population of 19,000 – 20,000 people and our local population could be considered closer to 35,000 – 40,000 if you factor in all of the smaller surrounding communities.
Initial communication with candidates is designed to:
- Find some ground upon which to build rapport,
- Take uncertainty out of the process, and
- Obtain a sense of how we can tailor the experience for the candidate.
When the physician recruitment department first contacts us, we learn the identity of the candidate, their current location, their specialty and if there is another decision maker accompanying them on their visit. We also learn whether, how and when we can contact the candidate. When possible, we are also given information regarding critical interests for the candidate and his/her family, such as schools, hobbies, spousal employment, cultural needs, etc. Our physician recruitment department does a transcendent job of developing rapport, which makes our job as tour guides significantly easier.
When we call or email the candidate (provided that is acceptable) we let them know that we are real estate brokers, but that we are not selling anything other than the community and the clinic. Most people are averse to dealing with sales people and we want to remove any fear of pressure or discomfort involved in the process. From the standpoint of the physician recruitment department, this is crucial. This focus for the candidate is information gathering – imparting information is the goal of the tour.
In our initial conversation with the candidate, we mention that our tour normally focuses on recreational opportunities, schools, neighborhoods and cultural amenities, but that we can tailor it any way they would like. We then ask if they have anything on which they would like to place particular focus or any specific interests. Sometimes we learn that a special resource would be helpful, such as a translator for a spouse who does not understand English well. We always do our best to procure the necessary resources.
One example of this was a family in which the spouse was not extremely comfortable speaking or understanding English; therefore, we found someone who spoke Mandarin (their native tongue) to accompany us. The translator served as an excellent resource and also accompanied the spouse on the school tours. This dramatically increased the comfort level for the family, particularly the spouse. The family joined the clinic and continued to integrate well into the community – partially because we were able to make this connection for them.
Finally, we confirm the time, place of pick-up, and wish the candidate safe travels. In this initial communication, we always try to exude warmth to let the candidate know what they will be getting, and to show that we want to honor their interests.
The community tour
During the community tour our central aims are:
- Provide an accurate, generally positive picture of the community,
- Allow the candidate to picture him/herself living here and
- Develop any information that may be helpful in the recruitment process.
We start every tour asking the candidate, and anyone accompanying them, how their travels or interviews have gone so far and if they need anything to eat or drink. We tell them we can do a very brief tour, or none at all, if they can already tell that this might not be a good fit for them (only two candidates have taken us up on this, but it saved the candidate and physician recruitment professional a decent amount of time). We also tell them that some people have kept us engaged for three and a half hours or more, but that a typical tour is an hour and a half to two hours. We let them know that this is their tour and they can ask us to do more or less at any time.
Essentially, the tour consists of showing candidates what interests them the most. We have had recent, relatively standard tours where we have driven around and shown candidates neighborhoods, schools, parks and small music venues. We have also had a recent tour where we stopped at a robotic dairy, ate some Amish-baked pie and petted baby chicks (this one was for the candidate’s children, though we have met some physicians who are keenly interested in chickens!)
Sometimes candidates have questions that we cannot immediately answer. Interesting questions have included asking where certain types of ethnic food could be found and where a spouse might find employment. We always make note of these questions and followup.
We close our tour by asking candidates if there is anything else they would like to see and if they have any questions. We express that we know they could go anywhere in the world and are honored that they are considering our community and our clinic. We give them a small gift, usually coffee (roasting coffee is a hobby of ours), and sometimes herbal tea or local cheese. We invite them to call us if they have any questions or concerns. The ideal is to leave the candidate with a sense that our community is much safer, warmer and brimming with possibility than they had imagined.
Post community tour communication
We have found that one of the most valuable parts of the community tour is the communication and action that occurs afterward. One critical part of that communication is the exchange we have with the physician recruiter responsible for the candidate.
Promptly after the tour, we call the recruiter, answer any questions they have and compare notes regarding our experiences with the candidate. If a candidate is especially positive about some aspect of the clinic, the community or the position, we do our best to quickly let the recruiter know. Resources are limited, so it is often much easier to focus on the most likely prospects.
Sometimes candidates raise specific objections that we can effectively address if we know about them. A great example of this is when a candidate says something like, “I think I would love it here, but I don’t think my spouse could find work as (fill in the blank).” In those cases, we reach out to our contacts in the applicable field and set up a meeting to discuss what the professional possibilities look like in our area.
We often communicate with the candidate post-tour as well. One of the reasons we like to give some sort of edible gift is that it gives us an elegant reason to follow-up with the candidate. If we learn anything, we can share the information with physician recruitment and that can help recruitment in its process. We also call candidates to answer questions such as the ones above that we had to take the time to research. These post-tour calls, in our opinion, show that we care and provide a higher level of professionalism.
In closing, our goal is that the entire community tour process is both comfortable and helpful to the candidate. Our communication is designed to show candidates that we care and to help recruiters have better information upon which to act. Our community and clinic may not be the best fit for everyone. Still, we have had some candidates who may not have given us a second look; but better tours, a thoughtful process and great communication have allowed them to come here and thrive.