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Recruiting for fit and engagement – Spring 2014
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By Michael Griffin, Allina Health System, Minneapolis, Minn. physician recruitment professionals, it is vital that we know specific details about our organization and its culture. More importantly, we must familiarize ourselves with the particular department/team a physician is joining in order to determine if the pairing will be a perfect fit. ASPR’s Physician Recruitment 101 Module reviews, in detail, the physician candidate screening process, which includes gathering comprehensive information about the candidate, their work habits, philosophies, and personal/professional interests. Based on this information, recruiters determine if a candidate is a match for the organization and department.

For the most part, the “standard” physician recruitment model matches skills and credentials with technical requirements. We do our best, through screening and behavioral interviewing, to find the most qualified candidate for the job. Getting them there, however, doesn’t guarantee a future in which the candidate will be passionate or committed to the organization, its culture or its brand. Sometimes hard-won candidates are just another expensive retention statistic. The question remains: How do we find physicians that we know will be engaged?

I had the pleasure of speaking with Danny Gutknecht, author of “Essence – The Secret to Engagement for Winning Cultures.” This book is based on years of research, and includes collaboration with researchers at Stanford and Arizona State University, plus videotaped interviews with more than 7,000 professionals and 4,000 physicians/providers. Through this process, Gutknecht procured a large amount of data both in and outside of health care. In his book, Gutknecht provides insight on engagement and how it relates to A.H. Maslow’s hierarchy of self-actualization.

After speaking with Gutknecht, I learned that typical job advertisements are tailored to appeal to our basic needs, such as safety and predictability. However, most practicing professionals – and many new graduates – seek personal fulfillment. Find ways to showcase belonging, esteem, autonomy and creativity in your ads in order to fulfill the needs of your candidates.
Essence mining, essence recruiting

Pathways TV developed a framework and methodology to help organizations understand and leverage their culture to recruit better – “Essence Mining.” With “Essence Mining,” a series of proven, scientifically based physician interviews are used to promote the organization. The videos are very personal and delve into the values and passions of the physician and get at the reason they joined the organization. This invariably reveals the shared, underlying themes that express the true—usually unspoken—essence of that organization.

At HealthEast, we wanted to do something innovative yet authentic with our job marketing. Something that would attract candidates to the special virtues we had to offer. My team of recruiters, however, was so busy screening and setting up site visits, we did not have time to step back and take on an essence video project; therefore, I decided to hire PathwaysTV to help us. Though I was a bit skeptical, it turned into so much more than we could have expected.

My ASPR colleague Lynne Peterson, Director of Physician and Advanced Practice Recruitment for Fairview Health Services in Minneapolis, MN said, “I knew what we were about, but I didn’t know how excited people were about it.” Watching the videos of her colleagues talking about Fairview, Peterson re-called, “I learned a whole new level of passion...I was even more proud of the work we were doing. People talk about primary care as a dead art, that people are disenchanted, but this was a very different message. I want everyone to see these videos.”

During her video interview, one young physician talked about a day when she was frustrated because she had a frantic schedule and one of her patients showed up late. She declared she was too busy and couldn’t see the patient. A senior level doctor took her aside and said, “You will be happy to see that patient. You have no idea what it took that patient to get here to see you. They are people who have lives, too.” The new physician now had the perspective it was no longer about her schedule and said, “That is how in-tune the physicians of Fairview are with their patients.”
Peterson said, “There might be doctors, who will see the video with that story and decide ‘That’s where I want to work.’ There might be other doctors who think ‘Whoa, I don’t want anyone telling me how to run my schedule.’ If that’s the case, then don’t come here. If we send the wrong messages, we’re going to get the wrong people.”

When a physician sees something that connects with his or her essence, that physician will come knocking – saving the company both money and time. Two different organizations may be able to compete on salary and benefits, even geography. But when it comes to connecting with an individual about his or her philosophy and convictions about what a practice should be, there’s no competition.

Once a company knows how to describe its essence in order to draw the kind of physicians who want to be there, there are many ways to get the message out. Social media is a popular one. The “Essence Mining” videos are effective because, as Peterson said, “You can see people exhibiting authentic excitement. Nothing is scripted.”

Joan Kilmartin, Director of Physician Recruitment at John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona has been recruiting for 23 years and has seen her fair share of sourcing and recruiting methods. Kilmartin shared her insight on PathwaysTV, “The Internet is the way people interact these days. Using the PathwaysTV software for recruiting speeds up the process considerably. It’s much more efficient than traditional models.”

Now, Kilmartin may place an ad on the Pulmonary Journal web job board featuring an embedded video of the pulmonologist who is recruiting for an associate. The candidate then has the opportunity to watch the video of not only the pulmonologist speaking about his practice, culture and relationship with the hospital, but those of administrators, nurses and medical directors who share the same culture. Metric tools track how many videos the candidate watched and how many times they watched them. Then, the candidate has an opportunity to click through and express interest in the position.

“Say you’re doing a project looking for a primary care physician and you show them the video and have them hearing the information right from the doctors in the ACO. Nobody else is doing that. If I was a physician deciding whether to sell a practice or not, it would be nice to hear what the organization is about without having to call the doctor and make an appointment. This takes that first step out of it and puts everything out there in the beginning. People who contact me from the videos are hot leads! The best thing is that the C-suite is looking for someone who is going to buy into their culture, not someone who wants to change it or has no interest in it. This is the type of candidate we uncover through these videos,” Kilmartin said.

Cynthia Forsyth, a Network Physician Recruiter for Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa, recruits physicians for 15 affiliate hospitals located in Central Iowa. She conducted a SWOT analysis comparing traditional rural recruitment efforts versus “Essence Mining” and estimates the network saved more than $700,000 in the last two years. Forsyth explained “I knew we needed to combat the misconceptions of rural practice. The general sourcing strategies of databases, ads, lists and career fairs did not give us the results needed. We wanted to showcase that we were innovative and offered a lucrative and rewarding career path – a best kept secret providing the true work/life balance physicians seek. I have always been a value-based recruiter who can benchmark a candidate within a conversation, but these videos helped me provide a clear, consistent and concise message that makes me look like an adviser of choice while changing the perception of my organization. This arrangement of high level and carefully created videos can visually benchmark intangible core values and organizational mission.”

My personal recruitment story using essence videos at HealthEast was with an endocrinologist candidate engaged in a national search. She looked at many opportunities before reviewing our practice and with her seven years’ experience and accomplished career; she knew exactly what she wanted. When she watched the videos of our three endocrinologists telling their story, she said she absolutely resonated with their approach and philosophy and she knew even before she met them in person that it was the practice for her. It made the rest of the site visit preparations and conversations much easier and we could talk on a deeper level during her time with us. She and her family are still very happy in St. Paul!

By engaging in a process such as “Essence Mining,” you are able to uncover key insights about what really makes the team tick. This adds value to the process and builds your credibility as an innovator in the recruitment process. Too frequently, candidates are treated like commodities – but they’re not. The opportunities offered to them go far beyond plugging a commodity into a job. If you market the essence of your organization and share it through technology (video/ software), you move from “recruiter speak” to the distribution of your best qualities.


Special thanks to contributing author, Danny Gutknecht, CEO and co-founder of Pathways, Phoenix, Arizona, a technology company that helps businesses uncover and communicate “Essence” for deeper engagement and more effective talent acquisition. Gutknecht is the author of “Essence – The Secret to Engagement for Winning Cultures.’’

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