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How to build lasting relationships with outside recruitment firms – Summer 2014
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By Bruce Guyant, Regional Director of Physician Recruiting, LifePoint Hospitals

Bruce GuyantMost of us have, at one time or another, used outside recruitment firms to assist with a hard-to-fill search. Using recruitment firms is an important tool in the proverbial recruitment tool box for sourcing prospective candidates. How you initiate your relationships with recruitment firms, however, can make a big difference in the long term success of the collaboration. It is critical to set expectations early and ensure that you and the recruitment firm are compatible, both stylistically and philosophically.

Prior to my current role as an in-house physician recruiter, I worked for a recruitment firm. During that time, I encountered a few challenges with some of the clients I supported. The challenges included inconsistency, lack of communication, lack of critical and timely information, and poor or little follow up. When I began working with clients, I needed to know exactly what it was they were looking for in order to help them fill a position. Sometimes I was fortunate enough to get basic information; however, when it came to getting a clear job description and information about their requirements, I was often left in the dark. Many clients were hesitant to share concrete information. When I inquired about processes - who was going to do what, how I could best support them, when to check in, and what to tell candidates - many had no idea what to tell me.

It became apparent that I needed a clearly delineated, comprehensive “vendor guide.” I wanted to know what the expectations of me were. I needed more information to know what to do, who to go to, how to start, the process of becoming an approved vendor with the client, and so forth. I set out to create a document that both I, and the in-house physician recruiters I worked with, could use together.

Now that I’m in-house physician recruiter, I approach the relationship with recruitment firms with a different perspective and treat it as if preparing to marry. If you want meaningful, productive, and long lasting relationships with recruitment firms, you must be consistent in your dealings and you must work together to create a collaborative partnership. This process will not work if it is one-sided.

When I begin building a working relationship with a recruitment firm, I first take the focus off my openings and instead focus on building the foundation for a lasting relationship. No matter how good the firm’s candidates may be, if the recruiter is not a good “fit” for me, then the candidates don’t matter. To some, this may seem like stepping over dollars to pick up pennies and perhaps, it is; however, if there is not a good fit it simply won’t work.

I focus on evaluating the recruiter and his or her firm by providing them with a plethora of critical information and my vendor guide, so they can evaluate me. Though this may seem a bit counterintuitive, my screening process is done by the recruitment firm versus the other way around. Through this process, recruitment firms are immediately able to get oriented to me and how I like to work. The vendor guide represents a collection of established protocols and rules of engagement for both parties. Adhering to my vendor guide allows them to navigate the waters and save time, energy and effort. Once they have reviewed my “proposal,” I ask them to let me know if they would still like to work together. The decision to start “dating” the recruitment firm is made once they tell me they are comfortable with my rules of engagement and are able to commit to what I have outlined in my vendor guide.

Through this process, I have established clear expectations and open communication. Because of the framework I’ve set, recruitment firms are not only agreeable to my standards, but are appreciative of setting expectations ahead of time. The next time you start evaluating a recruitment firm, let your process be your guide. It can make all the difference in your relationship and in your results.

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