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Journal of ASPR - Winter 2014

Understanding the passive jobseeker

Physician shortages are abundant and the number of new physicians entering the workforce is not meeting the demand. Yet, recruiters are still tasked with sourcing quality physicians from a limited pool of candidates.

There are approximately 35,000 newly minted physicians a year. This highly sought after group typically receives many job solicitations due to wide availability of marketing lists. Medical systems with residency and fellowship programs often have the additional advantage of recruiting directly from their trainees. The single largest pool of physician candidates continues to be physicians already in practice, totaling approximately 840,000. However, reaching this very large pool of candidates is complex since the channels of communication can determine success or failure for recruiters.

In order to better understand the job-seeking behavior of employed physicians, NEJM CareerCenter commissioned Digital Research, Inc. (DRI), an independent market research firm, to conduct a blind study of U.S. physicians. Particular attention was given to jobseekers not taking active steps to search for new employment opportunities - the so-called "passive jobseeker.” In an attempt to better understand the nuances of passive jobseekers, the survey sub-divided these jobseekers, estimated their relative proportion among all physician jobseekers, and suggested tactics to reach the passive physician jobseeker. (It should be noted that residents and fellows were not included in this study.)

Physician job-seeking status
As part of DRI’s survey, physician participants were asked to choose only one of the pre-defined categories below to describe their job-seeking behavior (the titles for each group were appended after the survey was completed).

  1. Super Passive - I am completely satisfied in my current job and not interested in new job opportunities.
  2. Explorer - I am not looking for a new job, but would be open to discussing selective opportunities.
  3. Tiptoer - I am thinking about changing jobs, but have only started to network with close associates.
  4. Semi-Active - I am casually looking for a new job, spending some time on job search activities 1–2 days/week or less.
  5. Very Active - I am aggressively looking for a new job, spending some time on job search activities 3 days/week or more.

The vast majority of physicians surveyed were considered passive jobseekers and not actively spending any amount of time looking for a job. While the Super Passives, Explorers and Tiptoers make up the majority of the group at 86 percent, the Explorers and Tiptoers have indicated they are open to discussing job opportunities.

Relatively few physicians are actively seeking employment opportunities
Only 14 percent of physicians are searching job listings, attending job fairs or actively looking for employment. According to the survey results, the two active groups - Very Active and Semi-Active - apply for more jobs, are less satisfied with their current job, and tend to have had short tenures at their prior job. In general, recruiters can easily reach the Very Active and Semi-Active job seekers since they use as many channels to find employment and tend to be over-represented in job board profile databases.

Passive jobseekers are not quite so passive
Although the group of Super Passive physicians (making up 44 percent of the total surveyed) initially said they were not interested in new job opportunities, they also said they would likely click on a job posting that appeared next to clinical content that they were reading while on a journal or association website. For recruiters, tactics are available to reach even the most passive candidates.

Though the majority of physicians are not actively seeking new employment, the survey suggests that most physicians are at least curious about select relevant job opportunities and are open to discussing them. Unfortunately, many passive physician jobseekers are particular about how they are approached with opportunities and unsolicited contact is often not welcomed. To find out when and where these passive job seekers may be open to looking at new opportunities, download a full copy of the white paper at

© 2018 Association of Staff Physician Recruiters (ASPR). All rights reserved.
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