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Journal of ASPR - Winter 2013 - Preparation: Key to effective sourcing strategy
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Preparation: Key to effective sourcing strategy

By Allison McCarthy, Principal, Barlow/McCarthy, Plymouth, MA

As recruiters, we have a natural tendency to jump into action as soon as we receive a search request. Our “can do” spirit is a gift that at times, needs to be tamed in order to think and plan.

To successfully recruit, we have to find the “select few,” the candidates who will fit our practice offering. To do this, we develop a prospect pool that represents those who are interested in what we have to offer and most likely meet our search criteria.

Our “sourcing” strategy determines how effectively we reach those target prospects. To ensure we are spending the organization’s resources wisely, we must consider the “reach” potential of each sourcing tool and select those most likely to yield the best results.

Defining the practice opportunity

A tactical sourcing strategy begins with the “who,” “what,” and “why,” as a precursor to the “how.” It requires a “clear picture” of the opportunity so as to characterize the right prospects for the position. This means uncovering enough of the relevant details to understand who the desired physicians are and what they will require. Yes, it might delay the search launch and create some internal angst about responsiveness, but changing the process should yield better results. Knowing who you are going after, why you are going after them, and what you have to offer means you will have:

  • a target pool that is tighter,
  • marketing messages that are more distinct,
  • offerings that are more aligned with who you want to attract,
  • a more focused sourcing plan,
  • a more clear selection process, and
  • a more effective search effort overall.

Needs and offerings alignment

As we gather input about the opportunity, we often uncover some alignment gaps, meaning the practice offering and candidate criteria are not well matched. Either the practice features need to be enhanced to more effectively attract the desired physician candidate, or the candidate criteria has to be modified to better fit the search offerings. If the organization is not ready to make those adjustments prior to the search launch, then your initial sourcing strategies may need to include tactics where those suspicions can be confirmed and market intelligence can be internally presented.

Prioritizing sourcing options

Some sourcing resources reach certain groups of physicians better than others — such as the ability of recruitment databases to reach residents/fellows. There are also resources that are more proactive (telephone calls) than reactive (direct mail). A good sourcing approach incorporates both proactive (push) and reactive (pull) resources. While push/pull tools both solicit leads, the proactive approach adds the extra benefit of market-testing the opportunity with desired targets.

No tool is categorically good or bad. It is more about recognizing which ones are more likely to achieve both “reach” and “push/pull” balance. For each unique search, rank order the sourcing tactics — from most likely to least likely “fit.” With this rank ordering in place, select as many tools as possible within your budget parameters. Or, you can gradually roll out a few resources at a time to see if the initial tools generate enough candidates where the latter tools are not needed.


Good planning discipline shifts us away from “cookie cutter” approaches. When we set aside time to really learn the unique attributes of the practice opportunity, as well as what the new physician is expected to deliver to the organization and the community, we bring a rational argument to our sourcing plan. We also further demonstrate respect for the organization’s limited funds by putting the right resources into the right efforts. When this approach becomes the “way we work,” we gain greater confidence in ourselves and increased credibility with others. Golf legend Fred Couples said it best, “When you’re prepared, you’re more confident. When you have a strategy, you’re more comfortable.”

Journal of ASPR - Winter 2013

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