Locum recruiters generally have a bad reputation amongst physicians. Any doc who has worked locums can tell you a recruiter horror story. Maybe a recruiter left out important details about a site and you end up in a terrible location completely different than what you signed up for. Or they sent your CV to several hospitals without your permission so they could have dibs on you if you ever decided to work at those sites. Not cool.
This is not meant to paint every locum company or recruiter as a snake. However, you should be aware of how their business model is structured and how they make money. For my first gig, as I later learned, I was grossly underpaid because I didn’t know to ask for a higher rate. I just went with the rate they were offering and found later this was way below market value in the area. Someone made a lot of money off me but it was my fault. Newbie mistake.
Recruiters get paid by commission. This means the higher the company can bill a client, and the lower the rate the doc agrees to, the more the recruiter gets paid. This is usually their goal: maximize bill rate, pay the lowest amount possible to the doc. Nobody cares about the doctor or what is fair to them. Everyone is trying to make premium bucks off us…everyone.
When speaking to a recruiter, it is important to be forward, but of course, respectful. Be clear about what you want and what you do not want. You do not have to budge on anything. Remember, they work for you, you do not work for them; they only get paid if you work for them. Having a good, cordial relationship with a recruiter, however, goes a long way. If they like you, they will give you preferential treatment. How? You get on their favorite doc list and you will be given priority for their top paying gigs. This is a great place to be and you should strive to develop such a relationship with your recruiter.
What if you don’t like your recruiter? The best way to find a great recruiter is to ask a friend working locums for their recruiter’s contact info and contact them directly. Or call a different company altogether.
Questions To Ask Your Recruiter
These will vary depending on your specialty, but the following questions should be asked regardless:
- Pay rate
- For specialties involving call: what is the base rate, what is the call rate for when I’m called in or performing surgery/procedure
- Is there a night differential
- Why is there a need at this site?
- How long is the need for?
- Where is the closest airport (if flying in)
- Most locum companies cover malpractice and travel, but always good to confirm this
Again, you will need to ask specialty specific questions to ensure you are getting the information you need to make the right decision. For example, as an Emergency Medicine doc, I always ask about the annual ED volume, patients per shifts docs are seeing on average, and the amount of coverage each day, both physician and PA/NP. This gives me a sense of how busy it is going to be and how much support I have walking in. I will post some specialty specific questions you should be asking in a subsequent post.
Remember, a great recruiter will be a huge asset in finding the right gig as they will get to know exactly what you are looking for and give you priority. In a separate blog post I will discuss what makes a great recruiter so you know what qualities to look for in one. Cheers!