They are terms and fluctuations you see frequently in real estate—a “seller’s” or a “buyer’s” market. This reality holds true in the radiology employment, too. Depending on which market you are in determines how much control you have in contract negotiations.
Right now, the industry is in the middle of a white-hot buyer’s market, and it’s the exact opposite from only five years ago. Today, if you’re a hiring manager, you’re probably keenly aware that filling empty positions has gotten harder over the past year. But, if you’re a candidate, you might feel like you’re holding all the cards.
“Interest in radiology is skyrocketing, but it’s different this go-around,” says Travis Singleton, senior vice president of recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins. “When we saw demand in years past, employers were looking for a jack-of-all-trades—someone who would read all films and span from rural to urban. This spike is much more specialized.”
And, the new-found strength among job seekers that sub-specialization is affecting how practices, groups, and departments search for qualified candidates.
What’s Driving the Job Market?
There are several factors at play that have created a radiology job market with scads of employment opportunities. Like many other specialties, radiology is facing mass retirements. Older providers are expected to leave practice in large numbers within the next three years, Singleton says.
In addition, healthcare reforms and other strategies that have created greater access to care have also spawned the need for a larger cadre of providers to meet all patient needs.
But, the biggest influence—the one making it hardest for hiring managers to fill positions—is the uptick of sub-specialization among new radiology graduates. They’re entering practice with a strong desire to read as heavily as possible in their area of expertise, and they’re less willing to accept jobs that don’t offer that option.
Added together, these market characteristics have created a substantial employment crunch, Singleton says.
“I tell clients that for a decade, when jobs were scarce, they’ve had their pick of the litter. They’ve been able to have their top choice,” he says. “But, now the market is much more candidate driven.”
Finding and Hiring the Best Candidate
So, with all the market changes, how do you find the best qualified candidate? According to Laura DeJesus, a principal recruiter with Medicus Firm, it comes down to the questions you ask—and what questions potential employees ask you. Ultimately, she says, you must enter employment conversations and contract negotiations as openly as possible.
“This process can be straight-forward,” she says. “I tell my clients and potential hires to be transparent about their practice and their desires. You can manage expectations by being transparent, and that’s all anyone ever really wants.”
Asking questions about these topics, as a hiring manager or a candidate, can help you both find the pairing that will best fulfill your needs.
Motivation: Not all job candidates are the same, says Tricia Sickmann, vice president of human resources and medical services for vRad, a teleradiology provider. Some are sincere about seeking employment with your group. Others might be simply exploring what opportunities are available without a strong desire to make a real change.
“Find out what the person is looking for. What’s important to them in a practice, and why are they talking to you,” she says. “Are they interested in things specific to you? That way you can see if they’re truly interested in your group or if they’re just seeing what’s out there.”
Scheduling and Qualify of Life: Unlike years past, when jobs were few and candidates were plentiful, salary no longer drives most hiring decisions. Instead, the majority of today’s job seekers are more interested in finding a position that meets their work-life balance.
“The question used to be where is the job and how much does it pay?” Singleton says. “Now, it’s where is the job, and what’s the vacation package?”
To find that right fit, he says, have a conversation about the job’s schedule and how the potential employee would like to work. Do they want to be part-time or work from home? What length of shift are they willing to work?
Scope of Practice: This is where sub-specialization becomes a bigger issue, DeJesus says. Fewer and fewer candidates are interested in being primarily a general radiologist. They’d like to spend as much of their practice time as possible using their in-depth education.
“Radiologists are going on to do fellowships, and they want to be able to use that sub-specialty training,” she says. “They don’t want to cross-pollinate with doing everything.”
Find out what percentage of practice time your candidate aspires to devote to sub-specialty reads, as well as how flexible he or she is with including your more general studies. Depending upon your practice, would he or she be comfortable with 20 percent, 40 percent, or 50 percent general radiology?
Familiarity with Technology: This question pops up most frequently with teleradiology positions, Singleton says. Whether you’re a large or small practice, you need radiologists who have a working familiarity with the technology you use.
“Radiologists have to be able to hit the ground running with quality reporting using your technology,” he says. “Every radiologist thinks they can do it, but a strenuous screening process can help you determine who can work with it most efficiently.”
In some cases, practices offer technology training. For example, Sickmann says, vRad provides extensive guidance on its teleradiology technology. New hires are paired with with another radiologist in the practice who functions as a radiology adviser. The adviser meets with the new hire monthly for up to six months to ensure he or she learns how to best work with the system.
While asking and answering questions during an interview can give you a great sense of which candidates are most suited for your open job, it can also alert you to potential bad fits for your practice.
Listen for the negatives during the conversation, DeJesus says. If a candidate mentions too many things he or she won’t do, pay attention. If they balk at the daily number of reads you require, saying they’d like to do less, and the workload is moderate, they might not be suited for the position. Declining to do procedures, stringently limiting on-call hours, and refusing to work outside a sub-specialty can also indicate a mismatch.
“When they start giving out signs that they’re not a team player, it’s tough to make the hire,” she says. “At that point, they’re not going to be a help to the organization.”
Ultimately, Sickmann says, even though you’re embroiled in the stressful task of finding the best applicant, don’t forget job hunting is tough for the potential hire, as well. Do what you can to make the process as comfortable and enjoyable for all involved in the most expedient way possible.
“You need to make the candidate feel special. It’s not easy to interview for a job,” Sickmann says. “Make sure you take the time to answer their questions and be responsive to them. And, if it’s not going to work out, let them know it won’t be a good fit, and tell them why. Don’t drag it all out too long.”