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American Academy of Emergency Medicine

Bemoaning the eHarmony Mentality of Job Applicants

We've all seen the ads. You know, the dating site that strives to pair you with the perfect mate based on "29 dimensions of compatibility." It seems like there are a lot of matching services out there and not just for dating. A few clicks and setting of parameters and you can find the perfect hotel, the perfect travel itinerary and the perfect car. Does the same apply to the perfect job?

I've been very fortunate to have the opportunity to lead a group of physicians at a once small, but now much larger, community hospital in Texas. Our group has grown with the hospital and we've even added on a sister hospitalist group to help expand our services and improve patient flow on the inpatient side. Our two groups employ just under 30 full and part-time physicians. But as with most groups in our area we continue to expand and could stand to add a few more docs.

I've placed recruiting ads online with some success but of late have been seeing a somewhat disturbing trend with our applicants.  Or maybe I should say with our applicants' spouses. Yes, I said spouses. It first started with our hospitalists when we formed that group about 4 years ago. I interviewed an internist who wanted to bring her husband along. I thought this was a little odd but we were meeting at a restaurant offsite, he was a nice guy, and I recognize that this can be a family decision so why not?  And maybe this was one of those "medicine" things we ER doctors don't quite understand. My wife is triple-boarded in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care so I recognize some quirks exist across specialties.

But then we started getting calls from spouses making initial contact and screening positions based on what they could glean from our practice manager over the phone. And then it happened. The phenomenon crossed over to the ER side. What began as husbands tagging along for lunch, then husbands calling about jobs (and yes, it's almost always the husbands), a wife called about a job for her ER spouse.  And she was very aggressive. We provided some basic information and I politely declined to do a phone interview with the wife, offering instead an interview with the candidate himself. Not only did she decline on her husband's behalf, but she wrote a lengthy nastygram to my practice manager saying that unless they knew the "hourly expectations, volume, compensation, benefits and so on" upfront then "we can't know whether it's a good fit for us" and "we can't commit to spending the day on an interview" without this information.

Not once did I ever have any direct contact with the candidate.

Call me old fashioned, and I may very well be, but it seems to me that the natural sequence of events is that you identify a job opening, you make some general inquiries, then you interview for the job and gather the bulk of your information during the interview. Maybe some follow up questions or clarifications thereafter but most of what you would learn about the job would happen onsite where you get an opportunity to see and meet people, tour the facility, watch doctors and staff in action, etc. Try to get a feel for the place firsthand.

Now, I recognize some applicants live a long way away. It's a big state, much less a big country. Many applicants are residents with limited resources. We've all been there. As much as I am not a fan of the telephone interview, we've relaxed our approach a little bit and have been more accommodating. Several of our physicians have volunteered to talk with prospective candidates by phone. We've even utilized newer technologies and have had a few FaceTime chats.

But the candidate I never met and whose wife dismissed us outright, sight unseen? He lives 55 miles away from our hospital. I Googled it.  Fifty-five miles! Even with traffic would it be such a burden to come out for a face-to-face?

I regret that there is such a push to extract as much information as possible without an interview and to gauge agreeableness with the "29 dimensions of compatibility" that candidates and employers alike are missing out on opportunity for a meaningful in-person interaction.

-Patrick Woods, MD, MBA, FAAEM

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