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Physician Negotiations: Money Isn't Everything

Employers often make the mistake of assuming all physicians are motivated by money - that they can name their price and some practice will meet it. But compensation isn’t the only bargaining chip employers have and it’s important to keep your offer nimble and focus on what makes your ideal candidate tick.

In our experience, we’ve found that physicians most often fall into one of these primary motivator categories: flexibility, advancement, benefits, and compensation.

Particularly for new physicians, there has been a clear trend in desire for work/life balance. Gone are the days where physicians assumed they’d work 80-100 hours per week. It’s typically easy to tell if a physician is motivated by schedule. Explore this and see how you can make your offer, regardless of salary, more attractive by offering as much flexibility as you can. We recently worked with a physician who wanted to join a family practice, but their hours started at 8:00am when her children went to school. By adjusting her start time to 8:30am, she was able to consider the opportunity and this practice edged out its competitors, who weren’t willing to make that adjustment. Be creative and flexible, and you’ll see that a little bit can go a long way.

Often times, smaller practices can’t compete with large healthcare systems in terms of salary. But they can highlight their ability to provide opportunities, whether that be learning a new skill, supervising mid-levels, or becoming a partner in the group. While large systems appear to offer more advancement, most physicians quickly find there are too many people competing for a limited number of positions. Add that to the abundant red tape and bureaucracy, and the idea of being a big fish in a small pond becomes very appealing. When you speak with a physician, make sure to ask what motivates them and where they hope to be in 3, 5, or 10 years. Then show them how you can offer fulfilling employment.

Non-cash benefits are an important component for many physician job-seekers. Whenever possible, it’s best to keep your employment package flexible, so that you can respond to each physician’s needs. Some candidates won’t care so much about a CME allowance, but will highly value a generous vacation allotment. Some get excited about perks like a cell phone or iPad. Be aware of the questions they ask to figure out what’s important to them and respond accordingly.

And don’t get us wrong - for plenty of physicians, money does talk. You’ll find out pretty early on if you’re working with a money-motivated physician. They typically ask lots of questions about compensation, both now and for the future, as well as bonuses and other financial factors. For these candidates, it’s usually an “it is what it is” situation and your best bet is to be transparent about your salary range and ask them what their financial goals are - then do your best to show them how you can get them there (or as close as possible).

Our last piece of advice is to be open to candidates who seem too good to be true. Sometimes a physician’s experience may seem too big for the job at hand or they’re willing to take a salary cut that doesn’t make sense. Dig in and make sure there aren’t any skeletons in the closet - but if you don’t find any, be excited that you might have a great fit who’s only motivated by a desire to help others and work in the field of their choice! This does happen - so make sure to identify them and don’t let them get away.

Regardless of which motivators you find your candidate working with, stay as flexible as you possibly can to responding to them, and you’ll give yourself the best odds of getting your first-choice candidate.