November 11th, 2013

Is the psychiatrist I am trying to recruit telling me the truth?

It is a simple fact of human nature or mere observation of the affliction that is the human condition: people lie.Therefore, it reasonably follows that psychiatrists you are seeking to recruit could potentially lie to you.

Certainly a lack of truth is not necessarily endemic to psychiatrists being recruited, nor am I saying that it is even very common, but in many situations it is not necessarily in a prospective candidate’s best interest to be completely forthright when going through the interview process.We will examine in this series a number of situations of candidate dishonesty that we have observed over the years as professional psychiatry recruiters and how you can protect against it.

Many candidates pick up a phone and answer an advertisement for employment as an impulse to workplace dissatisfaction. Perhaps the psychiatrist just doesn’t like one of their co-workers or maybe they are unhappy with their work schedule and lack of vacation. Maybe their call schedule is much more hectic now that two of the other psychiatrists have left their organization.

There is a veritable cornucopia of grievances I am presented with everyday that psychiatrists have over their existing practice setting and quite often such grievances are more than enough to justify employment elsewhere. But often as well, such grievances are only sufficient impetus for a psychiatrist to “see what else is out there” and ultimately take the offer of a prospective employer to use as leverage with their existing employer.

This is most common when a candidate’s largest issue with their current employer is financial and they express interest in a location of similar size and demographics as to where they are currently practicing.The reason for this is intuitively obvious… if a psychiatrist who is unhappy with their pay can demonstrate that they can make more in an area of similar size, patient demographics and payer mix then that is a compelling argument for them to be paid more.

So, say an inpatient psychiatrist in Houston wants $20,000 more per year in salary. Is it more persuasive if he is able to demonstrate that a prospective employer in Dallas or the very rural Midwest is willing to give him what he wants? If the physician goes to their existing group with an offer from the latter, the likely response would be, “Yeah, sure the money is better but you have to live in the middle of nowhere,” whereas there is really not an appropriate response other than to capitulate or part ways if the financially aggrieved psychiatrist can show a similar organization in Dallas is willing to pay the additional $20,000.

As an aside, candidates who are doing this can very often have very real intentions of relocating if their existing group does not meet their needs, and often this is how they justify such a tactic. Furthermore, from this perspective it is not altogether an unreasonable approach if the candidate is forthright with all parties involved. That said, I don’t ever want to be a pawn, or at least an unpaid pawn, in someone else’s negotiation strategy, nor do I want any of my clients to be either.

So how do you protect against this? We advise all of our clients to have any candidates who are formally offered a position (as in, given something in writing, be it in the form of a letter of intent or employment contract) sign a non-disclosure agreement that precludes them from sharing the contents of the offer with their employer. Why? Because if the physician in Houston as contemplated above merely alludes to an offer in Dallas, rather than having it outlined in black and white, their argument becomes much less convincing. It’s sort of like the guy who talks about his model girlfriend who lives in Canada but no one has ever seen… she’s considered myth until actually produced. The same goes for offers of employment. So, of course it is best to make it known to all candidates of your intention to have them sign a non-disclosure agreement well before they interview. In fact, if you are using a recruiter, you can weed out anyone looking to use you as leverage by having the recruiter disclose in the first conversation with the candidate that there will be an expectation of an NDA being signed prior to any formal offering being made. Furthermore, as a client of Monroe & Weisbrod, if you like you can blame us for this rigid stance and we will even take on the responsibility for requiring that you have this stipulation because for all intents and purposes we do.

NOTE: The following paragraph is merely layperson advice, resting on the knowledge of NOT AN ATTORNEY but, again, of a layperson.The following should not be construed as legal advice or adequate substitution for the formal legal opinion of a licensed attorney.

Within your non-disclosure agreement presented to a candidate prior to presenting them with a written offer, be sure to include a liquidated damages clause. If you can prove beyond the preponderance of the evidence (51% likely) that a candidate violated the NDA, then a court will find that you are entitled to remedy, however calculation of such damages would be difficult for a judge and that is why a liquidated damages clause is needed, which is basically a pre-agreement between both parties that $XX,XXX amount of dollars is a reasonable calculation of actual damages incurred by the hiring entity in the event of a breach of confidence. More than it’s practical use in court, a liquidated damages clause makes the gravity of the agreement much more real to the disclosed party; they know they are on the line for a pretty penny if they get caught violating the agreement. Furthermore, make sure that it is further specified that such liquidated damages are not punitive in nature, but again, a reasonable and mutually agreed upon figure reflective of actual damages. These two suggestions are applicable in most states, but there is a degree of variance present in some, so always have an attorney review an NDA before presenting it.

If you would like to further discuss this topic in relation to psychiatry recruitment, or if you have any questions at all, please feel welcome to call 512-270-2885 anytime or fill out the contact form in the contact-us page.

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