How to Recognize “Job Spam” from Legitimate Job Offers

How to Recognize “Job Spam” from Legitimate Job Offers was originally published on HospitalRecruiting.

A can of actual spam represents the "job spam" that this article discusses
Cypher789 / CC BY-SA

One of the biggest motivators for getting through the grueling years of residency is the “eye on the prize” notion that it will all pay off in the end. Although the dark nights and long days of residency may seem like they are never-ending, there will come a time when you are a full-fledged attending physician.

For many senior residents, the year-or-so leading up to graduation is a time for completing program requirements and preparing for the next career phase. Those who have attended a conference or managed to get their email into a resident physician database know that this period of time is also when “job spam” starts building up in their inbox.

Physician Recruiting is a Big Industry

Physician recruiting is a huge industry in the US and an important aspect of the job economy in healthcare. Thousands of newly-graduated residents and fellows are in need of positions each year; when considering the thousands also looking to transfer jobs, this adds to huge numbers of job-seekers. Physicians are unique in that they are supremely lacking in time. With demanding call schedules, OR schedules, and MOC obligations, there is insufficient time to narrow down the perfect position and navigate the hiring process alone. Recruiters can help to tailor jobs to someone’s specific skill set, needs, and wants during the job search. For busy medical practices and hospitals, recruiters help to streamline the hiring process, which can be lengthy and requires professionals who are experienced in the hiring process.

Options for Job Seeking Physicians

There are plenty of ways that residents and more experienced MD’s can go about finding jobs that do not require the work of recruiters. For example, some are hired directly by their former departments or sought out through networking. Some join or inherit family practices. However, these methods are less reliable and can be limiting in their scope. Recruiters can help serve as aggregators for a wider variety of positions and over large geographic areas and various practice-types.

There are many differences in the types of medical recruiting that exist in the US. One main difference is between in-house hospital recruiters and independent recruiting agencies. In-house recruiters are employed by hospitals or hospital groups to handle all of the recruiting and hiring for their staff. Third party recruiters are those that work independently and on-demand to connect physicians and practices.

Contingency and Retainer Physician Recruiting Firms

The two main categories of recruiting agencies are Contingency firms and Retainer firms.  Contingency firms are those that are paid upon successful placement of a job-seeker (the fee is always paid by the hiring practice). They work to specifically match a job seeker who has signed on with them to an available position in their armamentarium of available jobs. No fee is paid to the recruiter until jobs are successfully filled, and according to the National Association of Physician Recruiters (NAPR), it is against guidelines to charge candidates for finding them a job. Retainer firms are hired via a longer-term contract by practices, hospitals, or other organizations to serve as their hiring entity to fill any and all job positions that come up during the contracted period of time. They have a more client-centered approach and tend to have more day-to-day involvement in the hiring process. The retainer firms also represent the individuals who are applying and interviewing for the jobs they are representing.

Typically, retainer firms will be those that have a stronger online presence and tend to reach out to graduating residents with more frequency via attending conferences, making presentations, and sending emails and other direct communications. The important thing to remember is that retainer firms are working for the practice/hospital/group that they represent, and therefore will only steer you towards those specific jobs, as opposed to positions across wider geographic areas or according to specific preferences as a contingency firm would.

Positive Signs

Whether you choose to link with a recruiter that has been retained by a specific hiring body, or a recruiter acting as a third-party for a variety of employers, it is important to make sure that you are working with people who have your best interest in mind.

Some tips for knowing how to recognize a reliable recruiting opportunity:

  • References: does the firm have references from past clients that you can access? Are there legitimate testimonials from former job-seekers with regards to their experiences in the job finding and hiring process?
  • Accreditation: Has the recruiting group been evaluated and accredited by a group like NAPR?
  • Contract: Read the details of any contract you are asked to sign very carefully. If you are confined about the wording of a contract or concerned that it may cause you to have legally binding or financially binding obligations to the hiring firm, do not sign.
  • Financial Responsibility: As mentioned, physicians seeking positions should not be asked to fork over cash for any aspect of the hiring process. Groups that ask for a deposit or monetary retainer should not be trusted, as this is a violation of ethics.


Overall, recruiters can be very useful in navigating the job selection and hiring process, especially for newly graduated residents who are unfamiliar with the specificities of this next step. It is important to keep in mind that this is an industry, and to keep informed so as to avoid being taken advantage of along the way.

Further Reading

As a Physician These are the Qualities I Value in a Recruiter

How Can Recruiters Work Better With Physicians?

4 Things I Like About My Recruiter

5 Tips to Choose the Right Healthcare Recruiter

What Emergency Medicine Physicians Want From Recruiters

By HospitalRecruiting
HospitalRecruiting is an online healthcare job board for physicians, advanced practitioners, nurses, and allied health professionals. Visit our site to view current medical practice and employment opportunities or navigate to our Healthcare Career Resources Blog for more great articles like this one!