Ten Questions to Ask Before Signing a Contract

Before signing a contract, there are ten questions for which you will want to find answers. They are:

  1. How many people have been in this job before, who are they, and may I talk to them?
  2. Are there any relatives in the practice? If so what is their scope of duties, and what are the checks and balances for them?
  3. Ask about incoming guarantees, incentive structures, buy-in structures, and especially the long term potential for the position. The income guarantee is not as important as the incentive structure, and the incentive structure is not as important as the buy-in structure, and all of that is not as important as the potential 5 to 10 years down the road.
  4. How are the patients assigned?
  5. Talk to the office staff, ancillary staff, and other members of the medical community about the practice you are thinking of joining.
  6. Do I have any financial obligations if I leave before or at the end of my contract? Who is responsible for the tail coverage?
  7. Know what your academy guidelines are for physician-to-patient population ratios and how that compares to the locations.
  8. If I am on call, what is the probability of being called?
  9. If I am being hired to replace a retiring physician, is the retirement date set in stone? Is the practice under a financial obligation to buy out the retiring physician?
  10. If they are offering more money than anyone else, make sure you know the real reason why.

You have the right to ask questions and receive answers that are satisfactory to you. The answer might be one you do not want to hear, but it should be straightforward and honest.

Three Types of Recruiters

When you are contacted by a recruiter, you are going to be asked for a copy of your CV plus a lot of questions regarding what you are looking for in an opportunity. It is important to know what kind of recruiter you are speaking with so you know what you can or cannot expect from them.

Recruiters come in 3 flavors: in-house, contingency, and retainer.

In-house Recruiters

In-house recruiters only represent the facility or system that they work for. They generally will live in the area they are recruiting for, so they can speak first-hand about what the area has to offer. They will have first-hand knowledge about the practice and medical community. You can expect that they will have the most intimate knowledge about a specific opportunity if you are interested in the area they are representing.

Contingency Recruiters

Contingency recruiters work with multiple listings over a wide or nationwide area. Their information is obtained from phone conversations. They can introduce you to a wide variety of opportunities and locations but they may not know if the opportunity is right for you. Contingency firms are smaller agencies whose business model is based on marketing your CV. Get assurances that your CV will not be sent anywhere without your permission. A good way to do this is to ask a recruiter if they are members of the NAPR whose ethical guidelines prohibit the sending of unsolicited CVs. You can verify membership on the NAPR's website.

Retainer Recruiters

Retainer recruiters have clients that have engaged their agency to recruit for their opportunities. They will have visited the location of the opportunity and will have first-hand knowledge of the area and medical community. Because they are independent brokers, they are best used if there are cumbersome questions that are best directed to a third party or if you need negotiating assistance regarding income guarantees, partnership terms, and buy-in arrangements.

When speaking with any recruiter, it is advisable to ask them a few questions such as, how long they have been in the industry; if they are members of the NAPR; what type of recruiter they are; if they have a reference from someone in your specialty that they placed recently. They know a lot about you, you should know something about them too!

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