In a job market where physical therapists are bombarded with cold emails, direct messages, and connection requests, you can stand out from the crowd with the right approach to attract the best PT candidates. And then, after an amazing round of interviews, land your dream candidates with a signed offer letter so you can join forces to improve the lives of patients.
Every step of the way, it’s important to be thoughtful and intentional about the direct and indirect messages you are sending to applicants. This will impact the overall impression you give about your clinic. Below you will find some tips for how to put your best foot forward at every stage in the recruitment process, and help your clinic stand out as an opportunity they won’t want to pass up!
Pre-interview and recruitment process do’s and don’ts
Before candidates even make it to the interview process, they are forming opinions about your clinic based on recruitment efforts as well as job postings. For example, consider how long the same job posting remains active on various job boards. Just like a house for sale that sits too long on the market, people may start to wonder what is “wrong” with the clinic that has not filled a position or that seems to frequently have multiple positions available. Once you have your job posting details and catchy verbiage figured out, here are some key do’s and don’ts for the recruitment process:
- Personalize direct messages you send through any platforms or email. Tailoring it to them will let them know that you read their profile and did some research about their background and what they may be looking for in a physical therapy career.
- Make sure you do your research! You can search keywords in various platforms to find candidates that may be a good fit for your clinic. But find out more about each potential candidate and what they may be looking for (i.e. mentorship, leadership, clinical specialization, etc.). This will help you structure the interview and job offers.
- Think twice before sending a mass cold email to every licensed physical therapist in the state. Sure, you can easily obtain their name, address, and email to send them messages and recruiting materials, but consider what indirect message that sends to the recipient. In some instances, this type of campaign may make sense, however be mindful of the impression it may give to the recipient.
- Don’t be purposefully vague or misleading with your clinic location or any other important details, especially in the job posting. If you’re located in a more rural setting for instance, it may be challenging to find candidates. But being upfront about the location of the position (as well as relocation bonuses or other incentives) will go a long way in building trust and enthusiasm about a potential opportunity.
- Don’t continue to reach out after they have indicated they are not interested unless you have asked permission to follow up with them in the future.
During the interview
Once you have some stellar candidates selected to interview, it is essential to structure the interview process in a professional manner to communicate all of the amazing things about your clinic and the full scope of the role. Ensure that the interviews are professionally laid out and accommodate the candidates’ schedules and potential other interviews or conflicts. Remember, physical therapists are interviewing YOU and your clinic just as much as you are interviewing them.
Before the day of the interview, ensure the applicants have a clear, high-level understanding of the process. For instance, will there be multiple rounds of interviews? Will there be a group interview? A group interview is a great way to get to know a candidate better as well as for them to meet some potential future coworkers and see how they may fit in with the clinic. An initial interview with a clinic manager/director is a good way to start in order to ease into the process. Jumping directly into a group interview can feel intimidating and overwhelming to some people. In addition, allowing a day or two for the clinician to shadow another physical therapist at one or more clinics is another way to set your clinic apart and really provide the potential candidate with a feel for the work environment.
For the actual interview itself, make sure to be an active listener during conversations and ensure your tone of voice reflects how you want to represent your clinic. Try keeping your voice warm, limit note-taking, and maintain good eye contact to keep them interested and avoid sounding bored or appearing disinterested in what they are saying. Make sure you have quality questions that reflect what you would like to learn about a candidate and how they would fit in with your clinic. You can try searching the internet for inspiration, but edit and tailor the questions or it may sound too scripted. And don’t forget to allow ample time for the physical therapist to ask questions as well! Just make sure you’re prepared for the types of questions they may ask so you can present your clinic with confidence.
While it is important to ask questions to get to know potential therapists better, it is essential to ensure you communicate clinic benefits, professional growth/leadership opportunities, and continuing education or clinical specializations (i.e. manual therapy, fellowship, orthopedic clinical specialist, etc.) that you support. This is where doing your research and being an active listener will set you apart. Imagine you have a candidate who is interested in an orthopedic specialization, for example. You could help them feel excited about your clinic by letting them know how you can support this goal. Whether it is through mentorship with another therapist with this specialization, additional continuing education stipend, or even a lighter work schedule while they are studying – understanding what therapists need to feel supported and successful will leave a lasting impression.
After the interview
You have found your dream therapist! Now what? Have some flexibility in your offer for the right candidates. This could mean flexibility with respect to pay, timelines for starting, or helping to mitigate any other potential conflicts or hesitations. Most therapists will need to provide 30 days’ notice to their current employer to smoothly transition their patients’ current plan of care. While not always possible for reasons outside of their control, this is a fairly common timeframe.
Structuring and communicating an offer could include salary and benefits, paid time off, continuing education reimbursement, and professional membership dues. The most important part is to make sure your offer is competitive with the local market and provides a clear runway for growth within your clinic. Although not totally uncommon, some clinics may decide to have a clinician sign a non-compete agreement as part of their acceptance of their offer. Be sure to reflect on whether this feels necessary for your clinic, and to consult with legal counsel for advice as needed. Notifying the candidate with your offer of employment is probably best done via a phone call. This adds a personal touch to share your excitement for bringing them onboard. Follow up with the written offer and greater details by email.
Allow a candidate an agreed-upon time to consider the offer before giving their answer. Candidates may not respond to your offer immediately for a number of reasons; they may be interviewing at other places, nervous about discussing compensation/benefits, or still considering how they would fit with your clinic. Timely follow-up allows you to answer any questions they have, discuss a different timeline if needed, and help them make the most informed decision.
With all that said, once your candidate has accepted an offer, it is essential to send an email/message to notify and thank all of the other candidates who were not selected. Acknowledge their time spent interviewing and their job search efforts. This communication and appreciation will go a long way in placing your clinic in a positive light for current and future prospective hires. Not only are you maintaining good karma, but transparent and timely communication is just the right thing to do to wrap up the entire recruitment process for everyone.
Once your new physical therapist has started with your clinic, make sure to continuously deliver on all of the promises during the interview. This will ensure their enthusiasm and engagement lasts. To recap how to invest both monetarily and non-monetarily in your physical therapists:
- Provide market rate or above-market compensation
- Offer true mentorship opportunities
- Promote work-life balance and a supportive work environment
- Foster learning and growth with continuing education stipends and/or time off of work
- Deliver timely and consistent performance feedback and coaching to help them continue to grow
From pre-recruitment activities to providing a final offer, these tips and suggestions will help you put your clinic in the best professional light to win over your next physical therapy candidate.
About the author:
Chelsea Krotser is an outpatient orthopedic physical therapist and freelance writer. Drawing on her experience as a PT as well as her former life as an accountant, she is dedicated to providing an insightful clinical and business perspective. She loves writing about all things related to physical therapy. You can find her on Instagram @chelseakrotser.