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The top 7 mistakes GP practices make when recruiting

24 March 2023

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Practices cannot afford to make errors in the hiring process when GP numbers are low. Recruitment specialist Ash Higgs from MCG Healthcare sets out the most common mistakes practices make when recruiting – and how to rectify them

It’s a competitive marketplace for recruiting GPs, which means the stakes are high for practices. The national shortage of clinicians has led to practices closing because surgeries have been unable to get the doctors needed. Although that is an extreme consequence of failing to recruit, problems can occur much earlier.

When a practice cannot recruit, it puts additional pressure on the GPs already in post. The increased workload can lead to stress and burnout, creating an environment where GP retention can become problematic. And then there are even more doctors for the practice to recruit.

Clearly, in a tight market, practices need to sell themselves so doctors will want to work there. But not all get it right as they navigate the recruitment process.  Here are the top seven mistakes GP practices make when recruiting – and what to do instead. 

1. Failure to research the local rates

When practices don’t do their homework, they leave too much to chance.  They are less likely to offer competitive packages if they do not understand the current marketplace.  

As a starting point, practices should investigate the packages offered by other surgeries in the PCN. After all, applicants will likely be going for jobs with them too, so the practice needs to start recruitment from an informed position.  That way, it can be sure that the package and perks are better than – or at least equal to – that of the competition.

2.  Conflicting priorities

Partners and practice managers may have different priorities when it comes to hiring a new member of staff. That is fine, of course, but it needs to be addressed long before the practice manager and partner interview the candidate. It can be a rapid turn-off for the applicant who will sense a lack of cohesion with the surgery. 

So, it is essential to identify differing expectations of a candidate and iron out any inconsistencies before recruitment begins.   The practice must have a joined-up approach when it starts the hiring process. 

3. Unclear advertising

Practices sometimes choose to avoid putting a salary on their ad. But when it is not listed, potential candidates assume it is low, and then they don’t apply. Including a salary,  or salary range based on experience, also helps show that the practice is transparent and open regarding pay, terms and conditions.

Your advert should highlight the benefits of working in your practice. For example, include any positive feedback from patients, or make it clear that the practice looks after its staff. 

However, ensure the ad isn’t misleading. There is no point in promising something that cannot be delivered. Giving the applicant a realistic view of what it’s like to work at the surgery is vital for staff retention. The last thing any practice wants is to fill the position, go through the onboarding process, and then have to do it all again when the new staff member hands in their notice.

4. Not selling the practice’s USP

Many practices do not have a grasp of their unique selling point (USP).  It is hard to sell the benefits of working at a practice when there is no understanding of how it differs from others.  And that’s a problem in a market so competitive that a clinician is likely to receive several offers.

Yet the simplest of details can help set the practice apart from others.

For example, one surgery had great success with their recent recruitment campaign after including personal touches to their job advert, such as information about their bi-monthly spa clubs and their pop-up crepe stand outside the practice. These small details helped bring the job to life and allow an  applicant to imagine working there.

Workplace culture is now an important focus in recruitment. Think hard about the kinds of employee experiences, values and behaviours you nurture at your practice, which might be worthwhile including in the ad to encourage new GPs to apply. 

5. Appearing outdated

Practices that fail to show they are adapting to modern ways of working will lose out on candidates. For example, flexibility is among the top three perks a GP will look for when considering their next move.

It goes beyond those with caring responsibilities. Flexibility and openness to new ways of working demonstrate that the practice adapts to change – and that is an attractive trait to prospective employees.

So, make it clear if the practice runs remote sessions or uses advanced clinical practice with pharmacists, nurses and other healthcare professionals. It will help the surgery stand out from the competition. 

6. Poor communication

Unclear communication will make the applicant question the overall running of the surgery.

For example, the practice will give a poor impression by telling the applicant that the interview process is informal and then, on the interview day, put up a team of partners to fire formal questions at the candidate. The applicant may feel that misleading information made them unnecessarily ill-prepared for the interview.

Ensure all communication with prospective candidates is clear. Ahead of any interviews, inform applicants fully about the process they face. This includes timescales, the number of interviews they can expect and when a decision will be made. A clear understanding of the process helps the GP applicant to prepare and feel comfortable – as well as reassures them that the practice is professional.

Even simple things like advising applicants about car parking arrangements and telling them who will meet them on arrival demonstrates an organised and welcoming practice.

7. A protracted or inflexible interview process

Practices that take too long to invite a candidate to interview will miss out.  With the current shortage of GPs, each applicant will likely undergo a similar interview process with at least three other surgeries. So, practices need to act fast.

Similarly, practices that are inflexible about interview times will also find it harder to recruit. Arranging interviews at times that suit the applicant – and acting swiftly –  can put you at the front of the queue.

When various decision-makers are involved in the hire, coordinating diaries for the interview can take time. But regular – even daily – check-ins with the applicant will demonstrate that the practice is doing its best to organise an interview. And more importantly, it will show the candidate that the practice values them and that they are more than just a number.

When the interview date rolls around, ensure those on the selection panel are prepared. A candidate may find it disrespectful to arrive and find the interviewers are disorganised.

Ash Higgs is managing director of recruitment agency MCG Healthcare.


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